Because I only read 15, I feel like highlighting my top ten as in prior posts is a bit much, so I will only give a quick review for my top five books.
(4) The Valley of Horses took me so long to read, I ran out of renewals at my library. However, that's not because it is a bad book. The pacing of this series is just slower than most as the characters' lives are chronicled in a very detailed way. And the details are what I love most about this series. Some books are just not meant to be burned through, in my opinion. I did feel like this book was slower than the first one, but I think that is reflective of the nature of the story. In the first one, Ayla is learning to live among a strange people, so there is a lot of human conflict. But in this sequel to The Clan of the Cave Bear, Ayla's strife is much more internalized. Her struggle while she lives independently from her clan is felt deeply in how the book unfolds. The research the author has done is evident with every sentence she crafts. I love letting myself be immersed in the Upper Paleolithic world the author paints for her readers. The life and humanity she writes into our human ancestors is amazing and well worth the slower read through.
(2) Babel. What. A. Story. R.F. Kuang tackles so much in this novel about language, colonialism, imperialism, and the exploitation of people at the hands of the British. Almost sounds like history, right? If it weren't for linguists at Oxford's tower of Babel crafting magical silver bars to power the world, it basically would be history. Which is what made this book so riveting. R.F. Kuang crafted a masterpiece that reads like the speculative fiction it is, but also overtly tackles racism and colonialism in a way that helps you understand the history and current affairs of our world. Even though her points are obvious, they're written with enough wit and sarcasm that you can either laugh bitterly with the quips or nod and say, "Oh, I get it now." The tale Kuang spins is captivating and heartbreaking, even to the very last page. It's a long book, but well worth your time.
(1) And finally, my number one book of the year was The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. This book is a story of a Persian family caught in the midst of the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath. The story's magical realism whisks the reader away into a world of tragedy and beauty, of hope, and of despair. With very little knowledge of the history of Iran and Persia, I let myself be carried along with the stories and tales the narrator weaves together. Although I understood very little of the deeper meanings of everything, I very much felt that the whimsical storytelling was a coping mechanism for the narrator as she recounts all of the horrors her family endured. The folklore embedded in this tragic story is beautiful and eye-opening. I came away from this book saddened at how little I know of the ancient and current history of the Middle East, and saddened at how religious wars have killed the dreams and culture of so many people who want nothing more than what we all desire: a safe home, a happy family, and the freedom to live in peace.