In 2017 I challenged myself to read 52 books for the Popsugar Reading Challenge. I’m a slow reader, and I had never read more than 40 books in a year before, but I surprised myself by reaching the goal.
Yes, 2017 is a while ago now. Why would I share it on my blog now? Two reasons. First, as a writer, I’m always interested in what other authors are reading. Second, to (hopefully) keep myself honest with what I’ve been reading, and encourage myself to read more diversely. So, let’s begin with ten of the books I gave 4 stars to (in the order that I read them).
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – Lindqvist (2004).
I’m generally not a fan of Vampires, but I’d enjoyed the ‘Let Me In’ film adaptions, so I thought I’d give it a go. And it was a great read – really dark and creepy. What was great about it was how it was not the usual vampire story. The protagonist was a boy in Sweden who was bullied at school and befriends a young girl in their apartment complex. Who turns out to be a vampire. There is a lot of killings and brutality, and at the centre of it all are these sweet kids who help each other out of nothing but friendship. It’s tense, it gritty, and it’s written really well.
THE COLLECTOR – Fowles (1963).
This was a really clever book about an awkward clerk who comes into a large sum of money and his plans to win the affections of Miranda, a middle-class Art student he has long admired. He convinces himself to kidnap her and win her affection by being nothing but a gentleman to her. But he didn’t think his plan through, nor count on the intelligence and desperation of his prey. The second part of the novel is told from Miranda’s point of view and is entirely compelling. It is incredibly well written, it gives you the chills and leaves you breathless. Highly recommended.
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN – Riggs (2011).
Miss Peregrine’s is a really fun YA novel, where Jacob finds there might be some truth to his grandfather’s crazy stories shortly after his disturbing death. When he has an opportunity to go to a place that was special to his grandfather, he jumps at the chance, and starts putting together pieces to a mystery lost in time. It’s a different take on the standard YA fantasy, it’s engaging, and feels quite familiar all the way through. Meeting the ‘Peculiar’ children (and Miss Peregrine, of course) is a delight, however the further you go, the darker and scarier it gets.
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK – Lindsay (1967).
The very first few pages absolutely transported me to my youth, growing up in country Victoria, the sights, the sounds, the scents are exactly as Lindsay described. It’s a captivating story of life in Australia in the 1900’s. Picnic at Hanging Rock is a superb mystery full of eerie events, curious characters and sinister undertones.
LAVINIA – Le Guin (2008).
Ursula K. Le Guin (one of my all-time favourite authors) wrote Lavinia in 2008. It is an unusual book in a sense, as the titular character is a character in Virgil’s Aeneid. A significant character, too – the wife of the hero Aeneas, yet in the Aeneid she was not given a single line. Le Guin gave Lavinia a voice, and made her real, bringing her and the community of Laurentum to life. It’s a mesmerising piece, describing not only Lavinia’s conflict with her family marvellously, but also the war between Laurentum and her neighbours and the invading Trojans, lead by Aeneas.
RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA – Clarke (1973).
This was a childhood favourite of mine, I am not ashamed to admit. The imagination that Clarke had, the skills to bring such wonders to life, absolutely phenomenal. Anyway, Rendezvous With Rama tells the classic sci-fi story of first contact with alien intelligence. An unidentified object – a massive cylinder – enters out Solar System and slows down, and a crew of astronauts is dispatched to investigate it. The tale of the crew and their exploration of the cylinder is so clever, and the ending is just so perfect, that I can’t say a bad word about it.
PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER – Suskind (1985).
Another novel that I had read after seeing the movie. This is an original story though, in that it tells the tale of a man whose sense of smell is so powerful that his perspective of the world is unique. He becomes a perfumer, one who creates perfumes, and becomes obsessed with capturing all the scents and creating perfumes to make people see him as angelic or god-like. Unfortunately, some of the scents he must capture and use he can only obtain my murder. The whole thing is very clever and really well-written.
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY – Adams (1979).
I used this book for the ‘about an immigrant or refugee’ prompt. I don’t think there’s much for me to say about this one. There’s no dispute it’s hilarious and an absolute sci-fi comedy classic.
THE KING’S JUSTICE – Donaldson (2016).
This was a very interesting fantasy story. A man rides into a town in the Kingdom attempting to solve a disturbing murder, which soon turn into a series of murders. The characters are great, the story is captivating and complex with many twists and turns, and Donaldson has created another amazing fantasy world with a brilliant system of magic.
MARTIAN TIME-SLIP – Dick (1964).
Another one of my favourite authors. I have read most of his 44 novels and 120 short stories, and this is one of the ones that I think is the most under-rated. What Dick does so well is really get right into the day-to-day life and concerns of the average person in whatever insane world he comes up with. In Martian Time-Slip, the protagonist Bohlen is a repairman on a struggling colony on Mars. His relationship with his wife is on a downward spiral, his employer is taking advantage of him, but what can he do? Just get through as best he can and try keep his schizophrenic episodes at bay. When Bohlen’s path crosses with Arnie Kott’s, the leader of the Water Worker’s Union, his life gets turned upside down. The most outstanding yet terrifying part of this book is Dick’s description of what Manfred Steiner, an autistic child who becomes one of Arnie Kott’s many pawns perceives.
So that’s the first ten books of my top twenty. Come back soon for my top ten!
- Originally published February 2019