Like last year, I've done two different lists for my favourite books of the year: one for books published this year, and one for books published previously. Seven books each, this time.
(I'll be posting my favourite short story list after Christmas...)
So, in no particular order:
1. Ornithology - Nicholas Royle (Confingo)
"Ornithology is hugely satisfying, a showcase for Royle's talents and for the short story form itself." - my full review here.
2. Shadows & Tall Trees 7 - Michael Kelly (ed.) (Undertow)
Yet again, Shadows & Tall Trees collects together some of the best new weird fiction around. In terms of quality this one reached the same giddy heights as #6 for me, and that's saying something. Essential reading, and here's hoping for a #8.
3. Ruth & Martin's Album Club - Martin Fitzgerald (Unbound)
A simple idea—celebrity writers pick an album they've never heard before, listen to it three times, and say what they think—made brilliant by Martin's introductions to each. Interesting, illuminating, laugh out loud funny in places. He can make me want to listen to an album even though I already know I dislike it. Some of the finest music writing I've ever read.
4. You Will Grow Into Them - Malcolm Devlin (Unsung Stories)
"Anyone who's read any of Devlin's work before will not be surprised that these stories are all expertly constructed, brilliantly told." - my full review here.
5. Cottingley - Alison Littlewood (NewCon Press)
"...impeccably paced, perfectly structured, and a genuine page-turner." - my full review here.
6. Beneath - Kristi DeMeester (Word Horde)
I kinda guessed that the debut novel from Kristi DeMeester would be brilliant, and I wasn't wrong. It's a quasi-Lovecraftian horror story set in fundamentalist Christian Appalachia. This is a book that oozes atmosphere, with the author's skilful prose describing a world that feels sickly, feverish, on the brink of delirium and apocalypse.
7. The Little Gift - Stephen Volk (PS Publishing)
"Some books, you finish reading them and you're done; but the events of The Little Gift stick around in your head, nag at your thoughts" - my full review here.
1. Thin Air - Michelle Paver (Orion)
Paver's Dark Matter is one of my favourite modern ghost stories, and this spiritual sequel doesn't disappoint. In the 1930s a team of men attempt to climb Kanchenjunga, third highest peak in the world and the most dangerous. They are following the path of a previous failed expedition, and as the air gets thinner one of expedition starts to think they're not alone... Like Dark Matter, this is a wonderfully atmospheric novel which uses its haunting setting to full effect.
2. Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand (PS Publishing)
A brilliant addition to my list of favourite haunted house stories, this novella tells of an English folk-rock band who visit the eponymous hall to record an album. There's a great English folk-horror vibe to this one, and its just perfectly constructed and told. Came highly recommended to me, so now I'm passing on the favour...
3. This Spectacular Darkness: Critical Essays - Joel Lane (Tartarus Press)
A book of essays on the horror genre from the late Joel Lane: insightful, erudite and thoughtful, every one. Lane's unique voice always shone through in his fiction; it shows how special a writer he was that it does in his non-fiction too. Essentially reading.
4. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (Vintage)
It took me nearly a month to read this one, but I'm very glad I did. A huge novel spanning the generations since modern India's creation, in which every child who was born at exactly midnight on the day of independence has super powers... and finds their fate is tied in with that of their homeland. Glorious wise-cracking prose, too.
5. The Secret Of Ventriloquism - Jon Padgett (Dunhams Manor Press)
"magnificently done and demands to be read by all aficionados of the genre." - my full review here.
6. The Pre-War House & Other Stories - Alison Moore (Salt)
These stories were simply brilliant: lean, pared-down tales which are by turns creepy, disorientating and savage. An expertly crafted debut collection from a writer with complete control of the form.
7. Greener Pastures - Michael Wehunt (Apex)
"a well-crafted, intelligent, not to mention thoroughly enjoyable collection of short stories, each of which builds on genre classics but displays the author's own distinct voice. A fine debut." - my full review here.