Two years ago I downloaded the ‘Goodreads’ app and set myself a reading challenge of 25 books a year. I know, I’m a very slow reader.
This year has been a mixed bag. I finally got round to reading some that had been on my ‘to read’ lust for a while. I certainly read a varied selection of books, from Hubert Selby’s ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, which stands alone as a modern classic, to Harlan Coben’s ‘Home’.
But without further ado, here are my top five reads from 2017.
In fifth place, ‘Lying in Wait’ by Liz Nugent. This is a classy little psychological thriller with a nice twist at the end. It made me want to read more by her, so ‘Unravelling Oliver’ is on this year’s list.
In fourth place, ‘Good Me, Bad Me’ by Ali Land. This was a much-talked-about novel by a new author and was really worth reading. Ali Land has extensive experience in the area she is writing about and it really shows. The story rattles along at a good pace and is quite believable, underlining the author’s knowledge of child psychology and its long-lasting effects and impact.
In third place, ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. I finally succumbed to reading what is termed a classic of the genre and was not disappointed. Capote’s examination of the murders that took place ‘in cold blood’ is microscopic in its detail. Whenever he refers to a shopkeeper or a neighbour’s witness statement of gives a physical description of them you have to remind yourself that he spent six months interviewing townsfolk and taking statements before producing this astonishing piece of work.
In second place, ‘Moving’ by Jenny Eclair. Well, this was a shock! I’m not a fan of Jenny Eclair the comic but boy can she write! This was one we picked up from a charity shop for a few pounds before a holiday. My wife read it first in a few days then told me I had to read it. It’s a large book both in size and scope as it covers about 60 years of the life of members of one family. The characters are so brilliantly drawn and the plotting so realistic that you find yourself transported to their world and identifying with them, begging them not to make the wrong decisions, consoling them, blaming them when things go wrong. This is on a similar level to David Nicholls ‘One Day’ and is the book that ‘Versions of Us’ so desperately wanted to be but failed.
And now, drum roll, in first place, another book from my huge ‘to read’ list and one whose title has intrigued me for years and made me want to read it. John Berendt’s ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’. It is hard to describe how beautifully written this book is. It is along similar lines as ‘In Cold Blood’ in that it is an investigation into a murder but this time in Savannah, Georgia. What sets this apart is Berendt’s prose. His writing transports you to the heat and humidity of Savannah. You can see the magnificent mansions along the streets and taste the iced tea.The characters are worthy of their own book and at times it is hard to believe that Berendt hasn’t invented them for poetic licence. They are colourful, eccentric and, for the most part, utterly charming.You have to keep reminding yourself that this is a murder story, as the murder takes a back seat. This is one of those rare books that I think I could have read again immediately after finishing it and there are not many in that category.
So, that’s my top five. This year I’ve included a few more from my ‘to read’ list such as ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ , ‘The Book Thief’ and ‘All the Light We Cannot See’. There will be more of course, but if there are any you want to recommend then please feel free to comment below or on twitter @glynbawden
I look forward to it.