It’s nearly the end of the year and I promised you some extra posts looking back at the year didn’t I? Well, here’s my look at five of my favourite books of the year. Looking back on my Goodreads stats to write this, I realise that I’ve been very stingy with the 5 stars this year – which has made this very tricky to write because there are a lot of 4 star ratings and I’ve had to workout which ones were my real favourites. And because of the way this blog works, you’ve heard about most of these before – either as Books of the Week or in other roundup posts – because when I like stuff this much, I tell you about it!
A Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge
This was part of my pre-Washington reading and although I read a lot of good books in that particular reading jag, this one has really stuck with me. A snapshot of all the children and teens killed by guns on just one day in America, it is meticulously researched and will break your heart. If you are in any doubt about the scale of gun deaths in the US, this will put it all into perspective -this is just a normal day – no mass shootings, just ten dead young people ranging in age from 9 to 19.
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders
Lets get all the sad books out of the way to start with. This is a middle grade continuation/follow on to E Nesbit’s The Five Children and It book. I think I read the 5 children (maybe even more than one of them) after the 1990s BBC TV series was shown and it had never occurred to me that these were the children who would be the young men and women of the Great War – and of course when Nesbit was writing the books, she had no idea what was in their future either. This is really, really good, but also quietly devastating. There are a lot of Second World War middle grade books, but not so many (or at least not that I’ve come across) Great War ones – this is a very good addition to the genre. It came out a couple of years ago, but reading it this year with the centenary of the Armistice, felt very timely. It wasn’t my BotW at the time -I was in a historical crime groove back in at the start of the year, but I’ve recommended it a few times since and it’s quietly crept up my list of best reads of the year.
The Victory Disc by Andrew Cartmel
The third in the Vinyl Dectective series is right up there as one of my favourite detective stories of the year. This time our unnamed hero is on the hunt for records by a wartime swing band. The Flarepath Orchestra were contemporaries of Glenn Miller, but their recordings are incredibly rare. After one pops up unexpectedly, the Detective and his gang are asked to track down the rest. But there are still secrets and lies at the heart of the band and soon a great deal of danger is threatening the gang. This wasn’t a Book of the Week at the time – because it’s the third in the series and you’ll get the most from them by reading them in order. The first in the series, Written in Dead Wax was a BotW last summer though – and I thoroughly recommend starting with that. My Dad has read these and practically snaps my hand off to get the next one from me! Good reads doesn’t have any details for a fourth yet, but I’m hoping that we’ll get more adventures in vinyl in 2019.
Anyone for Seconds by Laurie Graham
Regular readers know how much I love Laurie Graham (and if you don’t, here are the posts to prove it) but I remember saying to a friend before this came out that if she was going to write a sequel to one of her novels, this wasn’t the one that I would have picked. How wrong I was, because this is my favourite of her contemporary novels in ages. It snuck out a bit under the radar in August and I nearly missed it. We rejoin Lizzie Partridge, the heroine of Perfect Meringues, some twenty years after we last met her. Lizzie was a TV-chef on the regional news, but after The Incident she has mostly worked in print. But when her last paying gig is pulled, Lizzie decides to run away in the hope that it’ll get her some attention. But no-one notices. It does however, set in train a series of changes in Lizzie’s life. It was a BotW and it’s still one of my favourites this year.
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
It was a long wait for a new book by Jasper Fforde – my big Fforde discovery and binge actually happpened before I started this blog, but Early Riser was worth it and it was a BotW. Set in a world where humans hibernate for four months every winter, this follows the adventures of one man in his first year as a Winter Consul – one of the people who watch over the sleeping masses. This is completely standalone from his other books, but if you’ve read other Fforde novels you’ll spot that this world has some elements in common with Thursday Nexts. It’s fantasy and sci-fi but at the end of that spectrum that I like.
The Birth of South Korean Cool by Euny Hong
And another non-fiction book to round out this list. Euny Hong’s family moved back to South Korea in the 1980s when she was at school so she is ideally placed to take a look at how South Korea turned itself into a big name on the world stage through the course of twenty years. This is a really, really interesting and readable guide to the Korean pop-culture phenomenon and the policy behind it. Although some of the section dealing with North Korea is now slightly dated that doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the book. I would happily have read another 100 pages. It had been on my to-read list for ages – but I finally got around to getting hold of a copy after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics at the start of the year (although it took me another few months to get around to reading it!). I’ve recommended it a number of times – and used knowledge I learned from it to look smart when talking about K-pop with younger colleagues. A winner all around!
Let me know what your favourite books of the year have been in the comments – and coming up over the next few days we’ve also got my reading obsessions of the year – and how 2017’s obsessions have lasted as well as the books that I’m looking forward to in 2019.So here you are, six of my favourite reads of 2018. There were a few five star reads this year that aren’t on the list – but they are very much from favourite authors – new installments in the Wells and Wong series and from Gail Carriger and the Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang that I’ve already talked about so much already over the years that I’d be boring you to tell you about them again.