10. Tender – McKeon, Belinda
Heady college days. Two friends, Catherine and James. James is vibrant and energetic. Catherine is whiney and clingy. These characters border very close to being very irritating but McKeon, a master in exploring the subtleties of human interaction, pulls back just enough to let you care about them.
9. Bird Box – Malerman, Josh
Fun unhyped thriller with a simple concept: people have started to go Berserk when they see *something*. The world quickly escalates to apocalypse. This is the story of one woman trying to survive with two children who have only known this world through a blindfold. Fun.
8. A Decent Ride – Irvine Welsh
Juice Terry Jones. A total shagmeister. Drives a taxi. Shags everything in sight. He’s almost too much to bear but he’s contrasted by the story of a sweet simple radge called Jonty. Welsh breaks every taboo in this book. The Guardian wrote it off as Poor writing and penis jokes. In lesser hands, I’d agree but no one can write this kind of stuff like Welsh, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this.
7. Undermajordomo Minor – deWitt, Patrick
Patrick deWitt really gets the idea that writing should always be entertaining; I’m yet to meet someone who hasn’t loved The Sisters Brothers. Under Major Domo is probably not quite as good but it’s not too far off either.
6. Alan Partridge – Nomad
The follow up to Alan Partidge’s autobiography, sees him retrace a path his father took many years ago. Once again this is a laugh-a-minute. The audio version read in-character is a must.
5. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – Harari, Yuval Noah
Essential non-fiction exploring many theories about why we are the way we are, where we’ve come from and how we got here. Lots of common sense where you find yourself nodding and thinking you knew that already. But plenty of unique ideas also. One of the major themes is the idea that sapiens are different to other animals mostly because of myths that we’ve all agreed to believe in, such as the concept of money.
4. Nothing on Earth – Conor O’Callaghan
People go missing. Where have they gone? Why have they gone? Is it a psychological thriller? A domestic drama? A whodunnit? Something else entirely? All of these things? None of these things? I loved the slight shapeshifting of form and the ambiguity in this story.
3. My Struggle: Books 2 & 3 Books Knausgård, Karl Ove
3 down, 3 to go in this autobiographical masterwork dissecting the minutiae of human interactions and everyday life and somehow making it all fascinating.
2. Reasons to stay alive
This started with a little bit of eyerolling at the mansplaining and preaching-to-the-converted about mental illness. Explaining how mental pain far exceeds any physical pain, and that telling a depressive to cheer up, is as pointless as telling a cancer patient to uncancer. Aren’t we past all this? probably not. This was all fine – it’s a book aimed at everyone, so it starts with the basics, fine. And then as I read on, not only did I start to think of it as essential reading for everyone, but I finished thinking this was the most amazing, intelligent, philosophical, life-affirming , wonderful book that I’de read in a long time. I basked in it’s warm after-glow for the rest of the day that I finished it.
1. Non-superhero Graphic novels
If there’s one good thing about having your own site, it’s being able to write whatever nonsense you like, and with that, my number 1 book this year is a genre; non-superhero graphic novels. This was the year of the graphic novel for me. I’ve since stopped reading paper books entirely, except for anything with graphics. I’m not so interested in Superhero type books, they covers such a huge amount of the graphic novel market, that what’s left is very niche and hard to find good books. What I really like are graphic novels that match my non-graphic tastes: contemporary, literary fiction, dark humour, memoirs, short stories etc. I really enjoyed all these:
Everything is Teeth – Evie Wild & And Summer
A graphic novel memoir of Evie Wild’s childhood, during which she was obsessed with Sharks, her brother was bullied, and the family spent hot summers in Australia and it’s shark infested waters. Opened packaging and immediately read from start to finish in one setting with 8-year-old daughter. We both loved it.
Killing and Dying – Adrian Tomine
A book of short stories with a variety of characters, with a running theme of loss and broken relationships in modern life.
Lucia – Andy Hixon
This one is all about the imagery, I love the dark creepy nightmarish characters in this end of life coastal town somewhere between Roston Vasey and hell.
Fun Home – A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel
A decade old (wow – it seems so fresh to me) but my favourite book this year. This is an absolute gem of a graphic novel memoir from the woman most famous for the Bechdel test who grew up in a funeral home with an eccentric family.
Update: I somehow forgot…
Beetlebone – Kevin Barry
Audiobook – read by author
I never added this to my goodreads read list so it was off the radar but it was definitely one of my favourite books of the year. A mostly-fictional account of John Lennon coming over to Ireland to stay on an Island he had bought as a retreat from the limelight. Amazing writing which really touched a nerve with me.