This years’ reading

I’ve read a lot of books this year, almost sixty already, and these are my favourites so far:

Drew Williams, The Stars Unclaimed. A great big slice of action-movie fun, with pace, invention and humour poured on generously.

Kirsty Logan, The Gloaming. A slower-paced book than anything else here, this is Logan’s second novel and it is beautiful. It manages to be about island life without ever feeling isolated, and is entirely magical.

Luke Pearson, Hilda and the Stone Forest. The Hilda series continues with this latest instalment, and it’s my graphic novel of the year.

El-Mohtar & Gladstone, This is How You Lose the Time War. Short, crystalline, and without a spare word.

Wells, Murderbot series. This series is up to four novellas, with a novel coming next year, and my word they are fun. An extremely efficient robot security operative with a heavy case of social anxiety and a sarcastic attitude might be my favourite character in any medium this year.

Valente, Space Opera. Every single page is studded with inventive touches, there’s not a humanoid with a prosthetic head in sight, and Valente goes all-out in writing, imagination and wit with this Eurovision-in-space that is soaked in her love for the subject, and the whole book shines in the best and most glorious way.

Jamie Smart

I’ve been a huge fan of hard-working comics legend Jamie Smart for about fifteen years now, ever since reading Bear straight through back in 2004, and my oldest kid has managed to catch the fans off me. Well, Jamie just wrote Flember, an illustrated novel, and he sent us a signed copy. Look at the inky glory!

Yeah, he’s an actual Boss. Cheers Jamie!

Continued chewing – books April – June

Continuing last year’s reading:

April 4th – SPQR, Mary Beard: A very strong contender for non-fiction book of the year, this is a beautifully written history of Rome that is soaked in detail and characterisation.

April 21st – City Stained Red, Sam Sykes: This is a great fantasy story revolving around a team of adventurers who mostly can’t stand each other, with hilarious/blood-stained consequences

April 25th – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers: I absolutely fell in love with the characters, the setting and the story. Maybe the best fiction of the year.

May 15th – The Blue Blazes, Chuck Wendig: A solid noir urban fantasy.

Also May 15th – Born to Run, Christopher McDougall: In any other year this would have run away as the best non-fiction book, and if my spine still let me run I’d call it life-changing.

June 2nd – Hyperion, Dan Simmons: I started this thinking it looked like a possibly-overlong, needlessly complicated book. Oh, cover blurb, you lied to me so! Hyperion is delightful, a genuinely surprising pilgrim’s tale that twists a hundred strands intimate and stellar into a delicious whole, and wraps it up with a strong contender for the best final page in all of fiction.

June 17th – Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain: Yes, I read this after his death, but god, what a story! The absolute passion here is breathtaking, and even with a question mark over whether it’s true or not it’s a great read.

June 21st – Savage Season, Joe Lansdale: Short and sweet, a punchy thriller that starts a little awkwardly but finds it’s feet for a strong finish.

Reading: January – March

I went on a reading frenzy last year, chasing up recommendations from Warren Ellis and various authors I follow on twitter – most of whom I hadn’t read before, and that’s the big joyous thing about booktwitter – and generally burning a serious groove in my library card. This is also the first year I’ve tried keeping a diary, so I have some recommendations I’m going to throw at you in four handy instalments. Part one in a slow series:

Jan 3rd: An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears. An English Rashomon, says my diary, and it should know, right? Murky goings-on where no-one is what they seem in 1663 England. I don’t usually go for historical fiction, but this was definitely worth making an exception for.

Jan 28th: Angelmaker, Nick Harkaway. I read his debut, The Gone-away World, last year, and oh can he tell a story. Inventive and fun, with solid, heartfelt characters, it’s an unembarrassed escapade of the very best kind.

Jan 31st: You, Grossman. An RPG as a game novel. I don’t know if it’s one for the ages, but a good read that does a lot with the party-of-four mechanic.

Feb 5th: Artemis, Mark Watney. Not as well-received as The Martian, because how the hell would anyone top that, but there’s enough in here that works for it to be a solid read.

Feb 19th: Zoo City, Lauren Beukes. Great dystopian sci-fi.

Feb 21st: Traffic, Vanderbilt. One of my particular pleasures is non-fiction that shows you a new way of looking at something mundane – this here takes us through a carefully-researched look at traffic, where it comes from and different ways to manage it, which sounds entirely wrong as subject matter until Vanderbilt describes the entirely counter-intuitive ways you can speed people up and slow them down.

March 3rd: Stormy Weather, Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen is what I might have called a guilty pleasure back when I gave a damn – effortless to read, but with a surprising amount going on under the hood. I have a suspicion that Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard are the same person, depending on what mood he wakes up in…

March 10th: Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen. I also suspect that Hiaasen has roughly the same plot in each book. I have a stronger suspicion that when it’s this good I don’t care.

March 16th: Tigerman, Nick Harkaway. Back to Harkaway, this time with a superhero and the last dribbled-out days of empire in the mix.

March 21st: Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer. I read this just before I watched the year’s most beautiful film, I would say the two complement each other very nicely.

March 24th: Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen. More Hiaasen – I read it in two days and loved every page.