So, that was 2017. What a mess, both globally and personally. The world seems to be falling apart at the seams with increasing speed. 2016 had set the bar so low it was impossible to think that things could get any worse, but Christ did 2017 deliver. But I’m not going to focus on the negatives. There were some good things too.

There was an impressive solar eclipse over the USA, the Doctor regenerated into a woman for the first time, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shone as they announced their engagement, Blue Planet II stunned us all with its visuals, there was an awkwardly hilarious cock-up at the Oscars, people refused to sit in silence and took to the streets to make their voices heard, Australia legalised same-sex marriage, Alabama elected a Democrat, and honeybee populations increased. As for me personally? Edinburgh welcomed me back with open arms once more during one of my lowest ebbs, Unbound took a chance on me and gave me a platform to crowdfund my second novel, I finished reading Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries and visited her grave to say thank you.

And, of course, there were still books. I achieved a personal best this year, making my way through one hundred books, but now leaving me with a lot of bigger novels and hefty hardbacks for this year. Nonetheless, there were some crackers, so here are my ten favourite books from the last twelve months – in no particular order.

(As a side note, if you purchase any of the books here via the links I provide, I get a little bit of money, so thanks in advance!)

1. Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

Poirot is taking a well-earned holiday at a hotel off the Devon coast, but as ever, murder is never far behind him. Arlena Marshall, a famous and beautiful actress is making heads turn all over the island, but within a matter of days she’s found dead on the beach, strangled. The killer must be among the hotel’s guests, but it seems that almost everyone has a motive. The vicar believes that Arlena is evil; Arlena’s step-daughter Linda has no love for her husband’s new wife; or did her husband finally have enough of her and her flirtatious ways? Fortunately, Poirot is on hand to try and solve the case.

While it doesn’t seem to have the same level of fame as Murder on the Orient Express or Death on the Nile, this really is one of Christie’s best. With all the typical elements – dead body, furious relatives, isolated location, sunny weather – it marks her out as being one of the greatest plot-smiths ever, a fact we all know by now anyway. The solution is neat and there are so many red herrings in here that you could open a fishmongers. It’s a real classic of the genre, and from Christie herself.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

2. The Radleys by Matt Haig

The Radley family seem to be perfectly normal. Sure, they’re a little quirky, but there’s nothing wrong with slapping on thick sun tan lotion every time you step out of the house or being allergic to garlic. One night, teenage Clara is attacked by an unwanted pursuer and hits back, leading to a grisly death. She and her brother Rowan then discover the family secret – they’re vampires. The transition to this new reality begins smoothly, but when their uncle Will turns up, things begin to fall apart. After all, you have to invite a vampire into your home, but once you do so, it’s very difficult to get them to leave again.

While most everyone else spent the year discussing Haig’s How to Stop Time, which I did also enjoy very much, I found myself much preferring this one. The macabre humour is brilliant and while vampires are occasionally seen as overplayed now, he handles them with joy here and fits them into the modern world seamlessly. As with all the best books, it’s about the truth of being human, which is often shown very well through those that aren’t. Despite the gore, it’s very sweet.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

3. The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

David Smith was once the most admired sculptor in America. He was a young talent who could do no wrong; that is, until his creativity dried up. Now stagnating and unable to produce anything, he is desperate. So desperate that he makes a deal with Death – David can now sculpt any material with just his hands, but he will die in 200 days. To make matters more complicated, he’s just fallen in love…

I’m not the biggest reader of graphic novels, but there was something about this one that blew me away. The plot of a creative person struggling with creation is something I can totally get on board with – I have written painfully little in the last year – and the artwork is simply stunning. I would go so far as to say that it couldn’t have worked as a straight novel; seeing is everything with this one. A brilliant tale of obsession, carelessness and art.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

I try and only have books that were new to me in the top 10, but I usually fail. This year I failed twice because I dipped back into two of my favourite novels of all time. Never Let Me Go takes us to a boarding school with a curious curriculum and a set of students who seem to have very little idea about what awaits them in the real world. As we follow Kathy and her discovery of what purpose she and her classmates including Tommy and Ruth have been born to do, we find ourselves in a twisted version of Britain where humanity took a very dark turn.

It had to be on this list, really, because it is one of my favourite books of all time. An insidiously terrifying novel that begins as something quite innocent and quaint but soon devolves into something truly horrific. Nonetheless, like The Radleys, it is once again about being human, but this time with a focus on creativity, the nature of the soul and rights of an individual. So many questions remain unanswered that you’ll wish there was more of it, but it’s actually perfect as it is. A true modern classic.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

5. Wonder by R. J. Palacio

August Pullman has Treacher Collins syndrome, which gives him an appearance considered unusual by most people. He prefers to hide away under his astronaut helmet and has so far been home-schooled to protect him from bullies. His parents decide that he should go to middle school, but once there it seems that no one can look past his face, and children’s honesty is not always well received.

Above all, this is a novel about not taking things at face value, and kindness. Peppered with acts of kindness and with more nice characters than nasty on the whole, the book shines. I began reading it with my usual trepidation when faced with a child narrator, and while August’s voice – and those of others who share their point of view – feels a little too adult, he’s a charming and lovable boy, and you can’t help by feel affection for him. I can almost objectively state that this is a Good Book, as my mother read it and loved it too, and she doesn’t read anything. Another heartwarming tale about humanity being, usually, a force for good.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

6. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

Sneaking into the top ten as the last book I finished in 2017 is the memoirs of doctor-turned-comedy-writer Adam Kay. This novel features excepts from his diaries during the six years he spent working for the NHS. They are in turn hilarious and heart-breaking. Kay is able to perfectly balance the nonsensical questions and demands of his former patients with genuine pathos and sympathy for their problems.

It’s definitely not a book you want to read while you’re eating dinner, and many of the stories will probably never leave you (for better or for worse) but there are few more honest looks at the men and women in white coats who we too often take for granted. Kay doesn’t shy away from the truths of long hours, personal sacrifices and bodily fluids and the book is laced through with laughs, although he definitely knows when to be serious. A joyous, and very important, read.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

7. Here, The World Entire by Anwen Kya Hayward

Medusa is known by many of us as the mythological embodiment of a bad hair day. Athena cursed her and replaced her golden locks with live snakes, as well as ensuring that anyone she looked at would immediately turn to stone. Perseus is the hero who has been tasked with going to meet her and entice her from her cave, but Medusa is lonely, not stupid, and she’s not so keen on the idea. The two get to know each other, and we learn what really happened to Medusa.

It’s just over eighty pages long, but contains so much intrigue, originality and, above all, passion. Hayward is wonderful at describing the unusual, as Medusa rarely describes anything she can see given that she lives in a dark cave, so much of her story is told based around what she can hear. It’s a skill to turn a monster into a sympathetic character, but Hayward does it. I fortunately know her a little, so know how much she loves her subject, and this is immediately obvious from this novella. An intriguing way to spend an afternoon.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

8. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The second reread on my top ten is this Mitch Albom novel. It opens with the death of fairground maintenance worker, Eddie. He arrives in the afterlife to find how things work here. Everyone who dies meets five people in heaven who will explain their lives to them. They may know them, they may not, but they all had an important impact on the deceased’s life. Eddie begins an adventure, as he learns the true meaning behind his life and the impact he had on others in turn.

Albom is a beautiful writer and this book had stuck with me for years, reemerging just when I needed it as all good books do. Economical and easy to read, the story is haunting and while tragic in places, it’s also a tale of hope, love and how no one is insignificant. I love the concept of us all being connected to one another, and it’s played out magically here. It’ll break your heart, but you’ll find you don’t mind.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

9. Dead Writers in Rehab by Paul Bassett Davies

Sticking with the theme of afterlives, Foster James has woken up in a rehab clinic with no memory of how he got there. Assuming he’s been thrown in by another ex-wife or ex-friend, he gets on with it but when he’s punched by Ernest Hemingway during a group therapy session, he realises that it might not be as simple as that. Now confined to a rehab centre filled with some of the most messed up figures in literature including Dorothy Parker and William Burroughs, he must make the best of it. When the writers all discover that animosity between the two head doctors may threaten the existence of the centre, however, they put their egos aside to help solve the issue.

A hilarious take on the classical canon, with excerpts from the recovery diaries of some of history’s drunkest as they struggle on in this new world. It’s a really sharp and smart novel that’s endlessly quotable and knows what it’s doing. OK, the ending is a little shaky, but there are some great twists and the characters are superb. If nothing else, you’ll come out the other side knowing a good deal more about these figures who were all somewhat larger than life.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

10. Curtain by Agatha Christie

Yes, fine, I know two Christie novels is probably excessive, but I couldn’t make up my mind between the two, and anyway, it’s my list.

Curtain is the final Poirot novel. Christie takes her hero back to Styles, the country house that was the setting for his first adventure, but he is old, ill, and loyal friend Hastings isn’t sure if he’s not losing control of his little grey cells when he becomes convinced that someone in the house is a murderer. For Poirot, this is the culmination of his career, if only he can get Hastings to see what he can see before it’s too late…

Making full use of her passion for psychology, Christie weaves another one of her genius tales here, bringing the saga to a pleasing, if tragic, end. It is one of her best, no question, but it’s definitely the one that has to be saved for last, and I was pleased I had. The friendship between Poirot and Hastings is a delight, although it’s clear they’ve not seen one another for a long time, and the final solution is inspired. Once again, Christie proves that no one does it better, or probably ever will.

You can read my full review here, or buy a copy of the book here.

2018 is already promising to be a somewhat better year, at least personally, with some really fun, amazing events to come, even if one of those is a major milestone birthday I’m quietly dreading. Hopefully my second book will reach funding this year too, and will begin to find its way to a bookshelf near you. As for my reading list? It’s as long as ever. There’s no new Christie mysteries this year, of course, but I’m planning a return journey through the oeuvre of Douglas Adams and Roald Dahl among a whole host of new titles. Let’s hope for a little more joy and peace this year – I wish you all a happy, happy twelve months.

Once more from the top…