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
- 6th December: Freebie: Books set in the Interwar Years
- 13th December: Books on my Winter 2022 TBR
- 20th December: Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year
- 27th December: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection
And there we have it: Christmas has come; Christmas has gone again. The new school term looms at work – feeling like it is hot on the heels of the festive period this year – and my daughter and I are sharing last-day-of-the-holiday jitters! We are in the midst of the annual negotiation about when the Christmas Tree should come down: my wife wants her living room back from our rather expansive tree; I want my money’s worth from the rather expensive tree; and twelfth night superstitions.
It is also that time of year when I think about and fiddle with my Reading Spreadsheet which served me well last year. This year I have tried to streamline it a little and let it make some flashy little calculations for me:
- How soon after a book was published did I start to read it?
- How soon after I acquired it did I read it?
- How many days did it take to finish?
- What genres and themes am I drawn to?
- What representation does my reading illustrate?
- How much of my reading is from debut authors?
- Who were new-to-me authors?
Anyway… this month on TTT is a combination of looking back at 2022, and looking forward to 2023, and this week’s topic is a list of my favourite books from 2022. I have already listed on my lookback on the year post my 5* reads which you can review here… but it does raise the question of whether a book needs to be a 5* read to be one of my favourite reads of the year…
Death of Vivek Oji, Akwaeke Emezi
They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.
One afternoon, a mother opens her front door to find the length of her son’s body stretched out on the veranda, swaddled in akwete material, his head on her welcome mat. The Death of Vivek Oji transports us to the day of Vivek’s birth, the day his grandmother Ahunna died. It is the story of an over protective mother and a distant father, and the heart-wrenching tale of one family’s struggle to understand their child, just as Vivek learns to recognize himself.
Teeming with unforgettable characters whose lives have been shaped by Vivek’s gentle and enigmatic spirit, it shares with us a Nigerian childhood that challenges expectations. This novel, and its celebration of the innocence and optimism of youth, will touch all those who embrace it.
Emezi is an amazing writer and their novels are heart-rending, beautiful, tender and brave. This one is simply wonderful! Vivek, exploring his identity, is charming and generous and, yes, enigmatic, and his death and the grief that it engenders is terrible.
“He didn’t belong to you…You keep talking as if he belonged to you, just because you were his mother, but he didn’t. He didn’t belong to anybody but himself.”
Booth, Karen Jay Fowler
SIX BROTHERS AND SISTERS. ONE INJUSTICE THAT WILL SHATTER THEIR BOND FOREVER.
Junius is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.
Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their own dreams they must fight to realise – but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.
As a piece of history, this was a massively eye-opening book: John Wilkes Booth’s family were superstars of the stage and the family was already famous (notorious) without John’s assassination of Lincoln. I never knew! And as a piece of fiction, the characters and their relationships were utterly fascinating and compelling.
The Book of Form and Emptiness, Ruth Ozeki
When a book and a reader are meant for each other, both of them know it . . .
After the tragic death of his father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house and sound variously pleasant, angry or sad. Then his mother develops a hoarding problem, and the voices grow more clamorous. So Benny seeks refuge in the silence of a large public library. There he meets a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret; a homeless philosopher-poet; and his very own Book, who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.
This was an astounding, challenging novel, in which we follow what could be dismissed as young Benny’s delusions that a book is talking to him and narrating his life; but which defies such simplistic reductive interpretations. This really is the voice of a book, or narrative, of story…
“A book must start somewhere. One brave letter must volunteer to go first, laying itself on the line in an act of faith, from which a word takes heart and follows, drawing a sentence into its wake. From there, a paragraph amasses, and soon a page, and the book is on its way, finding a voice, calling itself into being.”
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.
This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction. Few will dispute that it proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the most exceptional novelists of our age.
The first of two Kate Atkinson novels here – and I could have included a third with Big Sky too – but this is a dazzling novel. Teddy Todd, brother to Ursula from Life after Life, living through World War Two, loving nature, marrying, raising children and grandchildren, in a narrative that meanders between past and present and future… and with a very literary twist!
“Afterwards—because it turned out that there was to be an afterwards for Teddy—he resolved that he would try always to be kind. It was the best he could do. It was all that he could do. And it might be love, after all.”
A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Becky Chambers
It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Gentle, optimistic and humane, a tale that genuinely lifts the heart and the soul – and the best named character from my reading this year, Splendid Speckled Mosscap! Let’s face it, any book that revolves around the importance of tea is a strong contender!
“You keep asking why your work is not enough, and I don’t know how to answer that, because it is enough to exist in the world and marvel at it. You don’t need to justify that, or earn it. You are allowed to just live.”
Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
When everything is lost, it’s our stories that survive
How do we weather the end of things? Cloud Cuckoo Land brings together an unforgettable cast of dreamers and outsiders from past, present and future to offer a vision of survival against all odds.
An orphaned seamstress and a cursed boy with a love for animals risk everything on opposite sides of a city wall to protect the people they love.
An impoverished, idealistic kid seeks revenge on a world that’s crumbling around him. Can he go through with it when a gentle old man stands between him and his plans?
Unknown, Sometime in the Future:
With her tiny community in peril, Konstance is the last hope for the human race. To find a way forward, she must look to the oldest stories of all for guidance.
Bound together by a single ancient text, these tales interweave to form a tapestry of solace and resilience and a celebration of storytelling itself. Like its predecessor All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr’s new novel is a tale of hope and of profound human connection.
This was nothing less than a wonderful paean to story and to narrative and the power of language and literature. It is a love story to, well, books, and peppered with wonderful characters and optimism in humanity’s ability to endure and to love.
“we are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human”
Treacle Walker, Alan Garner
An introspective young boy, Joseph Coppock squints at the world with his lazy eye. Living alone in an old house, he reads comics, collects birds’ eggs and plays with his marbles. When, one day, a rag-and-bone man called Treacle Walker appears, exchanging an empty jar of a cure-all medicine and a donkey stone for a pair of Joseph’s pyjamas and a lamb’s shoulder blade, a mysterious friendship develops between them.
A fusion of myth, magic and the stories we make for ourselves, Treacle Walker is an extraordinary novel from one of our greatest living writers.
Beautitul, lyrical, mythical, folkloric… Treacle Walker is hard to pin down to any ‘meaning’, because it is so redolent in meaning that it feels capable of carrying so much. It also felt deeply deeply British.
Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson
1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time.
At the heart of this glittering world is notorious Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from without and within. For beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.
With her unique Dickensian flair, Kate Atkinson brings together a glittering cast of characters in a truly mesmeric novel that captures the uncertainty and mutability of life; of a world in which nothing is quite as it seems.
This is an absolute gem of a novel, recreating the glitz and the glamour of the 1920s, the absurdity of the Bright Young Things at a baby party alongside the tragedy of girls going missing in the dark streets of London. And all delivered with Atkinson’s wonderful flair for language and character and dialogue!
Unraveller, Frances Hardinge
If you must travel to the country of Raddith, then be prepared. Bring a mosquito net for the lowlands, and a warm coat for the hills or mountains. If you mean to visit the misty marsh-woods known as the Wilds, you will need stout, waterproof boots. (You will also needs wits, courage and luck, but some things cannot be packed.)
You have of course heard that some people in Raddith are able to curse their enemies. It sounded so picturesque when you were reading about it at home, like a fairytale.
Perhaps you will decide that all the stories of the Wilds and the Raddith cursers were invented to entertain tourists. And at night, when you see a many-legged shape scuttle across the ceiling of your bedchamber, you will tell yourself that it is a spider, and only a spider . . .
. . . It is not.
In a world where anyone can create life-destroying curses, only one person has the power to unravel them. Kellen does not fully understand his talent, but uses it to help those who have been cursed, including his ally and closest friend, Nettle. But Kellen himself is cursed, and unless he and Nettle can release him, he is in danger of unravelling everything – and everyone – around him.
Another deep and dark fairytale from the queen of young adult fantasy! The world of Raddith, and the dreamlike, nightmarish world of The Wilds that abuts it, is wonderful and Kellen and Nettle navigate that liminal space between the human and the wild… Hardinge’s imagination is given full rein in the curses that are brought down, but this is mixed with her humanity questioning how we treat those whom we fear.
Wolf Wilder, Katherine Rundell
Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.
When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.
This was a book read with my daughter this year, at the same time as I was reading Rundell’s Super-Infinite, her biography of John Donne, a fact that really appealed to her. And the writing in Wolf Wilder was exceptional: alongside the gripping story and plot, Rundell’s characters – especially Feo – were wonderful and her deployment of language was fantastic.
“The set of her chin suggested she might have slain a dragon before breakfast. The look in her eyes suggested she might, in fact, have eaten it.”
All Systems Red, Martha Wells
As a heartless killing machine, I was a complete failure.
In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.
But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.
On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid–a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.
But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.
In terms of simple fun, this novel was brilliant fun: a thrilling survivalist adventure on a far flung planet…. What raises it is the character of its narrator, the self-styled Murderbot Security Unit who has developed sentience and identity and who generally wants to be left alone to watch its shows!
So, in this first Top Ten list of 2023, I would love to hear your thoughts on these favourite reads of the year and wish you a very happy new year!
Upcoming Top Ten Tuesday Themes
January 10: Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the First Half of 2023
January 17: Bookish Goals for 2023
January 24: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022 (If you didn’t read books by 10 new authors, share new-to-you authors whose books you added to your TBR in 2022. Get creative, if needed!)
January 31: Freebie