2019 was a year of reading for me. After a good few years of drought, I found my love of books again and I read or listened to 24 of them altogether.
The below list isn’t ground breaking and there’s nothing you won’t have come across if you’re up on your bestseller lists (or, frankly, if you listen to The High Low podcast – where I get most of my recommendations!). But if you’re looking for your first read for 2020, here are five of my favourites…
Normal People – Sally Rooney
If you like a lot of plot with your biscuit, you’re probably not going to be a big fan of Sally Rooney.
With that said, I love how Rooney writes characters and dialogue, perfectly capturing the frustrations of the things we leave unsaid.
I devoured Normal People in a few days over the summer; a masterpiece of characterisation and the theatre of personal relationships.
The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
This wasn’t the best written memoir I read in 2019, but it was probably the most heartfelt and thought provoking.
The Salt Path deals with the things which can happen to any of us when life takes an unexpected downturn.
When they found themselves homeless, Raynor Winn and her husband – whose health was in decline – took to walking the south west coastal path.
The Salt Path is a really interesting examination of what the human spirit can endure, as well as challenging your perceptions of what it means to be homeless.
Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield
This is a late entry as I finished it in December. I’m including it here because it’s perfectly pitched between being not too taxing and still well written, which is something I struggle to find in novels.
If you like a good old fashioned story with that rarest of things these days, a proper ending, you’ll enjoy Once Upon a River.
The book is set around the Thames in Oxfordshire and has a beautiful and evocative sense of place.
Sitting somewhere at the crossroads between historical fiction, mystery and romance, you can’t help but fall under its spell.
Becoming – Michelle Obama
I listened to the audio version of this book, which Michelle narrates herself (I love audiobooks for memoirs).
It’s every bit as inspiring and kick-ass as you would expect from Michelle Obama, a queen who walks among us.
It also gave a fascinating insight into what it’s like to become one of the world’s most famous families, and how you might attempt to cling on to normality.
Educated – Tara Westover
Can you tell I love a memoir? This will come as no surprise to anyone as this book has been hugely popular, and deservedly so.
It gives a glimpse into a world so extreme, it’s hard to imagine it existing alongside our own.
Westover’s non-judgmental portrayal of her early life and later wrangles with her family will leave you racing through the pages.
Side note: there are some incidents in this book which will make your eyes water – one for your shelf if you love a bit of health and safety (who doesn’t?)!
A few honorary mentions
I also really enjoyed Everything I Know About Love (the most relatable memoir I’ve ever read), City of Girls (a riotous trip through 1940s and 50s New York) and My Sister, the Serial Killer (a super fresh and unexpectedly fun novel you’ll read in a few hours).
My stinker of the year was Milkman, which I waded through about 50 pages of before deciding I’d rather throw it at someone who I intensely dislike than have to finish it. The Booker Prize judges loved it; I need paragraphs.
So there you have my 2019 in books! I’m excited for the stories, perspectives and experiences I’ll get to absorb through my 2020 reads.
Let me know if you discovered a new favourite in 2019.