Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Enjoyed but Rarely Talk About

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

PREVIOUS TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:

  1. March 3: Books With Single-Word Titles (submitted by Kitty from Kitty Marie’s Reading Corner)
  2. March 10: Authors Who Have a Fun Social Media Presence
  3. March 17: Spring 2020 TBR
  4. March 24: Genre Freebie 
  5. March 30: Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover
  6. April 7: Books I Bought/Borrowed Because

So, books that I love but rarely talk about… tricky, because I talk about books a lot! “Hey, have you read…” is one of my favourite (possibly my only) conversation starter at parties… which may explain how few invites to parties I get… So why might I not be talking about books I love? Maybe because I read them a while ago, allowed them to slip from the memory as other books took their place simply because of novelty! It also means that some of these reviews will be slightly older and more rushed – the time I take to write a review seems to have stretched massively. If only the quality of the review had matched! But maybe this is also a chance to refresh and perhaps re-publish some of these older reviews too…

Gift of Stones, Jim Crace

What is it about?

A young man in a stone age setting meets violence and loses his arm, destroying his prospects of being a stone knapper – the only real occupation available to anyone. Seeking a role in his isolated community, he becomes a storyteller, a fabulist and a mythographer.

Why do I love it?

Beautiful, lyrical prose, married to a delight in visceral physicality. A celebration of lying, of the power of words and stories. A vivid (if perhaps a little anachronistic?) depiction of the village on the brink of a new age and of becoming obsolete.

History of the Rain, Niall Williams

What is it about?

Ruth Swain lies bed-ridden by a disease which (if I remember correctly which I may not) is never really identified. Bound there, her narrative traces her family history through three generations, one awful tragedy and 3,598 books in which her father was lost.

Why do I love it?

The novel is a beautiful, unromanticised look at Ireland, with genuine humour and black comedy. It revels in the beauty and intertextuality and power of reading. I distinctly recall the image of the father and daughter dipping their hands into the river, feeling the tug of nature.

The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton

What is it about?

The music teacher is at the heart of this novel, in which a sex scandal in a local school is the trigger for a range of responses from the perpetrator, the victim, her sister and the local drama school.

Why do I love it?

The music teacher. She is extraordinary as a character. Her voice and dialogue is exaggerated and theatrical and shocking – and genuinely hilarious. As her motives in caring for her students is revealed to be less than honest and more than a little vicarious, our reaction to her is complex and conflicted and wonderful.

Railsea, China Miéville

What is it about?

Sham ap Soorap is a young worker on the mole train Medes under a captain, Abacat Naphi, who obsessively searches for the bone-white mole, Mocker-Jack. Yes, those are strong echoes of Moby-Dick you are picking up!

Why do I love it?

Two main reasons: it has those echoes of Moby-Dick and it is by Miéville! Exquisite world-building: instead of the ocean traversed by ships, we have a permeable land traversed by a vast network of rails and trains. It is mad, wonderful and extradordinary – whilst also being great fun and deeply philosophical.

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

What is it about?

Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive, and his fame spreads throughout West Africa like a bush-fire in the harmattan. But when he accidentally kills a clansman, things begin to fall apart. Then Okonkwo returns from exile to find missionaries and colonial governors have arrived in the village. With his world thrown radically off-balance he can only hurtle towards tragedy.

Why do I love it?

Like Gift of Stones, it is a culture on the brink of change: the influence of colonial and western culture on the Nigerian world. Wonderfully narrated and heart-achingly tragic, it is a wonderful book.

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki

What is it about?

Ruth discovers a diary in the drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery. In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life: cyber-bullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family.

Why do I love it?

I adored the two voices and the two narratives, and found the interweaving of them so delicately done. There is a dizzying array of concepts in this book, but so adroitly managed it is just beautiful. How much can we as the reader influence the book we read?

Pure, Andrew Miller

What is it about?

Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it. At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.

Why do I love it?

Wonderful, lyrical prose interweaving imagined and historical events so powerfully. There are vivid and extraordinary characters, deeply haunting sense of violence and it is exquisite.

Tsotsi, Athol Fugard

What is it about?

Tsotsi is an angry young gang leader in the South African township of Sophiatown. A man without a past, he exists only to kill and steal. But one night, in a moonlit grove of bluegum trees, a woman he attempts to rape forces a shoebox into his arms. The box contains a baby, and his life is inexorably changed. He begins to remember his childhood, to rediscover himself and his capacity for love.

Why do I love it?

The character of Tsotsi himself is fabulous: violent and alienated even from himself. Add into that the most exquisite lyrical prose and the depiction of Sophiatown, almost as a character in its own right, violent, beautiful and tender…

Anno Dracula, Kim Newman

What is it about?

It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. This is the story of vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.

Why do I love it?

It is mad! Ridiculous! But deeply entertaining alternate historical novel peppered with characters from Victorian history and fiction re-imagined in Newman’s world. It is an absolute riot, but that doesn’t prevent the two main protagonists being deeply credible and compelling.

The Rivers of London series, Ben Aaronovitch

What is it about?

A lovely urban fantasy series set in modern London in which PC Peter Grant discovers that magic and ghosts exist and quickly seconded to Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in Britain. The series alternates between standalone novels (Foxglove Summer was probably my favourite) and an overarching plot arc searching for the serial killer and big bad Faceless Man.

Why do I love it?

The rivers – the Rivers – of the title: the conceit is that the rivers of London are (or have) their own personalities, their genius loci, who can take a human form as Father Thames, Lady Tyburn, Oxley and Beverley Brook with whom Grant becomes emotionally and physically entwined. It is a wonderful, ancient, conceit, dealt with in a modern and contemporary way with convincing and credible and complex characters. The closest comparison I can come up with is perhaps Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden series, but Aaronovitch never seems to be bound by the familiar tropes and characters that Butcher seems confined within. And I loved Molly!

It is cheating a little with a series, but the (main) books in order are: Rivers of London, Moon over Soho, Whispers Under Ground, Broken Homes, Foxglove Summer, The Hanging Tree, Lies Sleeping.

FORTHCOMING TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:

  1. April 21: Titles That Would Make Good Band Names (submitted by Michelle)
  2. April 28: Books I Wish I Had Read As a Child
  3. May 5: Things I’d Have at My Bookish Party (choose 10 things: items, accessories, foods, people (real or fictional), decorations, activities, etc.)
  4. May 12: The Last Ten Books I Abandoned (this could be books you DNFed, books you decided you were no longer interested in, etc.) (submitted by Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza)
  5. May 19: Reasons Why I Love [insert your favorite book title, genre, author, etc. here]
  6. May 26: Opening Lines (Best, favorite, funny, unique, shocking, gripping, lines that grabbed you immediately, etc.)

Next week’s list looks difficult for me as a person who never listens to music and therefore has limited understanding of what would make a good band name, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it!

Let me know your own hidden gems!

22 comments

  1. Wow, we have similar taste in books! I loved Things Fall Apart. And I just requested China Mievelle, Gift of Stones, and History of the Rain from my local library. Thanks for the recommendations!

    My TTT.

    Like

  2. Wonderful list! A Tale for the Time Being sounds like such a good read! I’m definitely going to check out the other books on your list!
    Happy Reading! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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