is hosting another
cat herding book reading
challenge! This time we're to pick books we've read in the last couple of years -- and only five books! I'm assuming we're allowed to read older books that we only just got our hands on, otherwise my list would be quite limited... Anyway! Each book title links to my full review of the book, while the bits in this entry are me looking back with my rose-tinted glasses on.
1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
, by Susanna Clarke.
I finished this one really recently, so it's fresh in my mind. It's a great thick brick of a novel, 1000 pages in the edition I have, and it combines the realist style of the Victorian period with fantasy! If you like Jane Austen (I don't) you might be pleased/interested to know that the style is a pastiche of her work. Which makes it pretty heavy going, but I ended up loving it a lot. You definitely have to give it a chance, and be prepared to roll with the meandering, slow plot, but I got to the end and wanted more
. Good(?) news: there will probably be a movie (says IMDB) and a sequel may be in the works.
2. The Sparrow
, by Mary Doria Russell.
This book is a really, really hard one. Not in terms of the writing, but emotionally, it packs a punch. It's science fiction, in a way, but it also focuses on the philosophy of religion and questions of faith. Sometimes the characters can be a little like cardboard cutouts, but there are some characters -- particularly the main one -- who stick in my head and won't get out. There is a sequel, but this one stands alone and doesn't need
the sequel, I think. (My review of the sequel is here
if you want to find out about it, though.)
3. Un Lun Dun
, by China Miéville.
This one's lighter and easier to read than the previous two -- I think I read it in a single evening. It has loads of cute ideas (a living milk carton named Curdle! ninja bins!) and is just generally quirky and much easier to read than China Miéville's other stuff (e.g. Perdido Street Station, which almost made this list). I've given copies to several people who ended up loving it. Fun light reading! And Curdle. Read the book for Curdle, or he'll cry.
4. The Graveyard Book
, by Neil Gaiman.
I'm a total Gaiman fan, although it seems like quite a few of my friends just can't get on with his writing. This one is pretty light, as fantasy books go, too. It's The Jungle Book, sort of, but in a graveyard. The characters are amusing and occasionally amazing, and I just love the idea of a boy being raised by ghosts and a vampire. It is also well
worth listening to him read it aloud here
5. The Shining
, by Stephen King.
This time last year, I wouldn't even have considered reading Stephen King. Now I've become very much a fan, so much so that this list wouldn't really feel right without me putting one of his books on it. I think a lot of people dismiss his writing because it's popular and he's a bestseller, etc, etc. His writing may not be that complex, it might not have those slick little touches of a really intellectual novel, but his writing works
and is readable and absorbing, and he writes about real feelings and characters who could be real. What he makes up are the situations he puts them into. The Shining is a bit creepy, and quite a bit sad. If you haven't tried any Stephen King on the grounds that he's a talentless hack (I point fingers at my mother), I suggest you do try. Some of his books are definite 'misses' (I wouldn't recommend Bag of Bones to a new fan, for example) but sometimes he does really good things with characters and the situations he puts them into.
You guys, this was such a hard list to make. I feel sure all the books I left out are crying