I always think I have too little time for reading, but this year I’ve really made an effort to make time for more books as well as blog posts and articles. I’ve fallen back into the good habit of always carrying a book in my bag, whether digital or paper, and enjoy escaping into some good reads. Here’s a small selection of my favourites from 2015.
I’ve enjoyed reading this author’s work since I was 16 years old, so starting this book was a bittersweet experience, knowing there wouldn’t be another. Although widely known for his Discworld novels for grown ups, Pratchett’s work for younger readers is to my mind, some of his very best, so it was fitting that Tiffany Aching, his young witch should be the protagonist of his last book.
The sense of loss, coloured by the events of the first couple of chapters, is both beautiful and sad. I wanted to know what happened and at the same time never wanted the story to end.
I met Claire by chance at a BBC Women in Radio event before this book was published, and remember being hugely excited by the idea of this former police officer writing a crime thriller. I was delighted when it became a success, and I saw it at bookshops all over the place from railway stations to airports.
I often find thrillers to be formulaic or and dislike the modern tendency to focus on something deliberately shocking. Claire’s novel draws on her background, so presents itself as very realistic, drawing you in through some well realised characters. There’s a sense of mystery, and something being just out of joint from the first page, and even when it comes, the twist is a clever surprise that makes you challenge what you’ve already read.
A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
I’ve actually read two Patrick Ness novels this year, this one, and his most recent publication The Rest of Us Just Live Here. Both books proving that Young Adult fiction at its best is just as suitable for us older adults too.
A Monster Calls, is a gut-wrenching story of a boy coming to terms with loss, framed in the fantasy of a night time monster. The twist being that this boy isn’t afraid of the monster who breaks into his room and turns his world upside down. With an opening chapter that defies you not to read on, Patrick Ness is a master storyteller. Having recently seen him at Seven Stories, he’s just as charming, funny and self-deprecating in person.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield
The astronaut who brought us “Space Oddity’ from the International Space Station and who has done perhaps more than any other traveller to take us all with us on his amazing journey tells a series of compelling stories in this book. Not content with just relating the incredible hard work and fair portion of good luck that it took to actually become an astronaut, Chris Hadfield offers observations on life from the perspective of a man who has seen earth from space.
Plenty for the space and science experts to enjoy, without getting bogged down in technical detail – that is what Chris Hadfield does so well. A natural communicator and storyteller with an out of this world story to tell.
Here to Listen – Toni Stuart
My final choice isn’t actually a book, but I hope it could be one day. Here to Listen is a collection of poetry being written and published online by Toni Stuart. I heard Toni perform with Jacob Sam-La Rose at the 2014 Wordstock event and follow her on twitter. For Here to Listen, she invites people to share a story or a question, or whatever they choose to, while she listens in silence, and responds once they’ve left with a poem.
It’s a simple and stunning idea. The poems break through the clutter of instant communication, forcing a stop to the dash of the everyday through a glimpse into another life. As someone coming to appreciate the value of listening and really being listened to, I love this collection of work and hope it finds a wider audience.
I’ve read a more electronic books than physical paper ones this year. The convenience of being able to dip into a story when I have a few minutes spare and the instant availability of something new to read, make it easy. In all I reckon I’ve read 51 books this year, some have been re-reads of old favourites, but most have been new to me and I reckon I can make at least 52 or one a week before the end of the year.
I’m still reading wildly and have a small pile of suggested titles to work through, but I welcome your suggestions for things I should read in 2016.