30 Day Challenge – Day 1

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I saw this on the LittleBookBlog and it seemed to be a fun idea! So Day 1 is the best book I read last year. Since my memory doesn’t go back that far and we’re almost at the end of this year I’m going to adapt the question slightly to the best book I read in the last year. There are a few contenders here because I received a Kindle Fire last Christmas and I’ve worked my way through a lot of the free classics available, and my reading habits have steadily increased over the past year anyway so I have a wider array to chose from. 

I could choose a work of Rafael Sabatini, W. Somerset Maugham or Jack London. I’ve read a lot of their works through Kindle. One I have very high praise for is People of the Abyss by Jack London. It’s an account of how he lived in London as a homeless person, and he documented his experiences. It’s a harrowing, depressing book, made all the worse by the fact that a lot of issues he talks about are still prevalent today. 

I’ve become a massive fan of Sherlock Holmes over the last year as well, so much so that sometimes I forget he’s actually not a historical figure. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes collects all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and short stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. Given the cultural impact of Moriarty and, to a lesser extent, Irene Adler I was surprised at how little they appeared in the original stories. I think it’s more of shock when compared with superheroes, since their enemies return and re-appear regularly. 

The Walking Dead Compendiums 1&2 are also really good. I was a huge fan of the tv show. It’s gone down in my estimation now, but the comics were awesome and I devoured them far quicker than I should have. 

Two recent books I’ve read and reviewed, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear would come close. They’re complex works with so much depth it’s ridiculous. 

I was really impressed with the Locke & Key series of graphic novels, and I’m looking forward to the last couple of collections to be released. There were some shocking moments and the story was captivating. 

I’m going to choose two possible answers here because one of them is cheating a little. 

The first is the series of A Song of Ice and Fire. I know, it’s not one book, but it’s kind of hard to separate them, especially since I read them all back to back and was completely engrossed. I was hooked on the series and then I was hooked on the books. Some fantastic storytelling, and the world is given so much depth it’s incredible. I was in two minds about starting them because I wasn’t sure if it would change the way I feel about the show, but they are insanely good. I find myself liking (or at least sympathising) with all of the point of view characters, even some that I dislike in the show. The only regret I have is that now I’ve read them I’m hating the wait for the next one! 

The next one may strike some of you as an odd choice because you may not think of it as a book at all, and in some ways it’s surprising that it beats out all of the other novels and short stories I’ve read. Marvel have an Essentials line where they reprint old comics in black and white. Typically it’s 500-600 pages to a collection and they’re very good value for money, if you don’t mind the fact that it’s black and white. I resumed collecting them this year and added some more Spider-Man, X-Men and Daredevil to my collection. It’s the Spider-Man one I want to talk about though, and I’m not even choosing the whole selection, just a couple of issues #121 & #122.

Issue #121 is when Gwen Stacy dies and it’s such a powerful moment. Spidey’s sorrow, frustration and anger leap off the page. It’s made all the more traumatic by the fact that he came so close to saving her, and yet there was nothing he could do. It piles more tragedy and more angst on Spider-Man but it never strikes me as a shock death or one that’s done just to boost sales of the comic. It’s a purely storytelling decision and one that has ramifications, beginning in the next issue. The reason why I’m choosing this as well is because of the last page. Peter is desolate after Gwen’s death, and in the last page he shouts at Mary-Jane, insults and tells her to leave him alone. It would be completely natural for her to leave him alone, but instead she closes the door and chooses to stay with him. It’s just a pure moment. Despite what he says MJ knows he needs her in that moment, and she’s there for him. It’s a theme that was played up in the Raimi Spider-Man films to great effect, but here there’s so much emotion contained in in nine panels that it tops everything else. I do have to admit a caveat, obviously I’m a huge Spider-Man fan so this has more resonance to me than a lot of other things, but it’s so powerful and so simple that it’s the best thing I’ve read this year.

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