I read a lot of books, a lot of graphic novels, a lot of comics. It’s my craft; it’s what I love.
What I read, obviously, influences what I write (and vice versa), and so pinpointing the ten best books I read last year helps me focus on what I like in a story. It seems variety is the key! So, in no particular order…
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The massively-successful Sherlock TV series on BBC1, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, spurred me on to discover the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – and I’m so glad it did! A Study in Scarlet was a revelation, and I eagerly picked up The Sign of Four. I now have all the Sherlock books, and so I began 2012 by reading the third book in the series, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s the first of the short story compilations, and once again, Doyle’s wonderfully easy but genius style made it an absolute pleasure to spend time with Holmes and Watson. This year, I’ll endeavour to read the next three books, ready for Sherlock returning to screen.
I picked this up on a whim, but it started my love of Ray Bradbury’s writing. It’s such a cliche (a phrase which, ironically, has also become cliche!) but Fahrenheit 451 really spoke to me. The level of thought that had gone into the novel, the amount of love and passion, came through instantly. It’s a book about a world without books. It’s a terrifying thought, but you completely buy into it. It’s still as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1953, if not more so.
Agatha Christie, whom I’ve been a fan of for quite some time now, is brilliant. I love her work, and The Agatha Christie Book Collection is a perfect way to fuel my imagination and fascination. Crooked House is so ingenious, it blew me away. Nothing is quite how you expect. (Although my Mum figured out who the murderer is, I hadn’t got a clue!) It’s a surprisingly disturbing novel, and the end is really shocking. It’s the definition of a ‘whodunit.’
What if the Nazis had won?
Once the notion was planted in my head, I couldn’t escape from it. I needed to pick up this book by Robert Harris. It’s so simple – why hasn’t every novelist done it before?! Maybe because they couldn’t beat the quality of Fatherland. In its anniversary year, I couldn’t put this down – even if, with German insignia on the front, it made me look like a Nazi sympathiser!
The Girl on the Landing
I’d read Paul Torday’s previous novels (his first, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, being his most famous) but this altogether different. It’s more disturbing than those that preceded it, and leaves a lot to the imagination – but that just makes it more unsettling.
The lead character is a normal, boring bloke – until he sees the titular girl on the landing, who may or may not be real. Things soon spiral out of control and you soon can’t put the book down.
Though The Irresistible Inheritance of Wiberforce is my favourite of Torday’s books, The Girl on the Landing is up there with the best.
Mack The Life
Lee Mack is, by far, my favourite comedian, and his autobiography is hilarious. In fact, it’s the first autobiography I’ve ever read in its entirety; I’ve tried others, sure, but they’ve never gripped me as much as this one.
For all my thoughts on this revealing book, take a look at my review for The British Comedy Guide.
Spurred on by the exceptional Skyfall (and watching Daniel Craig’s previous outings as the famous MI6 agent), I was surprised at the debut of James Bond in Casino Royale. It was everything Bond encompasses, but it was also sensitive and heartfelt. The main action was over midway through the novel, but Casino Royale is about Bond falling in love: a brave step to start out an action/thriller series. Live and Let Die waits for me on the bookshelf.
I nabbed The Ghost, another book by Robert Harris, when it was on offer at Waterstones for just £2.99, and I’m massively glad I did!
Harris’ style is pacy and pleasing, intriguing but warm. The interaction between characters is just as important as the mystery behind the new PM, Adam Lang. It really got me into the conspiratorial mindset for my script, A Writer’s Retreat, and was a thoroughly entertaining novel.
The Illustrated Man
Ray Bradbury came up with the clever idea of bookending a collection of short stories with an intensely unsettling tale of the Illustrated Man, whose tattoos come alive and tell the chilling and thought-provoking tales.
It’s especially interesting to see Bradbury’s exploration and obsession with this idea as just last week, I finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s also interesting to note how Bradbury’s writing style changes – and yet stays the same, or, at the very least, recognisably Bradbury. Perhaps this is because his fairytale-esque tinged with horror tone comes through in whatever he writes?
Doctor Who: The Silent Stars Go By
The final novel I read in 2012 was this considerable narrative by Dan Abnett, which sees Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, and Arthur Darvill’s Rory Williams come up against one of the Doctor’s most-notable enemies, the Ice Warriors.
It was a real pleasure to read, with great characterisation, a well-thought-out plot, a big twist or two, and a wonderfully creepy-yet-beautiful backdrop. While the ending wasn’t perfect, the novel, as a whole, is a gem – and a must-read for Doctor Who fans!