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The Book Club Forum Awards 2020!

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Well, whilst 2020 has been a year that I am sure most of us will be glad to see the back of, books have still been read and as the evenings start drawing out again (it's true; started last Tuesday!) it's time once again to summarise your reading year! 

 

Like the Oscars we'll start with the technical stuff before building up to the headline awards in a list designed to make your fellow forum members gasp or groan! (I'm sure someone's still reading Twilight!) 

 

So - Members of the Forum - tell us, please:


Gosh! Doesn't that look pretty! It's your favourite book cover of 2020!

 

They bring me words I like to read! It's your favourite publisher of 2020!

 

Your favourite book that somebody read to you! It's your audiobook recommendation of 2020!

 

I've read all their works, darling! It's your most read author of 2020!

 

I've heard it all before! Your recommended re-read of 2020!

 

I'd rather rub broken glass into my eyes! It's your book that wasn't worth bothering with in 2020!

 

I was expecting so much more! It's your biggest literary let-down of 2020!

 

Gosh! Doesn't that look prettier! It's your favourite illustrated book of 2020!

 

Growing up is so over-rated! It's your children's book recommendation of 2020!

 

I like people to think I'm deep! It's your recommended classic of 2020!

 

I have a very short attent... What were we talking about? It's your favourite short story (or collection of short stories) of 2020! 

 

They make Holmes look like a stuffy Victorian! It's your favourite literary character of 2020!

 

I like people to think I'm really deep! It's your poetry collection recommendation of 2020!

 

I split my sides and wet myself!* It's the funniest book you read in 2020!

 

I live my life vicariously through the exploits of others! It's your favourite biography of 2020!

 

The real world is so much better, you know? (not in 2020 it isn't!) It's your non-fiction recommendation of 2020!

 

I'm now stalking them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! It's your author of the year, 2020!

 

I'd crawl over hot coals to convince others how good this is! It's your book of the year, 2020!


Don't just make this a list, explain your choices! Tell us what you really think about the books you have read! 

 

If there is a section you don't have a reply for, just skip it!

 

Books don't have to have been published in 2020 to make it onto your list, you just have to have read them this year!

 

* With tears, obviously tears - what were you thinking?

 

Disclaimer: Books once read can never be unread. You are responsible for your own reading choices. The author of this thread may have just finished work for two whole weeks and be drinking take out beer. There may be more exclamation marks in this post than in the rest of the forum combined...
 

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They bring me words I like to read! It's your favourite publisher of 2020!
Dean Street Press. DPS revitalise golden age crime fiction and what they refer  as Furrowed Middlebrow; sort of gentle humour and ‘storm in a tea cup’ (with best bone China, naturally) middle class lives. 
 

Your favourite book that somebody read to you! It's your audiobook recommendation of 2020! Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch, narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith. Terrific narration, and the shock towards the end!!


I'd rather rub broken glass into my eyes! It's your book that wasn't worth bothering with in 2020! Middle England by Jonathan Coe (which I abandoned early. Life’s too short).


They make Holmes look like a stuffy Victorian! It's your favourite literary character of 2020! Mary Bennet in The Other Bennet Sister. Not everyone are Elizabeth or Jane, or Lydia either.

 

 I'm now stalking them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! It's your author of the year, 2020! Jodi Taylor. 


I've read all their works, darling! It's your most read author of 2020! Ben Aaronovitch. Damn you Ben, for producing so many graphic novels and novels, and so damn good stories!

 

The real world is so much better, you know? (not in 2020 it isn't!) It's your non-fiction recommendation of 2020! 

Lonely Courage: The True Story of the SOE Heroines Who Fought to Free Nazi-Occupied Franc by Rick Stroud. 
(As it says on the tin.  The remarkable women who were dropped into France in WW2. Very interesting)

 

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I'll take a crack at this.

 

Your favourite book cover of 2020!

Schoolgirl by Osamu Dazai. I really like the minimalist and slightly ambiguous look of the cover. I've tried to link it here but the forum sortware is having a funny turn, its the cover with a photo of a schoolgirl on a grey looking beach.

 

Your favourite publisher of 2020!

I can't say I really have a favourite publisher but I have read more Harper Collins books than in previous years.

 

Your audiobook recommendation of 2020!

Red Dwarf Omnibus read by Chris Barrie. I've listened to all the Red Dwarf audio stuff many times but it's still great everytime I re-listen to it. Barrie nails every part and the subtle background sound effects make it very easy to visualise what it going on.

 

Your most read author of 2020!

Val McDermid, 4 books. I have been working my way through the Karen Pirie series after reading the first book last year. Before reading the first book I had obviously heard of her and I was so happy to find someone to fill the Henning Mankell shaped hole since finishing the Wallander series.

 

Your recommended re-read of 2020!

I only re-read one book this year, Stasiland by Anna Funder. Anyone wanting a look into how the Stasi affected people's day to day lives should read this book. Somehow Funder managed to interview ex Stasi members which adds a great extra dimension to the book. It's also very interesting to see how some people miss the way things were although I suspect they were ones who benefited from life under the Stasi.

 

Your book that wasn't worth bothering with in 2020!

The internationally best selling spiritual classic that is The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. I understand the message but it's presented in such a stupid manner it made we want to punch the author. He treats the reader like we are dumb and can't understand the basics of living a simple life.

 

Your biggest literary let-down of 2020!

Ignoring some of the non-literary books that have let me down this year leads me to Brick Lane by Monica Ali. I was left feeling really disappointed by this as it generally gets great reviews. I didn't really enjoy the plot, I didn't like any of the characters and none of the writing really grabbed me either.

 

Your children's book recommendation of 2020!

Does Harry Potter count as a children's book? If so then it wins for me. I can't imagine many people first read Potter a few weeks before they turn 40, but I did and I really liked it. Reading it for the first time as a child or adolescent must be a pretty magical experience.

 

Your recommended classic of 2020!

Again I'm kind of behind the curve with this one given how many books I read but this year I finally read Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. I never watch costume dramas, and never thought that I would enjoy this kind of book but it caught me unawares as I loved it. This year I have tried to expand the scope of my reading by picking up things I would normally avoid, and while there have been some duds (for me) the experience as a whole has been a positive one. As soon as I finished Pride & Prejudice I bought a copy of Mansfield Park which I intend to read soon.

 

They make Holmes look like a stuffy Victorian! It's your favourite literary character of 2020!

The one that immediately jumps out at me is Queequeg from Moby Dick. I didn't love the book but Queequeg is very well written and I could picture him in my minds eye perfectly.

 

Your favourite biography of 2020!

Endurance: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. This book was originally published in 1959 but you wouldn't know it, as it has really stood up to the test of time. I was completely captivated by the story of both the voyage and the man. He was one of these people who's name I knew, and I had a loose idea of what he had done but none of the details. A great book.

 

Your non-fiction recommendation of 2020!

As above. I would also like to give an honourable mention to Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and Waking Up by Sam Harris. Both books really got me thinking and both have earned a place on my quite small 'too keep' bookcase.

 

Your author of the year, 2020!

Val Mcdermid, as above. The 5 books I have read of hers so far have been consistently great. The plots are involving and contain enough twists to keep me wondering without getting silly. Her characters are very well formed and although sometimes flawed they don't seem to have the typical detective flaws found in fiction.

 

Your book of the year, 2020!

This is really really tough. I managed to narrow it down to a shortlist of 4, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, Waking Up by Sam Harris, Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton, and Night by Elie Wiesel. I'm going to go for Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton but any of the them could have been my winner. Good Morning, Midnight was one of the books sent me by the Willoughby Book Club and I doubt I would have come across it otherwise. The writing is beautiful and the books leaves some questions it poses unanswered but manages not to feel unfinished at the same time. It is a really lovely book and I strongly recommend to everyone on here.

 

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I've started putting my list together, but there's still a week left of the year, and 2-3 books to be read between now and then!  What I will say at this point is that I'm having more trouble choosing in more categories than in any previous year.  One of the only categories that is easy is book of the year: head and shoulders above anything else I've read this year! To be revealed!

 

On 22/12/2020 at 10:34 AM, Brian. said:

only re-read one book this year, Stasiland by Anna Funder.

May be your only one, but would still be a contender in a pile of rereads - really enjoyed this.

 

On 22/12/2020 at 10:34 AM, Brian. said:

Does Harry Potter count as a children's book?

Most definitely yes!  I read these alongside my (then) tweenager son - buying the books at midnight and then sitting down together next day to read them pretty much each in one sitting. One of the later ones we bought in an Ayr bookshop the night before flying out from Prestwick, and we were glued to the books on the plane!  One of the great parental experiences.

 

On 22/12/2020 at 10:34 AM, Brian. said:

Endurance: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

Looks interesting.  I can strongly recommend both Roland Huntford's biography of Shackleton (I've yet to read Michael Smith's, but have heard much good about it), and Frank Worsley's own account, Shackleton's Boat Journey, of the voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia - totally gripping.

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On 26/12/2020 at 11:01 PM, willoyd said:

Looks interesting.  I can strongly recommend both Roland Huntford's biography of Shackleton (I've yet to read Michael Smith's, but have heard much good about it), and Frank Worsley's own account, Shackleton's Boat Journey, of the voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia - totally gripping.

 

Thanks for the recommendations, Frank Worsley's account sounds particularly tempting.

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My book awards for 2020

 

This was a record year for me, with: 84 books completed (my previous highest being 80). This was partly down to more reading - all that lockdown - but also my tendency this year to focus on shorter books.  After mid-March I was rarely in the mood to tackle anything particularly substantial, in spite of my liking for chunky reads, and my mean pages per book was down to just over 260 - in the high 200s in recent years previously.  But that 84 gives me more than normal to choose from! 

 

Book cover.

A clear winner here: Wing by Matthew Francis, design by the Faber team.  Almost worth buying for the cover alone, the content, Francis's latest collection of poetry, was rather fine too, and a serious contender for the poetry award.  See picture below.

 

Publisher

This is actually one of the hardest to choose this year, with at least 4 publishers high on my list.  I'm going to plump for Slightly Foxed, their second consecutive win, originally set up to produce their quarterly literary magazine, but now also producing a lovely range of books, of which I have many. It's the whole package I love - the magazine, the books and the monthly podcast - my favourite. Also on the short list: Qunice Tree Press (publishers of all JL Carr's work, run by his family), Library of America (non-profit charity focusing on the greats of American literature) and Little Toller, mainly for the nature books.

 

Audiobook

I've only listened to half one so far, so no winner.  Now if it had been 'favourite audio to do with books', then Slightly Foxed would have taken away a second award this year!

 

Most read author

Georges Simenon, as it has been every year for at least the past five, as I work my way slowly but most enjoyably through the full sequence, as published by Penguin in new translations. I'm now trying to read them in the original French, but still need the help of the  translations!

 

Recommended re-read.

As this is just 'recommended' and not necessarily looking for a winner, I'm going to nominate two here.

First off is A Month in the Country by JL Carr, my favourite book. Re-read for one of my book groups, and raved about by the whole group. The book is simply superb, funny, elegiac, thought-provoking, quirky, illuminating, and was, in my view, distinctly better than the Golding that beat it to the Booker Prize in 1983. It deservedly won the Guardian instead. An 'unknown' classic.

Secondly, a pairing, to be read one after the other: first would be Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, to be followed by The Hours by Michael Cunningham. This was my third or fourth reading of Mrs D, and each time I see and appreciate a bit more - the writing is wondrous. Cunningham then takes the original and puts his own, equally involving, twist on it - I adore the film (one of my top three), but when I read the book as a follow-up, it blew me away.

 

Not worth bothering with.

Three books on the shortlist, but the winner is Gold by Chris Cleve. Pretentious, cliched, stereotyped, predictable, hopelessly over-hyped. Read this for a book group, otherwise I certainly wouldn't have finished it. Shortlisted: The House by Simon Lelic, and The Hundred Year Man who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.. Either could have won in previous years - again both book group reads - I wouldn't have chosen any of these for my own reading.

 

Literary letdown

A few books by highly rated authors disappointed this year, but several of them weren't really letdowns, just the fact I didn't like the book even though I understood why some people rated them.  The most 'disappointing', if a reread can be as such, was Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad.  Rereading it for a book group confirmed my initial diagnosis: so thin, so underwhelming,unsatisfactory on several key points, it felt like she'd dashed it off just to fulfill a contract or commission - but I knew that, so not sure it could be a 'letdown' as such. So the award, instead, goes to a new read, God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson. A marmite author at the best of times, this still felt such a letdown as it dragged on and on in one of the most overwritten and tedious narratives I've read in a while. The twist at the end was the final straw - a letdown if ever there was one. 

 

Illustrated book

Charles Keeping's illustrations for the Charles Dickens series I have (Folio Society) are just perfect - maybe even better than the originals.  So this award has to go to the Dickens I read this year, A Tale of Two Cities, a superb book in its own right, but definitely enhanced by the illustrations.

 

Children's book

I don't read many children's books, but I did try and thoroughly enjoy the classic The Little Grey Men by BB. If I'd read this as a child, I suspect it would rate amongst my favourites; whilst reading it as an adult it might not now reach those exalted heights, it was still an excellent, enchanting, read.

 

Classic.

Hopelessly difficult to choose. To help, I put Mrs Dalloway up for another, the Reread award. That still leaves a tricky field, but it has to be Emma (Jane Austen), another reread having seen the most recent film version (excellent, in spite of a too young George Knightley). Another book which grows on me every time I read it, the characterisations are sublime.

 

Short stories

I'm not a fan of short stories, so tend to avoid them.  The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton, read for one of my book groups, taught me that this may not necessarily be a good idea.  The group as a whole were mixed in their views, several keen short story readers almost disappointed, but I loved them, in some cases for the very reasons that the aficioinados did not - ambiguities, uncertainties, loose ends etc. Not all actual ghost stories by any means, they were, we were all agreed, very varied, especially in their setting. Good enough for an award, anyway!

 

Literary character

Agnes Shakespeare (nee Hathaway) in Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet.  Wonderful characterisation in all her emotions.

 

Poetry collection

I don't read through many, if any, collections, preferring to dip in and out. I did read Wing through, and it is excellent, but it was up against one of my favourite poets on one of my favourite themes, so the award goes to Bird Poems by John Clare. The world seems to be rediscovering John Clare, and a good thing too!

 

Funniest book

I don't laugh at much in books, but it's hard to beat the guilelessness and slapstick of Paddington Bear, by Michael Bond: his books always make me laugh out loud, so it's got to be this year's read, Paddington Abroad, even more relevant given the crazy direction we're travelling.

 

Biography

Taking it that biography includes memoirs, diaries etc, then, if including reruns, it would probably be The Outrun by Amy Liptrot which has previously won awards.  But I don't need to here because there is an excellent alternative: To War with Whitaker, the wartime diaries of Hermione Ranfurley. A remarkable woman at a remarkable time, right at the heart of the war effort in the Mediterranean, and the only British civilian working there. A gripping read.

 

Environment

My own award, to encompass travel, natural history, environmental science etc, a global label for my favourite area of reading - there aren't enough non-fiction awards for me, given that it represents a good half of my reading. For this, the winner is The Summer Isles by Philip Marsden, an account of his journey up the west coast of the British Isles from Plymouth to the Summer Isles.

 

Non-fiction

Julie Myerson's Home was a fascinating account of her investigations into the history of her family's house in South London. Loved the history, the journey, the human insight and learned much to help research our own!  An honourable mention for David Reynolds' Island Stories, a new look, in the light of Brexit at how we British see and have seen ourselves.  One of those books where you keep seeing lightbulbs going off as things click in your own understanding!  An unexpectedly outstanding read.

 

Author

Jan Morris has long been one of my favourite authors. I marked her death this autumn by reading what was apparently her own favourite of her works (totalling over 40 volumes), Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere - a classic example of her style. A woman who led a fascinating life, writing consistently excellent books across a broad range of genres (although specialising in places). 

 

Book of the Year

Quite often lately, this has gone to the Non-fiction award winner; I'm a bit surprised not to see a distinct 'fiction' award, or is the implication that fiction will normally come out on top? It's often the other way round in my reading year.  Fortunately, this year, my book of the year is also my fiction read of the year.  This was, perhaps surprisingly, one of the easiest categories to decide. I've reread quite a few 6-star (favourite) books this year, but only one new read has been awarded the full ranking: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell.  This was a humdinger from start to finish, and deservedly won the Women's Prize. For me, the great mystery was how on earth the Booker jury didn't even shortlist, immediately undermining any confidence I had in their decision making. I don't think a novel has so engaged me emotionally for years - the examination of the relationship beween William Shakespeare (never named) and his wife Agnes/Anne was revealing enough, but the portrayal of Agnes's grief was totally consuming. Not just a book of the year, this is one of the best novels I've read over many years.

 

 

A few other mentions:that didn't quite make awards, but strongly added to my reading enjoyment this year:

Mr Loverman confirmed my growing addiction to Bernardine Evaristo's writing (author of my novel of 2019); Nathan Coulter (challenger for literary character award) signalled the discovery towards the end of the year of an author who already threatens to become a favourite, Wendell Berry.  All The Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy) did the same at the start. HG Wells' War of the Worlds was, however, perhaps the biggest surprise of the year: I never expected it to feel quite as modern and almost cutting edge as it did, even given the 19th century setting.

 

 

wing.jpg

Edited by willoyd

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This is brilliant. Now to try and remember what I read this year...

 

 

 

Gosh! Doesn't that look pretty! It's your favourite book cover of 2020!

It has to be The House Without Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett. It's one of the prettiest book covers I've ever owned, not just from 2020!

 

They bring me words I like to read! It's your favourite publisher of 2020!

I don't think I have one. I did discover a couple of indie publishers this year that I'm excited to try more books by though, Red Dog Press and Orenda Books... so them if that's not cheating :D 

 

Your favourite book that somebody read to you! It's your audiobook recommendation of 2020!

I don't really listen to audiobooks but my boyfriend likes to listen to an audiobook to go to sleep and my favourite that he has is the Sherlock Holmes collection.

 

I've read all their works, darling! It's your most read author of 2020!

It's a tie between Terry Pratchett, Susanna Clarke and Oscar de Muriel (two of each!)

 

I've heard it all before! Your recommended re-read of 2020!

Any of Terry Pratchett's books :) 

 

I'd rather rub broken glass into my eyes! It's your book that wasn't worth bothering with in 2020!

I know I did give up on a book this year but I can't remember what it was... it might have been The Tiger Warrior. That was not good. 

 

I was expecting so much more! It's your biggest literary let-down of 2020!

Probably Soot by Andrew Martin. It started with great potential and then I just remember being massively let down by the ending. Which was so memorable I now can't remember what it was...

 

Gosh! Doesn't that look prettier! It's your favourite illustrated book of 2020!

Well this has to be The House Without Windows again because I think I spent as long staring at Jackie Morris's illustrations as I did actually reading the book. 

 

Growing up is so over-rated! It's your children's book recommendation of 2020!

The Wind in the Willows was the only children's book I read this year, but I was also surprised at how beautifully written it is.

 

I like people to think I'm deep! It's your recommended classic of 2020!

The Wind in the Willows is a pretty close one for this too actually but I think Fahrenheit 451 was my favourite. 

 

I have a very short attent... What were we talking about? It's your favourite short story (or collection of short stories) of 2020! 

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke. Her world-building is incredible.

 

I split my sides and wet myself!* It's the funniest book you read in 2020!

Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters (re-reads count, right?). As well as having a really funny take on Shakespearean theatre I love Magrat, the awkward witch. :D  

 

I'd crawl over hot coals to convince others how good this is! It's your book of the year, 2020!

I've actually read some really great books this year but I think the one that really amazed me, that I was really sad to finish, was Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. 

 

 

On 22/12/2020 at 10:34 AM, Brian. said:

I've tried to link it here but the forum sortware is having a funny turn

If you get a pop-up about not being able to embed links just close it and post the link anyway, it will work!

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On 12/18/2020 at 10:11 PM, Raven said:

I like people to think I'm really deep! It's your poetry collection recommendation of 2020!

 

A Poem for Every Day of the Year - Edited by Allie Esiri

I've got two of these books and they're great to dip into if you're busy.

The introduction for 31st December starts by saying 'New Year's Eve is a time for parties and festivities, singing and dancing...'  Huh!   However, the last verse of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's  poem contains the words 'Ring out the darkness of the land,' Maybe that's a good idea!

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I love these :D

 

Favourite book cover

The Wedding Date by  Jasmine Guillory has a rather nice cover. 

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. 

I'm going to give the latter the prize as I actually enjoyed the book. 

 

Most read Author 

Jacqueline Wilson with 7. Four of which were rereads. Followed by Sophie Kinsella and Jacob Grimm with 6 each.

 

Not Worth Bothering with

The Sisters by Claire Douglas. I found it boring from the start and the plot twist was really weird. 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I struggled so much with this. I felt bad too because every review on goodreads apsrt from one or two were 4 and 5 stars. I do not regret reading them though. I can just say they were straight up 1 stars for me.

 

Biggest Let Down

I would say the last couple of books in the Narnia series by C S Lewis. I loved the first 3 books and then they just went down hill.

 

Children's Book Recommendation 

I reread Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter and it is a story I loved as a child. Still thought it was rather good now. Short and sweet. I will also highly praise the That's Not My... books by Fiona Watt aimed for the very little ones.

 

Recommended classics

I did not read many classics this year but one I did read and would recommend in a heartbeat is East Of Eden by John Steinbeck. I had watched the film and liked it a lot but I loved how much the book gave so much more. I am looking forward to reading Grapes Of Wrath.

 

Favourite literary character

Mary Poppins. 

Julie Andrew's magnificent performance of the nanny i didnt think the original could be any different. But she is slightly she is more stern but I prefer that. I think she's rather grand. I do still love the film version. Will also say Rebecca Brandon née Bloomwood. She can be annoying at times but she's a sweetheart.

 

Funniest Book

Gavin and Stacey From Barry to Billericy. 

I think you would have to had watched and preferably enjoyed the television series to like this book .

 

Favourite Biography 

Spectacles by Sue Perkins

 

 

 

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Slowly making my way through these, but...

 

On 12/29/2020 at 10:43 PM, willoyd said:

 

Environment

My own award...

 

 

Bravo! More of this please!

 

On 12/29/2020 at 10:43 PM, willoyd said:

 

I'm a bit surprised not to see a distinct 'fiction' award, or is the implication that fiction will normally come out on top? It's often the other way round in my reading year.

 

 

Don't blame me, guv, I just bastardised the list we've been using for last few years! 

 

On 12/29/2020 at 10:43 PM, willoyd said:

 

A few other mentions:that didn't quite make awards, but strongly added to my reading enjoyment this year:

 

HG Wells' War of the Worlds was, however, perhaps the biggest surprise of the year: I never expected it to feel quite as modern and almost cutting edge as it did, even given the 19th century setting.

 

 

It is a fantastic book! One of the best written and vividly described books I think I've ever read (btw, don't bother with Stephen Baxter's official follow up, it's rubbish!).

 

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On 08/01/2021 at 9:26 PM, Raven said:

Don't blame me, guv, I just bastardised the list we've been using for last few years!

 

I appreciate that - and thanks for kickstarting the thread: I always enjoy this to wrap up the year!

I think my comment reflected my slight bemusement about book groups, forums etc, and the widespread emphasis on fiction, with non-fiction so often treated as a bit of an afterthought.  I belong to three book groups, and whilst all three are great in their own very different ways, only one treats non-fiction with any seriousness, and even then it's a distinctl minority activity. For me, non-fiction takes up a good two-thirds of my library, and last year one-half of my reading; it's increasing every year.

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