To be precise, this week’s topic is Top Ten Favourite Books in X Genre. I’ve done a few of these before so I was struggling on narrowing my gigantic list of favourites down again when I remembered one of the trends I’ve been enjoying recently – hope. There’s been a lot of very Grimdark/post-apocalyptic/rocks-fall-everyone-dies books flooding the market recently, it’s been great to see a turn away from that. So here we have my Top Ten Hopeful Books (just imagine it’s Tuesday).
1. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
An easy list topper. It’s far from all sweetness and light, there’s complex politics, prejudice, bullying, death, child abuse… But running throughout it is sense of possibility, of the prospect that things will get better, that there really are good people out there. It’s one of the many reasons I will read this book time and time again.
2. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I only really noticed how hopeful this book was when people started comparing it to TGE. It’s a ponderous tale that goes off in all sorts of different directions, but I suppose at the heart of it it’s a tale about growing up and learning how to keep your friendships and relationships strong as you do so.
3. The Truth/Thud!/I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
I’m grouping these three together as they’re all Discworld, but they deserve their places for very different reasons. Truth is about overcoming prejudices, both societal and familial, whilst learning that you can make a difference to the status quo. Thud! is about racial issues, bigotry and extremism but it’s also about embracing parenthood. Midnight is by far my favourite Tiffany Aching book and I suppose that’s because it’s about acceptance of difference and making a place your own.
4. Not Forgetting the Whale by J W. Ironmonger
This one’s a strange one, as with all of Ironmonger’s work. The fable like quality, the humour and – let’s face it – the whale all make this strange post-apocalyptic vision of a British seaside town bizarrely endearing.
5. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Picked on a NetGalley whim, I will never forget how surprised and enchanted I was by this book. Life on-board ship is far from idyllic and frankly there are aspects of the ending that are worse than a gut punch. But through it all there’s the sense of life going in the right direction – of people caring for each other.
6. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
One of Gaiman’s more introspective novels, deeply entrenched in questions of familial vs. personal identity and with an ending that always makes my heart ache – but in a good way. One of Gaiman’s great talents is his mirroring of themes and he uses that to great affect here.
7. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
This one’s still my favourite of Rowling’s Potter books. I think that’s mainly because it seems to balance the light and the dark of the Hogwarts universe pretty perfectly. For once Harry learns something good about his past and begins to make a family for himself outside of the Dursleys. What happens in the subsequent books may diverge from this, but at the end of PoA it honestly feels like Harry’s life is starting to turn round.
8. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
One of my all time favourites – the possible end of the world is dealt with through humour and a compassion for humanity that I’m not entirely sure we deserve. Somehow both incredibly moving and laugh-out-loud funny. Adam’s attempts to use his powers for good are a real highlight – especially considering his source material.
9. Fire by Kristin Cashore
All of the books in the trilogy feel empowering in different ways, but it’s this second book in the series that really fits my brief. Through moving outside of her isolated existence Fire finds a way to embrace her heritage, using something that was once evil to protect her family and friends. Another book about making a place for yourself and the importance of self-definition.
10. The Martian by Andy Weir
Utterly uplifting and the only book I’ve ever read that makes me have serious feelings about potatoes. It may not be realistic, but I loved how the format changes over time and I enjoyed the way Weir zooms in and out of focus between Watney and earth.