As has been the fashion here for a while, I’ve put together a list of books that might be good either to buy for yourself or for those you lose this Xmas.
The new bit is that instead of just leaving you with the original reviews (you can still find them by clicking on the book title) there are also short 3 or 4 line excerpts too.
You’re time poor, I get it.
They are all books that I’ve read this year, not necessarily books published this year and come in the order in which I read them. Any others you liked this tear? Drop them in comments…
“It’s page-turning stuff in places, genuinely unbelievable in others (his notes at the end are so solid and extensive though), ends up questioning whether the world is on the verge of abandoning the “war on drugs” permanently and asks what happens next.”
“…it’s a vast, sweeping book about the very nature (no pun intended) of what the planet will look like for generations to come and about how sometimes, (again no pun intended) we can’t see the wood for the trees. A head-turner of a book. I’ll never look at the countryside in the same way again.”
“This is a fascinating and, more importantly, challenging walk through trigger warnings themselves (warning – this TV show may contain horror, scenes of violence, rude words and nudey bits), whether or not internet trolling should really be a criminal offence in and of itself (I’m italicising that deliberately) and, most interestingly, whether or not hateful speech and the practitioners of it should be banned or brought out into the open and eviscerated (read the book and his arguments before you have a go at me for even bringing this up).”
“The relationship between broken man and broken dog, the spill of hypnotic words, the ability to tell such a tiny story and make it seem like it’s a vast epic of human life. I can only hope this is the beginning of a very long relationship with her as a writer and me as a reader. I’d devour it all over again tomorrow. One of the most memorable novels I’ve read in years.”
“This is, joyously, in that tiny sliver of books I read every year that I press on to people and insist they read. It fizzes, it crackles, it kicks you in the balls on a fairly regular basis, peels away the layers of what could have been dull stereotypes and it stuffs you to the gills with the most edible prose of the “read it again and again just to savour it” variety. I hope I read a better Irish novel this year but I’m not sure I will.”
“It’s as if Haruki Murakami and Wes Anderson had a love child via Werner Herzog with a bit of David Mitchell thrown in. In my life this is a very, very good thing… …It’s long, bogglingly ambitious and takes a little while to ignite but it’s one of the most involving, bonkers, batshit crazy and best books I’ve read this year.”
“Buy copies and give them to people you know who just throw their hands up in the air and say “oh I don’t get any of that whole banking crisis thing” and who, thus, just ignore everything that happened. They’ll end up as furious and angry as I did after the last page. No, I mean it, I was livid at everyone around me for days afterwards. It’s a pitch perfect thing of beauty.”
“It’s a swift (only just over 200 pages), savage, dark, dizzyingly prosaic in spots, nasty, vivid and, at times, dazzling distastefully icky tale. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it – I recommend it, but be aware that it will be way too graphic and amoral for some.”
“A Slanting Of The Sun is full of minor flashes of beauty, tiny moments of insightful humanity, occasional unexpected turns of narrative and is easily one of the five best books I’ve read this year. There will come a time when we look on Donal Ryan as the finest chronicler of the voices of everyday Ireland in the early part of the 21st century.”
KIDS / YA
“It barrels full-tilt through victim blaming, rape culture, religion, scandal avoidance and the sickening insularity of small towns not just in Ireland but everywhere. It’s thrilling and sickening to see how she pulls absolutely no punches in her ending just as with her first novel (how you wish every author had the balls to do that!)”
Put simply, this is a stunning piece of work, something that defies categorisation and deserves to be read far beyond the traditional YA audience (I mean that with no disrespect). It is at times chilling, entrancing, dizzying and always, always compelling stuff. He has written something quite special here.
“There are huge subtexts in the story as in all great YA. Everything from the nature of being fostered and adopted to absent parents right down to the nature of racial relations. The last 100 pages reads almost like a cross between one of the more action filled Harry Potter moments and The Bourne Identity. Can’t wait for the next book in the trilogy…”
“Only Ever Yours was not only my favourite book on the list but one of the best books I’ve read in the last year. If you’re the sort of person who might possibly turn your nose up at YA as “kids stuff” it’s as brutal, real, honest and crushing as anything else you’ll get your hands on at the moment. It’s not just YA, it’s top-grade speculative fiction and social commentary on 21st century media and how it pressures teenage girls. Top of the class.”
“It is a hypnotic tale of two extraordinary lives told with elegance and craft and without doubt one of the most beautiful and most affecting books I’ve read in 2015.”
SCIENCE FICTION / SPECULATIVE FICTION
“He tells a swift, brutal, real story in a wonderfully plausible universe that will leave you scared for your own future and left me with actual shivers down my spine at times. There are more than a few very clever mirrors and nods of the hat to Chinatown too. Edgy, entertaining stuff, terrifyingly real, top drawer speculative fiction.”
“I’m not telling you any more. You don’t need to know. JUST READ THE BLOODY THING! It is not what you think, it was not what I thought, it is an impossibly elegant narrative of human struggle, particle physics, just sheer bonkers reality and a brilliant coup de théâtre for a finish. Even though the book itself is almost as old as I am, I have rarely come across SF this brilliant, involving, head-twisting, original or thought-provoking. Few people even try.”
And my sincere apologies to:
BOOKS YOU SHOULD BUY THAT I HAVEN’T REVIEWED YET (there’s a backlog!)
The Chavs by Owen Wilson:
The story of the destruction and demonisation of the British working classes. Need to read.
Ghost Stories by M.R. James:
Exactly that – beautiful gothic ghost stories from the turn of the 19th Century into the 20th.
Once Upon A Place compiled by Eoin Colfer with illustrations by P.J. Lynch:
*The* book for kids this Xmas. Beautiful, full of wonder and it’s Irish too!
Submission by Michel Houellebecq:
He’s at some Olympic level shit stirring about the “future” of France in the late 2010s…
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
One woman’s story of moving back to Nigeria from America and all the ties in between. Brilliant.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara:
Probably the book of the year.
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson:
Why have I never read him before? Epic, Clarkeian, fantastic.
The Art Of Asking by Amanda Palmer:
Part mantra on asking for help, part life story, all fascinating and wonderful.
The Dept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill:
As if she wrote a novel on the break-up of a marriage, then shredded random parts out. Fascinating, quotable and frustrating, but to be read!