The year’s gone! Already!? How is that happening? I feel like I’m slipping faster and faster into the great void of the beyond and the only thing I have to slow it down is reminiscent blog posts that look back at the year that was. That and good entertainment.
So what better time, before we slip completely, to look back at my top five reads of the year.
Grab your a mulled wine, pop a cracker, and slap your favourite reindeer on the arse.
Away we go.
Just to note, 2017 has been one of those revitalising years for me. I started the year feeling a little bit… bored. I’d been reading too much non-fiction, listening to too many interview podcasts. All the dry stuff. But then I read a couple of fantastic reads in Black Crouch’s Dark Matter and Salem’s Lot and the fires were alight again -- the hunger had returned.
I was reminded of just how much great stuff is out there yet to consume — books, films, comics, audio, etc. Several times I’ve found myself just getting excited looking at cool stuff I’d like to consume at some point in the future, shaking and salivating at what awesome stories I have waiting for me. My to-read pile is now a mile high and I’m shaking at the thought that something great is awaiting me.
So yeah… I’m coming in for around fifty books read this year. These are the five that stood out (in no particular order).
1. It, Stephen King
2017 is the year I read King. And, although I’ve read a few bits here and there and seen the majority of the movie adaptations, this is the year something clicked and I finally got it. I finally got King. I realised what all the fuss was about and ended up reading ten of his books this year. Now, it’s difficult to choose just one King book, and let me tell yer, The Waste Lands is a close second, but the one book that swallowed me up completely, took me away for 1300 pages and made me reevaluate what made a good book, was It.
The plan was to read the book before the blockbuster movie came out so I set aside the entirety of June to plough through it. I found pockets of time between meals, work, and writing, to read it. I fell completely in love with the Loser’s Club, became a resident of Derry in my mind, and was blown away at how big and cosmic King’s ideas get — the vomiting turtle comes to mind.
After this year, call me a Constant Reader, because I’m sold. I’m looking forward to another ten King books in 2018.
2. The Troop, Nick Cutter
When I posted that I was reading this on Instagram, a friend commented: ‘You’ll need a sick bucket for that one’.
He wasn’t wrong.
Never have I squirmed so much from looking at printed letters on a page. There’s one point in the book that I could only read a single sentence at a time, stopping routinely to catch my breath and slow my heartbeat. There was even one point where I didn’t know if I was even going to be able to make it through. I can only think of one other story that’s affected me as physically as this book (Guts), and it’s a special kind of magic that can turn words into vomit.
3. By Bizarre Hands, Joe R. Lansdale
I love short stories. I love how weird they can get. I love how they can transport you from one world and situation to another within the space of a few thousand words. As such, with a bit of research (mainly from toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.com), I came upon one of the short story masters — Joe R. Lansdale.
The short stories in this collection range from magic realism, to post-apocalyptic horror, to brutal crime, to racial absurdities, hitting all the notes to make a story memorable. Not only did I find a new author I love to read in Joe, but I found an example of what I can do myself as a writer — write across multiple genres and be myself, explore the themes I want to explore, etc.
4. Uzumaki, Junji Ito
I couldn’t go without putting a graphic novel in the list and there’s only one that springs to mind. Let me tell you, this book is so insanely absurd, it melted my mind. It took me a week to scoop my brain back together from the carpet floor.
It’s a collection of tales about a town in Japan becoming infected with the shape of a spiral. Check this bit:
But Ito mines that single idea for every single nugget of horror and somehow manages to wrap it all up in the end and finish it off with a perfectly spiralled bow.
5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
There’s a blurb on this book that reads something along the lines of, “some books swallow you up completely”, and I can’t think of a more apt description for what I felt reading this book.
And I never even saw it coming. I thought I knew Gaiman. I thought I had him figured out. I thought I could read this, get it out of the way, and get on with the next one, but this book wouldn’t let me go with such apathy. This book didn’t just swallow me up, it drowned me, rinsed me out, made me anew. I felt like I came out the other side like Neo did when he got unplugged from the matrix. Moist and bald and unable to stand on my own two legs.
2017, for me, has been the year of the King, but it was Gaiman who stole my heart. It’s a book I can’t wait to re-read. It’s a book I will genuinely cherish for years to come.
In The River, Jeremy Robert Johnson
To be honest, I was torn between this and By Bizarre Hands. I only picked this up on a whim a couple of weeks ago and I read it in a day (it’s short, but still…). I describe it as The Road meets Apocalypto. Truly horrific, surreal, and slightly wonderful.
So that’s it… for now.
Like I said. I’m excited. I feel like a little kid again. I’m reborn and I have books to thank for it. I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.
So what about you?
What were your favourite reads this year?
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