That time of year, when I look back over the previous year and pick my favourite things. We’re starting with books. I read quite a few new books this year, so here is my top ten, divided, as ever, into fiction and nonfiction.
5. The Panther in My Kitchen by Brian Blessed
The legendary actor recounts his misadventures with the animals he has known during his life. All are told with gusto and enthusiasm, and you can hear Blessed’s booming voice in your head throughout. Endearingly eccentric. Review here.
4. I’m Sorry, I Love You by Jim Smallman
Smallman provides an entertaining, funny and insightful look into the history of professional wrestling, detailing the evolution and challenges faced by the business and the weird and wonderful characters who have taken part in sports entertainment. Review.
3. Spike Milligan’s War Memoirs
I read the first two parts this year, and while the first was definitely stronger both are hilarious, with Milligan delivering amusing anecdotes and a steady stream of quips and gags. One man’s war told in a vivid and hugely enjoyable way, will be reading more of the series next year. Reviews of Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall here and “Rommel?” “Gunner who?”.
2. Encounters with Animals and Menagerie Manor by Gerald Durrell
Durrel’s writing is filled with warmth and charm, and his enthusiasm and love for nature is infectious. Both of these books are delights, one dealing with animals in the wild and the other his misadventures in running his own zoo. Wonderful stuff.
1. The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
A beautiful and poignant memoir of a unique experience, Bauby’s writings, completed while he lay in his hospital bed, trapped within his own body is a poetic, moving and oddly inspiring example of the strength of the human mind and the power of memory and imagination. Review.
5. The 87th Precinct Series by Ed McBain
A perennial favourite, I read three of the series this year and they continue to entertain me, as McBain is a master of the crime thriller. The three were Like Love, the gripping mystery Ten Plus One and the short, sharp story of Ax.
4. Adrian’s Undead Diary Series by Chris Philbrook
I read parts 5-8 this year and thoroughly enjoyed the build up to the major conflict, and Philbrook’s ability to craft a detailed and involving zombie apocalypse, mainly through the eyes of his loud mouthed narrator. The story goes in some interesting directions and the spiritual and mystical aspects of the story set it apart from most zombie stories. Highly recommend. Reviews 5, 6, 7 and 8.
3. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman brings his wit to bear on the Norse myths, retelling the stories of Odin, Thor and Loki in entertaining, clever prose. A real delight. Review here.
2. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Eames writes a fun fantasy adventure which infuses a world of sword and sorcery with the spirit of rock and roll. Fantastic read, and can’t wait to read more of Eames’ work. Review.
1. 14 by Peter Clines
Clines writes a gripping and chilling supernatural thriller as the residents of an LA apartment block start to investigate the weirdness of the building and discover a long hidden secret which could change the world. An utter delight of a book where Clines slowly builds unease and oddness towards a big reveal which doesn’t disappoint. Review.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.