Top Ten Tuesday: A Book For Each Year Of My Twenties

In 2016, I turned the big 3-0. Milestone birthdays don’t usually have much of an impact on me, but 30 felt different. How weird it felt to be able to say “I’m in my thirties”! Big birthdays tend to be a time for reflecting on what you’ve accomplished so far and since this week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is a Throwback Freebie, I’ve chosen to list a favourite Book For Each Year Of My Twenties.

Want to join in the fun? Head on over to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and Bookish.

2006 (Age 20): Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

14497One of my favourite undergrad classes was Science Fiction & Fantasy. A chance to read sci-fi and fantasy lit and write about it for credit? Sign me up! The class had a fabulous professor (who did the gollum voice when he read aloud from Lord of the Rings!) and there were some great books on the reading list, including my introduction to Neil Gaiman’s works, Neverwhere. Even before I visited the city of London, I was charmed by Neverwhere. I love the idea of a London beneath that involves the subway system and found the story imaginative and whimsical. I loved every word of Neverwhere.

2007 (Age 21): Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan (Marvel)

7389In 2007, I walked into the local comic book store with one purpose: to purchase the first issue of the Buffy season eight, a canonical continuation of my favourite television show in comic book form. Joss Whedon had also just taken over writing for a book called Runaways, so I picked up his first issue as well as a digest version of the first several issues of the series. I continued to read the Buffy comics for awhile, but it was Runaways that had captured my heart. I devoured the rest of the series and impatiently awaited new issues. I fell in love with the diverse cast of characters that includes an African-American genius, a Japanese-American witch, a mutant pre-teen, a gay alien, a mutant, and an overweight sarcastic teenager telepathically linked to a genetically engineered dinosaur. The dialogue is snappy and filled with pop culture references, and I loved the concept – that a group of teenagers finds out their parents are actually evil supervillains and teams up to stop them. When the series was indefinitely placed on hiatus I was devastated. This fall Rainbow Rowell is writing a new set of stories about the characters I so love and a Runaways TV series is debuting on Hulu in November, so I can’t wait for more people to discover this series I love so much!

2008 (Age 22): Watchmen by Alan Moore (DC)

472331Confession time: I could not for the life of me figure out what I read in 2008! My goodreads account only dates to 2009, as does my current e-mail address, and I don’t keep a diary or any kind of hard copy record of what I’ve read. 2008 marked my last year of university, so I wasn’t reading much for pleasure and no course books jumped out at me. In desperation I ended up sifting through my (dozens of) Facebook statuses and posts from 2008 for clues! Despite the various cringeworthy statuses (“likes danishes” really ca. 2008 me?!) in the end I found what I was looking for, 2008 was the year I read Watchmen. Published by DC, the graphic novel is set an an alternate 1980s where the presence of superheroes has dramatically affected and altered the outcome of real world events, including the Vietnam War. Watchmen is a masterpiece of the comic medium. Grim and realistic, it features characters from the relatable Dan Dreiberg to the superhuman tall and blue Doctor Manhattan, and the end packs a punch I never saw coming.

2009 (Age 23): The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

186074One of the great things about working at Chapters, the major chain of Canadian bookstores, was meeting people who felt the same way as I did about books. Two of my fellow employees were also fans of fantasy fiction, and when the store wasn’t too busy and we were working at the same time, we held an impromptu fantasy book club, discussing which novels we had recently finished and loved. The Name of the Wind was one such book, read and loved by one of my co-workers and enthusiastically recommended to the rest of us. Sure enough, I fell in love with this book. I’m not sure what 31-year-old me would think of The Name of the Wind. I’ve read more widely now than I had at age 23, and even at the time I recognized some issues with the way female characters were written. But either way the prose is gorgeous and lyrical, the dialogue at times witty, there’s a clear love of literature and libraries here, and I love the description of the magic system. Despite its faults, this is a book worth reading.

2010 (Age 24): 1916 by Morgan Llewelyn

300944During university, one of my favourite courses was Irish History. I loved learning about the tumultuous and fascinating events that shaped the country, and eagerly sought out more. In 2009 I had the opportunity to visit Ireland, and spent about five weeks traveling around the country, so it’s only natural that I found Morgan Llewelyn’s Irish Century series of historical fiction novels. 1916, the first novel in the set, starts shortly after the sinking of the Titanic and covers the events of the Easter Rising, an armed rebellion in Dublin aimed at ending British rule in Ireland and establishing  an independent Irish Republic. What I love so much about the novels is that although they are fictionalized accounts, told from the perspective of a fictional main character, the books are incredibly well-researched and include historical figures who actually existed. If you’re looking to learn more about Irish history and enjoy historical fiction that gets the details right, this series is for you! By nature I’m more interested in the Easter Rising, the Civil War, and earlier Irish history so I found the first two books in the series held more interest for me than the later volumes (1949, 1972, 1999) but they’re all worth reading.

2011 (Age 25): Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

24280I’ve talked a lot about Les Miserables on this blog, including in last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, where I named it one of my Top Ten Books That Are Worth The Work, and here’s where it began. I’ve been a fan of the musical adaptation of Les Miserables since I was a little girl, but it wasn’t until age 25 where I read the unabridged novel (I had read a heavily abridged edition in high school). It was definitely a “project book” where I set a number of pages I would read a day and worked through it, but I also loved reading this book. Sure Hugo could have used an editor, but much of the prose is beautiful, the characters are sympathetic and engaging, and the events of the novel interesting enough to keep the plot moving. I conveniently timed this read so I finished Les Miserables in the Spring. That summer I went to see the musical in London and had my copy of the Brick signed by the actor playing the role of Valjean, who is still my favourite performer that I’ve seen in the role. My signed book remains a treasure on my shelf, and I’ve now also had it signed by many members of the Canadian cast of the musical.

2012 (Age 26): The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

112077Probably the only book I’ve talked about as much as, or more than, Les Miserables is The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett. The first in her six-book historical fiction epic The Lymond Chronicles sees Francis Crawford of Lymond returning (illegally) to his native Scotland. Upon his return, Lymond promptly flirts with his new sister-in-law, steals his mother’s jewels, gets a pig drunk, and sets his brother’s castle on fire… all in the first chapter! The series is dense, but the pay off is huge. Few things that come close to having the impact that Lymond has had on me. When I finished reading the series for the first time (in May or June 2013), the only way I could get rid of the book hangover was to re-read the entire series! I’ve managed to stay away for awhile now (this series is so addictive!!) but I’m planning on doing a re-read next year, so look forward to my nearly incoherent thoughts on that early next year!

2013 (Age 27): The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

10626594As a former “Horse Girl” it was preordained that I would fall for Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races. I love everything about this series, from the atmospheric writing and the fictional rural British Isles-inspired setting, to the characters and the details of life on the island. I especially love that the horses themselves have personality and are as much characters in the book as the human figures. The idea of the dangerous but beautiful water horses and a high-stakes race immediately grabbed me, and I thought the stakes were raised enough for both of the main characters that I was tense and worried throughout about the outcome. This is one book that I will be re-reading for the rest of my life and I encourage any other horse girls, present or former, to do the same.

2014 (Age 28): Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

SwordspointI have a strong suspicion that I picked this up because the author, Ellen Kushner, is an open admirer of Dorothy Dunnett’s work. I’m glad I did though, because Swordspoint is a wonderful novel. While it’s a sad commentary on the state of the SFF genre a few years ago, I remember reading about the student, Alec, and the swordsman Richard, and thinking through the first several pages that although it was not explicitly stated, it felt like there was a romantic relationship between these men. I was so conditioned by how rarely this occurs in mainstream literature that even though the dialogue and their interactions made me think the men were together, I didn’t fully believe it until the connection was more explicitly demonstrated. Fortunately even in the last few years I think the genre has made progress towards diversity, but Swordspoint, with its two male bisexual protagonists, is still a wonderful example in the genre. I ADORE Richard and Alec, they are an otp of mine for the ages, and Kushner creates an interesting world of manners and politics for them to inhabit.

2015 (Age 29): The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (pen name for Sarah Monette)

179100482014 was a fabulous year of reading for me, and there were a few choices I considered for my book of the year. Ultimately I went with Swordspoint not because I liked it more, but because I wanted some variety for my list and didn’t want to put the same author for two years in a row. I loved Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths series (which I read in 2014 for the first time), but I was also taken with The Goblin Emperor, a novel published under the pen name of Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor is unlike anything I have ever read before. A suspicious accident leaves Maia, the half-goblin youngest son who has been exiled from the court for most of his life, the rightful heir to the throne. Isolated and abused for most of his life, it would be so easy for this to be a story about getting revenge for those years. It would be easy to make Maia an anti-hero or an hier who instinctively knows what to do. Instead The Goblin Emperor is about a young man who is just trying to do the right thing. Lonely Maia tries to make friends with his staff, he listens to the desires of his subjects, he tries to understand the baffling political machinations of the court. Faced with an opportunity to take revenge, he forgives. I love an anti-hero as much as the next person, but it was so refreshing to read about someone who is just nice. The world building is also excellent and the book wholly unlike anything I have ever read, but it’s the characters and the kindness that make this a book I will thrust into just about anyone’s hands.

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you think of my choices in the comments!

43 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: A Book For Each Year Of My Twenties

    1. Thank you! It was definitely a commitment, but I really did love it (even if I think Victor Hugo could have used an editor at times)!

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      1. Ha, that’s how I feel about Jane Austen a bit. Like she could have told the book in like 3 chapters with the way she writes. Like it’s a huge plot point, and then there’s like a million pages of nothing. That’s how I felt, but I admit I’m biased against classics haha!

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      2. I’ve never actually read any Jane Austen! I’d definitely like to try reading one of her books sometime though, even if it is a bit of work! I think it depends for me. I don’t mind as long as the pages of no plot points are still interesting and well-written, but there were three pages of someone milking a cow and descriptions of hills in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and that was not for me at all!

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    1. The Scorpio Races was such a great book. Every November I get the itch to re-read! Thank you so much Ashley, I’m glad you enjoyed my twist on the theme!

      I haven’t read a lot of your choices (except I LOVED Catching Fire), but they all definitely brought me back to the days when I was working at Chapters and saw Marked, Twilight, and Anna and the French Kiss constantly on the shelves! Great throwback, and it’s really nice to hear that you have so many happy memories with your husband attached to the books you’ve chosen!

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    1. I do feel like The Scorpio Races is one that’s a little more overlooked and deserves more attention than it gets. It was the first Stiefvater I read and I fell in love too.

      I love your Top Ten Tuesday idea! I read The Thorn Birds maybe a decade ago, and absolutely loved it. I’ve been thinking about re-reading actually so very cool to see it on your list. The Color Purple has been on my tbr for awhile. I really enjoyed the movie and I LOVE the musical with Cynthia Erivo. The Hate U Give is also on my TBR.

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    1. Thank you so much! Most of the choices weren’t that difficult, and I had some idea of what I was reading, it was just 2008 that stumped me for awhile! I suspect because it was my last year of university (and I was doing an English major) so wasn’t reading for pleasure very much until I graduated. I think I’ll definitely be more aware each year of which books are my top choices from now on.

      I loved reading your Top Ten Tuesday. What a flashback! The Bobbsey Twins were a little before my time, although I think my mom read them as well as Trixie Belden, but I definitely had some Little Golden Books as well. I think Sandra Boynton’s board books were probably some of the first books that were read to me as a baby.

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    1. I’m a huge fan of the musical and the book! 🙂 Thanks, I’m really glad you liked my list. Your TTT for this week is so fun too! I love that you addressed it like you’re speaking/apologizing to the characters themselves, and they sound like good reasons for unfollowing to me!

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    1. It definitely helped that I was buying the Buffy comics at the same time initially, and then I just started buying Runaways on its own. It’s kind of had a rough run in that Joss Whedon’s 6 issue span on the title meant issues were coming out every two months instead of every month, a long wait for a short comic, and then I wasn’t a fan of the art style for the next 9 issue-arc after that, and just when the series was getting back on track it went on indefinite hiatus. I really hope the relaunch and the TV show will create some interest and result in some new fans though!

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    1. Thank you! It’s definitely a more historical take on historical fiction, but if you’re interested in the Easter Rising, 1916 is a really fascinating and fairly accurate fictionalized account, which I really enjoyed. I hadn’t heard of the app before, but that sounds like a great way to read the classics! I’m slowly working my way through War and Peace, so I definitely understand.

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  1. I was excited to see which book you had for my current age, and of course it’s Les Mis! Amazing.

    I’ve never even heard of 1916, but you know me and Irish lit, so I’ve added it to the TBR! Sounds fascinating.

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    1. LOL, of course it was Les Mis! How appropriate! And hey Lymond is 26… just saying. 😉 I remember really enjoying 1916 (obviously) and was thinking I’d like to re-read it at some point. It’s a very historical take on events, which I appreciate compared to a Philippa Gregory sort of thing, and I’m fascinated by early twentieth century Irish history in all its tragedy so it worked for me. I hope you enjoy it too!

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  2. I love Neil Gaiman so much. Although I haven’t read Neverwhere yet (it is on my Kindle though!), I’ve loved everything else of his that I’ve read. I’m also about halfway through The Name of the Wind and I agree – it’s so beautifully written that you get sucked in.

    Here is our Top Ten Tuesday.

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    1. I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read of Neil Gaiman’s as well, although I think Neverwhere is probably still my favourite of the lot. I’ve been meaning to read Stardust forever though and haven’t gotten to it yet. I’m so glad that you’re enjoying The Name of the Wind too!

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  3. I love this list, and I SO need to get on Lymond. I really need to read The Scorpio Races too, given my love of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing (though I wasn’t a fan of the Shiver series). I’ve had that book on my shelf for like a year, and I really want to read it this fall.

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    1. Thank you!! 🙂 You DO! I’ll try and enable both of you in October. I’m planning on doing (another) full Lymond re-read either starting in December or January, so you’re welcome to join me! I think you would really love The Scorpio Races. I do have a friend who loves The Raven Cycle and didn’t get anything out of The Scorpio Races, but she’s really not an animal person – has never had a pet, isn’t particularly interested in ever having one – so my theory is that she didn’t get the connection between man or woman and horse. I’ve never read the Shiver series either – a different friend warned me off and said they were a little younger/more romance-centric, which isn’t really my thing. The Scorpio Races is a really great fall read though – it’s set in November I believe and is very atmospheric, I definitely recommend giving it a go!

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      1. Oh I’d definitely be in for a buddy or group read!! That would be fun! I actually read the first few chapters for The Scorpio Races and enjoyed it, but decided I wasn’t in the right mood for it (it was in the summer and I just felt like I needed to save it for the fall lol), so I think when I find myself in the right mood I’m going to really enjoy it. And yes, Shiver is definitely more old school YA/for the younger crowd. Basically it’s werewolves and romance, and the characters were so bland after having seen what Maggie can do with the characters in The Raven Cycle.

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      2. I’m down for a group Lymond read!!

        Also Steph I’ll buddy read The Scorpio Races with you – I actually have a copy but have yet to get around to it! I wasn’t going to prioritize it but now that I know it’s a good fall read I’m totally up for it.

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      3. Yay! Okay, the Lymond group read is definitely happening then! I’m really excited about both of you reading The Scorpio Races too! The Raven Cycle is one of those series that I’ll never be over, I just love all of the characters so much. I think I’m going to just ignore the Shiver series altogether and keep my opinions on Stiefvater’s works high.

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      4. Yes definitely ignore the Shiver series. It’s basically the opposite of The Raven Cycle and has instalove and a really basic plotline. I’m very interested in how I’ll like The Scorpio Races though, since it’s her favorite novel she’s written and since I’ve read books from both of her series and loved one and hated the other, lol.

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    1. That’s great to hear, it’s such a wonderful series and I think the snappy pop-culture dialogue should make it a good fit for TV. I hear early buzz on the Hulu version is good, so I can’t wait to see it!

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  4. I like really like the theme of your post! I remember reading Le Mis after seeing the show and I think you described it perfectly – it was definitely a project, but so worth it for an amazing read!

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    1. Thank you so much Mallory! I’m glad you felt the same way about reading Les Mis. It’s definitely a book that’s worth the work! 🙂

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    1. Oh that’s a lot of fun! I just missed the closest milestone age to me, since I turned 30 a little over a year ago which pre-dates my blog. That was part of why I wanted to look back on my twenties with this week’s throwback freebie. It’s definitely inspired me to think about even earlier, but I have trouble remembering what I read at what age further back!

      I really enjoyed reading your list! The Raven Cycle is definitely a close runner-up for me in 2015 reads, and I really love the Shades of Magic series too. Six of Crows would probably be my 2016/age 30 book! 🙂

      Oooh that’s so interesting that you weren’t that into The Scorpio Races! I loved both – I think I probably love The Raven Cycle more because I loved the characters so much and I had such feels after reading them, but I adore The Scorpio Races too. All five star books for me on goodreads. My mom and my cousin, both also former “horse girls” adored it as well so I wondered if that was the common factor, but I guess not!

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      1. Ha ha yeah, I’ll admit the first category was a lot harder to remember books for than the rest of them! Thanks. Yes both of those are amazing. Six of Crows might have made my list, but I was running out of space by the time I got to 19-21 books, so I put Shades of Magic in there and left that in my honourable mentions. The Scorpio Races was the first Maggie book I read, so in that way it was special, I just felt like The Raven Cycle had more of an impact on me. To be fair, not all horse girls will enjoy the same horse books!

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  5. I am so impressed that you can remember when you first read something! My brain just doesn’t hold onto these details! I loved Swordspoint too, and honestly I felt the same way, it’s still not all that common to have an explicitly stated gay relationship although it is changing little by little 🙂

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    1. Ha, well my goodreads account definitely helped! I don’t think I’d be able to remember exact dates otherwise. Some books I remember being tied to a specific thing – like I knew I started reading Runaways at the same time Buffy season eight debuted, so I just had to look up when that was, and I remembered Les Mis since it was the year I went to London and saw the stage show, and Lymond because it was one of the first things I read after finishing my master’s degree/at the same time I was starting a new job in my field. Others definitely took some sleuthing! It’s great to meet another Swordspoint fan, and I’m definitely glad the industry is getting better, but what a wonderful surprise Alec and Richard’s relationship was!

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  6. I am only familiar with Les Miserables. My journey began when I saw the musical five years ago through the movie, but it wasn’t until I gave it a second chance that I became a true fan. In 2013, I first saw the stage adaption through a community college production, which was phenomenal. Than in 2015, I read the unabridged novel and used my knowledge of the musical to push through it and to understand what was going on and on that same summer, I saw the stage show in London and I lived a dream that night. Now 2017, I am seeing the stage show in Greenville with my school.

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    1. I’ve been a fan of the musical since I was a little girl (young enough to think that when Eponine sings “I know that he is blind”, it’s because Marius was literally blind – lol!) and saw it on stage for the first time when I was 12, and again as an adult at age 23. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to see it multiple times in three different cities (adding a fourth in October with the US tour, so I guess I’ll see it just shortly before you and your school). I really hope you enjoy seeing the show again!

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      1. I first saw musicals in elementary school both live and movies.

        But I only enjoyed them at the time. Then middle school hits and my mom took me to New York and the two of us saw Wicked. Little did I know the huge impact Wicked would have on my life. That was starting point for my love for musicals so it sparked the love. Through Wicked, I began to understand the emotional and complex side of musicals and Elphaba eventually became such an important part of my life.

        Growing up, musicals were already filled with comedy, romance, spectacle and dance, emotions of excitement; love; joy; and sad, strong emotional connection and in my mind from what I interpreted all musicals were happy. So imagine my surprise when I first saw the movie of Les Mis: for the first time I realized some musicals are tragic and for the first time I picked up on the emotion of heartbreak when it comes to songs. It challenged the way I view musicals because it made me examine them from a different perspective.

        Wicked sparked my love for musicals while Les Mis turned my love of musicals into a passion.

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