The Top 5 series is back! Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. Previously on the blog I have focused on witches, werewolves, thrillers, faeries, fairy tale re-tellings, high fantasy and many more. I am going to try and bring this series back for every Saturday.
PREVIOUS TOP FIVE SATURDAY LISTS:
28th March 2020: Murder Mystery
4th April 2020: Books to Read whilst Stuck Inside / Quarantined
11th April 2020: Books with a Colour in the Title
18th April 2020: Books with Sibling Relationships
I do love a good sprawling epic novel and have previously blogged about my love for Moby-Dick and we can add to that glorious epics and vast personal stories like The Heart’s Invisible Furies, the Wolf Hall trilogy, A Song of Fire and Ice series or The Priory of the Orange Tree – or in fact most fantasy novels on yesterday’s Quick Fire Fantasy post – which need the space to create their world.
But there is also so much to be said for the shorter novel or the novella – even the power of flash fiction which tends to verge on the lyrical…. Some stories are forced to become more focussed, more directed, deeper because they are briefer. And, as a teacher, many YA books are within that 300 page length so a number of those will inevitably be in this list.
Another problem I have is that, as most of my reading is on a Kindle, I am rarely aware of how many pages a book has when I choose or read it: I had no idea that The Priory of the Orange Tree was as large a tome as it was until I spotted it in Waterstones, by which time I was over half way through it!
And the Ocean Was Our Sky, Patrick Ness
I’ll kick off with this one: I only read it last week, so it is obviously upper front in my mind, and (unlike the others in this list) significantly beneath the 300 pages.
And it is an extraordinary inversion of Moby Dick: written from the whales’ perspective as, armed with harpoons and in fleets, they hunt men and in particular the mythic Toby Wick.
It is exceptional and powerful, with a gut wrenching twist, and the potency of a modern day parable married to an epic ballad.
Ness was always going to feature on this list and my first thought was A Monster Calls, but this is even more unsettling and disturbing than that.
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
And Never Let Me Go is equally disturbing and appalling. Ishiguro’s dystopian novel explores a range of ethical and moral questions raised by cloning, genetics and parenthood.
The edenic, priveleged Hailsham School raises and educates girls and boys like any other boarding school. But it harbours a dark secret – or perhaps it is more accurate to say it is complicit in society’s dark secret.
The revelation of that truth is a wonderful and appalling moment for the reader which I have no desire to spoil.
Normal People, Sally Rooney
A strange and compelling novel, following the relationship between Marianne (intelligent, privileged, socially awkward) and Connell (intelligent, working class, popular) from their final year at school and through University and into Europe.
And their relationship is turbulent, (very) sexual, awkward, co-dependent, loyal… complicated. Very complicated. On the borderline of what you might find healthy and unhealthy.
The novel is wonderfully taut in its structure, vivid in the voices of the characters and nuanced. A beautiful and disturbing novel. Very Irish in its mixture of darkness and humour, tragedy and comedy.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen ChBOsky
This novel was recommended to me by students at my school – one of the very real privileges and pleasures of my job.
The story of Charlie, teetering on the brink of adulthood – and the edge of an emotional precipice.
His voice comes across so personally and intimately in the letters that form the novel – a vulnerable, complicated, wise, naive young man who gradually uncovers a buried traumatic memory that he had not yet been able to process.
It bears echoes of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time in their narrators but this novel is much more vivid and more authentic.
Pet, Akwaeke Emezi
Another Young Adult novel with powerful adult themes and ideas – about identity, parenthood, family and abuse, about complacency and wilful blindness… wrapped up with Pet, a fantastical monstrous creature summoned through art and paint and blood to hunt the real monsters who don’t look like monsters.
Emezi’s prose is wonderful and vivid and urgent. They manage to hover somewhere between the literal and the parable – and some gorgeously sensory and unsettling descriptions.
Jam, the transgender female protagonist, whose blood summons Pet, is a wonderful creation full of courage and loyalty and sensitivity.
So, that is my list of five great – and they all seem to be rather disturbing – reads of 300 pages or less. Do you have anything lighter to throw my way?
Corina @ The Brown Eyed Bookworm
Jill @ On the Shelf Books
Kara @ Beauteaful Reads
Dee @ Dee’s Reading Tree
Jordan @ The Book Blog Life
Again, a David Mitchell book is an event, and a thing of beauty! But the music industry is not my natural setting and again I was caught between this and another book – Daisy Jones and the Six in this case – and Daisy Jones was read first. This time, because it was nominated on a book club I was part of.
Bonus: The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch
They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he’s part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.
Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich – they’re the only ones worth stealing from – but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.
This one has been on my TBR for years. Literally years. I have heard nothing but praise for it, but so far have never quite got around to reading it! Go figure!
So, there we go: a range of books that I got in 2020 – save for the Scott Lynch – and do regret not reading during the year. Is regret the right word? Probably not to be honest: I do not regret the reading that I did do last year at all. But these are books that I would like to find time to catch up with this year – before prize season hits us again!
Pop in the comments below your thoughts on these – maybe let me know which I should read first!