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    Favourites | best books of 2017 so far

    We’re half way through 2017 already (?!), so let’s check in and see how my reading is going so far …

    Every year I set my Goodreads target to 52 books.  1 book a week seems like a manageable, achievable goal for me.  I know by now that I go through peaks and troughs with my reading and although I have read 25 books so far this year, I feel like I’ve been in a trough for most of the year.  So far 2017 has been pretty tough in lots of ways, and this has been reflected in my reading – I just haven’t been in the mood.  Having said that, I am on track to reach my goal.

    Of the 25 books I’ve read so far, I’ve dished out 1 x 2 star, 8 x 3 stars, 14 x 4 stars and 2 x 5 stars.  So actually it’s been a pretty good year so far, contrary to how I feel!  Here are my top 5 reads … I’ll do them in the order I read them: | commonwealth by ann patchettFirst up, in January I read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, my first 5 star read of the year.  Oh my goodness I loved this book.  This is a novel about family, about siblings left to their own devices, about the choices we make and about the consequences of those choices.  The opening chapter is STUNNING and the ‘walk to the lake’ scene (you’ll know it if you’ve read it) made me feel so anxious.  Ann Patchett evokes such atmosphere in this book – she had me at the first sentence:

    The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.

    This first sentence isn’t just the first sentence of the book; it is truly the beginning of the story and everything would’ve been different if Albert had not turned up at that part with the gin.  Ugh.  I loved this book so much and I still think about the characters.  This is the only Ann Patchett book I’ve read, and I don’t really know where to go next so please leave me some recommendations in the comments!

    In March I read My Name is Leon by Kit DeWaal.  This story follows Leon, a 9 year old mixed race boy, as he comes to terms with losing his mother when he is placed in foster care because she cannot look after him, as well as his beloved baby brother Jake, a white baby who is quickly adopted by another family.  Leon is such a real character, and the book is filled with lovable characters and beautiful writing that I found simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming (how does she do that?!).  I gave this one 4 stars.

    My next 5 star read came in April, with The Optician of Lampedusa by Emma Jane Kirby.  This is a biographical memoir that tells the story of an ordinary man who goes on a final sailing trip of the summer with his friends.  But their idyllic trip is interrupted by a tragic discovery and the repercussions of the decisions this group of ordinary human beings make.  This book is just over 100 pages, but it packs a huge punch.  Touching on the refugee crisis, this is an important book for our time and should be read by everyone, and should be forced upon every Daily Mail reader in the country!

    Last year I read The Vegetarian by Han Kang, and I didn’t really get along with it (am I too thick?!).  But I’m really glad that I picked up Human Acts by the same author.  This book focuses on the student uprising of 1980 in Gwangju, South Korea.  It is harrowing, violent, beautiful and poetic.  For me, this passage sums up what the entire book is about:

    Is it true that human beings are fundamentally cruel?  Is the experience of cruelty the only thing we share as a species?  Is the dignity that we cling to nothing but self-delusion, masking from ourselves this single truth:  that each one of us is capable of being reduced to an insect, a ravening beast, a lump of meat?  To be degraded, damaged, slaughtered – is this the essential fate of humankind, one which history has confirmed as inevitable?

    A cheery thought.  This book is thought provoking, horrifying, gruesome, beautiful.

    Another gruesome but beautiful book up next!  In See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt creates a fictionalised account of the Lizzy Borden case – Lizzy Borden who, according to the nursery rhyme, “took an axe and gave her father 40 whacks; when she saw what she had done she gave her mother 41”.  In real life, Lizzy was acquitted of the murder through lack of evidence.  In this atmospheric novel Schmidt introduces us to just enough characters and possibilities to create a feeling of doubt and unease.  This is one seriously messed up family, and the people who come into their lives are spectacularly gross.  This bit makes my skin crawl:

    “Give me a hand?” he asked and so I had to.  He lowered himself for me and I unhooked his jacket from his bone-thin shoulders, saw clumps of skin knotted in his hair where he’d bee scratching the back of his head.  A piece fell onto my hand.  I shook it off good.


    I highly recommend this book if you don’t mind a bit of gore.  I originally gave this 4 stars, but I think I might bump it up to 5 as I can’t get it out of my mind!

    My final favourite of the year so far is my most recent read – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon.  This is a charming mystery tale set in a sleepy town in England during the heatwave summer of 1976.  Our main protagonists are Grace and Tilly, an inquisitive pair of 10 year olds intent on discovering how and why Mrs Creasey disappeared.  The girls are the absolute highlight of this book – they are utterly charming in their innocence and naivety.  This is quite a chunky book but I flew through it and recommend this if you’re looking for a cosy mystery that is a little bit different (and is a gore-free zone!).  The story deals with some quite dark issues, but it is all seen through the eyes of the children who don’t really understand what is happening and there is nothing explicit in here.  A great summer read.

    What have been your favourite of the year so far? Let me know in the comments below!