…or The Reading Bingo Challenge!
The Reading Bingo Challenge has been doing the rounds as a great way to look back over the year’s reading, so I thought I’d see how many categories I could complete… and it’s also a great opportunity to bring back some of my favourite pics from the year.
More than 500 pages
The Way Things Were by Aatish Taseer. Long but worth it, since this novel about India’s struggle to move on from the aftermath of Empire won my Literary Fiction Book of the Year Award.
A forgotten classic
Vertigo by Boileau-Narcejac. The book that inspired the Hitchcock film, but in this case I feel the book wins. There’s less of an emphasis on the effects of vertigo, and more of a study of a weak mind struggling against a growing obsession. Very dark.
A book that became a movie
Psycho by Robert Bloch. Another one that got the Hitchcock treatment, and in this case I’d say the book and film are equally good, though for different reasons. It was intriguing to see that even knowing the huge plot twist didn’t stop the book from building a great atmosphere of tension.
Published this year
The Invisible Man from Salem by Christoffer Carlsson. Spoiled for choice in this category, and this one only sneaks in as published in translation this year – the original won the Swedish Crime Association’s award for Best Crime Novel of 2013. I particularly enjoyed the ‘past’ element in this crime thriller, concerning a group of teenagers in a run-down estate in ’80s Sweden.
With a number in the title
Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie. Finally, a Rushdie book I actually finished! And what’s more, thoroughly enjoyed! A brilliantly written and very funny satire on philosophy, politics, love, religion – well, on life, really – disguised as a fairy tale about the jinn. I may even be willing to try another Rushdie now.
Written by someone under 30
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This was Conan Doyle’s first Holmes story – a quite remarkable début for someone aged only 26 at time of writing. All Conan Doyle’s usual skills of great descriptive writing and characterisation are here, along with an intriguing story that takes us to Utah with the first Mormons.
A book with non-human characters
The Warlord of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is a shameless excuse to show a picture of my favourite non-Earth animal, the lovely ten-limbed Woola. What a smile, eh?
A funny book
The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum. Haven’t read much humour this year, but this collection of readers’ letters to The Telegraph is very funny – if you happen to be a UK political geek, that is…
A book by a female author
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer. Again loads of choice, but Bauer manages to keep her standards high with every book she produces. This one is about missing children, is quite harrowing at times, and has a supernatural element. And yet I still loved it… proving what a truly talented writer she is.
The Miser’s Dream by John Gaspard. I’m loving this series about stage magician Eli Marks and his friends. A little too strong to be ‘cosy’, these have almost a Golden Age feel, with proper mysteries complete with clues, red herrings, suspects etc. And loads of humour…
A one-word title
Docherty by William McIlvanney. The story of an Ayrshire miner and his family in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. McIlvanney writes beautifully, often poetically, in both English and Scottish dialect, and this book works as both an intimate family saga and as a fairly political look at the lot of those at the bottom of the ladder at a time when the world was undergoing huge change.
The Shapeshifters by Stefan Spjut. A weird but wonderful mix of crime novel and fairy tale, set in modern-day Sweden where the beasts from folk tales still exist. It works because of the quality of the writing and the matter-of-fact way Spjut introduces the trolls. Hard to categorise so the Free Square seems ideal…
A book of short stories
Coup de Foudre by Ken Kalfus. A new collection from one of my favourite authors. As always with Kalfus, there’s a blend of the personal and the political, darkness and humour, and there’s some great imagination on display here too. A good place to start with Kalfus…
Set on a different continent
Settling Earth by Rebecca Burns. This is a set of linked stories about the experiences of early women settlers in New Zealand. While life is shown as harsh and often brutal, it feels as though these women are on the cusp of change, that a new generation, native to this land as their mothers weren’t, may play a different role.
Resurrection Science by M.R. O’Connor. Without doubt, the most thought-provoking book I’ve read on the subject of conservation. O’Connor uses examples of projects happening now to examine and debate the ethics surrounding conservation, including the question of whether we should try to resurrect species already extinct.
First book by a favourite author
Secret Diary of PorterGirl by Lucy Brazier. I got to know Lucy and her work via blogging, and this first book is full of humour. Set in the not-entirely-fictional world of Old College, PorterGirl and her quirky colleagues are caught up in murder and mayhem of Dan Brown-esque proportions…
Heard about online
The Defence by Steve Cavanagh. So many choices for this category, but this book stood out as one everyone seemed to be talking about, and it lived up to the hype. A fast-paced thriller, perhaps a bit over the credibility line, but well-written, twisty and fun.
A best-selling book
Lamentation by CJ Sansom. A great book in a great series and my Book of the Year 2015, this book has over 2,000 reviews on Amazon UK, most of them 5 stars. Shardlake must discover who has stolen a potentially heretical manuscript written by Henry VIII’s last Queen…
Based on a true story
Runaway by Peter May. A story of teenage boys in the ’60s, heading to London in search of fame and fortune, this is based on May’s own experiences, though hopefully he didn’t get involved in a murder…
From the bottom of the TBR pile
Waverley by Sir Walter Scott. Billed as the first historical novel in the English language, this is a tale of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Given that this is one of the most important books ever written by a Scot, I’ve been meaning to read it for most of my life. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I’d hoped, but at least it’s now crossed off the list!
A book a friend loves
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. Recommended by my earliest blog buddy, Lady Fancifull, this book, about an expedition to the Arctic that goes wrong, proved to be just as well written and frankly terrifying as she claimed. Psychological terror, though – look elsewhere if you require chainsaws and gore.
A book that scared me
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. A group of people get together to spend the summer in a haunted house. But are the ghosts real or all in the head of Eleanor, the increasingly unreliable central character? Some parts of this had the porpentine fretting like billy-oh…
A book that is more than 10 years old
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. This first volume of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s trilogy, A Scots Quair, focuses on the life of Chris Guthrie, daughter of a tenant farmer in the fictional estate of Kinraddie in the north-east of Scotland, before and during the First World War. A wonderful book that deserves it’s status as a great classic – and a new film adaptation has just been released…
The second book in a series
Smoke and Mirrors by Elly Griffiths. Historical crime set in Brighton just after WW2, this is part of Griffiths’ new Stephens and Mephisto series. She brings the setting and period to life, and stage magician, Max Mephisto, is a great partner for policeman Edgar Stephens, allowing the stories to be set around the world of theatre.
A book with a blue cover
The Blue Guitar by John Banville. Loved this introduction (for me) to Banville’s brilliant writing. The story of narcissist Olly Orme may not be saying anything terribly profound, but the prose is sparkling and witty. I came away from it feeling dazzled and entertained – what more can you ask from a book?
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Made it! Full House! (Do I win a prize?)