Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Post 67: Happy New Year

Happy New Year to you all!  My final reading total for 2017 was 41, finishing with a re-read of Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum. I wonder what were your reading highlights of 2017? And what is in store for 2018?

My resolution this year is to give, where possible, at least 30 minutes a day to reading. I'd love to reach 50...or even a 52 book total, so keep watching this space!

Hopefully lots of you got books in your Christmas stockings this year. I did my annual Mum-gift to the "children", adding an extra title for Child One's Significant Other. He has been around long enough to be persuaded that reading for pleasure is a joy waiting to be discovered by everyone...I'll keep you posted! And it is with joy that I report that since leaving uni, Child One has rediscovered reading! The fact that she says it fills an otherwise dull lunch hour is by-the-by. She has read 2 books since September and has willingly purchased a 3rd.  I call that a result!  Child Two continues to be  a willing and effective critic of my reading and writing, though no books for me under the tree this year (see note in #1 of my top 10)!

I'm not going to rank all 41 titles of  2017, but The Times recently published their  top 50 Novels of the past 50 years. I am ashamed to say that I hadn't even read half of them. In discussion with colleagues, we decided we could let ourselves off the hook if we had read other titles by the same authors!  Whilst these lists can be a great starting point to broaden horizons and introduce authors that we might have either dismissed or not otherwise heard of, they are to be read with caution.  We shouldn't feel guilty if we have never read a certain classic. There will, alas, always be more books than we have time-in-a-lifetime to read!

So with that in mind, I'm sure you are all waiting with bated breath to see my top 10 reads of 2017!

10. Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris
Coming in at number 10, this was simply beautiful.  It is evocative throughout, and though I am not a fan of lengthy description, the use of setting was far more than a backdrop to events; in some ways it seemed to determine them.

9.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
This was a re-read and was just as good second time round.  Challenging and honest...two qualities which stand out in my criteria for 2017.

8.  Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
This debut novel finds a place in my top ten for its originality of narrative voice.  Told through a series of objects, the different perspectives on warfare, injury and recovery are clearly communicated. The style may have reduced empathy in places, but I liked the premise.

7.  Zoo Station by Christiane F
Highly recommended literary non-fiction.  If you haven't tried this genre, I urge you to give it a
go.This personal account is open and wretched in places.  Its honesty replaces judgement with empathy... another example of the power of language to change its readers.

6.  This Must be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell
This fiction was saved up til my summer holiday and it didn't disappoint. I admit to a slight bias here: I am such a fan that I am loathe to be a critic.  Good story, great characterisation, excellent writing.

5.  All That I Am by Anna Funder
A highly complex narrative woven around real people and events but fictionalised to fill in the gaps.  A very interesting period of history from an original perspective.  Funder writes intelligently and with integrity.

4.  I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell
This memoir is pithy and honest.  And it's Maggie O'Farrell, mistress of the written word...nothing more needs to be said!

3.  The Shock of the Fall  by Nathan Filer
Best newcomer award from me this year (a high accolade indeed!) I loved the story. The central character is crafted with empathy and the plot twists are ably handled.  Compassionate.

2.  The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
This one has a top spot because it is quite simply the cleverest book I have ever read.  It is a title that is worthy of study beyond a simple read.  The voice is cleverly manipulated and every reference and allusion is loaded with meaning.  This novel is challenging and confronts stereotypes.

And now for the big reveal...KarenMartinReads Top Read of 2017 goes to:

1.  Half  of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
This one is at number one because it was a compelling read that taught me about a country and a period of colonial history of which I had previously been ignorant.  Literature has the power to open eyes and change viewpoints.  Adiche achieves this with excellent fiction, well-rounded characterisation and a superbly complex and well-executed plot. I now want to read all her other novels (family members please note...only a few weeks til my birthday!)

Onto my most Unusual Read of the year:
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami
Another challenging one!  Not because of political or social issues, but because it was a real stretch for me.  Its genre - magical realism, is not one I am particularly at home with, but the surreal events and characterisation kept me reading!

And my Don't Bother Read of the year:
Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe
All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (With apologies to Mr Clark who recommended this for our nerdy book club!)

Me with Maggie...last excuse
 to post this pic!
And so I begin my reading of 2018.  I am genuinely excited to be starting again!  My first book of the year is About Grace by Anthony Doerr.  His All The Light We Cannot See was my top read of 2016, so let's see how I feel about this one.

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading my blog; I am genuinely humbled by the numbers of you that wander onto my pages. Please feel free to get in touch, to recommend and keep the conversation buzzing about books!

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