This year I have read more books than the past three combined, it all started when I discovered GoodReads and the option to set a reading challenge for the year. I am both flaky and stubborn but in this instance my competitive edge won out and I have almost completed my reading challenge for the year. Currently I’m reading Notes from a Nervous Planet and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Once I finish those two I will be triumphant!
I thought I’d put this post together to look back at all the great stories I’ve read this year and hopefully give your some inspiration for 2019 – or your Christmas shopping if you’ve got a bookish friend. When I’ve written my own full review i’ll link to that so you can dive deeper if you wish – they’re all spoiler free.
The first book I read in 2018 was my Secret Santa present from Chantal. Nobody Told Me is a a memoir of parenthood by poet Hollie McNish. It’s a wonderfully funny, raw and relatable collection of poems woven together to tell the story of the first year of new parenthood. An absolute must read, Hollie is a true wordsmith.
I quickly followed up with the lighter Heartburn by Nora Ephron – I picked this up in a charity shop, intrigued by Nigella Lawsons glowing endorsement. I really enjoyed Heartburn and would recommend it to anyone.
“Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.”
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was fabulous in my opinion, unfortunately I do think it went on to be over hyped and as a result I’m hearing a lot of people say they were underwhelmed. I really enjoyed it although it was long and at times the language was hard to connect to – that was part of the charm and the authors intention in my opinion.
My next read was The Power by Naomi Alderman, a gripping story set in a strange future telling the story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women. I found it a little unsettling at times as the world was so familiar yet totally alien – it was quite dystopian. All in I absolutely loved it and consider it to be a modern feminist masterpiece. Truly thought provoking.
Another challenging book from 2018 was Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò. Stay With Me tells the story of a young couple Yejide and Akin who fall in love and navigate the expectations of marriage in 1980s Nigeria. They couple struggle to conceive, a burden which is firmly laid at Yejides’ door. It’s certainly not a book I could easily pick up and set down – not that it didn’t pull me in, just that I found I needed to be mentally prepared to sit down and devour a good few chapters at a time. Another fantastic pick for a fan of feminist fiction.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a really short read but one you’d revisit again and again. What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics.
I don’t know if you can relate but as someone who loves both film and print I often find myself in a little dilemma… Do I read the book before watching an acclaimed film and risk seeing spoilers on social media or do I read the book first and risk not being able to connect with the film as I’ve built the characters up in a certain way already? In this case I decided to read Room by Emma Donoghue and I’m really glad I did. I absolutely adored this story – in particular the very subtle mentions of extended breastfeeding.
“Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.”
Room is chilling, nerve-racking and extremely touching. I’m yet to watch the film but I love Brie Larson and i’m sure she did it justice.
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter was funny, challenging and thoroughly relatable. The Cows is the story of three women whos lives collide in the most modern and unusual ways you could think of. The book has it all – sex, shame, judgement, motherhood, grief. A must read!
If you read enough you’ll eventually find something that is taxing, or that you don’t connect with. For me that book was The Awkward Age. There were aspects of it I loved, but I just couldn’t fully relate with any of the characters – I feel like I was too old for the teenagers and too young for the parents.
Truly Madly Guilty by Lianne Moriarty was a blast! I absolutely love her work (Big Little Lies?!) and TMG didn’t disappoint. I loved the complexities of the relationships, the tension and of course waiting for the mystery to be revealed. Click here for a more in depth review by fellow blogger The Life of Spicers.
I would describe The Language of Kindness at the antidote to This Is Going To Hurt – I loved both books for very different reasons. If you’re looking for a memoir that is sensitive, moving and powerful then The Language of Kindness is for you. The Language of Kindness is a portal into a world the general public come into contact with frequently throughout life but never fully experience, how lucky we are. The business of life, care and death is a conflicting and often desperate one. With her careful story telling and meshing of anecdotes with medical history Christie lifts the curtain and invites the reader into a sacred place. To say I was moved is an understatement.
Fierce by Gin Phillips is a short but tense novel focussing on possibly the three worst hours of the protagonists life. Joan is a mother visiting the zoo with her four year old son. As a parent to a pre-schooler I felt instantly at home with how Phillips painted a picture of this duo, in tune with each-other, embedded in their routines, how the everyday can be beautifully boring. I wryly smiled when I could see a lot of myself in Joan, her mind wandering and whirring whilst Lincoln played in the sandpit. Just as you’re feeling comfortable the predictable day is violently interrupted by a sense of dread when Joan realises she can hear gunfire in the zoo… surely not?
Sticking with the theme of tension and terror I then read Lullaby by Leïla Slimani. From the very first page it’s clear that this is going to be a bumpy ride as we’re confronted with the fact that two small children have been brutally murdered in their own home. If you want an insight into culture, class, immigration and domestic servitude in France played out in the background of an unspeakable crime Lullaby is for you.
Mother by Hannah Begbie is the story of Cath, Dave and their daughter Mia as they face a devastating Cystic Fibrosis diagnosis. More than that, it’s a story about little things. About actions and consequence. Cause and effect. The ripple effect that can bring a world crashing down. I think what makes Mother so compelling is that Hannah Begbies own son has Cystic Fibrosis. I feel like she really shines a light on the condition in this novel and speaks for many parents who want to scream in the face of platitudes.
Little Fires Everywhere was one of my favourite books this year. If you’re a fan of suburban mystery and winding plots this is the book for you. I was so gripped by Big Little Lies and this certainly has a similar vibe, in fact Reese Witherspoon has snapped up the rights already!
I had wanted to read The Keeper of Lost Things for a long time so when I saw it for 50p in a charity shop I pounced. I really enjoyed it especially how all the characters interactions forced them to confront their pasts and futures. The whimsical descriptions and weaving plot were really soothing to me. My friend Laura wasn’t as impressed…
“An easy, light read to ease back into book club after the summer holidays with so much potential. However I found that the story didn’t live up to the hype.
A myriad of short stories interwoven together as the “lost things” are reunited with their owners, each with a story to tell alongside two other main plots the book felt as though it was being pulled in numerous directions and I had difficulty in empathising with the main characters I should have been rooting for. The book was too busy and I found the focus of the lost things were things that were replaceable, not memorable and definitely things you wouldn’t go looking for after many years had passed. A hair bobble for example.
If you’re looking for something easy to read, with some feel good factors and a nice ending of the story with all ends neatly tied then this book is for you. If you’re looking for something to get your teeth into, where you empathise and feel for the main protagonists in the story? I’d move on.”
The fun of half term meant I started to slip behind on my reading goals a little but One Day in December kickstarted my habit again. It’s a sweet, festive, romantic novel with twists and turns that give the classic formula a modern update. I especially loved Silver’s rich description and how she honed in on every little detail. I really felt like I was there sharing the defining moments in all their glory.
My Mum really enjoyed This Is Going to Hurt so I was eager to read it too. I thought it was a real triumph and testaments to NHS staff keeping the country on their feet whilst they are forced to their knees. I have seen some criticism online about how the author talks about womens’ choices in birth – those passages didn’t really bother me as I took it from his standpoint and am not easily riled by stories. However if birth is a sensitive subject for you I’m not sure I could reccomend This is Going to Hurt.
This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.
I needed a little merriment after a run of dark tales so I picked up Michael Morpurgos’ adaption of The Snowman. It’s a super quick read with delightful illustrations that’s suitable for the whole family – a lovely book to share at Christmas.
My final read (so far) was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I must have finished it in two days or less – the story was so compelling and moving. For a more in-depth review check out this post by LeeLeeLoves. I have the sequel waiting for me and if I manage to finish my current reads this year it’ll be the jewel in the crown I’m sure.
Phew! What a year, I really must go now so I can try to finish Notes from a Nervous Planet and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race before the New Year! I’d love to hear what your favourite reads of 2018 where so I can start building next years list. So far I have 42 on my ‘want to read’ list but I think I’ll set a more modest challenge of 24 books for 2019.