A Dance with Dragons, A Short History of Myth, American Gods, Barrett Fuller's Secret, Canongate series, Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, novels, Scott Carter, Song of Ice and fire
With the year coming to a close I thought I would provide a list of my top five favourite books I read this year. I will briefly run down my feelings on each and what they are about as best I can. To clarify, these are not books that came out in 2014, simply books that I read throughout the year, listed in no particular order.
Barrett Fuller’s Secret
Author: Scott Carter
For disclosure purposes, Barrett Fuller’s Secret is a novel written by my uncle. Regardless of this, I found the book to be a great read.
The titular character Barrett Fuller — a wildly successful children’s author who uses his success to fuel a life of debauchery and excess — receives an extortion letter forcing him to reform his ways and behave more like his virtuous pseudonym, or risk having his secret life exposed. His story is told alongside that of his nephew, Richard Fuller, who also has a secret that shakes him to the core. As their stories intersect, their respective secrets start down a collision course that will change their lives forever.
In the best way, I found the novel to be a very quick read. The characters were interesting and I found myself siding with Barrett in spite of himself, which made the conflict all the more interesting to me. The way everything ends caught me off guard as well, which I appreciated because while I didn’t see it coming, the twist made perfect sense in the context of the story.
Author: Neil Gaiman
The central premise of the novel is that gods and mythical beings exist through the power of human belief, and in modern times their power and influence has waned due to people’s reduced faith. Diminished gods that were brought over by immigrants reside in America, alongside new modern gods of media, technology, drugs, and other concepts. Shadow Moon, a recent ex-con who suffers the loss of his wife and best friend just before release, is hired by conman Mr. Wednesday to be his body guard. This propels him into the world of gods in America and their struggles exist.
While I was already a big fan of Gaiman from the Sandman series, this novel helped to solidify his status as my most favourite author. Despite the page count, it didn’t feel its length and kept me eagerly coming back for more. Though its core concept is right up my alley, I found the world and its characters to be both beautiful and dreary as well, capturing a sense of wonder and desperation at the same time.
Author: David Mitchell
Genre: Multi-Genre Fiction
Following one soul as it is reborn across time and space, Cloud Atlas is a novel that blends genre throughout, using many small stories that recur and intersect with one another. They are seemingly separate, but come together in small and profound ways, unifying them beautifully as a whole.
Admittedly, I read this book because of my love for the film, and it did not disappoint. While I did not find it quite as impactful as the movie did, it felt better thought-out and realistic. The movie could be a little hand-holdy to me at times, whereas the book made you work a little harder to realize the connections, which I appreciated. Though more complex than other novels, I highly recommend it to anybody looking for a less conventional narrative.
A Dance with Dragons
Author: George R. R. Martin
Continuing the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons is the fifth and most recent book, taking place in the world of Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. Martin’s style of writing makes the novel difficult to summarize, as it is a world that follows numerous character narratives and tells its story continually with each new book. For those who know the series, it tells the story of characters absent from the previous book before continuing to drive the narrative forward.
While I have heard mixed feedback regarding the book, I found it to be a worthy and compelling addition to the series, leaving me eager for the next book to be released. The book introduced elements that make me worry about the story being able to wrap-up with supposedly only two books remaining, and certain characters I was a lot less interested reading about than others, but these criticisms are ultimately minor to me in the grand scheme of the book. The series continues to compel me, and I recommend it to any fan of more grounded fantasy.
A Short History of Myth
Author: Karen Armstrong
Easily the most “written on the tin” of all the books I read, A Short History of Myth is simply that. A part of Canongate Myth series, which are short novels written by modern authors re-imagining old myths, Armstrong’s book simply talks about the history of myth as it relates to human development.
While I would be interested in a book that covers the subject matter more in depth (such as Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God series), I found the book to be a great entry-level glimpse into the history of myths for humanity. It helped me to consider mythology in a different way, introducing concepts about earlier forms of human civilization and what stories would mean to them in context in a way that I hadn’t before.
While this book may be a more humble entry than the others on my list, I enjoyed it greatly nonetheless, and am eager to read more from the Canongate series.