So 2018 in books? well as promised and unlike the fickle business of the literary world my blog comes to fruition in 2019 and not November/December 2018.
So was there a theme to my reading and the sixty novels I consumed over the twelve months just gone? Well as with so many things these days, queerness was at the heart of it, both in stories told and the authors telling them. Indeed, the four fantastic books that I read to finish the year were all by gay authors and three of them featured queer characters – gays, lesbians and enbys. Consulting my list I see that as many as 20 or 20.5 ( Brideshead Revisited is in the eye of the bookholder) books that were by queer authors and/or featured queer themes.
I count myself fantastically lucky to be alive and reading at a time where this representation is available and I can see myself or better versions of me in such novels and the characters that I could see myself hanging out and falling in love with.
The best books I read this year were the majestic novels of Alan Hollinghurst – The Sparsholt Affair and The Spell. Hollinghurst writes perfect gay prose that I want to dance to, but all too evidently can’t.
Elsewhere though I spent most of my time in the genre waters that were the lakes of sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Highlights included Sam J. Miller’s brilliant polar bear-tastic and wonderfully queer dystopian novel Blackfish City and Jen Williams’s triumphant Mieville-ish with dragons fantasy novel The Bitter Twins, gay/queer characters emerged and developed beautifully and the story raced along in thrilling clever tones. Also with dragons, James Bennett’s Burning Ashes finished his Red Ben Garston trilogy in thrilling and melancholic fashion – I am biased over this, but boo sucks to you frisbee it’s a brilliant book.
Continuing the finishing of trilogies, Revenant Gun rounded off Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series in splendidly clever fashion whilst also being gripping to the end, queer themes also ran amuck through the narrative so harrumble for that. Not the finish of a trilogy but also in the fantasy fiction world, Hal Duncan’s Vellum was starkly crackers and a superb smashmouth piece of fiction dancing through your feeble need for linear narratives and sense – splendid use of gay characters here, and hurrah for gay SFF authors.
The non-reading higlights of my literary year were my visit to the Leeds LGBTQ Lit fest this Summer and the chats I had there, especially the book club and gay tea/coffee sessions – any excuse to meet my people in enthusiastic involved books spaces are welcome and will have to go again in the future. The other was my visit in February to Gay’s the Word Bookshop. What an amazing shop, just stepping in and seeing all that LGBTQ bookery on display made it feel the most amazing bookish piece of my heart that I hadn’t known I’d needed until that moment.
The shopping there also helped me read classic gay fiction like Dancer from the Dance, the most enchanting love letter to the gay New York scene between Stonewall and AIDS. I also encountered for the first time the work of Philip Hensher and Iain M. Banks through Consider Phlebas and should read more of them when time allows.
I do feel that queer YA novels are very important – both to me now and to LGBTQ teens and young adults figuring out their worlds for the first time and The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Becky Albertalli’s Leah on the Off Beat were superb in adding pieces to the puzzle.
Old favourites also reared their heads this year, I can’t say enough good things about Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway archaeology/crime series and The Dark Angel was a fantastic addition to Ruth’s world. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman was pure magic, and re-reads of Brideshead Revisited and The Maltese Falcons brought as many gifts as they have e’er offered upon reading.
So I suppose there should be some sort of thoughtful conclusion to this rambling wrap-up and it’s this – I can’t say enough thank yous to the authors whose works I read in 2018 for the escapes and magic they offered. Especially though the LGBTQ authors and stories – whose offerings gave me extra important pieces of the ongoing puzzle of putting myself together as a coherent whole and hanging on. Your magic has been everything this year xx. Also visit Gay’s the Word, you really really won’t regret it. Promise.