I always love sitting down at the end of the year and compiling my favourite reads of the past 12 months. Often I haven’t really noticed whether it’s been a good or bad year (reading-wise) until I do this – and I’d say 2017 has been steadily very good. Only one of the books I read is likely to find its way onto my all-time faves, but there were dozens that I’d have been very happy to see on an end of year list. And it’s been a very good year for mid-century books!
My usual rules for myself apply – only one book by each author can feature, and no re-reads. Each title links back to my review. Here they are, from #10 to #1…
Rachel and I read this for ‘Tea or Books?‘ back in February, comparing it another novel about the Thompson/Bywaters murder case (E.M. Delafield’s Messalina of the Suburbs). It’s probably the podcast ep I’m proudest of, as I think this comparison is fascinating – and FTJ’s exquisite novel won that podcast decision and tenth place on my list.
When I read Howards End is on the Landing, there was never any doubt that it would be my favourite book that year. I’ve eagerly awaited the sort-of-sequel ever since, and I did absolutely love it. The only reasons it isn’t higher are that I wanted more about books, and perhaps slightly fewer bizarre pronouncements from Hill. Still, nobody else could have written quite this book.
I’ve read any number of Taylor novels, and read this one for a conference on Undervalued British Women Writers 1930-1960. It’s more dramatic and dark than many of Taylor’s novels, but absorbingly brilliantly brilliant.
Look, I’m never going to get over how much I love the title of this book – which looks at the history of the ‘Shakespeare authorship question’ over the years. Shapiro saves his unanswerable reasons for being pro-Shakespeare until the final chapter; before this he is wise, amusing, and thorough.
This quirky, brilliant novel is a masterpiece of unusual structuring, and entirely beguiling. It was also given to me by a friend who died this year, which makes it (and her recommendation) all the more special.
I’ve yet to write a review of this one, but I’ve linked to the podcast episode where we compared it to Eden’s other novel, The Semi-Attached Couple. This is a very funny, very arch novel in the mould of Austen, elevating itself past imitation into something rather wonderful.
Also published as A Stranger With a Bag, I only reviewed this collection of short stories a week or so ago – I’m glad I waited to make my Best Books list, because these observant, calm, insightful stories are a thought-provoking delight.
I reviewed this over at Shiny New Books, and it’s a hilarious account of a year in the life of a Scottish bookseller. Bythell is quite cynical and snarky, but if your sense of humour overlaps with his then you’ll laugh and laugh – as well as getting a glimpse into the Promised Land.
This was a slow burn, and had to be read gradually, but it was one of the most rewarding reads I’ve had in a while. Timothy Casson is a writer who moves to a small village in wartime and wants boating rights on the river – of such small things are masterpieces made. Rachel and I will be discussing this one in the new year…
It truly has been the Year of Beverley. I’ve read quite a lot of books by him this year, but I had to pick the one which kicked off my Beverley love affair – I read Merry Hall for the 1951 Club, and never looked back. This (presumably heightened) account of buying a house and doing up the garden is hilarious, charming, and (praise be!) the beginning of a trilogy. Don’t wait as long as I did to read Beverley – if you haven’t yet, make 2018 the year you read him!