Top Ten Tuesday: Books Too Good To Review Properly

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


You know the feeling, don’t you? You read a book; you fall in love with the book; you tell everyone you know how they have to read the book. And then someone says “What’s so good about it?” and you just sit there, mouth open, unsure where to start, paralysed by the impossibility of putting into words how great the book is…

Well, those books are the ones that this week’s topic. The one’s so great that you cannot find the words to review them. The beyond five-star reads. The books that need new superlatives and bold text and italics… and even more than one exclamation mark! And for me the double exclamation is a real barrier!!

The Seasonal Quartet, Ali Smith

Why I adored them:

These were exceptional, ambitious, immediate novels, published within weeks of final edits that took up through Brexit and into lockdown.

Where do you begin? The learning and erudition and intellect on display here, citing everything from the highest culture to the most popular? The wit and satire and humour? The warmth and humanity? The poetry of the language? The beauty of those covers?

This entire series – Autumn, Winter, Spring, Summer – is a wonder.

Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell

Why I adored it:

Once again, bringing this book to mind, I struggle to articulate why I adored it. It goes without saying that O’Farrell’s language is as gorgeous, poetic and muscular as her faithfulness to history is fluid!

But for me, Agnes, the wild green-woods child is perfect – utterly Shakespearean and folkloric and feral and a beautifully crafted character.

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

Why I adored it:

There are so many reasons: the wonderful range of characters from every identity; the diversity; the recognition of difficulties and tensions within the LGBTQIA+ community; the warmth and humanity that the novel exudes.

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern

Why I adored it:

Books about books, story and narrative always draw me in. Mysterious libraries. Libraries that contain every story ever written or conceived. Catacombs. Time slips. A world where story flows into myth into legend….

And also bees!

And into this pours Morgenstern’s sensual and wonderful language…

Lanny, Max Porter

Why I adored it:

Porter creates something quintessentially English and folkloric in this novel, in the character of Dead Papa Toothwort. But he also does something exceptional with the language of the village, elevating into poetry the very authentic and personal voices of the people.

And alongside that, the plot – the trauma of a lost child and the tensions it reveals – is utterly compelling.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne

Why I adored it:

This was the book that brought me back to John Boyne after not really enjoying The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. This book had everything that that one did not: exquisite humour, biting satire, an unflinching picture of the brutality and fear that living as a gay man in Ireland involved; and above all else a sheer sense of warmth, of optimism and of hope.

The Overstory, Richard Powers

Why I adored it:

This was just mind blowing in its extraordinary scope and ambition – a real love song to nature and to trees.

The parts I loved most were the stories and narratives of the individual trees, the trees that stood for generations, that outlasted their human counterparts by an immense scale.

Reservoir 13, Jon McGregor

Why I adored it:

Once again, this is a paean to the English countryside and village life, revolving through the seasons and the years… the quiet rhythms of life and its (sometimes startling) disturbances and the ripples they cause and settling…

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Why I adored it:

Kathy…

I was always going to choose an Ishiguro, but this is the one that stays with me for all time. The power of Kathy’s narrative voice, of her halcyon days at Hailsham, her dawning realisation of what she is, and why she is…

Damn, this novel breaks me every time I read it.

How to be Both, Ali Smith

Why I adored it:

Another Ali Smith – I suppose that, if we took the books of the Seasonal Quartet separately, this is the fifth on this list.

I make no apology!

This novel was exquisite, beautifully written with Smith trademark delicacy, muscularity and luminous prose. This novel is again one which I carry in my heart, a reminder of the beauty of the world and the power of art.

The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton

Why I adored it:

This book was extraordinary – and a debut when Catton was barely into her 20s! Which does make me ask myself, what have you done with your life lately?

Within this novel, the saxophone teacher glitters, and seduces us the reader as much as she does her students, until you suddenly realise quite what she is. It is laugh out loud, tragic, painful and glorious.


And there we have my books that I found most difficult to review because all I really wanted to do was gush about them, not review them!

Many thanks to Dedra @ A Book Wanderer for suggesting this theme and giving me the chance to recall and revisit these absolutely divine reads!


Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes

  • February 15: Books Too Good to Review Properly (I have no words!) (Submitted by Dedra @ A Book Wanderer)
  • February 22: Dynamic Duos (Submitted by Elley @ Elley the Book Otter)
  • March 1: Books I Enjoyed, but Have Never Mentioned On My Blog
  • March 8: Books With Your Favorite Trope/Theme (Submitted by Raincheckandread.com)
  • March 15: Books On My Spring 2022 TBR
  • March 22: Books With an Adjective In the Title (Submitted by Nicole @ How to Train a Book Dragon)
  • March 29: 21st Century Books I Think Will Become Classics (Submitted by Lisa of Hopewell)

22 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books Too Good To Review Properly”

  1. Hamnet and The Overstory are some of my favorite books but I did manage to review both of them. On today’s topic I sometimes can’t think how I want to write a review and then I procrastinate until I lose all initiative to write it. Years later I am disappointed when I go searching for that review I never wrote. Sigh. My TTT In a twist of ate, I did say in my review of the Overstory that I didn’t feel qualified to review it. Ha! Take a look if you want: https://headfullofbooks.blogspot.com/2019/08/review-overstory-by-richard-powers.html … Hamnet is one of those books which touched me at such a deep level, I often revisit my review just to remind myself how much I loved it: https://headfullofbooks.blogspot.com/2021/03/review-hamnet-book-club-selection.html

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I got so annoyed when the adaptation of Never Let Me Go came out, because suddenly everyone felt it was ok to tell everyone exactly what it was about. Part of the power of it for me was that slow realisation of what was happening. When I recommend it I refuse to tell people what it’s about, I’m just “trust me”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great list! The Heart’s Invisible Furies made it onto my post this week as well. I have Hamnet, Lanny and Starless Sea on my TBR though and I’m wondering if I’ll struggle to articulate my thoughts about them once I finally read them (I have a feeling I might lol) 😂

    Liked by 1 person

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