Happy nearly 2018! So, 2017 has been…a year, but on the bright side, it has been a really incredible reading year for me. In all honesty, I haven’t really read much at all in the past few years – I was always so distracted by uni and other stuff going on in my life. But a year after graduating from an English degree, I find myself more enthused about books than I’ve ever been before. I have read 43 books this year (not a lot by many bookworms’ standards but quite a few for me!). So I really wanted to celebrate my year of reading by making a list of my top ten books I read this year.
Note: these are books that I read for the first time this year, not necessarily books that came out in 2017.
First off, we have some honourable mentions. I couldn’t resist mentioning these as I really really loved them, even though they’re not in my top ten: First up is Game of Queens by Sarah Gristwood, a fascinating and really enjoyable non-fiction book about female rules in 16th century Europe. Next is American Gods by Neil Gaiman, then Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, about a girl raised in a very religious household who is learning about her identity, followed by Cinder by Marissa Meyer, The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey and Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Now on to the top ten!
10. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
There are two books on this list that I felt really captured being a teenager – one is Solitaire, and the other is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. However, whilst Solitaire focuses on a main character still in school, Fangirl is all about making the transition from school to university. The book centres on Cath, who is starting her first year of university along with her twin sister Wren. But whereas Wren is embracing the social side of uni, Cath prefers to keep to herself and occupy her time writing her wildly successful fanfiction. This book was so relatable in its portrayal of what it’s like to start university as an uncertain eighteen-year-old, as well as in its exploration of family relationships. I loved Cath’s relationship with her dad and as a triplet myself, I thought Rowell’s depiction of twins trying to forge their own identities was spot on. A really heartwarming and fun read.
9. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Just a warning: this book will break you. It is also a book that you should definitely read. Sepetys’s novel is a fictionalised account of the worst disaster in maritime history…which you have probably never heard of. Four young people’s stories intermingle as they each endeavour to escape the horrors of World War 2 in mainland Europe. This is such an important story, and Ruta Sepetys tells it in the most heartbreaking, honest way. It is meticulously researched but is also fast-paced and completely absorbing. I got through this in less than a day. And then I cried many many tears. Read it!
8. The Mad Ship (#2 The Liveship Traders) by Robin Hobb
We couldn’t have a favourite books list without having at least one Robin Hobb book on it. In fact, I have read five books by her this year and every one of them could be on this list, but I have limited myself to two, this being the first. The Mad Ship is the second book in The Liveship Traders trilogy and it has magical sea serpents and talking ships and pirates and LITERALLY WHAT MORE COULD YOU POSSIBLY WANT? Every Robin Hobb book is fantastic but I especially loved this one because of how much you see the characters develop. Every character is complex and fascinating and you get to see each of their individual journeys through the amazing world that Robin Hobb creates. Plus, did I mention there are pirates?
7. Solitaire by Alice Oseman
This started out as a perfectly okay 3-star read, and then over the course of its 300-or-so-pages I was completely blown away. Guys, I went on a journey. This book follows Tori, your typical antisocial moody teenager, but then two things happen – Michael Holden and Solitaire. This is one of the most honest, genuine and realistic books about being a teenager that I have ever read. I don’t think I have read another book that so perfectly captures the experience of being a British teenager. This book also has one of my favourite central relationships in a YA book. The characters are wonderful, complex and relatable, and the novel’s themes of friendship, culpability and mental health are beautifully explored. This has made me beyond excited to pick up Alice Oseman’s second book, Radio Silence, which I have heard is even better than this one. Bring it on!
6. The Dragon Keeper (#1 The Rainwild Chronicles) by Robin Hobb
Oh look, it’s another Robin Hobb book! This time, it is the first book in The Rainwild Chronicles, set in the same world as The Liveship Traders, but following completely different characters. The characters of this book have been tasked with taking newly-hatched dragons to the ancient city of Kelsingra – which may or may not exist. I loved this book. Robin Hobb’s worldbuilding is always amazing but in this book, it is so fascinating and feels so effortless. She weaves worldbuilding and plot and characters with complete ease, and guys this book has dragons! Some of my favourite characters of any Robin Hobb book are in this novel and I adored every second of reading this book.
5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
So, I somehow managed to get through a three-year English degree without ever reading Jane Eyre, but fear not, 2017 is the year that this has been rectified. If you don’t know the story, Jane Eyre is a Victorian novel about (you guessed it) Jane Eyre, an orphan who becomes a governess to the illegitimate daughter of the brooding Mr Rochester, who she finds herself falling for. But Mr Rochester has some secrets that could make their romance impossible… In short, this book is absolutely fantastic. The writing is beautiful, the plot is gripping and Jane Eyre is one of the best heroines of any book I have ever read. She is a complete, complex, engaging character and you can’t help but get sucked into her story. Rochester is (unsurprisingly) terrible, but I still loved this book and it is by far my favourite classic that I have read this year.
4. Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
I haven’t read a book my Terry Pratchett in many many years and reading this has made me ask myself what the hell I was doing wasting my time not reading his novels. One of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Hogfather follows governess Susan as she tries to figure out exactly why her grandfather, Death – you know, black cloak, big scythe – has replaced the Hogfather on Hogswatch, when children all over the world are expecting receive presents in their stockings. Not only is this book completely hilarious, it’s also ridiculously smart and witty without every alienating the reader. You don’t need to have read any of the other Discworld books to enjoy this book, and enjoy it you definitely shall.
3. Poems by Wilfred Owen
You may well have read a poem or two by Wilfred Owen in school, when you were studying World War 1 at GCSE. Well, you definitely need to go back for a re-read. There’s no better place to start than with this collection of his poetry. Beautiful, but also brutal, every single poem punches you in the gut and showcases the horrors of the first world war without ever sugar-coating it. Some of the most visceral, original, devastating poems I have ever read. This collection really blew me away. Also, it is one of Penguin’s Clothbound Poetry collection, so it’s stunning on the outside too.
2. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
There are some books that, from the very first page, you know you are going to love. I knew that I would love Call Me By Your Name from the first line. It has some of the most exquisite writing I have ever read – it is lyrical and beautiful and nostalgic whilst also feeling completely honest and raw and present. Elio is seventeen and living a life of leisure with his parents in Italy, but then his world is turned upside down when Oliver, a 24-year-old academic, comes to stay with them for the summer. This novel captures the intensity and beauty and awkwardness of both teenagerdom and first love so wonderfully. From the start, you are plunged head first into Elio’s point of view so that you experience everything as Elio does. This book stayed in my head for weeks after I had read it. Stunning.
1 How Not To Be a Boy by Robert Webb
This book caught me completely off-guard and surprised me in the best possible way. This is a memoir by Peep Show actor Robert Webb, all about growing up being a boy and what that really means. I completely adored this book. It sounds cheesy but this book genuinely had me laughing out loud one minute and fighting back tears the next. This feels so personal but also makes such intelligent and astute observations about how society’s “rules” about gender control our lives. It is so honest and so well-written (which is never a guarantee in a memoir I find) and my only issue with it is that I wanted more! I really hope that Robert Webb continues to write because this is probably my favourite memoir I have ever read.