December is the time for looking back over the year that has gone and one of the annual housekeeping tasks that I enjoy most is a look back at what I have read over the last twelve months. So here for you are my Best Books 2017 and two that are on my Christmas list.
BEST BOOKS 2017
SOOT by Andrew Martin
Soot is an historical whodunnit, set at the tail end of the eighteenth century. An artist is found dead, the only clue are the final silhouettes that he made. Enter our hero who must identify the sitters and find out what motives they had to kill. This is a wintery book all snow and soot, set between York and London. What I learnt from Soot? Don’t wear satin dancing slippers in the snow, you will ruin them. To read my full review click here.
Hardback £14.99, Kindle £7.99
WORDS IN MY HAND by Guinevere Glasfurd
Helena Jans is a maid in Amsterdam in the house of a bookseller. Rene Descartes comes to stay. She is an illiterate servant with a thirst to learn and he is a famous philosopher. This is a romance but not a soppy romance. This is Guinevere Glasfurd’s first novel and she has used the real facts that Descartes did spend time in the Netherlands in the seventeenth century and spun out the hidden tale of a poor woman. She was so good at evoking the sense of deep chill of winter that I needed to cuddle up under a blanket even though it was summer.
Paperback £8.99, Kindle £1.99
ELMET by Fiona Mosley
Elmet, the place, lies to the east of Doncaster and the south of Castleford and is where my mother’s forbears came from. In many ways Elmet is a mythic place. I confess the rural woodcut on the cover and the title lulled me into thinking Elmet would have mythic qualities. It does, sort of. Not in a mistily romantic way but in a feral, on the edge of twenty-first century society sort of a way. Violence threads through Elmet, the closeness of family and the beauty of the Elmet also weave in and out. Elmet is a book that gets you thinking from the first word, this is Fiona Mozley’s first novel and I look forward to her next.
Paperback £10.99, Kindle £7.49
A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles
Set in Moscow in 1922 with the Bosheviks firmly in power. Count Alexander Rostov is summoned to the Kremlin expecting the worse. He escapes with his life but is sentenced to house arrest in a grand Moscow hotel. Outside the world is in flux but inside the hotel the Count starts to explore the hotel and finds that everything that he once took for granted was not as important as he once thought it was. This had me snorting out loud and thinking about the faded huge hotel that I once stayed in one the edge of Red Square.
Paperback £8.99, Kindle £4.99
DAUGHTERS OF INDIA by Jill McGivering
The Daughters of India tells the tale of two women both born in India but on opposite sides of the Raj divide. The story is set just before and during the Second World War as India edges toward independence. So nail biting were the final chapters that I stayed up until 1.30am compulsively turning the pages until I reached the end.
Hardback £14.99, Paperback (published 18 January 2018) £8.99, Kindle £6.64
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant has a dull day job and curious taste in clothes, her co-workers snicker about her behind her back. When she gets home for the weekend she numbs her sorrow with multiple bottles of Vodka, but she is completely fine. One day a random act of kindness causes her carefully constructed world to start tumbling down. Eleanor Oliphant is funny and sad all at the same time and is by far the best book I have read this year. You can read my full review here.
Hardback £12.99, Kindle £7.99
BOOKS THAT I WOULD LIKE FOR CHRISTMAS
COLLECTING THE WORLD: THE LIFE OF CURIOSITY OF HANS SLOANE by James Delbourgo
You’ve heard of Sloane Square? Well it was named after Hans Sloane. You’ve heard of the British Museum? Well it was the vast volumes of stuff that Hans Sloane collected that formed the nucleus for the British Museum collection. He also donated the land on which the Chelsea Physic Garden was planted. His life and times intrigue me and I would like to spend some cosy evenings by the fire reading this biography.
Hardback £25, Kindle £12.99 (but I think this is the kind of book that needs to be a hardback)
LINCOLN IN THE BARDO by George Saunders
As the Civil War rages, President Lincoln’s young son falls ill and dies. Lincoln visits his son in the crypt, so far so true and then George Saunders spins his story out of what happened over the course of one evening. Lincoln in the Bardo won the Man Booker Prize this year and looks to be a hefty tome, so maybe best to wait until it comes out in paperback or download it onto the Kindle.
Hardback £18.99, Kindle £5.39
These are my best books 2017, what were yours?