The ‘Andy’ Awards 2018

Posted: December 23, 2018 in Events, Writing Talk

It’s that time of year again. Darkness bookends the day so snugly that you start to feel like you barely get to see the sun. It’s cold. Wet. Windy. Shiny decorations are up in the trees and on the streets. The same songs on repeat in all the shops. It can mean only one thing: it’s time to announce the winners and losers in the year’s ‘Andy’ Awards.

For those of you who don’t know, the ‘Andy’s’ are my attempt to ‘chart’ my reading habits over a year. They’re supposed to help me read more and also make it easy for me to recommend good books to others. Last year’s chart expanded the qualifying criteria from short stories to novels, and this year we’re going even bigger – I’m including all books I’ve read. Fiction, non-fiction, short story collections, sports books. Yeah, the whole shebang.

Last year I brought the ‘Andy’s’ back so I could talk myself into reading more. I read a whopping 75 novels. You can view my chart from last year here. (Article also contains links to previous runners and riders.)

This year, my total falls some way short of that (it hasn’t helped that I started a new job in December 2017 and I’ve thrown myself into it life and soul). But I’m still very pleased with my grand total this year of 61 books (which is still great – still better than a book a week, and I’m pleased with that). The below graphic charts my most committed reading months – unsurprisingly the winter months when the darkness draws in are my most reading-iest. But there’s also a big spike around the summer holidays. Again, no surprises…

Books Read 2018

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my reading year. I’ve read some absolutely fantastic stuff, and some stuff which was maybe less so, so you don’t have to. Here in all its glory is my top twenty for 2018. Drum roll please…

  1. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
  2. 4,3,2,1 by Paul Auster
  3. The Gallows Pole by Benjamin Myers
  4. The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
  5. Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin
  6. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  7. Phantom by Jo Nesbo
  8. The Outsider by Stephen King
  9. I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic by David Lagercrantz and Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  10. Halcyon by Rio Youers
  11. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
  12. A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane
  13. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
  14. Rusty Puppy by Joe R. Lansdale
  15. A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly
  16. The Late Show by Michael Connelly
  17. Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson
  18. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
  19. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  20. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View – 40 Stories Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars by Various Authors

Honourable mentions to the other books I read this year: Gazza in Italy by Daniel Storey; The Mountain by Luca d’Andrea; Lifeless by Mark Billingham; Mister Memory by Marcus Sedgwick; The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton; A Natural by Ross Raisin; Wolf by Mo Hayder; Night Games: A Journey to the Dark Side of Sport by Anna Krien; 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough; Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson; The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman; Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley; Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult; The Thirst by Jo Nesbo; Strange Weather by Joe Hill; Artemis by Andy Weir; Selfie: How we became so Self-Obsessed and what it’s doing to us by Will Storr; The Sons by Anton Svensson; Die of Shame by Mark Billingham; Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham; The Fifth Woman by Henning Mankell; I am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist; In the Dark by Mark Billingham; Garden of Evil by Graham Masterton; The Partner by John Grisham; The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter; A Conspiracy of Tall Men by Noah Hawley; History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund; The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart; Fall Down Dead by Stephen Booth; Path of Needles by Alison Littlewood; If I Ever Fall by S.D. Robertson; Border Songs by Jim Lynch; Outside the Comfort Zone: Tales from Austerity Britain by Alan Devey; Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King; No Hunger in Paradise by Michael Calvin; The Bad Place by Dean Koontz; Wakening the Crow by Stephen Gregory; Cast Iron by Peter May; The White Tower by Cathryn Constable.

Some observations: Paul Tremblay dominates the chart for the second year running. Though Dave Eggers’ The Circle walked off with the ‘Andy’ for my favourite book of the year, Tremblay boasted both the number two and the number three slot in the chart, with A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock respectively. This year he’s gone one better, securing the top novel award, and I couldn’t recommend this author more. He’s as compulsive a read as Stephen King at his best, but his is a thoroughly modern take on an often clichéd genre. Tremblay makes horror/ dark fiction new and exciting. Get on it.

Literary heavyweight Paul Auster takes the runner-up slot with his super-heavyweight 4,3,2,1, a book which takes you so far into the mind of its protagonist that at times you think you are him. Though it is hard work at times, the book is worth it. And then some. Auster’s writing is far from austere here and at the end you come out feeling like you’ve truly lived the lives of some of the characters.

Benjamin Myers completes my top three. The Gallows Pole is like an unholy mix of Game of Thrones, Wolf Hall, and Kes. It’s brilliant. What a voice! Myers once competed with me for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize. His novel won out over my Paint this town Red. He deserved it. He deserves even more for this offering.

Halcyon by Rio Youers makes the top ten (just). A decade (or so) ago, Rio and I shared a table of contents in a dark fiction anthology, and it’s stunning to see just how far his writing has progressed in that time (I’m not jealous, honest).

‘Darker’ fiction (crime and horror) again dominates the top of my chart, but my expanded criteria for inclusion means that a couple of non-fiction works have made the top twenty. Michael Finkel’s extraordinary book The Stranger in the Woods makes number four in my list.

Metafiction, and stories which are playful with the way stories are put together, also does well this year. Particular highlights are Anthony Horowitz’s Magpie Murders, Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids, and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton are cases in point.

Finally, sports books do well, especially those about sporting outsiders, or mavericks. I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a tour de force in the exploration of sporting ego (and is also very funny), and forms an interesting counterpoint to Gazza in Italy by Daniel Storey, whilst Anna Krien’s Night Games is a chilling exposition of the darker side of sport – in this case Aussie Rules Football – (and masculinity).



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