Perfect Books

For the last eight years I have been keeping a reading diary of all the books I read or listen to. I give each book a mark out of 10 - not for how good they are, but for how much I enjoy them. Some books may be brilliant from a literary point of view, but I don’t actually enjoy reading them. Other books definitely leave a little to be desired stylistically but I had a grand time immersed in them. Obviously the quality of the writing does have a big effect on my enjoyment anyway!

I thought it would be fun to do a little round-up of all the books - 35 of them - which I gave a full 10 out of 10 to when I first read them. I’m pretty easily pleased - there were also dozens of books which scored eight or nine! These books are both brilliant and entertaining. Here they are in the order in which I read them (square brackets indicate an audiobook):

Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

Room – Emma Donoghue

One Day – David Nicholls

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

The Shock of the Fall - Nathan Filer

Perfect - Rachel Joyce

We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves - Joy Fowler

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak

The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Moth – Various

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

I See You – Claire Mackintosh

Different Class – Joanne Harris

The Life and Loves of a She Devil – Fay Weldon

[Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty]

Gentlemen and Players - Joanne Harris

The End We Start From – Megan Hunter

The Muse – Jessie Burton

I Am, I Am, I Am – Maggie O’Farrell

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

One – Sarah Crossan

Our Endless Numbered Days – Claire Fuller

Bottled Goods Sophie van Llewyn

The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

Us – David Nicholls

[The Familiars – Stacey Hall]

[The Body - Bill Bryson]

Sweet Sorrow – David Nicholls

[The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley]

[The Wolf Hall Trilogy – Hilary Mantel]

I was thinking of trying to rank them in order, but figured that would be too hard. The authors that have more than one book here - Kazuo Ishiguro, Rachel Joyce, Jessie Burton and David Nicholls - all have a similar feel to them. They are authors of quietly devastating, beautifully underwritten books of real, flawed people. They don’t always have happy, neat endings, but they are also not at all bleak.

There is something for everyone in this list, I think: comedy (The Eyre Affair), science fiction (Never Let Me Go), crime (I See You), thrillers (The Hunting Party), twists and turns (Gone Girl), astonishing mind-bending concepts (The Time-Traveller’s Wife), memoir (I Am, I Am, I Am), novella (Bottled Goods), non-fiction (The Body), whole novels in blank verse (One), and a surprising amount of historical fiction from someone who doesn’t really count themselves as a big historical fiction reader (Wolf Hall, The Miniaturist etc.)

If I was off to my Desert Island and could only pack five of these to re-read forever, which would I take? It’s tricky! I think I would definitely take The Remains of the Day, One Day and I Am, I Am, I Am. Then I would be very torn - my narrowing down only got me as far as another 11 candidates! I’m tempted by The Wolf Hall Trilogy as that is actually three books and was the most recent one to absolutely blow me away with how captivating it is, and then Cold Comfort Farm to make me laugh. But I am leaving behind Harold Fry, The Time Traveller’s Wife and The Poisonwood Bible in particular with great regret!

And when that tidal wave comes and I can only rescue one? That’s less hard. I don’t think I could ever bear to see The Remains of the Day destroyed.

How about you? Which books score a Perfect 10 from you?