No unusual word this week because Kimberly Sullivan has asked me to create my nomination list for the Happy Booker – the alternative book award. The real deal is due to announce the winner on the 22nd of May and you can check their shortlist here.
It is, of course, cruel to ask any manic reader to nominate just one favourite book or author and it took me a while to cull my original ten to just five (apologies to Charles Dickens, Katie Fforde, Roddy Doyle, Terry Pratchett, and Marian Keyes). Some of the following titles are from the 2012-2013 judging period, some are not, but all are books I can whole-heartedly recommend and which stayed with me after the final page.
“Cross Stitch” by Diana Gabaldon
The first in the “Outlander” series, where we meet the swoon-worthy kilt-wearing 16th century Jamie and his time-travelling love Claire Randall from our own time. They struggle to survive in the aftermath of Culloden and the plot twists never cease. The entire series is a gem for anybody who likes well-researched historical fiction and engaging characters. The spin-off series of Lord John novels and novellas are excellent too but more on the historic detective genre.
“Borderliners” by Peter Hoeg
I’ve loved Hoeg’s fiction since “Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow”, particularly because each novel, or short story collection, he writes is so different from the rest. The young characters from “Borderliners” fight against the system at their experimental school in 1970s Denmark. Unfortunately English translations of Hoeg’s work can be tricky to source, so if you find one, buy it and treasure it.
“Mystery Man” by Colin Bateman
If you like dark humour, you will love Colin Bateman. I love the irreverent view he takes on his native Belfast in his novels, but for this book the star is the unreliable narrator, the man who runs a mystery book shop next door to a detective’s office. When the PI meets a sticky end the clients, plus the cute woman in the shop opposite, pull him into solving crimes. If you grew up addicted to Agatha Christie’s work, as I did, and now devour every book from Connolly, Deever, James, Larssen and the rest, then this is the book for you.
“Blackout” and “All Clear” by Connie Willis
Connie Willis doesn’t really need a Happy Booker nomination as her bookshelves must be sagging under all the Hugo Awards she has won during her career. However I had to include “Blackout” and “All Clear”. Don’t bother buying just the first one because you will want to read the sequel. Several of her books revolve around a team of historians in a slightly alternate Oxford where time-travel has been discovered and is used to investigate history. This time a team of historians are dropped into the Blitz in London and, inevitably, their retrieval hits a glitch. They avoid as many air-raids as they can while trying to avoid unraveling the old time-space-continuum and searching for a way home. The strength of her novels, for me, is her brilliant characterisation and light hand with fictional romances.
“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern
As a long-time supporter and participant in NaNoWriMo I had to include a past wrimo on my nomination list and this is the first book I thought of when I got the challenge because it was the most unusual and inventive story I read this year. I have bought copies for nearly all my friends as this stage! When two master magicians challenge each other via their apprentices, The Night Circus arrives in town. It opens at sunset, shuts at dawn and features the most amazing performances anybody could imagine, but what will happen when the apprentices fall in love?
Until next time, happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,