Every celebrity in the country has been asked for their top reads this year, so what the heck, I'm adding mine. My top pick is a tie between Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey and Nightwoods by Charles Frazier.
Celtic twilight / pre-history and mystery...
I went through a bit of a history phase, revisiting Morgan Llywelyn. Nothing much beats her The Bard for me, but The Horse Goddess came close this year. I also revisited Juliet Marillier, re-reading Daughter of the Forest and reading Wildwood Dancing (not quite as good) and enjoying (once I got into it) Heart's Blood. All of the above are enjoyable if you like re-worked fairytales.
Wilderness Stories - my theme this year
I also went through a bit of a 'wilderness' books phase - possibly prompted by going away to do some writing in the wilds of Kerry. And these were my top books this year:
The Snow Child, set on a farmstead in Alaska is a really wonderful read - get your hands on one and read it this winter. I think any synopsis can't do it justice - I wouldn't even read the back cover copy - just go for it - it's a treat.
Out Stealing Horses is set in the wilderness of Norway - another one where I don't think I could describe the plot without ruining or reducing the story to much less than it is. Finally, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier tops my chart since it hit my wilderness craving - it's set in the middle of nowhere in Carolina - and also my love of books with small children at the centre of the story (though the main character is Luce) a lonely woman who has set up home in an abandoned hotel.
I'm loath to put this here in case any adult might think it's not for them, but Meg Rosoff's The Bride's Farewell was one of my favourite reads this year. Another impossible book to sum up (now I'm feeling like a total failure - shouldn't writer be able to describe her favourite book?). Just read it. Feeding Friendsies by my splendid friendsie, Suzanne Bloom is gorgeous, though I have to big up what About Bear? also by Suzanne and out from Alanna Books this September. So proud to publish this fabulous story - haiku for the under fives (the over 40s could learn a lot from it too).
Finally, a book I hope I won't have need for this year but which deals with the harrowing topic of a mother's death magnificently is The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic & Olivier Tallec. Originally published in France and published here in the UK by Walker Books (Candlewick in the USA). I always recommend Always and Forever by Alan Durant for anyone broaching the subject of death with a child and it is still the best book for children or adults that I know. The Scar deals specifically with a mother's death so will not have as wide a use, but is a very very special book.
Oh dear, I've managed to end on a sad note... never mind... go read The Bride's Farewell, or Nightwoods, or Feeding Friendsies...