My Favourite Authors

Instead of writing all the reviews I still have to write, I found this tag on Jennifer’s channel Insert Literary Pun Here and could not stop thinking about it. The tag, created by Steve Donoghue, works like this: you name six authors that aren’t quite your favourite, four authors that maybe are your favourite and then you rank your five favourite authors.

This was pretty hard; as always, I find it easier to name my favourite author, singular, than naming my favourite authors, plural (I have the same issue with favourite book vs. favourite books, favourite movie vs. favourite movies): naming more than one makes me want to definite criteria. What makes an author a favourite? Can somebody be a favourite if I have only read one book? Can an author whose books I haven’t read in years still be considered a favourite? But it was fun thinking about this and even if I am sure that the list would be completely different had I done it half a year ago and will surely change in the coming years (at least I would hope so, I am eternally looking for new favourite authors), I want to have this post on my blog to be able to look back to it.

Not Quite

Ilona Andrews

There is something safe and wonderful about Ilona Andrews’ writing. I haven’t read everything the duo has written (this will become a running theme here) but I adored, adored the Kate Daniels’ series and the first trilogy in their Hidden Legacy series got me through a particularly grueling time last year. They will always have a soft spot in my heart. The books are snarky, the banter between the love interests is brilliant (and I ship them more than is healthy), and the world building is excellent. In a genre I often struggle with, these books are a definite highlight for me.

Robert Jackson Bennett 

Again, I haven’t read everything he has written but his The Divine Cities trilogy is one of my all time favourite series. I am also super excited to see where he is taking his current series next (the second book will be published early 2020). I love what he has to say about fate and gods and the interaction between these two things. His characterizations are brilliant and his language sharp.

Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is just so very clever. She is arguably currently the best at what she does: creative non-fiction that centers herself unashamedly while combining it with social and gender theory. I adore the way her mind works and her books are always a joy to read. I haven’t read her poetry and don’t plan on doing so, but I will surely read everything else she ever publishes.

Neil Gaiman

This is an odd one – because Gaiman started out in my favourites pile until I filled the spots in and realized he isn’t quite there for me anymore and then I kept bumping him lower and lower. I love his writing and I have read nearly every book he has published – but somehow his writing doesn’t feel like a favourite for me anymore.

Amber Sparks

She is my absolute favourite short story writer and I cannot wait to read her new collection next year – but for some reason or other I cannot think of her as a favourite writer. She’s brilliant on twitter though and I want more people to read her work, so if you like short stories with a speculative slant, you really should check her out!

Katherine Arden

The Winternight trilogy has a special spot in my heart: it is the first series I completely read as review copies before each book released. My most successful review on Goodreads is for one of her books I haven’t read yet and all I said was “I would read Katherine Arden’s shopping list if she published it” (I am not at all bemused by that fact and not at all bitter that this is the review that gets noticed when I put so much more effort into others I have written). Her writing feels custom-made for me: lush language with an immersive world-building, set in Russia in its endless winter, combining fairy tales with original stories, with a love story that work for me in a way it should not have. I really hope she’ll publish another adult book soon – although I will eventually pick up her middle grade.

Maybe

Nalini Singh

I adore Singh’s writing – but the whole is greater than its parts. I have read nearly every book in the Psy-Changeling series, plus the novellas, and while not every book worked for me, overall I find her world incredible. The world-building is impeccable and exciting, her characters are recognizable over long stretches of time, and I love her approach to romance. It is a shame her worldbuilding is not discussed more often in the fantasy community, as it really is brilliant, but I guess that is part of writing romance. I love her though and am currently making my way through her backlist (which is thankfully extensive!).

Lauren Groff

Groff feels like a favourite author without her books being absolute favourites of mine. I really like the way her language flows and find her prose so very soothing in the best possible way. Her short stories are brilliant but I also adored Fates and Furies which is pretentious in the best possible way. I own her other two novels but for some reason never pick them up. I really need to change that.

Melissa Broder

Even if she only ever wrote one book, The Pisces would be strong enough for her to feature on this list. It was my absolute favourite book of last year and my favourite to win this year’s Women’s Prize (I am sad it didn’t even make the short list). Lucy is such an endlessly compelling character and Broder’s observations and the way she describes the awful normality of sadness really resonated with me. Her memoir was not quite as strong but a really interesting framework for her novel. I cannot WAIT for her next book – my expectations could not be higher.

David Mitchell

My favourite male author, hands down. I adore David Mitchell’s writing. He is so good at conjuring awful characters and making them feel real in an instant. His command of narrative voice is incredibly impressive and his novels that are often closer to collections of very interconnected short stories, stay with me long after I finish them. I have two of his books left on my shelves and I am saving them for a figuratively rainy day. I was informed today that his new novel is coming out next summer and I could NOT be more excited.

Favourites

5) Sally Rooney

The newest addition to this list, Sally Rooney blew me away with her debut Conversations With Friends when I read it earlier this year. There was never any doubt in my mind that her book would top my best of the year list, it spoke to me so deeply. I loved everything about it, from her sharp language, to her flawed but sympathetic main character, to the way she made me feel for Nick, to her wonderful way with dialogue. Everything about the book just worked for me. Her second novel Normal People is brilliant but I am unsure if anything can ever top Conversations With Friends for me.

4) Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay’s writing works best for me in short stories. I don’t even think she is capable of writing a bad story. Her essays are brilliant as well and her non fiction regularly rips my heart out. I haven’t read her novel because I am scared it will scar me, but I follow what she does online very closely. She is an incredibly editor who chooses incredible voices and manages to make them even better, I think. She is such a hero.

3) Lidia Yuknavitch

The Chronology of Water is my alltime favourite non fiction book. Yuknavitch forever defined what I think of as possible in memoirs. The book is, on a sentence-by-sentence basis, incredible. Her turn of phrases are so sharp, so raw, so honest, they cut me to the bone. Her prose is definitely her biggest strength for me, but her way of connecting the real with the fictional (as done so in The Small Backs of Children) is a close second. Again, I need to read her other books but I am also scared to get to the end of her work and to have to wait. She will publish a collection of short stories later this year and I am ecstatic to get to read those.

2) Christa Wolf

I have read nowhere near her complete works, but Kassandra is, as most of you will know, my favourite book of all time. I also really loved Medea and Kindheitsmuster and I am planning on eventually reading everything she has ever written. She should have won the Nobel Prize for Literature but it wasn’t meant to be. Her writing still is incredible and I wish more people would read her.

1) N. K. Jemisin

Like I said, Favourite Author is easy for me: N. K. Jemisin is the best. I adore her brand of socially critical fantasy, I love the way she writes her characters, I adore her on twitter and in speeches, I think The Fifth Season is the best fantasy book written, possibly ever, I adore what she does with perspective and framing, and I think she deserves all the acolades she gets. She isn’t only an outstanding fantasy author, she is outstanding, full stop. I still haven’t read her collection of short stories nor her first duology but that does not detract from the fact how very brilliant I think she is.

Who are your favourite authors? How do you define who makes that list and who doesn’t? Do you find the singular or the plural easier to decide?

Recommendations: Books with “unlikable” female characters

I adore books with difficult female characters – unlikability really works for me when it is done interestingly. I also think that judging a book as lacking because a character is unlikable is a boring critique. I am the first to admit that I need to find characters compelling but compellingness can come from characters being really awful. Weirdly enough, I am way more interested in difficult women than in difficult men – although thinking about it, maybe it’s not so weird after all.

153480Medea by Christa Wolf

One of my absolute favourite books of all time, I adore Wolf’s interpretation of Medea. While she is not as difficult as she is in the original myth, her problems are very much of her own making. She is unapologetically herself and frustratingly so. Wolf tells this story from different perspectives but anchors it in a pitch-perfect characterization of this infamous woman. (in case anybody is looking for more books to read during WiT-month, this one would be a brilliant one to add!)

36136386Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

I adore Frances – but she has been called unlikable by numerous reviewers. She is pretentious and incapable of talking about her feelings, she pursues a married man and lies to her best friend. But she is also clever and hurting and I just felt for her. I don’t think I have to tell anybody here how much I loved this book. (review)

35958295Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

This book gutted me, not least of all because Sarah, the main character, painfully reminded me of myself when I was in my early twenties. Told in two time lines, the Sarah from the present is an awful friend and a pretty terrible partner. But it is past-Sarah, the one who is in a toxic relationship that I related to, too much maybe. My review got a lot more personal than they usually are.

19161852The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

One of my all-time favourite books, one I practically adore every thing of, is made even more brilliant by how difficult Jemisin lets her main character, Essun, be. She is abrasive and single-minded, she feels no need to smooth her edges, and I loved her for it. The series is, amongst other things, a rumination on motherhood and growing up. Essun is horrible towards her daughter in a way that she thinks is necessary – and the inevitable conclusion to the trilogy broke my heart and made me a life long fan. (review)

37590570The Pisces by Melissa Broder

This book. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since reading an early copy last year. I adore everything about this – but most of all Lucy. She is pretty horrible a lot of the time but I also couldn’t help but root for her. It helps that she is super funny in her meanness and really lost underneath her swagger. I also loved reading Broder’s memoir So Sad Today (review) which gave me a whole different appreciation for Lucy, who definitely, at least in parts, is based on Broder herself. Another reason why dismissing the main character simply as “unlikable” doesn’t work here. (review)

36332136The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley

I only recently finished this but I want to keep shouting from the rooftops how brilliant I thought this was. Told from different perspectives, I personally most adored Willa’s third person narration. Willa is prickly and awful and so very very brilliantly drawn. Her mask of the perfect suburban wife crumbles pretty quickly but her layers are revealed in a perfectly measured speed. (review)

What are your thoughts on unlikability? Do you have any recommendations for me?

 

 

 

Tag: How I Choose My Books

I was tagged (a while ago, sorry) by Hadeer over @ Cairene Librarian for this absolutely wonderful tag. Thank you so much!

Find a book on your shelves with a blue pink cover. What made you pick up the  book in the first place?

The first book with a pink cover I found on my shelves is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, one of my favourite authors. I bought this because I enjoyed The Bone Clocks enough to feel like he is somebody I want to read more of – and that book I chose because the cover just spoke to me in a book shop (and it sounded JUST like my type of book). I am in general a huge fan of the way Mitchell’s books look. Continue reading “Tag: How I Choose My Books”

Recommendations: Books told differently

I keep saying that I like books that are told in an unconventional manner or unchronologically or just plain differently. This is the thing that link most of my favourite books. So it seems only necessary to recommend some of those books in the hope that you might like some as well and so that you can tell me about your favourite books that might be a bit different.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

23574514I adore everything I have read by David Mitchell. His characterisations are brilliant, his tone is pitch-perfect, and his way of loosely structuring his books just works extremely well for me. Most of his books are told in intersecting short stories and even more so, all his books allude to each other in one way or another – and ugh, I love that.

Ghostwritten might be my favourite of his – even though I also admire Cloud Atlas beyond everything. Mitchell is just a genius.

Kassandra by Christa Wolf

4412083Christa Wolf is possibly my favourite author – and Kassandra is definitely my favourite book of all times. I don’t even have the words to describe how much this books means to me. Told in stream of consciousness during the last few hours of Kassandra’s life, this book goes forward and backward in time in just the perfect way. Every sentence, every word is pitch-perfect.

The Zsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

29236311Anthony Marra should really get to writing more books because I have five-starred both books he has written so far and I don’t think I have done that with any other author. He has a way with words that makes me speechless and he is able to make characters of every single person in his books, often with just a sentence in a half. This book is (again) in the form of intersecting short stories that span years and genres and it is just absolutely breathtaking and sad. You really should read it if you haven’t already.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

9549746Again, a book told in short stories that span genres and feelings, this book made me so very happy while reading it. It very deservedly won the Pulitzer Prize and shows how different styles can be used without feeling gimmicky. Also, I do love pretentious books, so this was right up my alley. I was less impressed with Egan’s newest book, so I in no rush to read the rest of her oeuvre, but this one is really something.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

24612118I am a big fan of Lauren Groff’s writing in general (I am slowly making my way through everything she has ever written), but this book in particular was just made for me. Written first from the perspective of Lotto (often employing his horribly pretentious plays to do so), Groff than changes everything we know by telling the same (but very different) story from his wife’s (Mathilde) perspective. And I LOVED this. This book is just the right amount of indulgent and pretentious for me.

Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? Do you have any recommendations for me based on these books?

Recommendations: short books

I have not made a secret of my love for short books. I love it when an author can blow my mind in under 200 pages. As I have not been able to read as much recently, I treasure these books even more. I obviously also love these long immersive books that envelope you completely, but I will talk about those at some other point.

Here are some of my favourite short books:

Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot (published by Counterpoint Press; 143 pages)

35840657I adored everything about this book: it is honest and raw and brutal and stunningly written. I could not lift my eyes from the page and clutched it close to me when finishing it. My review can be found here.

 

 

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (published by Fourth Estate; 195 pages)

25970139I love Jeff VanderMeer’s craft in general, but here in this short, confusing, wonderful book it is on full display. Every sentence is perfect, the atmosphere is out of this world immersive, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. My review is here.

 

 

May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks (published by Curbside Splendor; 150 pages)

15701573Amber Sparks writes my favourite type of short stories. Slightly otherworldly, slightly fantastical, very beautifully written, very feminist. She is apparently working on a new collection (influenced by #MeToo) and I CANNOT wait. If you like short stories at all, I cannot recommend her work highly enough. My review can be found here.

 

Kassandra by Christa Wolf (Suhrkamp Verlag; 178 pages)

4412083No list of mine would be complete without shouting about this book, one of my very favourites. I have talked extensively how wonderful this book is; how every sentence packs a punch. How not a word is misplaced. How much of a genius Christa Wolf is. How woefully underrated she is outside of Germany (I had to read her for my A-Levels and will forever be glad to have been able to dissect her words). You can find my review here.

 

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Portobello Books; 183 pages)

27191166Much like Christa Wolf, Han Kang has a brilliant way with words where every word is placed with much care and every sentence is stunning beyond words. I adored this book and enjoyed The White Book immensely and one of the reasons for that is her economical way with language.

 

What are your favourite short books? Do you prefer short or long books?

Friday Favourites: German Classics

German literature is the only literature where I feel fairly well-read in. Recently I haven’t been reading it as much as I used to but I plan to remedy that at some point. Until then I thought I would give a bit of a shout out to some my favourite German classics (modern and otherwise).

Faust – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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No list of German classics would be complete with this, quite possibly THE defining play in German literature. I first read this in school and adored it. I have seen it in theaters all over Germany (my favourite being a student production in Weimar with a female Mephistopheles and a Faust incongruously played by the most beautiful man imaginable (he went on to participate in some casting show I never watched but me and my friend I saw the production with still feel weirdly proud of that fact)) and cannot recommend doing this enough. My flatmate in uni told me the English translation is not quite as brilliant but I still think reading this is well worth anybody’s time.

Also, I wanted to get a quote from this tattooed for the longest time – I am nothing if not pretentious.

Group Portrait with Lady (Gruppenbild mit Dame) – Heinrich Böll

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I adored every book by Böll I have read (and just got my dad’s collection of all his works and will be reading more over the coming months) but this one is my favourite. The narrative structure works extremely well and the whole book just gives a brilliant glimpse into 20th century Germany.

The Perfume (Das Parfüm) – Patrick Süskind

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This postmodern work does not get enough love, I find. It might be because part of its appeal is the way it alludes to other literary works in a way that for me felt like a treasure hunt and for others ended feeling pretentious and tedious (I also read this in school and my classmates’ opinion were SO divided). If you like clever, dark, and super wonderful stories, this might be for you. And I will have to reread this at some point because I have read so much since school and would surely find more of the allusions now.

On tangled paths (Irrungen, Wirrungen) – Theodor Fontane

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This is definitely one of those books that works the best when talked about extensively. Fontane writes with a purpose that makes it difficult to get into. Every word is there for a reason, every metaphor was placed intendly. I adore the dryness of his prose and his storytelling and analyzing this is one of my fondest memories of my high school years.

Also, can we talk about how ‘meh’ the English title is? Like, seriously.

And finally, we all knew this was coming:

Medea – Christa Wolf & Kassandra – Christa Wolf

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Christa Wolf is, handsdown, my favourite German author. I find it a shame that she never won the Nobel Prize (and Grass did, but that is a rant for another time) and that she is not more widely read. Those two books are feminist re-tellings of, you guessed it, the Medea and the Kassandra myth respectively. Wolf’s perfect command of the German language is impeccable, her feeling for rhythm genius, and her ability to get at the emotional heart of these stories unparalled (I find).

What are your favourite classics? What is the one book you would recommend to everybody? Do let me know!

The year in revue: Favourite books of 2017

I do love talking about things I love. I have been writing this post for weeks and I am so excited!

2017 was a pretty brilliant reading year for me; sure I read some not so great books but overall I am really pleased. This is the first year I reviewed every single book I read, this has made me both more critical and more excited. Writing down all the things I adored in a book makes me give higher ratings, I have found – I am very fine with this. As such it comes as no surprise that I have given 5 stars to more books than in 2016. I am looking forward to even more brilliant books in 2018!

Without much further ado, here are my favourite books of the year. While places 13 to 6 could and did change depending on my mood, my top 5 are certain.

Honorable mention: Grief Cottage – Gail Godwin

33509072I loved this. I found the first 90% absolutely stunning. Because the ending didn’t quite work for me, I gave it 4 stars. But is has stuck with me. My review can be found here.

 

 

Little Nothing – Marisa Silver

29429934I adored this whimsical fairy-talesque beautiful little novel. It sucked me right in and never let me go. There was just something so brilliant here that it left me breathless. I still don’t know why this wasn’t talked about more. My review can be found here.

 

Anything is Possible – Elizabeth Strout

32874103I was sure I would like this book but it took me by surprise with how much I loved this. So much that I went and bought My Name is Lucy Barton and immediately read it – which is something I hardly ever do. You can find my review here.

 

Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

31349579I have talked recently about this book. Because even though I gave it four stars immediately after reading it, it has stuck with me. The longer I think about it, the better I think it is. My review can be found here. I might have changed the rating before this goes online.

 

 

The Unfinished World – Amber Sparks

25622828Hands down my favourite short story collection of the year. I just love Amber Sparks’ imagination and her vivid world building. I love her stories about siblings and about loss and about weirdness and sadness. I found it moving and wonderful and just everything I look for in a short story collection. My review can be found here.

Annihilation (The Southern Reach #1) – Jeff VanderMeer

25970139I devoured this. I just could not get enough of this wonderfully atmospheric and creepy little book. I adore the way Jeff VanderMeer constructs his sentences and builds his world. I love how the weirdness is always rooted in what we know of his world. I am equally scared and excited to see the movie adaptation next year. My review can be found here.

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) – N. K. Jemisin

31817749This was hands down my most anticipated book published in the second half of the year. And boy, did it ever deliver. N. K. Jemisin is the most exciting voice in fantasy at the moment (the Hugo jury seems to agree with me) and THIS is how you end a trilogy. My review can be found here.

 

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1) – Robert Jackson Bennett

25452717I adored this. Last year, I started to become less enamored with fantasy as genre – but apparently I have just been reading the wrong books because this year I found so much to love again. Robert Jackson Bennett’s series of lost divinities and mythology and flawed characters and grey morality just floored me. You can find my longer, gushing review here.

 

05) The Wrong Way To Save Your Life – Megan Stielstra

32600746This book snuck up on me; I was enjoying it and then suddenly I was loving it. It made me think, it made me smile and it made me cry. I could not sleep one night because I could not stop thinking about this. I just want everybody to read this. My review can be found here.

 

04) Hunger: A memoir of (my) body – Roxane Gay

32940570Roxane Gay is my hero. That is all.

(Longer version here.)

03) The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) – N. K. Jemisin

19161852My introduction to N. K. Jemisin’s world remains my favourite of hers. She creates a brutal world where the earth is volatile and out to kill its inhabitants and the society that evolved from this makes sadly so much sense. I adore the political core of her work and how she never sacrifices the story she wants to tell to it. Her characters are brilliant, her language mesmerizing, her talent undeniable. This is why I love fantasy. My review is here.

02) Kassandra – Christa Wolf

4412083This feels a bit like cheating – I have read this book quite possibly more often than any other book since I was an adult. This retelling of the story of Troy is one of my all-time favourite books. Stylistically brilliant, brutally devastating, wonderfully imagined. My full thoughts are here.

 

01) The Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995Everything about this book is pure perfection. This will forever define what I think a memoir can do; Lidia Yuknavitch’s honesty about her trauma and her mistakes and her life is a wonder. I still do not have the words to describe how absolutely beyond brilliant this book is. But you can see my attempt here.

There are three memoirs, two short story collections, six books that can broadly be categorized as SFF, and eleven books written by women on this list. I think I am okay with this.

What about you? What were your favourite books of the year? Have you read any of the books on my list? What are your thoughts?

 

Friday Favourites: Book Edition #1

I like talking about the things I like (who doesn’t, I guess), so I will be trying to post about my favourite book related things regularly (I will aim for every second friday but I’ll have to wait and see if I can manage that). I will talk about my favourite authors and why they rule, about my favourite genres and why they make me happy, my favourite books and why they stick with me. And so on and so forth. There are so many things I love about books, I am sure I will be able to go on for a while. So without further ado, here’s this week’s thing I love:

Kassandra by Christa Wolf

4412083

Mit der Erzählung geh ich in den Tod.

There are no words to describe how much this book means to me. The first time I read it in my teens, it overwhelmed me but also made me feel awed; I have reread this book plenty of times but still, I am in absolute awe in the face of the work of genius Christa Wolf has created here.

“Kassandra” is part stream of consciousness, part eulogy, part feminist manifesto. The daughter of Priamos is sitting in front of the castle in Mykene and knows her life is nearly over; most people she knows are dead and the Troy she grew up in isn’t anymore – but she is still strong, still herself, still unashamed and thinking back on her life. Christa Wolf created a wonderful character, her reimagining of Kassandra is vivid and undeniably brilliant. Kassandra is flawed, her fall is very much her own making, but she owns it, herself, everything; she is always herself even in the face of tragedy, she does not lie to herself, does not make herself out to be more than she is, she is my absolute hero. Her relationship with Aeneas still to this day is my favourite fictional relationship; her refusal to agree to morally wrong decisions even if her disagreement does not change a thing is something I aspire to.

The book is short but every sentences, every word, every contraction is deliberate and packs a punch; not one sentence is without a reason in the greater flow of this work. A mixture between long, run-on sentences and short ellipses makes this book insanely readable but at the same time forces the reader to pay attention to every single thing going on.

I love this book, have loved it for a long time and will definitely keep rereading it forever.

What are your favourite re-tellings? It is one of my favourite types of books and I am always looking for recommendations; especially for re-tellings with a feminist twist (because I am nothing if not predictable).