Tuesday, 31 December 2019

My top 10 books of 2019

Last year I set myself the challenge of reading a book a week. If you read the blog post I wrote about the experience, then you will know that it was absolutely hell and I didn’t enjoy a single second.

So! With this in mind, this year I set a much more comfortable target of 30 books. While I was lagging behind at about the six month mark, I caught back up and finished my 30th book just before Christmas.

I read some real corkers this year, so what better way to end the year on my blog (and the first post since September, oops) with a list of my top 10? Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration for what to pick up next and do let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations for my next read.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

It may be a great film, but the big screen just doesn’t fully do justice to the depth of the world Kwan created in Crazy Rich Asians the novel. It’s hugely complex, with so many different threads to follow and multiple narrators which really give you the opportunity to dig deep into every corner of the whole situation – something I think the film lacks a little. There’s also a huge discrepancy between the ending of the film and the ending of the novel, with two more books to follow which amazingly, completely live up to the first. It’s a perfect holiday read as it’s a great escape and it’s the sort of novel I’d recommend to everyone. You would be hard pressed to dislike it.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Half the Sky is a huge wake up call. Written by a husband and wife team, the book is about the oppression of women worldwide and focuses on areas such as sex trafficking, rape, education, maternal mortality, FGM and most importantly – solutions. I think it’s very easy to find yourself stuck in a bubble of your own experiences and problems and while we all keep up with the news, a lot of the time (at least in my experience) there’s still often a distance. What this book does well is really take you into these different communities, describe what it happening, why it’s ongoing, who is trying to change things and how you can support the change too. Parts of it are truly harrowing to read and upsetting but there’s also a great deal of hope in the book too. Things can change and there are so many people and organisations, both within the communities being discussed and elsewhere in the world, who are trying to change things for the better. It’s a book I’ll never forget.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

While I enjoyed Celeste Ng’s debut novel Everything You Never Told Me, the writing felt quite distant and it felt as if you were being held at arm’s length, something totally contrasted in Little Fires Everywhere. The second novel does a much better job of planting you right in the middle of the action, yet still as a little bit of an outsider. It’s almost ghostly, following all of these characters and the threads they are tugging in their individual lives and watching it all tangle into a huge knot in the middle, waiting for one of them to trip up. She has a great way of making you feel for every character and aching for the mess they’re creating, whether you agree with what they’re doing or not. More often than not, you have absolutely no idea which the right outcome should be.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

The chances are if you haven’t already read this book then you will definitely have heard about it and because of this, my own expectations were very high when I picked it up. Dolly has such a gorgeous prose style and a way of writing that makes it feel like you’re reading a book written by a friend. She perfectly captures the essence that I think so many people in their twenties feel; of just being a little bit stuck and not exactly sure if you’re going in the direction you should be. It’s a really comforting read, it’s funny, it’s sad and it definitely made me feel a little bit less alone.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

I’d never read anything like Hunger before. I’ve admired Roxane’s writing for a while and if you follow her on Twitter then you will know she is one feisty lady, but this was the first of her books I’d ever picked up. I knew a little bit about her background and the horrific violence she endured as a child but it was a very sobering passage to read in her own words and the effect this moment has had on her entire life going forward from that. A lot of the time, I try to find books that will give me an insight or help to understand realities and experiences that are wholly different from mine and this is definitely one of them. It’s said best on the back of the book, really, with “Roxane explores what it means to be overweight in a time when the bigger you are, the less you are seen.” It’s an important read.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I’ve had this one on my shelf for ages after seeing it on one of those lists of the books you should read before you die. It stayed unread because it seemed intense and I thought it would be a difficult one to get through, but the narration is so endearing that once you start, it’s hard to stop. The novel traverses place, time and even reality, and while on paper this wouldn’t necessarily be one I’d usually pick, it’s such a special story that really tugs on your heartstrings.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

A novel I found really hard to put down. Normal People, if I’m being totally honest, was kind of heartbreaking to read sometimes. It was so honest and human and so full of moments where you wanted to reach through the pages and grab the two central characters and just shake them. You really become invested in the lives and emotions of Connell and Marianne, how they exist as people on their own and also the invisible threads that keep them tied together for so many years, no matter the physical distance they may put between themselves. It’s difficult to describe how much the writing just grabs you and doesn’t let go. It’s all-encompassing and I just wish Sally Rooney had written more novels because it’s an addictive feeling I’d love to get more of.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

This was Sally Rooney’s debut novel and while it doesn’t get as much hype as Normal People, I absolutely loved this one too. I’ve found it kind of hard trying to sell her novels to other people as so much of what makes them wonderful is the essence within the pages more than the plot or anything else that might be easy to pin down. Conversations with Friends focuses on two best friends and the odd relationships they experience when they become involved with an older couple consisting of an artist and an actor. While Normal People may be Sally’s more celebrated work, it’s Conversations with Friends that I find myself thinking back to most often.

Christodora by Tim Murphy

Christodora is a beautiful weave of stories, set against the background of the AIDS epidemic and the fight for queer rights in the late 80s and early 90s, all the way up to the present day and beyond. It features narratives from different class groups, identities, races, sexualities and how all of these impact on life experience; something that is most obvious in the way that the novel deals with addiction. At times it definitely isn’t an easy read but it’s so important to engage with these stories and, for a novel that deals with so many dark subject areas, it’s ultimately a really uplifting read that feels like a tribute to the people who fought so hard for the freedom that so many in the queer community can now experience today.

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I can quite easily say that this is the loveliest book I’ve ever read. It was so wonderful that I read it twice in a row and if that’s not a glowing recommendation, then I don’t know what is. Did you know that you needed a novel about America’s bisexual, half-Mexican First Son falling in love with the Prince of Wales? No? Well you were wrong! This book was so much fun to read, laugh out loud funny, quite emotional at times and such a refreshing break from the absolutely clusterfuck that is the real world right now. Take a break from it all and just enjoy a heartwarming little gay love story instead. You won’t regret it.



  1. I loved Crazy Rich Asians, the book better than the movie. This is a great blog.

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