Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Looking Back - Favourite Books Read in 2017

I used to read voraciously, but life, work and hobbies have all conspired to make it easy for me to devote time to other things the last few years, and I haven't been reading as much as I would like. I made a conscious decision in 2016 to try and read more books again, and while the number read in total hasn't been anywhere near what I used to get through, it has been better than the few years before I made that commitment.

This year I have a range of different books, for myself, to my kids at night, and out loud to my class. I have tried to make sure I review many of the books I have read over the course of the year, and you can find those either on Good Reads, or by clicking on the 'books' tag at the bottom of this post.

So, without wasting too many more words, what are the best books I have read in 2017?

First and foremost, the book I most often think about since finishing is Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. You can read my review here if you're interested in more details.

Children of Time is something I keep coming back to because of the juxtaposition of the two stories that unfold. It reads like a real and thoughtful examination of the human condition, and represents both the best and worst our species is capable of. The story is different, one set of characters are alien and strange, and yet it works. The rise of civilisation charted throughout this book is measured equally against the slow disintegration of a microcosm of our own. All the characters are interesting and engaging, the story dramatic and full of highs and lows. All in all it is a book I enjoyed a lot. I thoroughly recommend looking it up, and have been very glad to note that the author, Adrian Tchaikovsky, has stated on Twitter that he is working on a sequel.

My absolute favourite book read this year has been Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling. 

I actually read this twice, once to my class and once to my son. My class enjoyed it, which was nice, but my son went from not being interested in reading this 'strange' book, to absolutely adoring it. We're currently reading Chamber of Secrets, and he is loving the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle card game (recommended).

The moment where Harry faced down Quirell would have to be one my favourite parts of year, not just reading. My son, rapt, was sitting in his bed disbelieving. Genuinely upset at the betrayal and twist. This book changed his attitude to reading, and it was an absolute joy to be a part of that.

Harry Potter is a wonderful story, and never seems to fail in drawing readers in and capturing their imagination and their hearts - it certainly did mine, and my son was no different. It was an absolute pleasure to read this to him.

The most interesting book I read this year was Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I read this book to my class on recommendation from another teacher (thanks Tara). I was skeptical, I'll be honest. But wow. I am a convert. This book was a revelation, to myself and the kids in class both. I am not sure if I have read a book that genuinely revolted, amused, and fascinated a class more than this. Killing and butchering an animal, making cheese, playing with a corn-cob doll; all the simple every day things that consumed the lives of the Wilder family in their time in that log house was an eye-opening adventure back in time. What a wonderful book and window into another era this book is.

The most influential book I read this year was Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.

A classic tale of survival, where a boy is pitted against nature itself in an epic quest just to survive. This book contains everything one would expect of a survival story, and is brutal in its exposition. The kids in my class were equally delighted and horrified by it. Why was it most influential? I read it out loud. The rhythm and cadence of the book is sublime. The repetition pounds the message home. The short sentences combined with long sentences and repeating phrases call to be read aloud and make the book a fascinating experience. The story is good, but the writing is fascinating. I loved it.

So, in short order there are some of my favourite books read of 2017. Not all new and shiny, some old and dusty, in fact, but all good books and thoroughly recommended. 

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