As a purist, I’ve waited until the last few days of the year to start looking at my ‘best of 2015’ lists. I’ve decided to put my top books A-Z to spare me any added trauma in trying to rank them, because I read a wonderful mix this year, and here are my top six… **A Portable Shelter – Kirsty Logan. “I didn’t understand that there’s magic everywhere, if you look for it.” I think that quote sums up everything I’ve ever liked in Kirsty’s writing, and what really stood out here. Describing what would be the most mundane thing is doused in a surprising turn of phrase, topics that would often prove dark and depressing when handled differently are sprinkled with magic and hopefulness. It’s just a very, very good book.
The Honours – Tim Clare. At its core The Honours is a young girl trying to make sense of a world who seems to ignore her. Though there’s an actual plot afoot – mental struggles with past conflict, marital indiscretions, plans to betray, to barter to avoid war – and vivid writing throughout, it’s easy to get swept up primarily with Delphine, so resolute and captivating! She’s a rebel, a little bit unpredictable and hot-headed, but she’s always acting with the best interests at heart. Basically, this was an excellent book. You’ll get swept up in the conspiracies, the family dynamics, just sheer perseverance to unveil a plot she’s so sure of.
Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl – Carrie Brownstein. From the internalised sexism of the press to relationships, the labels forced on her and being grateful for the path Bikini Kill helped pave ahead of Sleater-Kinney, it’s just such a good book for music fans on so many levels. It’s a memoir in a personal sense, not a memoir that point-scores and tries to rewrite her own history. And it reads that way. Just a nice, normal, passionate and ambitious individual, talking about life. And what a life it is.
On The Edges of Vision – Helen McClory. The one thing I have always said about writing is that if it makes you feel something, good or bad, it’s doing something right. I’ve travelled about every stop on the spectrum of being creeped out, feeling uncertain and unsettled in this short story collection. It’s the monsters we fear, the monsters that live in us, the devil, the phobias, the cutting a hand off and pretending it’s ham for a sandwich. It is weird, warped and utterly brilliant.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman – Jill Lepore. Thanks to a ‘feminist books you really have to read’ type list from 2014, I finally decided to buy this. It’s a surprising book (I guess that comes with the title of The Secret History…). Marston is larger than life, the odd family dynamic is unexpected, the women he’s surrounded by were astounding and the journey that brought him to Wonder Woman is a long, gradual build up that makes sense when you see much of his work.Such an interesting book on feminism of that era, over wartime and to the present day, plus an interesting book for fans of Wonder Woman.
Typical Girls?: The Story of The Slits – Zoë Howe. This book is a breeze to get through, and it’s really interesting to read about [The Slits’] standing in being pioneers of sorts for women in punk, while not necessarily aiming to be anything but themselves. But in being themselves unashamedly and doing what they want, that gave them a certain standing whether they wanted it or not. It’s a bit cyclical, but enjoyable nonetheless. The era and scene in which they were surrounded is particularly great to read more about from a different perspective. Things like the Clash, and John Peel, the misconceptions that an odd comment can cause, to internal differences. As someone who loves music, it’s very easy to be drawn into enthusiasm as it oozes from the page. And The Slits are brilliant, so it all just made for a really fun book.
** I somehow missed that Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive was this year. It is one of the most important books I’ve read and, despite the dark subject matter at times, can bring a smile and lightheartedness to the read. It will always be one of the best books I’ve read, and I’m frankly kicking myself that while skimming through my blog I didn’t notice it. Boo, me.