Our Staff Picks -10 Favourite Reads of 2017
As 2017 draws to a close, ask yourself if you can remember the books you read during the year. Which ones were memorable? What was your favourite read, new or old, fiction or non-fiction? We asked some Fingal Library staff members to pick their favourite reads of the year: 1. Once Upon A […]
As 2017 draws to a close, ask yourself if you can remember the books you read during the year. Which ones were memorable? What was your favourite read, new or old, fiction or non-fiction? We asked some Fingal Library staff members to pick their favourite reads of the year:
1. Once Upon A Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo
My favourite book of the year had to be Once Upon A Time in the East by Xiaolu Guo (non-fiction). I absolutely loved her novels I Am China and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, so when she released her memoir about her experiences growing up in China I knew I had to read it. She came up against so much adversity but battled through it to find her way into the world of art and literature, eventually leading her to become a successful writer in London. The journey was harrowing, unsettling, often shocking and gave a real insight into life in China in the 70s. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s interested in Eastern history, art, feminism, or just simply a good story. This one has it all.
2. East West Street: on the origins of genocide and crimes against humanity by Philippe Sands
This book, by a distinguished international jurist explores four individuals against the backdrop of the Nuremberg trials in 1946. Two of them were Jewish law professors from Poland, who were responsible for creating the concepts of crimes against humanity and genocide. The book is also part family memoir, as the author’s own grandfather came from the same part of what is now Ukraine. The three protagonists share the city of Lemberg/ Lwów/ Lviv in common. The fourth character is Hans Frank, the Nazi ruler of occupied Poland who was responsible for the fates of the families of the other three – a powerful book.
3. Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
I finally got around to reading Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent after the huge waiting lists for this title subsided. I really enjoyed it. I found the characters absorbing and in one case, chilling. The story was fast-paced and I really didn’t see the ending coming.
4. The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne
I have read a couple of Tom Knox’s books under this pseudonym and really enjoyed them. They are thrillers and I find they can occasionally be a bit over-dramatic but when I’m in the humour for them, I enjoy the hysteria. The characters are interesting too, with very complicated lives and emotional traumas.
5. The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
As with Lying in Wait, I decided to bide my time and wait out the long reserve list before looking at this book and it was worth the wait. I’m a fan of a well-plotted-zombie-dystopia and this was properly chilling. As a history and mythology fan, I particularly liked the elements of Greek mythology sprinkled throughout the book.
I read The Widow (Fiona Barton’s debut novel after a career in journalism) in less than a day and it was another ending I didn’t see coming and some characters that I genuinely liked. I was pleased to see that Barton decided to carry her kind-hearted journalist character, Kate Waters, over into her second novel, The Child, although she hadn’t originally planned to.
7. The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
This book gripped me from the very beginning with a heart wrenching line on the cover “Noah is four and wants to go home. The only trouble is he’s already home”. Noah hates water, won’t take a bath and constantly asks for his other mommy. His mother is at breaking point. The story follows her harrowing journey to find out what causes this behaviour which leads her and the reader to the word “reincarnation”. This was a subject matter totally new to me but handled really well by the author. So well in fact that it made total sense in a very frightening way! This book was not what I expected yet the telling of Noah’s story and the final at times heart-breaking (to me!) outcome led me to believe that anything is possible.
8. One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis
One Step Too Far tells the story of Emily Coleman who has a happy marriage, a beautiful son, lovely home yet something within this causes her to plan for the day when she will pack up and leave it all behind. Clearly she is escaping from something traumatic but the very clever writing by Tina Seskis didn’t for one minute give me any clue what was to come. It was fantastically gripping, heart-breaking all the way through and while totally believing in Emily’s love for her husband and son, I could not understand her actions. The main twist in the plot was so subtle and beautifully written that I could not believe what I had just read. Then, everything made sense. Tina Seskis wrapped up the final details really well by keeping true to her characters and showing their hearts. It was heart-breaking, gripping and a fantastic read.
9. Terror Tales of the Lake District Edited by Paul Finch
Published in 2011, Terror Tales of the Lake District is the first book in a series of horror anthologies edited by Paul Finch. Fans of horror fiction will enjoy these well-crafted short stories by contemporary writers in the genre. Horror and ghost stories seem to lend themselves to the short story form. All of the stories are set in England’s Lake District – a region of “mountains and megaliths, night-black lakes and fathomless woods filled with spectral mist”, according to the blurb. Setting the stories in a specific place and interspersing them with snippets of the region’s myths and legends gives the collection a distinctive atmosphere with the Lake District itself as a character. As with any collection, some stories resonate more than others. I particularly enjoyed Little Mag’s Barrow by Adam L.G. Nevill, Devils of Lakeland by Paul Finch, The Claife Crier by Carole Johnstone and The Moraine by Simon Bestwick.
10. It’s a Battlefield by Graham Greene
It’s a Battlefield is an early novel by Graham Greene, first published in 1934. It concerns the fate of Drover, a communist bus driver who has knifed a policeman who was about to assault his wife during a demonstration in Hyde Park, and is now sentenced to hang. Drover himself only appears very briefly, while the novel is populated with a host of characters who are involved, directly and indirectly, with the consequences of Drover’s actions. Amidst the host of compelling characters and the many fascinating plot strands, I found most engaging the predicament of the lonely, desperately unhappy Conrad, Drover’s brother, and his secret love for Drover’s wife Milly. The London of the 1930s is brilliantly realised, a dark oppressive beast that never sleeps, captured in all its variety, from seedy, down at heel flats to the drawing room of an influential society hostess. Greene also indicates the growing influence of left wing politics within British society of the time, and, most poignantly of all, examines questions of class and justice, and how ones identity in relation to the former often influences whether one can expect to receive the latter. It’s a Battlefield provides yet more evidence of how Greene was, in the opinion of many readers (including myself), the greatest British novelist of the 20th century.
If you are staying indoors with a good book this Christmas, all of the above titles are available from Fingal Libraries. We look forward to bringing you new reading experiences in 2018.
Thanks to Nadine, Íde, Aileen, Laura, Orla and Alan for sharing their favourite reads of 2017.
By Fingal Libraries Blog Team, Fingal County Libraries