It was suggested to me that maybe now would be a good time to look back and select my favourite books published during the last decade. Oh yes, I thought… First problem… It’s actually quite hard to remember what was published when; and humbling too. Some of my favourites are over ten years old, though it feels as if I read them yesterday.
Anyway here is my list. I’ve limited it to fifteen adult fiction of all genres. There were many more, equally brilliant books which are not on this list, simply because I haven’t read them… yet. Send your suggestions. Next month’s blog will feature the best YA books of the last decade.
1 Under the Skin – Michel Faber. I was so glad this was published in 2010 as it managed to sneak onto my list! One of the best books ever. It could be sci fi, it could be allegory, it’s certainly a gripping thriller. What makes it so special is that it never explains anything, there is no info dumping; everything you know comes to you through Isserley’s thoughts and deeds.
2 The vanishing act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell. Another of my favourite authors, and one of her best books. Having worked in a psychiatric hospital myself and met people who were incarcerated for life for the most trivial of reasons, Esme was very real to me. But the story is not just about Esme, it’s also about her impact on her current day family, most of whom have no idea she even existed.
3 Room – Emma Donoghue You couldn’t write a top ten list of this decade without including this book. I remember being afraid to read it; would it be too harrowing? It was surprising how uplifting it actually was. And I am so full of admiration for the author’s ability to give such an authentic voice to Jack, whose whole life had been lived inside a tiny shed.
4 The Power – Naomi Alderman It’s amazing how many people, who haven’t read this book, think they know what it’s about. And they are nearly always wrong. It is not about how the world would be a wonderful place if women had power over men. Instead it is a brilliant examination of how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely – whether this power is wielded by men or women.
5 And the Land Lay Still – James Robertson. Yeah! Another favourite which sneaked onto the list as it was published in 2010. If you want to find out what made Scotland what it is today, and explore recent social history, read this book (Though I realise this does not sound make the book sound desperately appealing, let me assure you that it really is).
6 Mr Mercedes – Stephen King Stephen King back on brilliant form with the Bill Hodges whodunnit/supernatural trilogy. Mr Mercedes is the first one, published in 2014.
7 Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel This is a post-apocalyptic novel which is genuinely uplifting and inspirational. I also love the fact that one of the characters – pre apocalypse – was so scared to have her book published that she hid it away, but afterwards this book is more influential than the bible.
8 Dark Matter – Michelle Paver A brilliant ghost story set within the Arctic circle during the long dark winter. A man is marooned in a trapper’s lodge, alone, and something is outside wanting to come in.
9 His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet A book set on a remote peninsula on the west coast of Scotland in 1869, where we know who the murderer is from page one, seems an unlikely contender for any prizes and yet His Bloody Project was shortlisted for the Booker. This was down to the incredible writing. Written as if it were researched from historical archives – trial documents and the diary of the murderer – it is hard to believe that everything in this book is entirely made up.
10 The Dry – Jane Harper A great new writer from Australia, Jane Harper writes whodunnits set in the outback, bringing this amazing setting to life. All three of her books are worth reading, but start with this; her first.
11 Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller Peggy is only eight when her survivalist father takes her into the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. They eke out an existence for several years until Peggy finds a way back to civilisation as an adult, and we gradually find out what happened to her in her last days in the wilderness.
12 Intrusion – Ken Macleod London in the near future, a place where women are no longer allowed to work due to health and safety, and where a pill has been discovered which will ‘fix’ any genetic defects in unborn children.
13 Milkman – Anna Burns I think this is a marmite book. Some people have said they can’t get on with it at all, others love it. I am in the latter category. You have to get used to the voice, which is N. Irish vernacular, but once you’ve read a few pages and got used to it, I think it’s pretty gripping with an amazing cast of characters.
14 Before the Fall – Noah Hawley A small plane crashes into the sea between Long Island and New York. One man and one small boy survive. The book is a voyage to discover why the plane crashed, through hearing the narratives of all the people on board. It’s brilliant.
15 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman The first few pages of this book are odd, there is no doubt, and I can imagine people taking against it. But once you get used to the voice of autistic Eleanor, you will be gripped and want to know her story, and all about the deal with her even weirder mother. It’s a dark, dark book.