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The Books of 2013

1 January, 2014

As I frequently do at this time of year, I’ve been looking back at the books I’ve read over the past 12 months, considering which ones I liked – and which I definitely didn’t. I’ve realised that, due to my sporadic blogging this year, I haven’t written a single post about books I’ve enjoyed, although it’s fair to say that most of the best have been in the last few months. Over the summer, it often took me a whole month to finish a single book, but thankfully I’ve had a bit more reading time since then! And now, on to my favourites:

The Wild Places – Robert McFarlane     We start the list with a piece of non-fiction – nature writing, to be precise. McFarlane has a wonderful way with words, and describes in great detail the sort of beautiful wild places in the UK that I would love to visit, if I only had the stamina. I actually read this quite early in the year, when in the middle of deciding whether to move out of Nottingham or not. Whilst it didn’t exactly sway me either way, The Wild Places was an important reminder of how deeply I missed the countryside (perhaps why it found its way into my reading list in the first place).

Embassytown – China Mieville     I’ve had a bit of a mixed experience with Mieville’s work. It’s so widely touted in SFF circles that I can’t help but be drawn in, but after reading four of his novels, I’ve not found any I’ve genuinely loved. Embassytown has come closest, though I have to admit that the vast majority of the world-building and science/linguistics went completely over my head. Still, it’s impossible not to admire Mieville’s work: he combines both fascinatingly original ideas with very real characters and emotions, and the world of Embassytown in particular is like nothing else I’ve read.

The Emperor’s Knife – Mazarkis Williams     There are a very small number of current fantasy authors whose work I religiously follow. Although all are unique in their own ways, they all share in common interesting world-building, strong female characters, characters who have real problems (as in relationships and families, not just how to save the world), and sublime, often subtle writing. Having read The Emperor’s Knife, I already suspect Williams may fall into this category from now on. (As an aside, all those other writers are female, and Williams’ name is ambiguous enough that I would have said they are too, except I’ve seen suggestion online that they’re actually a well-known male author writing under another name, which discounts my theory!)

Falling Kingdoms – Morgan Rhodes     These last two are late entries, actually books I read over Christmas. Falling Kingdoms is YA fantasy, and whilst the cover comparison to George RR Martin is a bit silly, I can at least see where they’re coming from. Rhodes’ work is refreshingly unsentimental for YA, and at least in the first book there’s a lot of blood, a lot of death and nothing like a happy ending. The sort of book I enjoy immensely, in other words!

Among Others – Jo Walton     Finally, something different again. Among Others is written in diary-form, and set around the Welsh/English border in 1979/80. It’s described as being semi-autobiographical but I don’t know enough about Walton to know how much is true (and suspect that’s partly the point). Still, it’s a classic coming-of-age-with-magic story, with a strong and distinctive voice, and an ending that was everything I hoped for. (Although I have to disagree with Walton on the subject of cows. All cows are stupid and bovine, no matter their colour, but that doesn’t mean they’re not all lovely.)

So, there’s my 2013 book list, with nothing like real reviews and more asides than you can shake a stick at. What have you enjoyed reading recently?

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