I’ve read 25 books in the last year – well, these are the ones I’ve finished – and I thought I’d share a run-down of my favourites in case you’re looking for some new reads for 2019. This chilly weather is perfect for staying home and hibernating under a blanket, and it’s only right to pair that with a good book (and some snacks, obvs). It wasn’t a conscious choice but I’ve noticed that 23 out of the 25 books I read this year were by women, and so many of the books on my long to-read list are also by women, so I don’t see that changing this year. Although I do want to make an effort to read more books written by WOC and LGBTQ+ writers so please do share your recommendations if you have any favourites (I will, of course, do my own research here too).
But back to the list – I’ve picked out as a starter my ten favourite books that I read this year. In no particular order (because I tried, and I couldn’t do it).
- Hanna Jameson – The Last
I haven’t read anything quite like this book in some time – in fact, the blend of ‘end of the world’ meets ‘murder mystery’ meets ‘dystopian apocalypse’ is so unique, whilst at the same time being totally believable. I couldn’t put it down; it’s so evocative and descriptive that it kept making me ponder how I would react to every twist and turn. It’s a must read!
- Liese O’Halloran Schwarz – The Possible World
This book is just SO beautiful and moving, I fell head over heels in love with it. The novel spans several different timeframes and characters; starting with a young child who has survived a terrible tragedy, a Doctor in the Emergency Room that he is brought to, and a woman in a nursing home who is about to turn 100 and is looking back on her life. I laughed and cried throughout this book, it’s totally captivating and just so wonderful – I’m so glad I read it.
- Tara Isabella Burton – Social Creature
Another book that I found impossible to put down – part dark thriller and partly a commentary on the way we use social media and the lives that we present through our mobile phones. It’s an easy read – perfect for a lazy Sunday or a beach holiday (though it’s pretty intense in places, it’s certainly not a cheery poolside read!).
- Melissa Broder – The Pisces
Oh wow – I do not know how to describe this book. But it is amazing. I was not at all prepared for some of the plot developments in this book, about break-ups, love, anxiety, dating and existential angst. I just adored her writing, the whole book is incredible and you must go in with an open mind (let’s just say it gets a little weird at times, but in the best way possible).
“Maybe [the ocean and I] were on the same side, comprised of the same things, water mostly, also mystery. The ocean swallowed things up–boats, people–but it didn’t look outside itself for fulfillment. It could take whatever skimmed its surface or it could leave it. In its depths already lived a whole world of who-knows-what. It was self-sustaining. I should be like that. It made me wonder what was inside of me.”
- Emily XR Pan – The Astonishing Color of After
Another book that made me do a little cry… several times – but yet somehow manages to break you and mend you at the same time. It’s the story of Leigh Chen Sanders, whose mother committed suicide, and whom she is convinced subsequently changed into a bird. Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents and learn more about her mother, her family and her heritage. It’s written exquisitely and has a good dose of magic as well as dealing with some really hard-hitting subjects.
“Here is my mother, with wings instead of hands, and feathers instead of hair. Here is my mother, the reddest of brilliant reds, the color of my love and my fear, all of my fiercest feelings trailing after her in the sky like the tail of a comet.”
- Celeste Ng – Little Fires Everywhere
If you haven’t heard everyone raving about this book, then frankly, where have you been? (Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are also currently starring in, and producing a series based on the book). The book tells the story of a small and seemingly perfect suburb in Ohio, and of a mother and daughter that move there (Mia and Pearl) whose rebellious and artistic sensibilities bear contrast to those of Elena Richardson, a mother who keeps her family unit tightly organised and who favours rules and routine. The novel details the relationships that develop between the two families, as well as a sub-plot about interracial adoption and how it divides the community. Again, it’s beautifully written and totally captivating – well deserving of all of the interest and accolades it garnered last year.
- Susan Bernhard – Winter Loon
I feel a little wistful about this book as I raced through it whilst in Australia; carrying my Kindle everywhere and trying not to weep as I read it in hostels and restaurants. It really is a heartbreaking and emotional read – beginning with a young boy tragically losing his mother in an accident on a frozen lake – and moving into a story of love, family, adolescence, tragedy, and the journey of self-discovery that he endures to build a life out of the tough start that he was handed. It’s so beautifully and almost lyrically written – I can’t believe it is a debut novel (it is perfect).
- Louise Penny – Still Life
I can’t remember how I came across this book – which is the first in a long series of novels by the author that feature the main character of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. It’s a murder mystery packed full of quirky characters, set in a small rural town and with lots of mystery and twists and turns. A fun, easy read (that also won lots of awards).
- Jean Hannah Edelstein – This Really Isn’t About You
Another book that moved me to tears – I am in awe of how the author skilfully managed to share a story that is at times vulnerable and sad whilst also holding so many moments of humour and hope. ‘This Really Isn’t About You’ is Jean Hannah Edelstein’s personal journey of losing her beloved Father to cancer, and also finding out she had inherited the same gene that also meant that she too would be predisposed to certain cancers. She manages to capture so many of the moments we all go through as adults when considering life, relationships, dating, and wondering if we’re making the right choices as we stumble through life, trying our best.
“I was not yet old enough to realize that I’d never really know, that there would never be a time when I could think: I am here. This is me, without becoming uncertain again a moment later.”
- Josh Malerman – Bird Box
Another book I have a feeling you will have heard of by now – though probably moreso for the Netflix film starring Sandra Bullock than the book of the same name! I listened to this on audiobook and thought it was amazing; a perfect mix of creepy horror and thriller that left me with a constant feeling of dread whilst listening! I haven’t watched the film yet but the book is excellent (and it’s currently 99p on Kindle).
- Victoria Helen Stone – Jane Doe (**)
- Catherine Steadman – Something In The Water (*)
- Lily Allen – My Thoughts Exactly (****)
- Robert Galbraith – Lethal White (****)
- Minka Kent – The Thinnest Air (**)
- Laura Pearson – Missing Pieces (***)
- Rachel Caine – Stillhouse Lake (***)
- Rachel Caine – Killman Creek (***)
- Emily Rodavich – Mystical Interludes (***)
- Andrew Hart – Lies That Bind Us (***)
- Elin Hilderbrand – The Identicals (****)
- Camilla Lackberg – The Girl In The Woods (***)
- Liz Nugent – Lying In Wait (***)
- Shari Lapena – An Unwanted Guest (***)
- Seanan McGuire – Every Heart a Doorway (***)
I’m always looking for new recommendations for books to read so please do let me know – what have you read in the last year that was great? I’m currently reading Vox by Christina Dalcher as I heard so many people talking about it that I couldn’t resist picking it up! It’s awesome so far, so it may well be appearing on my 2019 list in a year’s time…