I haven’t read a lot of books lately. I’ve been concentrating mainly on Harry Potter fan fiction. I did read a lot in the past, however, and I intend to read a lot more in the future.
Over the past few days, in between researching the seventeenth century in preparation for NaNoWriMo, I have been editing my BookCrossing profile. One of the features I added to my profile page is a drop down menu showing all the books I have rated ten out of ten, since I began keeping track of such things.
Going through this list caused me to remember a lot of good books that I read in the past so, when I saw the time and realised I haven’t gotten around to blogging yet, I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone and use those memories as inspiration for today’s Top Ten Tuesday?
Therefore, without further ado, here is my top ten list of books I rated ten out of ten, from ten to one:
A Short History of Nearly Everything (illustrated edition) by Bill Bryson
I have always been interested in science, but usually find science books difficult to understand. This book is different. A Short History of Nearly Everything is science for the non-scientist, and it is absolutely fascinating. Peppered with Bryson’s characteristic humour and, for the most part, perfectly understandable, this book is a perfect way for the average person to learn about the world around them and the history of, well, us. From just before the big bang to life as we know it today – and everything in between – Bryson outlines the most current scientific theories, and all the steps it took to get there.
While I do recommend reading the entire book, those determined to browse will be happy to note that the book is divided into easy-to-navigate chapters with clear titles, such as Welcome to the Solar System, Einstein’s Universe and The Mighty Atom, making it easy to skip directly to topics of interest.
While there is a non-illustrated version of this book, I highly recommend getting the illustrated version if you are able. It is a little bulkier and heavier to carry around, but the beautiful photographs are absolutely worth it. As well as stunning photos and sketches of the universe and the Earth in its various stages, there are microscopic shots of various bacteria and viruses, and photographs of scientists, allowing us to put a face to the name. There is also an occasional amusing cartoon, to lighten the heavier topics.
A Short History of Nearly Everything (Illustrated Edition) is definitely a book I would love to have in my permanent collection.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
Originally two separate books (Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale My Father Bleeds History, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began), The Complete Maus contains both books in one volume. I don’t normally read graphic novels, and I probably wouldn’t have had hubby borrow this if I’d known that’s what it was. Since it was in the house, however, I decided to give it a go – and I wasn’t disappointed. Having grown up on stories of the Holocaust, I am somewhat jaded and de-sensitized, but even I found this account of a father relaying his experiences to his son moving. In fact, I was unable to put it down, and wound up reading the entire book in one sitting. Easier to read than most comics (there is no trouble knowing which bit to read next) and with a subject matter that holds your attention, I highly recommend this book.
A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French
This book is aimed at a young adult audience, but I think it will find many fans amongst the adult population as well. Jackie French has extended her, not inconsiderable, talent in order to truly bring the first world war to life. The horror and bewilderment of people experiencing trench warfare for the first time are expressed well and we find ourselves immersed in the lives and minds of her characters. This is one of those books that makes a real emotional impact and will live on in your memory long after you have read it. I can’t think of a better book to introduce the topic of World War One to the younger generation.
Fallen by David Maine
I am not a religious person, nor am I Christian, but that did not prevent me from enjoying this novel. Beginning with the final days of Cain and moving back in time to Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden, this book portrays the dusty old Bible stories in a brand new light. Breathing life into these well-known characters in a way no Bible story ever could, Maine reminds us that few people are truly evil and that we all have the potential to commit terrible acts.
The names in this book are all familiar – Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, God – but their personalities are far more fleshed out and sympathetic than those portrayed in Genesis, and I was left with many more questions than I began with. Was Adam and Eve’s crime truly so great as to deserve permanent banishment? How long should a man be punished for the sins of his youth? And just how just is the Christian God really?
Whether you are Christian or not, this is an extremely well-written and entertaining read that you will be unable to put down and I will be recommending it to everybody I come across.
Ash Road by Ivan Southall
Ash Road is a thrilling story about a group of kids stuck in a huge bushfire without any adults. This book was published in 1965, so things like currency and slang are not current, but it doesn’t affect the understanding (or enjoyment) of the story. Although this book was written for kids, I would also recommend it for adults. I have read it many times over the years, and it still makes my heart race and gives me butterflies in my tummy.
The quality of writing in Ash Road is outstanding. The descriptions of a hot day in the Aussie bush are such that one can smell the Eucalypts, and the description of the fire is thrilling. This is a great read for child and adult alike.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
This is, without a doubt, the best apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic novel I have ever read. If you are after a zombie horror, you will be seriously disappointed, because the zombies themselves are not prominent characters in this book.
Instead, Brooks presents us with a series of interviews ten years after the war has ended. Unlike many post-apocalyptic novels, World War Z presents us with a global picture of events. We see interviews with people from many countries, many age groups, many careers, many socio-economic groups – giving a total picture of what was happening everywhere to everyone.
The subtitle of this book describes it as an oral history and this description is fitting.The story does not have a traditional plot, in the sense of one story, revolving around one character, with one clear beginning, middle and end. Instead, it consists of lots of mini-stories, with each interview presenting another piece to the puzzle.
I was particularly impressed with the author’s ability to present each interview in a genuine voice suitable to the purported character. Every one of these interviews is entirely believable and it is this believability that adds to the sense of tension this book creates.
I have seen some people complain about the sheer volume of characters, stating that this affected their ability to engage. I would like to humbly disagree. While it is true that I cannot remember all of the names, I do not consider this to be an essential element to compassion or empathy. I, myself, fully engaged with each and every character in this book, to the point that I found myself emotionally immersed in their stories. I won’t spoil the story by stating what happened, but one interview with a dog handler, actually had me in tears.
Another thing I liked about this book is the underlying political commentary. Whether you agree or disagree with the messages being presented, they will surely catch your interest.
In fact, I suspect that this is one of those onion books that needs to be read and re-read to grasp all of the underlying commentary. I will certainly be re-reading my copy. In fact, I hope to get my hands on the audio-book, which, I am told, is read by a full cast of characters. I feel that this will bring even more depth to an already brilliant story.
I do not know whether it is the writing skill of Max Brooks, the unique format of this book, or the incredible realism therein (or perhaps a combination of all three) but this was, by far, the scariest zombie novel I have ever read.
I highly recommend it to absolutely everybody!
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
If you read any book this holidays, make it The Road. Set in a future America, after some unknown apocalypse, it is the story of a father and son – ‘each other’s world entire’ – trying to move south to warmer climes. Starving, exhausted and constantly alert for roaming cannibalistic brigands, it sometimes seems as though they are sustained by love alone.
The language in this novel is beautifully evocative and the complete absence of quotation marks adds to the haunted quality that permeates the book. The characters are inherently believable – who among us could not empathise with a father trying to shield his son from the horrors of a world gone mad?
Sad, depressing, despairing and all too believable, The Road nevertheless manages to end on a hopeful note. This is a definite must-read!
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The Thirteenth Tale is an amazing journey into one woman’s hidden past. Filled with beautiful language and wonderfully descriptive passages, this is an extraordinary first work by an incredibly gifted author.
Book lovers will relate well to the narrator Margaret Lea, and will enjoy the timeless gothic atmosphere and the enchanting prose as Vida’s life slowly unfolds. The Thirteenth Tale is a remarkable story that will be enjoyed by all.
I loved the language in this novel so much, I am including two of my favourite quotes:
“What succour, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? When lightning strikes shadows on the bedroom wall and the rain taps at the window with it’s long fingernails? No. When fear and cold make a statue of you in your bed, don’t expect hard-boned and fleshless truth to come running to your aid. What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie.” Vida Winter in The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Darkness Creeping: Twenty Twisted Tales by Neal Shusterman
The stories in this young adult book are really creepy. In fact, the writing is better than in many adult books I have read. The back says this book is for ages ten and up, but some of these stories are maybe a bit scary for younger readers.
All of the stories in this book are so good, it was difficult to pick my favourites, but I want to give you a top three so here we go:
Third place goes to Connecting Flight. If you are already afraid of flying, you may wish to skip this story. If you aren’t afraid of flying, you soon will be!
Coming in at second place is Black Box. This story is an example of what could happen if you were to leave something of world-shattering importance in the hands of a curious child.
Finally, my favourite story in this collection (by a very narrow margin) is Same Time Next Year, a very interesting take on the hazards of time travel.
All in all, this collection is well worth reading for teens and adults alike.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a unique glimpse into the mind of an autistic child. His single-minded attempt to ‘detect’ who killed his neighbour’s beloved dog is both logical and inspiring. Some parts of the story are very sad, others are amusing, and little pictures throughout the book give a small insight into how this boy’s mind works. This is one book that ought to be on everyone’s reading list.
There you have it. You can see how I’ve rated other books I’ve read by perusing my LibraryThing catalogue. Do you agree with this list? Do you have any suggestions for books you think I may enjoy? Let me know in the comments below.
Categories: Top Tens