Top Ten Tuesday: top of the class

Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week we’re looking at the best of the best.

I’m pretty stingy with 5 star ratings. I’m also pretty damn picky about what I read. Delightfully, last year ended up being full of brilliant reads (my top ten of 2015 were practically all 4.5 or 5 stars). There’s no point talking about exactly the same books, so I’m going to go for my top ten 5 star recent reads that haven’t already been mentioned on a Tuesday. 

Best of the best

The Culture – Iain M Banks

Book cover: Consider PhlebasYes, I’m cheating, but the Minds would approve. Revisiting Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games and Use of Weapons was a highlight of 2013 and I can’t choose between them. High octane space opera, sociopolitics and snarky AI. Wonderful.


The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield

Book cover: The Thirteenth TaleA gothic thriller about lying and the love of books – of course I loved this. With bonus twins, ghosts, governesses, madness, crumbling estates, illegitimate children, incest and unreliable narrators. Utterly satisfying and beautifully written.


Greenwitch – Susan Cooper

The Dark is Rising SequenceIt’s not that long since I enthused about The Dark is Rising Sequence, but I want to recall Greenwitch as my unexpected favourite of the lot. Middle-class children save the world (again), with wild magic and compassion at the heart of the story.


The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales – Yoon Ha Lee

Book Cover: The Fox's Tower and other talesMy first taste of Yoon Ha Lee stole my heart. Fox spirits, witches and more invention than you shake a stick at couched in delectable prose. It’s poetic and mythic and moreish in perfectly bite-sized morsels.


The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

Book cover: The Woman in BlackA classic with good reason, I still struggle to read this as night falls. I love the glorious faux-Victorian complexity of the language and the sheer simplicity of the haunting tale. It’s effective use of suggestion destroys me every time.


Burning Bright – Melissa Scott

Book cover: Burning BrightHow have I never enthused about this book yet? It swept me off my feet 2 years ago with its clashing cultures, political intrigue, and smouldering grudges in a colourful city where old and new technology merge seamlessly.


The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

Book cover: The Shining GirlsA time-travelling serial killer is hunted down by his only survivor, the indomitable Kirby. This is unpleasant and difficult in spades, but also life-affirming in Kirby’s rejection of damage and application of wit.


Tigerman – Nick Harkaway

Book cover: TigermanA book I can describe as awesome and made of win, and have it be both accurate and appropriate. The lady who sold it to me said it was about psychic volcanoes, but I think it’s about fatherhood and emotional fragility. It nearly broke my heart, in a good way.


Watership Down – Richard Adams

Book cover: Watership DownA bit like The Lord of the Rings, I grew up with Watership Down and can’t be remotely objective about it. Revisiting it as an adult, I found it epic and engaging, the English countryside coming to vivid, brutal life with a lack of sentimentality that must have gone over my head as a child.


The Prestige – Christopher Priest

Book cover: The PrestigeI love the film, but I love that the book is sufficiently different that I had no idea how it would end. Obsession, artistry, animosity and arrogance as two magicians duel for supremacy in Victorian magic.



And the other end of the spectrum

As for the worst of the worst, I’ve already read more 2 star reads in 2016 than I did in the whole of last year (if only because I was giving out half stars last year and most disappointments still scraped that extra half star). Dishonourable mentions go to Open Skies, Lagoon and Last Rituals. On the bright side, it’s now well over a year since my last 1 star read. Hooray!


What’s the best (and the worst) thing you’ve read in the last couple of years?