Top Reads 2010 (part the first)

I’ve had a very busy year reviewing-wise (and with many other things, too!) and I have to say that I have read some absolutely brilliant books and collections over the course of the last 12 months. So I thought I’d write a little blog on the literature highlights of my 2010 – it’s been a nightmare choice, just because there have been some great books sent my way. This is just a personal choice, and in no way way reflects the quality of any of the books that I’ve missed out… anyway, here we go.

Light Boxes by Shane Jones (Hamish Hamilton) is a delightfully quirky little modern fairytale, a small book which contains more invention in its 167 pages than many a book ten times that length. It’s also been optioned by film director Spike Jonez (Where the Wild Things Are), so that could indeed be an absolutely amazing cinematic treat, if they ever get around to producing it.

A logical follow-on would be the equally quirky and just as delightful Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits and Other Curious Things collection by Cate Gardner, published by Strange Publications, appropriately enough. This features 24 bizzare, surreal and wonderfully child-like takes on the world, and all with a warm and fuzzy heart at their centre. An absolutely essential read, best read whilst sitting in front of a blazing log fire in your favourite wing-back armchair, with either hot chocolate or mulled wine for accompaniment.

As for horror, I like it several shades of dark and relentlessly oppressive, and verging on the apocalyptic. For that, I go straight to Gary McMahon, and his very first mass-market paperback, Pretty Little Dead Things (Angry Robot), hit the nail squarely on the head. His landcapes, characters and the events that often overwhelm the people involved are the bleakest of the bleak, and for sheer unadulterated shivers and hellishness, then this is the book for you. I predict great things for this man and you should go out FORTHWITH and purchase a copy.

In a similar vein, I also enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s massive collection Last Exit for the Lost (Cemetery Dance). And when I say massive, I mean massive – 150,000 words and a veritable breezeblock of a book in hardback, and all wrapped in a gorgeously atmospheric Les Edwards cover. Tim writes in a very lean, stripped-back style; no verbose extraneity, just the exact words needed to convey whole worlds, emotions and horror. A marvellous exposition of a skill that is actually quite hard to master – a very talented writer.

Finally, at least for this go round, are the two collection from Australia’s Angela Slatter – Sourdough and Other Stories (Tartarus Press – pictured above) and The Girl with no Hands (Ticonderoga Publications – below). Angela specialises in reinventing and realigning the traditional tropes of the fairytale, the kind of thing we all know from our childhoods – the ones that were collected and ‘rearranged’ (to suit a particular agenda) by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Angela brings them right up-to-date, with vibrant reinterpretations that are more in line with current sensibilities. Additionally, both collections have been lushly produced by the respective presses, with perhaps the cover of The Girl with no Hands just winning out on the most beautiful cover award.

Hope you like my choices so far – another instalment soon!! =)

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