Books :: 2017

This year I kept a list on my phone ... but I've had a pretty shocking year for reading, which as always makes me sad. Bloody Instagram!

1. Remarkable Creatures lived in our book club for ages, a hand-me-down from my Mum's book club I think. I didn't enjoy Girl with a Pearl Earring so I kept passing this over, but when I did get to it I loved it. Beautifully written and totally compelling.

2. Sister Noon. Dammit. I LOVED We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves so had high hopes for this but nope, I found it flat and confusing and had to drag myself to the end - I think: I can't remember what happened!

3. I'd been a bit of a snob about Jojo Moyes, kind of lumping her in with Jodi Picoult and the like, but I had a go at The Girl You Left Behind and really enjoyed it. I've heard mixed reports about her other books tho ...

4. On the subject of being a snob, I'm still feeling embarrassed about declaring years ago (10 years ago it turns out) that I 'don't read South African novels', because honestly some of my favourite reads these days are local. Recently a friend kindly pointed out that South African writing as come a long way in the last decade - both in quality and quantity - so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself.
The Native Commissioner was an excellent read - poignant, warm and fascinating. We are so rich in stories, it's wonderful how many of the them are being recorded for us to enjoy.

5. Aimee & Jaguar was an interesting read. I actually had no idea until I Googled for an image that it's been made into a film - I must look out for it. There must've been hundreds of stories of wartime love which have never been told ...

6. Achingly beautiful, About Grace is a long and winding read which in parts feels like it's aimlessly meandering but you just want to meander with it forever ... All The Light We Cannot See was my best read of 2015, About Grace isn't in that territory but I loved reading it, and knew while I was reading it that I was loving it, which is a gift.

7. Filed under Curious: Greg Lazarus is the pen name and a husband and wife writing team based in Cape Town. We have mutual friends and I've always been intrigued by them, and the whole writing together thing. When In Broad Daylight I Open My Eyes wasn't brilliant but it kept me going and the mystery was good.

8. This year's Maggie O'Farrell. I really enjoyed The Distance Between Us, more than some of her other novels (although I have to confess some of the plot lines have started blurring into each other!).

9. It wasn't quite Girl on the Train, but Into The Water was a very good second novel. Can you imagine the stress of having to follow on from GOTT?

10. We Never Asked For Wings was one of those reads which comes along at just the right time - light enough to drift through, compelling enough to keep my attention, problematic enough to switch off one's analytical brain and just enjoy it. I've not read The Language of Flowers but I'll look out for it now.

11. Weirdly (because it's not fiction or related to any of my usual interests) I think Being Mortal has been my read of the year. I have a friend with a terminal illness, I lost my brother-in-law this year and went to two other funerals - for two men in various stages of their lives. Our parents are getting older. Death and illness are no longer the strangers they once were to me and this book has been immensely helpful in processing that. I'm not being facetious when I say I think everyone should read this book. Seriously.

Can we take a moment here to admire how colour coordinated this years reads have been so far? The covers all work together in a very stylish palette. I'm about to ruin that with the next one ;-)

12. Khwezi is a hard read. But joh, Redi Thlabi's writing is magnificent. Just like I said about Endings and Beginnings in 2014, ' A difficult but completely rewarding read.'

13. I was purposely avoiding When Breath Becomes Air. When one of your best friends is terminally ill it doesn't seem a wise choice of reading matter. But when her oncologist suggested it to her I braced myself and read it to. My friend has some real criticisms of it - she's allowed to - and that in turn allowed me to read it critically, not just sympathetically.

14. Elevation is a YA novel, written by a local author who has recently moved in across the lake from us. I adore having Helen as a 'neighbour' and Frieda is loving The Thousand Steps trilogy, so despite it not really being my genre I decided I had to give Elevation a bash and really enjoyed it.

15. I have not read a Marian Keyes for about 10 years, but The Break came my way as I was recovering from a big job and was perfect recovery reading material.

16. There are a few books by female South African writers which are on my To Read list - Khwezi was one of those and this was another. I've met Sisonke Msimang a couple of times in a work context and have always felt intimidated by her. Always Another Country explained a lot, opened her up and resonated in a way that a book about a black women my age who grew up in exile really had no logical reason to. But it did.

17. Last book of the year finished today, Boxing Day, was a beaut. Just my kind of novel - slow, intense, detailed. Perfect for a long holiday afternoons on the couch! I've not discovered Sarah Walters before - here's hoping the others are as compelling.
Also, this novel proves again our book club theory that those shortlisted for the Man Booker are always better reads than the winners!

17 for 2017. Shamefully few, but some real gems!

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