Not only is today the last day of the year, but it’s also the last day of the decade. Where did the 2010s go? Honestly, the older you get the faster time seems to pass you by.
Anyway, less of me complaining about my age, and more about books shall we…
Instead of a post about the best books I’ve read this year I thought I’d do a post about the best books I’d read this decade, so in no particular order these are the books I’ve loved this past ten years.
1 Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.
Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.
Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.
Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?
2 All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.
Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.
But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.
3 Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer
Life is strange for Patrick Fort; being a medical student with Asperger’s Syndrome doesn’t come without its challenges–and that’s before he is faced with solving a possible murder. Because the body Patrick is examining in anatomy class is trying to tell him all kinds of things. And now he must stay out of danger long enough to unravel the mystery–while he dissects his own evidence.
4 The St Mary’s Chronicles (series) by Jodi Taylor
This one is the first in a cheat (of five!) where I’m naming a whole series. But for an example I will put up one book from it.
No one knows quite how, but Max and her baby are safe at last.
No one knows quite how, but Peterson has persuaded Dr Foster to marry him.
No one knows quite how, but Markham’s marital status remains unknown.
Certainly no one knows quite how a twelve-foot-high teapot could mysteriously materialise on the South Lawn, but it does.
But they do know that Clive Ronan is back.
They do know that he hates them and that this time he has good cause. And they do know that he will bring death and destruction in his wake.
Follow the disaster magnets of St Mary’s from the Egyptian desert to the Battle of Stamford Bridge, from Hastings to the Sack of Constantinople, and from tragedy to triumph and back again, in this, the eighth book in The Chronicles of St Mary’s.
5 The Slough House series by Mick Herron
The second of a whole series.
‘We’re spies,’ said Lamb. ‘All kinds of outlandish shit goes on.’
Like the ringing of a dead man’s phone, or an unwelcome guest at a funeral . . .
In Slough House memories are stirring, all of them bad. Catherine Standish is buying booze again, Louisa Guy is raking over the ashes of lost love, and new recruit Lech Wicinski, whose sins make him outcast even among the slow horses, is determined to discover who destroyed his career, even if he tears his life apart in the process.
Meanwhile, in Regent’s Park, Diana Taverner’s tenure as First Desk is running into difficulties. If she’s going to make the Service fit for purpose, she might have to make deals with a familiar old devil . . .
And with winter taking its grip Jackson Lamb would sooner be left brooding in peace, but even he can’t ignore the dried blood on his carpets. So when the man responsible breaks cover at last, Lamb sends the slow horses out to even the score.
This time, they’re heading into joe country.
And they’re not all coming home.
6 The Laundry Files series by Charles Stross
The third full series.
Bob Howard’s career in the Laundry, the secret British government agency dedicated to protecting the world from the supernatural, has involved brilliant hacking, ancient magic and combat with creatures of pure evil.
Now the Laundry’s existence has become public, and Bob is being trotted out on TV to answer pointed questions about eleven asylum seekers. What neither Bob nor his managers have foreseen is that their organisation has earned the attention of a horror far more terrifying than any demon: a government looking for public services to privatise. There are things in the Laundry’s assets that big business would simply love to get its hands on….
Inch by inch, Bob Howard and his managers are forced to consider the truly unthinkable: a coup against the British government itself.
7 The Perfect series by Helen Fields
(Full series four)
Your darkest moment is your most vulnerable…
Stephen Berry is about to jump off a bridge until a suicide prevention counsellor stops him. A week later, Stephen is dead. Found at the bottom of a cliff, DI Luc Callanach and DCI Ava Turner are drafted in to investigate whether he jumped or whether he was pushed…
As they dig deeper, more would-be suicides roll in: a woman found dead in a bath; a man violently electrocuted. But these are carefully curated deaths – nothing like the impulsive suicide attempts they’ve been made out to be.
Little do Callanach and Turner know how close their perpetrator is as, across Edinburgh, a violent and psychopathic killer gains more confidence with every life he takes…
8 The Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths
(Final full series – five)
DCI Nelson has been receiving threatening letters telling him to ‘go to the stone circle and rescue the innocent who is buried there’. He is shaken, not only because children are very much on his mind, with Michelle’s baby due to be born, but because although the letters are anonymous, they are somehow familiar. They read like the letters that first drew him into the case of The Crossing Places, and to Ruth. But the author of those letters is dead. Or are they?
Meanwhile Ruth is working on a dig in the Saltmarsh – another henge, known by the archaeologists as the stone circle – trying not to think about the baby. Then bones are found on the site, and identified as those of Margaret Lacey, a twelve-year-old girl who disappeared thirty years ago.
As the Margaret Lacey case progresses, more and more aspects of it begin to hark back to that first case of The Crossing Places, and to Scarlett Henderson, the girl Nelson couldn’t save. The past is reaching out for Ruth and Nelson, and its grip is deadly.
9 Cry Baby by David Jackson
It’s every mother’s nightmare – the abduction of her baby.
That’s how it starts for Erin Vogel when she is attacked and left unconscious in her apartment. When she awakes, it is to find that Georgia, her six-month-old daughter, has been taken.
But Erin is given a chance to get Georgia back. At an unthinkable price.
Like most mothers, she has always said she would do anything for her child. Now the strength of that bond is about to be put to the ultimate test.
And when her actions arouse the interest of a certain Detective Callum Doyle, one thing is inevitable: a confrontation that will be as explosive as it is unforgettable.
From the highly acclaimed author of Pariah, The Helper and Marked comes a nerve-shredding novel that questions the line we draw between good and evil.
10 The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
Special mention goes to this book as it’s one of the oldest of the books this decade I’ve read but it’s stayed with me. I urge everyone to read it. It’s just superb.
One day in early spring, Dorrit Weger is checked into the Second Reserve Bank Unit for biological material. She is promised a nicely furnished apartment inside the Unit, where she will make new friends, enjoy the state of the art recreation facilities, and live the few remaining days of her life in comfort with people who are just like her. Here, women over the age of fifty and men over sixty-single, childless, and without jobs in progressive industries–are sequestered for their final few years; they are considered outsiders.
In the Unit they are expected to contribute themselves for drug and psychological testing, and ultimately donate their organs, little by little, until the final donation. Despite the ruthless nature of this practice, the ethos of this near-future society and the Unit is to take care of others, and Dorrit finds herself living under very pleasant conditions: well-housed, well-fed, and well-attended. She is resigned to her fate and discovers her days there to be rather consoling and peaceful.
But when she meets a man inside the Unit and falls in love, the extraordinary becomes a reality and life suddenly turns unbearable. Dorrit is faced with compliance or escape, and…well, then what?
I’d love to hear about the books or series you’ve enjoyed this decade…