Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash
Over the last couple of years I’ve been getting back into reading novels. As a kid, I used to read all the time, but during university I guess all those textbooks and law reports took their toll on me and I stopped reading for fun. But for the past two years, I’ve been hitting up my local library with the goal of reading a new novel each month, and I’m really enjoying it. So today I thought I’d share the list of novels that I read this year, with brief reviews/recommendations for my favourites!
- The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaranovitch
- This One Is Mine by Maria Semple
- A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In by Magnus Mills
- The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton
- The Night Gwen Stacy Died by Sarah Bruni
- The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
- Gone to the Forest by Katie Kitamura
- Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace
- Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
- Faithful by Alice Hoffman
- This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
- The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
- The Book of Days by K.A. Barker
- A Once Crowded Sky by Tom King
Of this list, I disliked two (The Book of Days and This One Is Mine), liked three (The Hanging Tree, Charlotte Street and Vinegar Girl), was indifferent to the rest, and really loved three. Which brings us to my favourite novels of 2017!
1. The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
From the blurb:
Only very special people are chosen by children’s author Laura White to join ‘The Society’, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, literature teacher and possessor of beautifully curving lips. But soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual, ‘The Game’? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura’s winter party, in a whirlwind of snow? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her?Slowly, disturbing secrets that had been buried come to light…
I read the English translation of this gorgeous novel by Finnish author Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen and was immediately drawn into its mysterious, subtly magical world of writers, secrets and snowstorms. I loved the way the threads of the story were slowly unravelled only to tangle up again, and even though I finished the novel with lingering questions, I didn’t feel like I’d read something unfinished. I’d love to read it again once I’ve had time for the story and its characters to soak in, as it really feels like a novel that rewards close attention and repeated readings.
2. Faithful by Alice Hoffman
From the blurb:
Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl growing up on Long Island until one night a terrible road accident brings her life to a halt. While her best friend Helene suffers life-changing injuries, Shelby becomes crippled with guilt and is suddenly unable to see the possibility of a future she’d once taken for granted. But as time passes, and Helene becomes an almost otherworldly figure within the town, seen by its inhabitants as a source of healing, Shelby finds herself attended to by her own guardian angel. A mysterious figure she half-glimpsed the night of the car crash, he now sends Shelby brief but beautiful messages imploring her to take charge of her life once more …What happens when a life is turned inside out? When you lose all hope and sense of worth? Shelby, a fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookshops, and men she should stay away from, captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding oneself at last.
I’ve never read any of Alice Hoffman’s novels before, though I was aware that she had written Practical Magic (the movie adaptation was one of my secret favourites growing up!), so I wasn’t sure what to expect. And what I got was a deeply moving story of how a broken soul finds redemption and healing. I don’t know what to say about this book other than I loved it, it made me cry in the best way, and it was a deeply emotional and satisfying read.
3. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
From the blurb:
Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.
It’s really hard to pick my favourite thing about The Invisible Library – the world-building (the protagonist spends most of the time in a cool steampunk version of London), the smart female protagonist, the very idea that there is an interdimensional Library searching for unique and important books… I loved it all! And the best part is that I inadvertently picked up the first book in a series. I will definitely be tracking down the next installments to read next year!
I’m looking forward to continuing my renewed love affair with novels in 2018, and have already got my January book sorted – Forest Dark, the latest novel by one of my favourite authors, Nicole Krauss. What were your favourite books of 2017, and what’s on your reading list for 2018?