So after many, many, hours stuck in traffic with ‘Audible’, or stolen moments alone with the ‘Kindle App.’, here is my definitive, personal, selection of my top five books of 2017. Note, I will keep this as spoiler free as possible!
Honourable Mention – ‘James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes’ by (shock) James Acaster
Although most of the books I consume are done through ‘Audible’ I don’t feel as though I had the same “book experience” with this as I have with other titles. Possibly due to the fact that it is narrated by James Acaster himself and I listened to it in two sittings, driving too and from London, it felt less like I was listening to a book, but rather that I was driving with a very chatty, yet hilarious, hitchhiking ghost. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone, therefore it’d be a damn travesty if I didn’t at least mention it.
#5 – ‘City of Thieves’ by David Benioff
“Wait I know that name” you say trying to rack your brain. Yup, it’s one of the guys that does ‘Game of Thrones’! Caught wind of this by sheer chance whilst delving through ‘Twitter’ at an ungodly early hour and thought I’d give it a go. Set during the siege of Leningrad in WW2, the book is about a couple of guys who are forced into going on a mission to find a dozen eggs. Naturally, the mission sounds far easier than it proves to be due to Leningrad being reduced to a city of people who were melting down the glue in book bindings for sustenance. The book isn’t ground-breaking but it’s charming and engaging with a particular quote about the fickleness of talent which stuck with me for a few days after finishing.
#4 – ‘Acadie’ by Dave Hutchinson
More of a long short story than the rest of the books on this list, but what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in punch. I read ‘Acadie’ knowing nothing about it at all beyond the blurb: “The first humans still chase their children across the stars”, and read the whole thing in a couple of hours. The fact that this is a science fiction novella will probably put a lot of people off, which is a real shame as it’s a great little book which is easily accessible and enjoyable for those not so well versed in the genre. I don’t want to say too much about it because I feel that not knowing what to expect going in will only improve the experience, at around 110 pages it’s more than well worth it.
#3 – ‘Crazy is My Superpower’ by AJ Mendez Brooks
I don’t read many autobiographies and I’m not sure why seeing as I more often than not thoroughly enjoy them. AJ Lee was, and is, by far one of my favourite female wrestlers of all time so when she published her story earlier this year, naturally I bought it almost immediately. Unfortunately it then sat gathering dust on my shelf as other commitments took priority. Therefore, when I finally got round to reading it months later I was left cursing my past self as I genuinely couldn’t put it down and read the whole thing in one sitting. AJ’s life before wrestling was, in a word, insane and it was genuinely inspiring reading about all the things she’s had to overcome, including pretty bad poverty, mental illness, and (I’m pretty sure it’s more than borderline) child abuse. I don’t often describe things as inspiring and in fact often roll my eyes internally when other people do, so it’s no small praise when I call this book that. In my opinion you don’t need to be in any way a wrestling fan to enjoy this (although it probably helps) as this isn’t a book about wrestling, it’s a book about a girl who happens to become a wrestler (which actually happens surprisingly late on in the book). If you enjoy reading real life stories about people finding success against all the odds, then this is the book for you.
#2 – ‘La Belle Sauvage’ by Philip Pullman
‘His Dark Materials’ is easily one of my favourite series of books of all time with Philip Pullman being possibly my favourite living author. Like many who craved more tales of the world where everyone has their own daemon, I’ve been waiting almost 15 years to get a proper taste of it. Therefore this book always had one of two fates, either I was going to be disappointed, and therefore hate it, or I was simply going to love it. Thankfully for all, it was the latter. Set years before ‘Northern Lights’ (or is it called ‘The Golden Compass’ now?), this is a relatively fresh story involving a few characters we already know, but mostly completely new unknowns. The story was far more in keeping with ‘The Northern Lights’ (that’s how I know it and I won’t change for nobody) than the insanely high stakes of ‘The Amber Spyglass’, but even though we know where all the pieces end up, it keeps you invested throughout. I’d agree with many that this book doesn’t quite reach the (ridiculous and possibly unfair?) high standards of quality the original trilogy set for it, but I was enthralled throughout. I wasn’t disappointed in any way after finishing and again cannot wait until the next entry in the series comes out.
#1 ‘Artemis’ by Andy Weir
Remember when I said Philip Pullman was possibly my favourite living author? Well Andy Weir is his competition. I absolutely loved his previous book ‘The Martian’, it’s easily up there with my favourite books of all time, and I am a big fan of his prior short story ‘The Egg’ (if you haven’t read it, do so, it’s literally only 4 pages). ‘Artemis’ isn’t ‘The Martian’, but it’s good, it’s very good, it’s best book of the year good! It kept all the science-mumbo-jumbo that ‘The Martian’ did so well as well as having a really cool, likable (and badass?) main character, Jasmine, known as “Jazz”. The story is basically that of the main character being pulled into needing to complete a heist on the moon. The stakes don’t feel quite as high as those in ‘The Martian’, despite them clearly being higher, which is the main reason I don’t rate it quite as highly. Despite that though it was a clear winner for my personal favourite book of the year!