Planning a trip last year, I threw a few possessions into an overnight bag without really taking too much notice of them. Toiletries, clothes, a couple of books. One of those books was a gift that I’d had sitting on my shelf for over a year. A fantasy novel. I’d been curious of the choice when given it; I’d never expressed any real interest in fantasy. In fact, I was firmly of the opinion that fantasy novels were for Other People. People with enough time to read epic series with twelve volumes, learn about other worlds, giant family dynasties and, y’know, elves and stuff. Clearly, I was basing my understanding of fantasy on a combination of Tolkien and Robin Hobb — only one of whom I’ve read anything by, in any case.
In a period of huge life change, I decided to get over myself and give the book —and, by association, my friend– the benefit of the doubt. The book was Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora and it changed the way I feel about fantasy novels forever. I’ve since read Nick Harkaway’s Angelmaker, the Glass Book series by G. W Dahlquist, Ben Aaronavitch’s PC Grant novels set in London, and I’m currently enthralled by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Whether all of these books are fantasy is one matter. I’m reliably informed that Dahlquist’s books are steampunk, and I’m not sure how all of the authors would class their own works. Certainly they’re not all found in the fantasy section of Waterstone’s. Whether they’re fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, magical, or a surreal mix of genres, it matters not. What they share is escapism from reality. One could argue that all fiction does that, and of course it does. But taking away the ‘normal’ world enhances that experience, even if the books are set on Earth, or even, in the case of Aaronovitch’s novels, in London. It’s been something of a revelation to me. Now I’m one of the Other People, and very happy to have realised it. Whether I’ll ever get my head around Robin Hobb’s oeuvre is still in doubt, mind you…
Once I’ve finished The Night Circus, I don’t have a reading list. Now you know the kind of books I’ve been loving recently, I’d really love you to recommend a book for me!
What are you reading now? What books do you love? And what should I add to my reading list?