The 10 Best Books I’ve Read So Far This Year
If you follow me on Instagram, or are subscribed to my newsletter (Letter & Notes, you can sign up to receive it every Monday morning below), you will know that I like to read! I’m currently on my 34th book of the year (Emma Healey’s Whistle in the Dark), yet I don’t think I read that many books in the whole of 2017. I’m usually a very sporadic reader. Finishing a book in the space of a couple of days, and then not picking anything else up for a few weeks. But one of my new year resolutions was to develop a more consistent reading habit. And so far, so good! I actually have my newsletter to thank quite a bit for it, as I love reviewing a book or two each week, and use it as a motivator when I find myself drifting towards Netflix in the evening.
I’m also a strong believer in reading books you actually enjoy, not just the ones you think you should read. I joked with the owner of my independent bookstore the other day that everyone has bought Sapiens, very few people have read it (and I’m one of the guilty. It’s sitting on my bedside table). It’s probably a great book, but it does look rather dense! Having said that I have tried to challenge myself this year by reading a few books outside of my reading comfort zone (The Women’s Prize for Fiction sort of books), and two of them have made this list – Educated, and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Both I was unsure about when I picked them up. Both I read in less than two days.
As with my newsletter, I won’t link to Amazon on here. I know we all use it, but please do try to support your local bookshop as much as possible. My personal aim is to buy at least 50% of my books from there. If you don’t understand why I won’t link, have a read of this article written by James Bloodworth for The Sunday Times (and not behind the paywall)
So anyway, here are my favourite ten books that I’ve read this year so far.
Educated | Tara Westover
I don’t read much memoir; I find the insides of people’s imaginations far more interesting than their actual lives, but this book made me rethink that. Tara grew up in a Mormon, survivalist family, and was kept out of school, yet she went on to earn a PhD from Cambridge, and to study at Harvard. There’s a brutality to her childhood that I found really uncomfortable to read, but her tenacity and dedication to learning was so inspiring. I couldn’t put it down, and genuinely can’t recommend it highly enough!
Everything I Know About Love | Dolly Alderton
This book was every bit as good as I hoped it would be! I love how honest and whole her story is, and how she includes the bits that are normally cut away to make for a cleaner narrative. It’s a very real portrait of living your twenties in London, and there was so much I could identify with (and I lot that I couldn’t – I was never half as wild!) The relationship between her and her best friend Farly is possibly one of the most loving love stories I’ve ever read.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race | Reni Eddo-Lodge
I’m not going to lie, this book made for every uncomfortable reading, and I found it very confronting of my own white privilege. There was a lot I wasn’t even aware of (most of the occurrences in the histories chapter I had scant knowledge of at best), or had even thought about (the chapter on feminism was particularly eye-opening). It definitely deserves a second reading in a month or two’s time.
The Year of Less | Cait Flanders
This book is both a very personal account of a year in which Cait followed a self-imposed shopping ban and got rid of 70% of her belongings, and a very sharp, insightful look at our consumerist culture and habits. The one thing that really stuck with me from it is that she says how much she’d bought previously for the person she wanted to be, rather than the person she actually is. And I found myself wincing in recognition! All those intelligent non-fiction books (see comment above about Sapiens), too-cool for me clothes, and gadgets that I’ll never use.
You Are Going To Survive | Alexandra Franzen
I am a fully paid up member to the Alexandra Franzen fan club. I just love everything she does. And this book is no exception: there are nuggets of wisdom on every page. I also listened to her latest episode of Nic Antoniette’s Real Talk Radio podcast, and I love how unapologetically enthusiastic and uncool she is! (And I now have Magic Mike XXL on my Netflix Watch List!)
Circe | Madeline Miller
I adored Madeline’s first novel, The Song of Achilles and her second did not disappoint. It’s a retelling of Greek myth, with plenty of familiar names, through a modern, feminist lens. The language is rich and satisfying, and gives more than a nod to Homer’s poetry, and there’s a real propulsion to story – I ate it up over the course of a couple of days.
The Party | Elizabeth Day
Impeccably well written, but with the pace, twists and excitement of a thriller. The Party looks a friendship, privilege and class with a really sharp eye, and I’m now very keen to read more of Elizabeth Day’s work (Home Fire is in my to-read pile)
Home Fire | Kamila Shamsie
A contemporary reworking of the story of Antigone. It’s about three siblings, one of whom goes to work for the media arm of Isis. I really, really enjoyed it, far more thanBurnt Shadows, one of her previous novels which I remember feeling quite dense and slow. The last scene in particular has really stayed with me; it’s so vivid and visceral.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine | Gail Honeyman
This is hands down the best book I’ve read this year, perhaps including all of last year as well. It’s about lots of things: trauma, loneliness, friendship, romance, but mainly I think about kindness. You really see how small, simple acts of kindness can have an impact on people’s lives.
Little Fires Everywhere / Everything I Never Told You | Celeste Ng
I couldn’t choose which of these novels to include so I went with both!
At the heart of Little Fires Everywhere is an ethical dilemma that I went back and forth on repeatedly. It’s really cleverly done, and is one of those rare books that keeps you thinking AND turning the page. Everything I Never Told You treads the same line between being totally unputdownable, and thought-provoking beyond when you do.
What’s been the best book you’ve read so far this year?
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