Saturday, 21 December 2013

2013: My year in 13 books

Greetings, festive friends! I've had a busy month. In fact, I have had the sort of month that made me want to crawl under a rock and put up a sign saying I NEED TO JUST LIE HERE FOR A WHILE AND BREATHE.

But now I am on holiday (yes! A holiday! For two whole weeks!) and I am rediscovering the concept of leisure, which is apparently a thing that some people get. I just got into the spirit of it by reading the whole of Holly Black's Curse Workers trilogy in 72 hours, and it turns out that leisure is great.

In case you want to keep up to date with my internet activities, I have:

- written a Dear Santa letter for Space on the Bookshelf about why I think there should be a Diana Wynne Jones book in every child's stocking this Christmas.

been hanging out at Author Allsorts again, most recently talking about my top tip for a big edit.

And now, to the main blog. It's the end of the year, which is traditionally the Time of Listmaking. And of course, because my entire life is about books (really, it is, if someone stopped me and asked me to sum up my life in one single word I would just shout "BOOKS!"), here is my year as expressed in 13 of them. I've linked to my reviews of them, where that applies - and I've also given myself a bit of leeway on exactly when I read them. If it was sort of kind of around that month, it counts.


This was a Christmas present that I read at the very beginning of January, and it got my year's reading off to a start just as magical as my year itself. Dark, gorgeous and headily wonderful, this book was the perfect beginning to an amazing year.


I was lucky enough to review this for The Bookbag when it first came out in paperback, and I've been yelling about it ever since. I like that this is February's book - February is the month of love, after all, and this book makes you fundamentally question everything about the reality of adult relationships. (Don't worry, this has nothing to do with my own life.)


Again, I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy of The Shining Girls from The Bookbag. I admit, I was upset by it - it's so brutal - but it's also utterly brilliant. Seriously not for the faint of heart, but if you can cope with its horrors you'll find it incredibly thought-provoking and well written.


I read this in my first months at Orion, and it just blew my mind. It isn't just a wonderful story, it's a wonderful concept - a narrative linked to found photos, which inform the text and are printed alongside it. It makes you constantly wonder if what you're reading is real, and the pictures themselves give you chills. It's such a well-published book, and though I love this book as a reader, I love it even more with my editorial hat on.


Another book that takes expectations and jumps up and down all over them. It's a middle-grade novel. It's about someone dying of cancer. It's heavily illustrated. Its pictures are the scariest thing about it. And it's fantastic. A Monster Calls completely transcends genres and reading levels. It isn't for children, it's for humans. It's a sad fact that a lot of people stil insist on being very foolish about the quality and importance of children's fiction, and this year my three-word response has become A Monster Calls. I win.


The Leviathan trilogy - Scott Westerfeld

When I read Leviathan in June, it had been a long time since I'd been really excited about a trilogy. Then I finished Leviathan, and ran to the nearest bookshop after work to buy Behemoth. Literally. I ran. It's a steampunk adventure set during an alternate universe World War One, and it made my summer.


I've read a lot of fairy tale adaptations, but this one has to be head and shoulders the best I've ever come across. It felt totally fresh and completely real, and it proved to me that there really are endless places to go with any one concept, no matter how overdone it might seem to be. The kind of book that just makes me excited about fiction.


I went on holiday in August, so I've picked two of the best books from my holiday reading. If Tender Morsels made me excited about reading, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and Jack Glass made me excited about being a writer. They're both focused around a past murder - essentially, they're both crime novels - but they both do stunningly unique things with the genre. They're beautifully written, they're creepy and weird and smart and wonderful (and very, very different - Castle is a sort of domestic Gothic, while Jack Glass is Agatha Christie in Space), and if my books end up being even a tiny bit as interesting as these two, I will be very very pleased.


This might just be my book of the year. It reminded me so strongly of my own teenage self, it's so engagingly written and it deals so lightly with such deep issues. And it's a bloody amazing love story. I can't sing Rainbow Rowell's praises highly enough.


I was just gleeful about discovering this book, an Austen tribute that's not just a rehash. It's incredibly well written, it's extremely clever and it's a big, bold romance that's full of plot. I'd been reading a lot of children's and YA fiction when I picked Longbourn up, and this got me back into adult books again.


 This book just about broke my heart. I've read so very many books about World War Two, but this managed to jolt me right out of my general World War Two overexposure apathy. It's wonderful - and coincidentally, I got to meet Elizabeth Wein herself in November, which was pretty amazing.


Another book that's as beautifully published as it is written and illustrated. We got a copy into the office, and we all crowded around it greedily, murmuring "silver foil! Purple edges! A TINY WEE BOOK IN THE BACK!" It's just touchable. It's also very very funny - and you all know how great Chris Riddell's illustrations are. What this book reminds me is that a) children's books are brilliant and b) children's publishing is brilliant. And I'm so very lucky to be a part of that.

So, those are my 13 picks. What are yours? What have you been raving about this year? What were your unmissable reads of 2013?