Favourite Books of the Last Five Years

Before I created this blog, almost three years ago, I started rating the books that I read on a spreadsheet in 2014. I’m not sure why I decided to do it, but it was also around that time that I started watching videos about books on YouTube. Today I want to share with you my favourite books since then, which means of the last five years.

I haven’t selected a book per year. The books below are, instead, my favourites from the whole period in no particular order.

 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

King Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne and invites Lord Eddard Stark to be his Hand. But the fragile peace is in peril. Not only are the Lords of Westeros playing dangerous power games, but the exiled Targaryens also want to retake their father’s throne. The first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series is written from various points of view and is full of political machinations. The plot is enthralling and the characters are complex and multifaceted. Continue reading

Favourite Short Books

Medium-size books are usually at the top of my preferences. I love to fully immerse myself in the characters’ world and find that easier when a story lasts for longer than just a couple of hundred pages. Nevertheless, shorter books can also be utterly compelling and stimulating. I consider a book to be short when it is less than 250 pages long.

If you are looking for some quick reads (albeit not necessarily easy ones), you may want to try some of my favourites. I decided not to include short story and poetry collections in the list below, seeing that they overwhelmingly fall into the less than 250 pages category.

 

The Dumb House by John Burnside

The Dumb House is short but not sweet. It is a twisted story revolving around Luke, who has performed a cruel experiment on his own children. We know this from the outset, and the following pages are an account of how he got to that point and why. While reading, I was in awe of the writing style. Continue reading

Favourite Not So Popular Books

A long time passed since the day I started blogging and the moment when I created my Goodreads account at the beginning of this year. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to finally decide to set it up, though, because I’ve been finding it quite useful. Besides being a good tool to keep track of the books that I own but haven’t read yet (previously I only used a spreadsheet to list the books that I had read), it also made me realise that some of the books I really liked haven’t been read by that many people.

Some of the books that I really cherish have less than two thousand ratings on Goodreads. So, in comparison with other books, they are not particularly popular. Nevertheless, they are still really worth reading. These are the five that I wish more people would read:

 

The Dumb House by John Burnside

The Dumb House by John Burnside deals with quite uncomfortable topics, but that didn’t prevent me from being in awe of the way sentences were crafted. From the outset we know that Luke has performed a cruel experiment on his own children. He was fascinated by the tale of the Dumb House, so he wanted to know whether language was learnt or innate. His obsession not only with that story but also with the matter of life and death and the existence of a soul takes him down a dark path. Continue reading

Books to Read During Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching and you may be in need of something to read. This usually is the time of the year to pick up some horror books. But, as I haven’t read that many books from that genre, I decided to list some of those that I consider appropriate for this time of the year instead of choosing favourites. The books mentioned below all feature either dark, twisted or spooky elements, which are intended to leave the reader feeling uneasy.

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Even if you have never read Frankenstein, you may be familiar with the story it tells. Victor Frankenstein manages to animate lifeless matter, but the creature born of that experiment is nothing like what he expected. This is a book about how a creator deals with the destructive actions of his creation.

 

The Dumb House by John Burnside  

A dark story is conveyed using beautifully crafted prose in The Dumb House. The main character, Luke, is obsessed with the issue of life and death, the existence of a soul, and questions if language is either learnt or innate. This leads him to a twisted experiment performed on his own children. Continue reading

Books I Would Like to See Adapted to Screen

I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that an increasing number of the films and TV series being released lately are adaptations of books. Although sometimes I wonder if that stems from a lack of new ideas, I think this adaptation frenzy can be a good thing, since more people may become interested in the books that were the source of inspiration and then start reading more.

There are some books, which haven’t been adapted yet, that I feel have the potential to be either great films or TV Series. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan is one of them. It tells the story of Serena Frome who is recruited by the MI5 after graduating from the University of Cambridge in the early 1970s. Her assignment is to select young writers with anti-communist views whom will be offered financial assistance. This spy story becomes more complex when love is added to the mix. Someone should hire Joe Wright to direct it, as he did a fantastic job with Atonement.

A book I also think could be turned into either a fantastic film or TV series is The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis in the original in Portuguese) by José Saramago. This is one of my favourite books by a Portuguese author. The main character in this novel is Ricardo Reis, one of the many heteronyms created by Fernando Pessoa. Saramago transforms Ricardo Reis into a real person who returns to Lisbon after the death of his friend Fernando Pessoa. He discovers a Portugal under the shadow of a dictatorship. Continue reading

Characters I Love to Hate

Not all characters in books are supposed to have our approval and that is a good thing. A book in which all characters make understandable decisions and behave almost like perfect human beings becomes really dull after a while. I love when books feature characters who are unlikeable, but who are also complex, fleshed out and well written. They are not merely evil or plain villains, there is more to them than their despicable actions. They bring complexity to the plot of a book.

These are some of the characters I love to hate:

 

Cersei Lannister – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

There are quite a few unlikeable characters in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. But the one I love to hate the most is Cersei. Although the utmost evil and twisted characters are probably Joffrey and Ramsay, Cersei is the one I would miss the most if she didn’t exist. She is eager for power, using any means possible to achieve what she wants. However, she is not as cunning as she believes herself to be, not considering the consequences of her actions. One redeeming quality could be the love she has for her children, except that I believe that this love comes second to her ambitions. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2016

2016 is coming to an end. So, this is the perfect time to reveal my favourite books that I read during the year. I have only rated two of these books with five stars, since, apparently, I expect a five-star read to fulfil a lot of requirements. But some of the books mentioned below are quite high four-star reads (in a way I regret having decided not to give half-star ratings) and, thus, deserve recognition.

I chose as my favourites five books from the nineteen that I read in 2016. In comparison with other bloggers, I don’t read that many books per year, but some of them were quite long and I also don’t listen to audiobooks, since it’s hard for me to focus on what I’m only listening to for a long period of time. Of the nineteen books that I read, one was non-fiction, three can be considered children’s books, and three were poetry collections.

In reverse order, these are the best books that I read in 2016: Continue reading

‘The Dumb House’ by John Burnside

My rating: 5 stars

Can a dark and twisted novel be absolutely beautiful? The Dumb House by John Burnside proves that it is possible. Although the story being told utterly shocked me, it also left me in awe of the way in which the words were exquisitely put together. I became completely immersed in the story, being both marvelled and shaken to the core.

The story is narrated in the first person by Luke (whose name is only mentioned more than halfway through the novel). When he was a child, his mother told him the story of the Dumb House. According to the tale, a dyslexic emperor named Akbar the Mughal ordered a mansion to be built. There he kept new-born babies attended by people who were dumb. The purpose of such an experiment was to test whether language was innate or learnt.

Luke developed an obsession not only with this topic, but also with the question of life and death, and the existence of a soul. Even as a child, he performed experiments on small animals by dissecting them. His obsession deepens to the point where he performs experiments on his own children. The story starts with him mentioning this fact and then goes back in time to explain how he got to that point. Continue reading