Now that I live on my own I’ve definitely found myself reading more than I used to. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure that I occasionally (okay more than occasionally) find myself curling up on the bed on a Sunday with a good book. Last year I managed to get through many more books than the year before (helped by a week-long holiday in the sun in which I predominantly spent the time reading by the pool). These are my favourites of the books I read last year (and by coincidence, they’re all from female writers).
The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (£3.36 Kindle, £6.29 Paperback).
This was one that I read by the poolside in Crete – I must admit that it was a slightly odd pairing to be reading about Essex villages and Victorian London whilst in 30 degree heat, but it’s fair to say that it totally sucked me in. It’s the story of a mythical creature, a woman who is more than a little intrigued by the creature, and a local vicar trying to keep some sense of calm in a parish concerned that the serpent may have returned. It’s the most wonderfully written book, and so evocative – capturing perfectly the juxtaposition of a well-to-do woman in bustling, science-obsessed London against the villagers of Aldwinter; a traditional parish with a village green and estuary shores. I adored this book and couldn’t put it down, her writing style is so rich and tender that you feel completely immersed.
The Wild Other – Clover Stroud (£6.99 Kindle, £8.99 Paperback)
This was a book I actually listened to on Audible – the narration by Esther Wane is just perfect for the memoir of Clover’s life – her childhood, a tragic accident involving her mother and her subsequent search for solace and a sense of belonging and home. It somehow manages to be heartbreaking, hopeful and heartwarming all at once. Clover travels from her home in England, to Irish gypsy camps, to West Texas and even Russia – all tied together by her love of horses, wildness and freedom. I have never been a horse fan, but it made me long to ride horses through English fields and experience some of the freedom and spontaneity she describes. This isn’t to say that this book is at all times idyllic and honeyed – her descriptions of her experiences with drugs, sex, depression and grief make it at times harrowing, but always honest. I’m glad I read it.
Marlena – Julie Buntin (£8.54 Kindle, £8.99 Paperback)
Another totally immersive book and one that is at times very sad, tender and heartbreaking. 15-year-old Cat moves to rural Michigan with her Mum and brother and finds herself living next door to Marlena – streetwise, pill-popping and chainsmoking, with an alcoholic father and a level of wildness and experience far beyond the much more sheltered Cat. Their friendship is incredibly intense and ultimately, tragic, but written in a way that meant I felt I was somehow right there with them. There are so many quotes and snippets that are almost poetry and took me straight back to my own teenage years. “At fifteen, the world ended over and over and over again. To be so young is a kind of self-violence. No foresight, an inflated sense of wisdom, and yet you’re still responsible for your mistakes. It’s a little frightening to remember just how much, and how precisely, I felt.”
Material Girl, Mystical World – Ruby Warrington (£6.24 Kindle, £12.38, Paperback)
Ruby Warrington went from being a prominent fashion journalist for the Sunday Times Style Magazine to starting her own online magazine ‘The Numinous’ – sharing spirituality for the ‘now age’. Her book contains everything you need to know if you’re starting out on a spiritual journey – from astrology to tarot, and crystals to the divine feminine. Ruby shares her own spiritual journey in such an honest, authentic way that it made it a real pleasure to read, and I really enjoyed the way she dipped into so many different topics so that you can choose which you want to pursue further and put aside anything that doesn’t work for you. Through this book I discovered shamanism, astrology and more about the phases of the moon and it’s allowed me to carry on these journeys and learn more.
Still Life – Louise Penny (£2.99 Kindle, £8.99 Paperback)
I bought this near the end of December (a late entry for 2017’s best books!) as it was on offer in the Kindle store. I thought it would just be a really easy read, a detective story I could get immersed in for a few days and put down. But it surprised me by being incredibly beautifully written and utterly captivating. Set in the small town of Three Pines in Quebec, the descriptions of the village and its inhabitants were so vivid that you almost feel as if you are there. It’s one of those stories where you feel as if you’re ambling down its picturesque streets and getting to know its characters whilst sampling a croissant from the local cafe. Besides the wonderful writing, the story is just brilliant, with twists and turns that keep you guessing right up until the end. I read a lot of ‘murder mysteries’ but this was much more of a classic Detective stories – no gore or violence and instead a just brilliantly woven together tale.
I’m adoring reading at the moment and can’t wait to get stuck into more novels this year – I seem to always have an Audible book on the go, something I’ve spontaneously bought from the Kindle store and a paperback by my bed. My current read is The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich and I’m really enjoying it so far, it’s another one that’s very beautifully written. I tried so hard to get into How To Stop Time by Matt Haig last month but I just wasn’t enjoying it at all – should I persevere? Have you read anything great lately?