Last year I read 40 books. I enjoyed reading most of them, but which were my favourite reads?
I was initially planning to choose my top five books, but the simple truth is that I couldn’t whittle my choice down. Instead, I thought I would list my top five books that I read in our book club, and then my top five non-fiction and fiction books.
I’ve split each list into its own post. This is part one.
I have always read a lot of fiction. It is a way for me to relax, escape and get lost in others lives. I think the best way to measure a fiction book is in how hard it is to put down. I watched much less TV in 2019 to make more time to read. Of the 22 fiction books I read, here’s my top 6 (because I just couldn’t whittle it down to 5).
In almost all of these books, I accidentally seem to have a common thread of time. Perhaps I have become more conscious of how quickly time passes, and if we don’t pay attention, how fast it slips through our hands, like sand through an hourglass.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee’s book had been on my list for a while because it’s considered a modern American classic but which I had never got round to reading. I can see why; it’s well-written with an engaging and thought-provoking story. It teaches many valuable lessons. And for me, it’s given me an excellent Stoic role model in Atticus Finch.
How to Stop Time
I like Matt Haig’s writing style, whether it’s his non-fiction books like Notes on a Nervous Planet and Reasons to Stay Alive, or fiction books such as this. A poignant story about a man who ages far slower than usual, living through hundreds of years of history but finding it hard to move on from his first love and really live.
The Graveyard Book
I love Neil Gaiman’s books, and this was no exception; a charming book and a fabulous concept. While ostensibly a book for children, adults are likely to get just as much out of it too. Essentially a book about growing up but wrapped in a mystery with lots of ghosts, ghouls, folklore and magic thrown in. And I’ll warn you now if you are a parent, be prepared for a gut punch at the end.
Neal Stephenson is another of my favourite authors. I always look forward to his epics, and they rarely disappoint. Seveneves is a sprawling saga across thousands of years. Firstly, it follows a Neil Degrasse-Tyson-like personality as the world races to ensure humanity’s survival after an unknown agent collides with the moon. With the moon destroyed, the resulting fall-out renders Earth uninhabitable for thousands of years. That story would be a book in itself for most authors, but Stephenson is only just getting started. It then jumps forward thousands of years, the survivors having rebooted the human race, now a space-faring species, returning to Earth and terraforming it for habitation again. While Stephenson isn’t known for amazing character development, the book is a towering work of imagination mixed with plausible science. A story which spans eons describes an apocalyptic event that is ultimately optimistic that our species can overcome anything if we work collaboratively.
One Word Kill
For some reason I don’t recall now, I struggled to get through the first few pages, and it sat unread on my kindle for a good while. Then, I picked it up again one night to give it another shot, and I was instantly hooked. Fair warning: if you pick this book up and enjoy it, you will need to read the whole trilogy. It was written with this in mind, and while each is its own self-contained well-written story, it’s most effective as a trilogy to bring everything together.
The title of the book (and the two following) are all references to the D&D games the main characters play throughout the series. It is cleverly woven into the arc of the stories, and contribute to the plot. A review on GoodReads summarised this book far better and more succinctly than I can:
A fast and fun read about time travel, quantum mechanics, Dungeons & Dragons and planning a heist with your best friends because a sketchy and secretive man from the future essentially told you so…
What this doesn’t say is that you will also end up caring madly about the characters. The protagonists are all likeable and relatable in their own way.
The Last Dance
Another science-fiction book that I really enjoyed. A grand space opera, it contains plenty of plausible science, but the real meat is in the story. It centres around an incident which resulted in a mutiny against Captain Aames of the vessel Aldrin. The plot unfolds through the different accounts of the crew as told to the newly promoted Investigator General officer, Park Yerim. Yerim, who has her own pressures to deal with during the investigation, tries to understand what happened and whether Aames should be punished or freed. Throughout each account, you learn more about the exacting and abrasive character of Nick Aames yet who also inspires fierce loyalty in his crew.
Best of the year
Well, it’s a toss-up between To Kill a Mockingbird and One Word Kill. To Kill a Mockingbird is exceptionally well-written and contains some valuable lessons for life. In contrast, One Word Kill is an excellent story with characters you can’t help but fall in love with. I guess if I have to pick just one, the reason I read fiction is for enjoyment, entertainment and relaxing so One Word Kill ticks all those boxes.