I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas.
This time of year is often a time for reflection. I’ve made some big writing gains in 2018, but also I think I’ll remember this year as the year I got back into reading in a big way. I read 23 books this year, some of them have been absolutely brilliant and some of them have been dross. You can see what I thought about each and every one of them elsewhere on this blog. In the main, I’ve been excited and enthralled by books this year and I really do believe that we live in a golden age of literature.
I'd like to share with you the books I've loved most in 2018, so without further ado, here are the top five books I've read this year.
5= Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
This was a late entry into the top 5, I only finished it a couple of weeks ago but this book is fantastic.
A war has been ended by an attack that cost hundreds and thousands of lives. It was the greatest atrocity, but the perpetrators believed that it was necessary to prevent even greater loss of life in the long term. Embers of War picks up in the aftermath. The war is over but the warring factions remain. In this new peace, each will have to come to terms with the awful things they’ve done, the trauma they have been through and the people they have lost.
The majority of the story is set on a former warship turned lifeboat called Trouble Dog. The story follows our cast of characters as they speed around the galaxy trying to bring aid and safety to the abandoned and the distressed.
I loved this book not only because of its captivating plot, but because it does something that’s quite rare: it acknowledges that violence has consequences. Not only consequences on the victims, but also consequences for the perpetrators. What does it actually feel like to kill someone? Especially in the context of a war where feelings towards the so called enemy are often ambivalent. Afterwards, how do people deal with what the things that they have done? Embers of War explores all of these issues whilst pulling you through a fascinating and well-constructed plot.
I must also mention that the author Gareth L. Powell is a total legend on Twitter.
5= Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky
I saw Children of Time on one of Amazon’s deals and the audiobook was only a couple of quid extra, so I decided to get that too. Interestingly enough, about a week or so later, my brother recommended it to me so I thought I’d go for it.
On the face of it, this book is downright weird.
All outposts of humanity in the known universe have been destroyed in an ideological war. In a last ditch to save the species, generation ships are cobbled together and launched into the void in a desperate attempt to find a new home for our species. Half of the story is told by a historian aboard one of these ships… and the other half of the story is about a colony of spiders as they evolve towards sentience. That’s right, spiders.
As strange as this sounds, Adrian Tchaikovsky pulls it off incredibly well. This book is one that builds momentum. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I was totally hooked.
4. Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday
Do you remember Gawker? It was the website that made millions and millions of dollars by being as horrible as possible to absolutely everyone? Conspiracy is the bizarre story of its destruction.
Gawker did and said disgusting things, but their whole defence was “We tell the truth, if you don’t like it, sue us but we have the first amendment on our side.” In a country in which freedom of speech is sacrosanct, how exactly was this million dollar business destroyed?
We live in an age of conspiracy theories, but this is the story of how one man put an actual conspiracy into place and took down one of the most powerful “new media” organisations in the USA.
In 2007 Gawker publically outed Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal as being gay. Conspiracy tells the story of how Peter Thiel put in place a 5-year long revenge plot that ended up destroying Gawker. Bizzarely, the story involves a sex tape of Hulk Hogan, shady intermediaries, #gamergate and a mind-blowing level of arrogance from some people at Gawker.
I hated Gawker, and am so glad that it got taken down. However, after reading this book I don’t feel it was a happy ending. Its executors were Thiel and Hogan. Thiel’s politics are loathsome and Hulk Hogan literally got thrown out of the WWE Hall of Fame for being a racist. The saying goes that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, but in this case, it’s really not true.
That said, the story itself is fascinating and Ryan Holiday does a great job of telling this complicated, sprawling tale into a coherent narrative.
This is non-fiction. What I took away from this was another example of how, in real life, things are not clear cut. Conspiracy does a fantastic job of showing this.
That's all for now. Check back here on New Year's Eve for part two when I'll reveal which book made it to the number one spot.
*This list excludes Jurassic Park which I re-read this year and remains my all-time favourite novel.