Over at Hawkins Bizarre, Alis invites us to list our best reads of 2008. I can't remember the detail of what I've read this year, which makes it rather a hard game to play for me. The books that have stood out, not always for the right reasons, include:
1812 (Adam Zamoyski)
Napoleon invades Russia. Then he goes home again.
The Other Boleyn Girl, The Boleyn Inheritance, The Other Queen, The Constant Princess (Philippa Gregory)
A tried and trusted multi-viewpoint narrative approach taking a female perspective on the Tudor era. Succeeds more often than it fails.
Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks)
A haunting evocation of a village isolated by bubonic plague.
The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
Death guides us through life in Germany in World War II. Quicker to read than summarise...
Sword Song (Bernard Cornwell)
I abandoned this halfway through; a lifeless retread of much better books from his past.
The First Law trilogy (Joe Abercrombie)
Kick-ass fantasy that at once celebrates and subverts the fantasy genre.
One of things that's immediately apparent from this list--which is not exhaustive--is that all of the books are in some way historical: straight history (Zamoyski), invented history (Abercrombie) or historical novels. Am I reading nothing else? I look at my current to-read pile: Henry II (W.L. Warren), 1066 (W.L. Warren), Jerusalem (Cecelia Holland). My Christmas list includes A Time Traveller's Guide to the 14th Century and Young Stalin. Somewhere I have turned into an avid historian, which might just be understandable if I wrote historical fiction (hmm... too much research, too many picky readers).
It does illustrate that fantasy, particularly the kind of fantasy I write, is very akin to historical fiction, but more than anything it's about my mindset. No doubt there are plenty of wryly humorous novels about forty-something middle managers beset by office politics in the beleaguered public sector: but why would I want to read that? I live it... My imagination is fired by stories of other times, other places, and it doesn't much matter if they're made up or "true" (whatever the latter term means in this context).
Next year will be a whole new crop of books, a new series of worlds to enjoy - so roll on 2009!
Merry Christmas to all ::Acquired Taste readers, including the Googlebots which have so assiduously visited the blog throughout the year!