Favourite Books of the Decade

I am in constant awe of the fact that soon we will be living in the 20s. These last ten years were eventful ones for me, mostly because this is the case for most people in their twenties, I reckon. I am not going to reminisce about that though because let’s talk about what really counts: my favourite books published between January 2010 and December 2019. I tried for weeks to narrow it down to ten but I just couldn’t, so here are be eleven absolutely incredible books in chronological order by publication year.

9214995The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch (2011)

The memoir against which I judge all other memoirs, Lidia Yuknavitch’s raw and honest and breathtakingly beautiful account of her life is a book I cannot recommend highly enough. Her sentences are stunning and this book is painful in its brilliance.

23593321Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014)

I found this post-apocalyptic story hauntingly beautiful and impeccably structured. Told in vignettes of before, during, and after a world-altering outbreak of a disease, the story is a rummination of what makes us human as much as it is just a brilliant piece of story-telling. I didn’t love the other book by Emily St. John Mandel I read but I have an ARC for her upcoming novel and I could not be more excited.

20174424City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014)

This first in an urban kind of Epic Fantasy trilogy combines many things I adore in books: incredible worldbuilding, stories about gods, sharp characterisations, and main characters I could not help but root for even if they weren’t always perfect. I am not quite as invested in his newest trilogy, the first book of which I read last year, but this whole trilogy is among the best things written in the last decade.

23398763._sy475_Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014)

This short, little, perfect book made Celeste Ng an auto-buy author within a few pages. I loved everything about this – but especially the nuanced characterisations of people who seem too real to have come from somebody’s imagination. I found this book a lot stronger than Little Fires Everywhere and it is one I keep recommending to people in real life. (it also started my tradition of gifting my incredible stepmother sad books for Christmas)

23995336The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (2015)

It seems like I never talk about this book which is a shame because I love it so. This novel is more a set of interconnected short stories set in Chechnya but they built to something more than just the sum of its parts. I do not think I have read any author who is better at characterisation with just a sentence or two. Marra’s prose is near painfully beautiful and his stories are incredibly well-structured.

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin (2015)

Of course this book made the list. I have not stopped shouting its praise since reading it and N. K. Jemisin is probably my favourite author of all time. This book is near perfect for me. Jemisin’s brand of fantasy with its political core and incredibly structured narrative is just everything to me. I also love books told at least in part in second person – so yes, perfect book is perfect. (If I had to name an absolute favourite of this list, this would be it.)

25622828The Unfinished World and Other Stories by Amber Sparks (2016)

My all-time favourite short story collection by my favourite short story author. Sparks’ prose in connection with her exuberant imagination, made this a near perfect reading experience for me. Amber Sparks’ language is neither too flowery nor too sparse but hits that sweet spot of being evocative without being too much, and of being precise without being boring.

27313170All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (2016)

This book sits comfortably in smack in the middle of my reading preferences, combining fantasy and sci-fi, chronicling in an interesting way a friendship slash love story, this firmly established Charlie Jane Anders as an auto-buy author for me. I love the weirdness and the emotional core of this book and have not stopped thinking about the ending in the years since I read it.

32187419._sy475_Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017)

At this point, I feel like I find a way to talk about this book constantly – but damn, do I love this. Rooney has written the perfect book for me. Her characterizations are so sharp they cut deep, I felt so very much for Frances and even Nick (and I never feel for the older man having an affair with a younger women!). I like the understatedness of her prose which does nothing to hide the clear and precise picture she draws of human interactions.

37590570The Pisces by Melissa Broder (2018)

Another one of those books that I constantly bring up, The Pisces in unforgettable for me. Broder has written an incredibly sharp and honest portrayal of a woman who keeps hitting rock bottom and still manages to always choose the most damaging course of action – while also making her, at least for me, deeply relatable (and seriously hilarious). This is not a book for everybody but it is very much a book for me.

35840657Heart Berries by Marie Terese Mailhot (2018)

I adored this and have had troubles ever since articulating exactly what worked for me. Terese Mailhot packs an unbelievable punch into a book this short. I could not stop reading it: her language is hypnotic, her turn of phrase impressive, her emotional rawness painful. This book does not follow conventions, Terese Mailhot tells her story the way she wants to and needs to. She is unapologetically herself. She bares her soul and hides it at the same time.

Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

36112638Verdict: In parts brilliant, in parts unsubtle

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: General fiction

Published by Penguin, 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.

Again it feels like I am the last person to have read a book – and again I am so glad to have finally gotten to it. I adored Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything I Never Told You and while I don’t think this book was quite as strong, it was still brilliant enough that I will be reading every single thing she ever publishes.

At its heart, this is a book about mothers and their relationship to their children. It follows to very different women, free-spirited Mia and perfect Mrs Richardson and their children while at the same time being more of a pastiche depicting a small towns inhabitants. I really enjoyed the rambling nature of the narrative and was happily along for the ride. I thought Ng took incredible care with most of her characters and her command of language in describing these everyday scenes was wonderful.

For me the book got weaker as it neared the ending, when the story became less subtle and it became more clear what Ng wanted the reader to think. I thought this did a disservice to the wonderfully complex moral conundrum at the heart of this novel. There were no easy answers her and for me it felt like the novel pretended as if there were. I found the two women at the centre became less real and more archetypical towards the ending and as such lost power.

On the other end of the spectrum, I adored the way Ng handled the younger generation. All the teenagers felt real and believable and their relationships with each other made my heart ache with its earnesty. Especially the three women had my hearts and I wanted them to be happy; Izzy with her prickliness, Lexie with her strong moral compass that just so happens to not always include her own actions, and Pearl who just wanted to belong. Ng just really has a way of constructing believable characters that make me very excited for whatever she writes next.

Wrap Up: January 2019 or I am bingereading.

January was tough, work wise. I had a ridiculous amount of stuff to do – and I did not feel like reading anything that challenged me in my free time. What also suffered from my month of hell was blogging in general – I have neither written very many blog posts nor have I read very many of other people’s (which is something I am truly sorry for but which cannot be helped at the moment. I really am drowning in work.).

Books I read in January:

 

  1. The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden: 5 out of 5 stars (Review)
  2. Visions of Heat (Psy-Changeling #2) by Nalini Singh: 2 out of 5 stars
  3. Caressed by Ice (Psy-Changeling #3) by Nalini Singh: 3,5 out of 5 stars
  4. Mine to Possess (Psy-Changeling #4) by Nalini Singh: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Hostage to Pleasure (Psy-Changeling #5) by Nalini Singh: 2,5 out of 5 stars
  6. Branded by Fire (Psy-Changeling #6) by Nalini Singh: 4 out of 5 stars
  7. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: 4 out of 5 stars (Review)
  8. Blaze of Memory (Psy-Changeling #7) by Nalini Singh: 2 out of 5 stars
  9. Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom: 4 out of 5 stars (Mini-Review)
  10. 300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso: 3 out of 5 stars (Mini-Review)
  11. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: 4 out of 5 stars
  12. Bonds of Justice (Psy-Changeling #8): 3 out of 5 stars
  13. Play of Passion (Psy-Changeling #9): 4 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

The Winter of the Witch was an absolutely stunning conclusion to a series I have loved immensely. I cannot wait to read everything Katherine Arden comes up with next.

I also really enjoyed binge-reading the a large chunk of Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series. There is something about her writing and her world-building that I particularly enjoy. The whole is also better than the sum of its parts and I don’t see myself stopping reading this series anytime soon.

Continue reading “Wrap Up: January 2019 or I am bingereading.”

Look what came in the post #2

I got a whole bunch of books this week. I am a fickle reader – and even though I own too many books I haven’t read I felt it was prudent to buy more.

The Book of Joan – Lidia Yuknavitch

30653706In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.

I read The Small of Backs of Children earlier this year and adored it. I found it original and startling and very very beautiful (you can find my gushing review here). The Book of Joan got very mixed reviews but I am still very intrigued by it.

The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.

I am beyong excited about this book and have already started reading it. So far I adore this – Lidia Yuknavitch’s writing is on point, breathtakingly beautiful and raw.

PS: My version had the boobs hidden behind additional paper pasted above them – which I find odd and hilarious and also super stupid. Thankfully it was easily removed.

The Southern Reach Trilogy & Borne – Jeff VanderMeer

Earlier this year I reviewed Borne and while it wasn’t without its flaws it stuck with me. Jeff VanderMeer writes unlike anybody else and his brand of weirdness that is grounded in what we know of the worlds he creates really appeals to me. And now with The Southern Reach trilogy being made into movies starring Nathalie Portman (who I adore), I couldn’t resist any longer. I have been eying the books for years after all.

Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky

25499718

A race for survival among the stars… Humanity’s last survivors escaped earth’s ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth?

I have been wanting to read more science fiction and this one comes highly recommended (plus his new book Dogs of War sounds really cool as well). Science Fiction is always a bit hit and miss for me – I love it when it deals with the sociological aspects of space but when it becomes too technical I tend to get bored. Still, it is a genre I have read not enough of, so I am looking forward to this.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

34273236In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

I adord Celeste Ng’s first novel Everything I Never Told You and have been eagerly awaiting her second one ever since I finished that. I pre-ordered the book as soon as it became available and cannot wait to read it. I will have to be in the proper mood however because I am sure it will destroy me.