Top Ten Series Endings

  1. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, technically not a series, but this is my damn list. This is a pitch-perfect ending to all the horror and sadness of the War of the Ring: the chapter “The Field of Cormallen” in particular captures a sharp mixture of untold joy and terrible sorrow that’s just the best way to send the Dark Lord Sauron off.
  2. Abhorsen – Garth Nix. I don’t know if this counts as the end of the series now Goldenhand is out, but the original series feels self-contained enough that I’m counting it. This is another one that’s very good at capturing the full impact of its stakes.
  3. The Dark Tower – Stephen King. The last four books of the Dark Tower series are baggy and self-indulgent and often unforgivably long, but I think King came up with the best and most resonant ending he could have.
  4. The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman. Spyglass is not perfect by a long chalk, but it’s big and bold and ambitious and aware of how stories work.
  5. Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie. A solid and unassuming entry in Leckie’s Ancillary series, Ancillary Mercy is a story about doing what good you can.
  6. The Arrows of Time – Greg Egan. This is admittedly a slightly glib ending to Egan’s series, with some weirdly Catholic sexual guilt, but it is nevertheless nice to see the Peerless return to its home planet.
  7. Fly Trap – Frances Hardinge. It’s not necessarily an ending, as such, in that there’s no particular closure, but Mosca, Saracen and Eponymous are such great company.
  8. Wings – Terry Pratchett. Another ender that I like more for its characters and concept than for any actual closure it offers.
  9. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins. I think it’s the moral ambiguity of Mockingjay, the way it makes both the Capitol and the rebels complicit in atrocity, that makes this such a powerful ending to the Hunger Games series.
  10. White Gold Wielder – Stephen Donaldson. This is the ending to The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and it’s laden with a redemptive power that’s also almost horrifying in its catharsis.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Dystopias; Or, True and Accurate Representations of Post-Trump America

  1. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. A lone gunfighter wanders across a desert wasteland, killing as he goes. There are mutants under the mountains and sex demons in stone circles. The one town he passes through tries to murder him.
  2. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville. A vast and corrupt ruling class keep the city in line with an iron fist. They research horrors without appropriate safeguards. Criminals are horribly and disproportionately punished.
  3. God’s War – Kameron Hurley. An endless religious war rages across an entire planet, but no-one can remember what it’s about or where it started. The government hires assassins to take out draft dodgers. Racial and gender intolerance abounds.
  4. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell. Corporations and institutions perpetuate endless injustice. Tiny steps forwards are met with enormous leaps back. Evil is easier and more common than good.
  5. Jack Glass – Adam Roberts. Poor people live crowded together in unstable and irradiated plastic bubbles in space. The only kind of revolutionary activity that works is the ultra-violent kind.
  6. Six-Gun Snow White – Catherynne Valente. Everybody gets the raw end of the deal. Abuse perpetuates abuse. You submit or you die.
  7. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel. Everyone dies of flu. Religious intolerance is a thing.
  8. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins. Children are sent to kill each other to keep the population in line. The working classes starve while the rich eat so much they vomit it up to make more room. The only kind of revolutionary activity that works is the ultra-violent kind.
  9. Wool – Hugh Howey. The people in power keep pulling the wool over your eyes (see what I did there?). What’s worse, they make you pull the wool over your own eyes, to keep you all safe and alive. Also, you live underground in a giant silo and have never seen the outside world.
  10. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – J.K. Rowling. Hogwarts is taken over by an increasingly paranoid megalomaniac with a face like a toad. (Sound familiar?) Student clubs are banned. Magazines are banned. The aforesaid megalomaniac tortures her students and drives out all the sensible people.

Top Ten Books that Feature Travel

  1. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien. I mean, obviously. LOTR is practically a Middle-earth travelogue – and Tolkien is so very good at describing landscapes.
  2. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. I love Roland’s lonely journey through the desert: atmospheric and apocalyptic.
  3. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente. A tour of a whimsical Fairyland cast in Valente’s gorgeous prose? Yes, please!
  4. The Scar – China Mieville. The Scar is set on a floating city made of ships: so its characters are travellers who never leave their homes. Plus it’s just a damn good book.
  5. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers. The journey of the Wayfarer‘s crew is so delightful that eventually it becomes more important than the destination.
  6. The Last Hero – Terry Pratchett. This illustrated fable tells the tale of the Disc’s first spaceship – it’s funny and humane and ever so delightful.
  7. The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant – Stephen Donaldson. Our Heroes traipse through a ruined Land. It’s bleak, but so cathartic.
  8. Sabriel – Garth Nix. The Old Kingdom is such a vividly realised world – there’s always this sense of everyday life going on just around the corner, even if we can’t quite see it.
  9. The Clockwork Rocket – Greg Egan. A clever meld of science and narrative – featuring, yes, a clockwork rocket.
  10. Fly By Night – Frances Hardinge. A picaresque romp through a country not unlike seventeenth-century England. Another one that’s saturated with clever little worldbuilding details.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger

  1. The Silmarillion – J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m currently re-reading this, and I think one of the things I love about it is how autumnal it is: that gentle, gorgeous sadness.
  2. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett. Or, all the Discworld books. Going Postal is one of my favourites, though: I’m fascinated by showmen, and if Moist is anything he’s a showman.
  3. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. Apocalyptic and vast, a story of truths half-told, of men in black and way stations and mutants under mountains: in many ways this is just perfect fantasy. I’ve never read anything like it since.
  4. Sabriel – Garth Nix. I read and re-read this, and its sequels Lirael and Abhorsen, endlessly. It’s got an awesome heroine, a sarcastic cat, a vast and wonderful library (in Lirael), and an invented world with a lot of depth.
  5. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens. This was my first Dickens, which I read when I was in school: I fell in love with its sprawling sentimentality.
  6. The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova. Another novel that features libraries: its main characters track down Dracula through a paper trail of pamphlets and books from across time. It made me want to go to university; not that I hadn’t wanted to go before, but this made me want it concretely.
  7. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams. Dirk Gently is one of the great comic creations of English literature: irreverent, off-beat and ironical.
  8. Persuasion – Jane Austen. Another wonderfully autumnal novel: I read it for my A-level course, and it was just so rewarding to study.
  9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling. This was the first Harry Potter book I read (don’t ask) and I’ve had a soft spot for it ever since. I think it strikes a great balance between worldbuilding and plot, a balance that the later books don’t ever really achieve.
  10. Northern Lights – Philip Pullman. I just really, really loved the idea of daemons, and the fact that it was a huge, dense book to get stuck into. Reading it back now, it’s also full of quite complex ideas about science and metaphysics and philosophy.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Character Crushes

  1. Alana – Saga, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I feel sure I have written about Alana before. She is witty, fierce, quick to act (sometimes too quick), completely badass and very sexy. Staples also gives her the best facial expressions.
  2. Roland Deschain – The Dark Tower series, Stephen King. Obviously Roland is utterly unsuitable, being a trained killer and all, but he’s got charisma. He’s mysterious, hardened by years of wandering alone through vast deserts – isn’t there something romantic in that?
  3. Eugene Wrayburn – Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens. I think it’s just the slightly hipsterish vibe of louche cynicism Eugene has that I enjoy. Also, Victorian dress.
  4. Adora Belle Dearheart – Going Postal, Terry Pratchett. I love the way that she is literally all spikiness, none of this “heart of gold” rubbish. Also, neo-Victorian dress.
  5. Faramir – The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien. Is Faramir Middle-earth’s only liberal? I submit as evidence his riposte to his obviously-Conservative father Denethor’s pronouncement that “in desperate hours gentleness may be repaid with death”: “So be it.” Swoon.
  6. Steerpike – Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake. There’s a scene somewhere in the book where the Machiavellian Steerpike shoots a catapult at a far blue window. I’m pretty sure that was the scene that got me. I hate Steerpike for his cruelty, his indifference to those around him – but his razor-sharp control in Titus Groan, his showmanship, the way his icy amorality slices through the stuffiness of castle ritual, is terrifyingly compelling.
  7. Jack Glass – Jack Glass, Adam Roberts. Another ruthless killer. I think we are beginning to see an unfortunate theme here. Nevertheless: Jack is razor-sharp and fascinating.
  8. Robert Frobisher – Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. Is it Frobisher’s unrelenting commitment to his art? His wry and biting comments about his mentor Vyvyan Ayres? Or the fact that he is played in the film by the achingly attractive Ben Whishaw? Who knows?
  9. Dirk Gently – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Douglas Adams. Because he is funny and brilliant and scathing and just does not give a fuck about anything. I could spend all year with Dirk Gently.
  10. Fevvers – Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter. Larger than life in a way that comprehensively ignores any sense of male disapproval, she’s powerful precisely because she possesses none of the traditional trappings of power.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books I Recommend Most Often

  1. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel. Station Eleven is SF for book club readers (which sounds a good deal less positive than I meant it to). It’s an inoffensive and quietly touching book, and its focus is on people not setting.
  2. Sabriel – Garth Nix. I have had something of an awakening to just how good the Old Kingdom books actually are in recent years: strongly-characterised heroines who are moral but strong, subtle sex positivity, really solid worldbuilding and a sarcastic cat. In a publishing scene awash with high fantasy that can often barely summon up a female character not defined by romantic relationships, these are a breath of fresh air and I’m so grateful to have grown up with them.
  3. Guards! Guards! – Terry Pratchett. Does this really need saying? Pratchett’s books are an Old Favourite: humane and funny and so lovely to return to like a comfort blanket and I’ve met very few people who don’t like them.
  4. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley. Everyone should read this. Everyone. Firstly because it’s nothing like popular culture tells you it is. And secondly because it is a warning about the perils of forgetting the dispossessed and the downtrodden, the terrible power of the disenfranchised.
  5. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. I don’t recommend this as often nowadays, but I used to plug it to absolutely anyone who would listen. I still think the first three books are astonishing, understated, fresh pieces of epic fantasy; my love for them is just a little tarred by the bloat of, especially, Wolves of the Calla and The Dark Tower.
  6. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens. I have a special place in my heart for Our Mutual Friend, and I always recommend it to people asking about Dickens. This is probably a bad idea, since it’s a sprawling, dense novel which I imagine turns a lot of people off. But I can’t help it: it is my fave.
  7. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski. I do hesitate to recommend this sometimes: I think it’s a book that only certain people will like. But if I think you are certain people? Then I will recommend the heck out of it.
  8. The Madwoman in the Attic – Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. Yes: it is an academic tome. Yes: it was first published thirty years ago and is extremely very hectoring and feminist-ragey. But I maintain that absolutely saved my life in university and every English student should read it and it is totally badass and awesome.
  9. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers. I read this only quite recently and have therefore had limited time to recommend it; but it is a breath of goodwill and hope in a post-Brexit, terror-scarred, shifting-to-the-right world.
  10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. A book whose relentless optimism about the power of community bears down on the horror of German-occupied Guernsey and flattens it. Just universally agreeable.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters

“His purpose was rigid within him. He felt he could not bend to gentleness without breaking.”

Stephen Donaldson

  1. Thomas Covenant – The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, Stephen Donaldson. I do love the Covenant series, for reasons, but gods the main character is frustrating, seesawing between inaction and action, deciding to do one thing and then the next moment something completely different, and his hesitation, his privileging of his own needs above others’, constantly puts lives at risk.
  2. Hugo Lamb – The Bone Clocks, David Mitchell. Hugo and Holly are my OTP, and I will never, ever forgive Hugo for swapping True Love for Eternal Life. Did he never read Harry Potter?
  3. Pamela Andrews – Pamela, Samuel Richardson. This is the first book on my list that I actually genuinely despise. Pamela Andrews is an intensely irritating, sanctimonious milksop who is defeated in her escape attempt by a brick wall and some scary-looking cows. I AM NOT KIDDING. Yes, she is a 17th-century heroine, but so was Sophia Western in Tom Jones, and she left her father’s house with a pistol in her bra.
  4. Wade Watts – Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. I hated Wade, and the book he appears in, with a passion: he is the ultimate in “…but my best friend is [insert minority here]” internet trolldom.
  5. Feanor – The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien. Back to books I actually enjoy. Every time I re-read The Silmarillion the plight of Middle-earth seems more and more Feanor’s fault. (Because it actually, um, is his fault.) IF ONLY YOU WERE NOT SUCH A DOUCHEBAG FOR FIVE MINUTES, Feanor. If only.
  6. Mrs de Winter – Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier. The unnamed heroine of Rebecca is such a weed. I always wish she would just stand up to Mrs Danvers and Frith and not feel judged by them. Like, I know everyone has had those moments of social awkwardness, but they are so frustrating to read about.
  7. Harry Potter – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix onwards, J.K. Rowling. Rowling is constantly telling us how Amazing and Noble Harry is. All I see is a fairly ordinary, very moody teenager making questionable decisions. The fact that he has the fate of the wizarding world in his hands is not A Good Thing.
  8. Evelina Anville – Evelina, Fanny Burney. Evelina is gloriously clueless, and I think the frustration of this book is actually part of the fun, as we watch her get into so many easily-avoidable sticky situations.
  9. Susannah Dean – The Dark Tower, Stephen King. That bit in the last book where she goes through the door? I know it’s supposed to be redemptive and shiny and wonderful, but it always seems a bit…flaky to me.
  10. Esther Summerson – Bleak House, Charles Dickens. “Look, I am perfect and angelic and I love everyone.” *retches*

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books for Tolkien-Lovers

“The Written Word is a Fairy, as mocking and elusive as Willy Wisp, speaking lying words to us in a feigned voice. So let all readers of books take warning!”

Hope Mirlees

Now, obviously, there are a lot of terrible Tolkien ripoffs out there. So I’m going to try and stay away from the murky realms of Epic Fantasy (which I don’t much enjoy anyway) and concentrate on the less obvious aspects of Tolkien’s works which you might conceivably want to replicate in your reading experience. (Was that last sentence pretentious enough?)

  1. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever – Stephen Donaldson. “Didn’t you just say you were going to stay away from Epic Fantasy?” Well, yes. But the Covenant series deserves a mention for its existential take on Tolkien, questioning as it does the “reality” of its Middle-earth analogue. A warning, though: Donaldson doesn’t shy away from gore and sexual violence.
  2. Lud-in-the-Mist – Hope Mirlees. Lud-in-the-Mist, a novel from the 1920s which has enjoyed something of a renaissance of late, reminds me very much of The Hobbit, both in its slightly facetious narrative voice and in its gentle, ineffable atmosphere of mystery and magic just over the hills.
  3. The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett. It’s absolutely possible to love something and yet to weary of it, and Pratchett’s Discworld series is excellent at deflating the seriousness of Tolkien’s themes without hating on Epic Fantasy or degrading it (yes, Bored of the Rings, I am looking at you). An excellent follow-up to a Tolkien Marathon.
  4. Titus Groan – Mervyn Peake. Something I often forget about The Lord of the Rings is just how good it is at creating place. Tolkien knows every step and stone of his secondary world, and while Peake’s work doesn’t have quite that sense of verisimilitude (I doubt if Gormenghast could ever be mapped even by its inhabitants) it does reproduce that overwhelming atmosphere, that setting-as-character, that to me really characterises the Dead Marshes and Minas Morgul and the Shire.
  5. Morte Darthur – Thomas Malory. There is nothing quite like stumbling across the phrase “middle-erth” in a text six hundred years old for generating fangirling. Fans of Tolkien’s archaic, expressive diction will enjoy this – although it might take a while.
  6. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. This is for those who love that grandiose Tolkienian feeling of vast spaces just over the edge of sight, of destinations untold leagues away, of unimaginable sentiences in the dark places of the earth. And for those who love endless, hopeless quests.
  7. The Haunter of the Dark – H.P. Lovecraft. This is really a cultural/historical response to Tolkien, I suppose: Lovecraft was writing roughly at the same time as Tolkien was, and his work seems as Tolkien’s does to speak to the upheavals in the Western psyche that followed the First World War. As China Mieville put it on Crooked Timber: “Tolkien’s is the fantasy of a man murmuring to himself ‘it’s alright, it’s alright’, but not believing it; Lovecraft’s of a man shrieking ‘none of it is alright, nor will it ever be’. Unconvinced forgetting versus psychotic fixation: both are the results of trauma.”
  8. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville. Speaking of China Mieville. Perdido Street Station is a novel for those who really want to get their teeth into something with that same richly-imagined sense of place and culture; again, that verisimilitude, that all-encompassing and almost hypnotic reading experience.
  9. Temeraire – Naomi Novik. Another recommendation I’m basing on verisimilitude: Novik is excellent at delineating the social rules of the culture she creates, and adding some fantasy (dragons!) to destabilise it all. (Not that this is really the purpose of Tolkien’s fantasy; but it’s still fun.)
  10. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke. Tolkien was never shy about the fact that he was essentially trying to create the mythology he felt Britain had lost; Clarke’s project in some ways feels quite similar with her brand of very English magic. In the works of neither author is magic to be underestimated or easily dismissed as rational, understandable: in both, deep magic lies in every stone of England.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books I’d Give a Theme Song

“I’ll run like the river/I’ll follow the sun/I’ll fly like an eagle/To where I belong.”

Bryan Adams

  1. The Dark Tower series – Stephen King. It has to be “All For One” by Blackmore’s Night. “We fight together/And when we fight, we fight together/Not alone.” Although it’s not so much the (rather repetitive) lyrics as the searingly epic opening guitar solo that just sings to me of Roland and his lonely wanderings through the endless desert.
  2. The Last Hero – Terry Pratchett. Blind Guardian’s “The Bard’s Song“: “Tomorrow will take us away/Far from home/No-one will ever know our names;/But the bard’s songs will remain.” Compare if you will (from the Pratchett): “No one remembers the singer. The song remains.” Christ, I love this song.
  3. Wool – Hugh Howey. The Future, The Boot“by Unwoman. This is more of a mood thing than an exact lyrical match; that industrial bass track just reminds me so much of the sheer mechanicalness of the silo. “Suddenly everything depends upon us/We’ll determine whether/Our future is a big boot stomping on a human face forever”. And, yes, that is an Orwell reference.
  4. Special Topics in Calamity Physics – Marisha Pessl. Another mood association: “Midnight Show” by the Killers. “I took my baby’s breath beneath the chandelier/Of stars and atmosphere/And watched her disappear.” There’s this chilling, almost transcendent sense of madness to the song; it creates dissonant beauty out of murder, and that’s very much the mood of Special Topics to me.
  5. Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett. Never Forget” by Take That. I know Take That is terribly uncool, but this song makes me think of Glenda, her practicality and how that comes to be celebrated by the end of the book: “Never forget where you’re coming from/Never pretend that it’s all real/Someday this will all be someone else’s dream.”
  6. Good Omens – Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. You know it makes sense. “There’s a lady who’s sure/All that glitters is gold/And she’s buying the stairway to heaven…”
  7. Un Lun Dun – China Mieville. Admittedly I disliked the book, on reflection, but “The Underground” from Paul Shapera’s The New Albion Radio Hour: A Dieselpunk Opera is just perfect thematically: “The quiet, the lost/The halls forgot/The slouching engines growl/The long dark land/The lost enchant/In the under, in the underground.”
  8. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski. Half Sick of Shadows” by The Parlour Trick just has to be perfect for this one, doesn’t it? Intensely creepy violin and piano, accompanied by creaks and groans and ambient noise – it speaks, as the book does, of invaded space and haunted shadows.
  9. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell. Elysian Fields” by The Mechanisms feels kind of perfect for this one: a song that both evokes and denies the possibility of transcendence. “Lying here/Upon the soil/As dawn fills my heart with light;/Beside my wife/And free from toil/Sunrise breaking through the night.”
  10. A Madness of Angels – Kate Griffin. I Will Always Return” by Bryan Adams, but the version from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (which Teenaged Sister was completely obsessed with, once upon a time). It’s a love song; but a love song to home, to belonging, to knowing where you are in the world, and that is one of the things I loved about A Madness. “I’ve seen every sunset/And with all that I’ve learned/Oh, it’s to you I will always, always return”.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books I’d Hand to Someone who Doesn’t Like Reading

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.”

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling. OK, I know this is kind of a cliché, but there’s a reason for that. Rowling knows how to hook her readers in, and she knows how to craft a gripping plot, and she knows in her early books not to weigh down the story with extraneous and bulky ideology.
  2. Mort – Terry Pratchett. Or, in fact, any of Pratchett’s Discworld series: funny, humane, intelligent and comforting reads that have a pretty good chance of luring the unsuspecting non-reader into the world of SFF fandom.
  3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams. In a similar vein to the above. Adams is everything Pratchett is, and Hitchhiker is a classic as well as being short, an agreeable and intelligent way to while away a few hours.
  4. Wool – Hugh Howey. So the gender politics of the later novels in the trilogy do get a bit squiffy, but there’s very little I’ve read that can rival Wool in its slow (tortuously slow) reveal of the depths of Howey’s dystopia, plus Juliette is one of my favourite heroines ever.
  5. Room – Emma Donoghue. Another page-turner (one that’s recently been adapted for film, no less), harrowing and powerful; one for those who don’t like (or don’t think they like) SFF.
  6. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding. More intelligent and better-written than a lot of the novels in its genre (I’m looking at you, Shopaholic), it’s also very, very funny and acutely observed. Also, with any luck it might get my hypothetical non-reader into Pride and Prejudice, and after that the entire history of English literature is your oyster.
  7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Maybe some of the book love of the islanders may rub off on my non-reading friend. This novel is just a gentle, undemanding love story, too; I actually can’t think of any reason not to like it.
  8. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” I literally defy you not to be hooked.
  9. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger. Another eminently readable love story, carefully constructed (although I can see the timelines getting a bit irritating) and tinged with tragic inevitability. Her second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, is also great.
  10. Cat Stories. Short stories are forgiving, easy to put down and pick back up, and who is there who doesn’t like cats?

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)