End of year lists! In the final stretch – these are my favourite books that were actually released this year, as opposed to books I liked but have been out for however long. And they are, in no particular order…
Red Rising – Pierce Brown.
Darrow is a Helldiver, a Red who lives under the surface of Mars. They believe they are sacrificing themselves in work for something greater, for potential society. What he doesn’t know, however, is that society is fully functioning above ground and they are mere slaves, kept in line by the Golds. A classic tale of societal hierarchy, seen through the underdog.
There’s conflict, determination, potential of losing oneself along the way, sacrifice, finding there is good in those you believed to be evil, rebellion, love lost, revenge, power and fighting for revolution.
Even though I only finished about five minutes ago, I’m hankering for the next book. This ended at the perfect point to leave you wanting more | Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton ★★★★★
Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel.
One evening, a Hollywood star dies mid-performance on a stage production of King Lear, hours later, the world’s population begins to dissolve. The Georgia Flu, more dangerous and wide-spread than any that have come before it, wipes out the majority of the planet.
Station Eleven is post-apocalyptic work at its finest, jumping back and forward through time, through stories in order to weave together a story so fluid and believable, it stands alongside the likes of World War Z and The Walking Dead comics, in terms of structure (minus the zombies, of course).
Absolutely excellent book. You can’t help but feel that if the world was struck down tomorrow, events would unfurl in an incredibly similar way. Survival is insufficient | Publisher: Picador ★★★★
The List – Joanna Bolouri.
Dominatrixes don’t cuddle and listen to Johnny Cash, we are complete bastards and we listen to Rammstein. Joanna Bolouri’s The List is the modern lady’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, but with the sexual tenacity of Sex and the City. Picture the end goal being sexual liberation in 2013 and not a boyfriend in the 1990s and you’re on track.
This follows Phoebe, a 30-something singleton whose ex-boyfriend Alex has left her heartbroken. Not content with a year of being sad, she wants a new year’s resolution that actually means something, not a string of promises that are foregone by January 3rd. So, she compiles ‘the list’: 10 things she’d like to try sexually, from sex to a stranger to mastering the art of dirty talk.
It’s witty, on point humour, and it has a healthy attitude to sex, body image and relationships. The references are relevant too, like deleting Twitter with the thought, “Stephen Fry was never going to follow me back anyway” to weird sex dreams, including “that pair off Masterchef”. It explores how it can impact friendships, time with strangers and exes, and it does it with the Jones-esque ‘because she swallowed the evidence’ humour | Publisher: Quercus ★★★★★
The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media – Holly Baxter, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett.
The reason I read The Vagenda is because I saw Holly and Rhiannon at Edinburgh Book Festival and liked them. Simple as that. I liked the way they spoke about feminism and various issues, I like the way they dealt with someone who raised the “but people are people” argument with an open dialogue, not a feisty put down.
You may finish this and fear you can never enjoy a magazine again (they did note at the event that Elle actually asked them for advice on how to be better, so I’d say they’re a good shout), but the reason I like it is because I laughed. I agreed so heavily with a lot of what they said, but they made me laugh along the way.
They said that laughter is a way to engage people, especially youngsters who fear speaking up or asking questions. They’re more comfortable to talk about serious issues if it’s not clad in a super-serious exterior. I can see why they succeed in schools where some people I’d seen before hadn’t.
But in general I think A+ feminist book. It’s crass at times, it cuts the shit and is good for younger girls too | Publisher: Vintage ★★★★
The Thrill of it All – Joseph O’Connor.
There’s something intriguing about reading an artist’s well-documented life from their own point of view, especially one whose band ended in controversy. Joseph O’Connor has opted to create his own rock reality, backing the fictional underdog of The Ships, Robert Goulding.
Almost in an attempt to rectify the pitfalls of the typical fictional memoir, O’Connor picks the member who had the least to show for his work. Now broke, divorced and living without music, Goulding details his youth and subsequent friendship with Fran Mulvey, the superstar who was bigger than his band, through to the many lows on the quest for rock ‘n’ roll salvation.
This is an book so well crafted you end up wishing it was about a real band. It’s proof that the fictional rock ‘n’ roll can be done well, and as it fast forwards to the present day to show how time changes things, it’s easy for the reader to be drawn into tales of the teenage dream, friendship and a real love of music | Publisher: Harvill Secker ★★★★
California – Edan Lepucki.
The sunshine state lies in darkness. Los Angeles is in ruins, left to the angels now. Cal and Frida live and work together in the wilderness, living in a shack, as the crumbling city of Los Angeles was left behind them. One day, she finds out she’s pregnant. Riddled with fear of the unknown, in raising a child together in these circumstances, they set out in search of others, to find a community rife with paranoia and secrets.
California doesn’t ponder how the world had ended there, in fact it’s largely skipped over, but how do they move forward, survive and really live?
It’s a tale of family, survival and trust. California was the kind of book that I thought about when I put it down, when I pondered about Micah, or the implications of Frida’s pregnancy. I actively wanted to know what happened, and while the ending wasn’t necessarily where I would have expected it to go (up until about maybe 10 pages before), the journey to get there had me hook, line and sinker | Publisher: Little Brown Book Group ★★★★★