26 January 2020

2019's top 10 (and worst 5!) books

10 books stacked together with a check scarf behind them

2019 was really the year that 10 year old me emerged again with an INTENSE love for all things books. I delved into a whole lot of books that normally stay far far away from my radar, turned my instagram into a bookstagram, re-organised my shelves and *almost* hit my Goodreads target. 

Here are my top 10 books from 2019 - we're going to start at the bottom and lead right up to my 'if I  could only recommend one book from last year this would be it'. Two books aren't pictured above because one was a kindle read and the other I gave to a friend who I thought would love it too.

10.) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Harcastle by Stuart Turton. A murder mystery reminiscent of Agatha Christie's novels, this was one of the most confusing books I read last year. The unnamed narrator is at a party where a woman is murdered. He's forced to re-live this day over and over again in the body of a different person at the party until he discovers whodunnit.

9.) Someone we Know by Shari Lapena. My favourite thriller of the year, this is another great book by the author of The Couple Next Door. Set in a tight-knit suburban community, when a woman is murdered, suspicion is everywhere. There were so many great twists in this, and Lapena always balances the fine line of having someone you don't guess as the murderer, whilst still making them believable as the killer.

8.) Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A tale of unrequited love, this starts with the husband of Fermina Daza falling off a ladder and dying. After her childhood lover turns up at the wake, we are transported back to her youth to watch a tale of doomed love unfold.

7.) A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin. The second book in the Game of Thrones series, and the longest, this is where things really got interesting. The first 300 or so pages are all there to set the scene for the unfolding of action in the rest of the book, but it makes the action so much better than it would be otherwise.

6.) All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. This is the book that made me cry the most. Finch and Violet meet on the roof of one of their high school buildings, both contemplating jumping off. The book looks at mental illness, and particularly bipolar disorder, in such an astute way, really showing an accurate portrayal of mental health in teens.

5.) The Binding by Bridget Collins. The best LGBT love story I've read this year, with a little fantasy element rolled in. This is set in a world in which the only books are made of people's memories that they want to forget. When the main character becomes a binder, he realises that maybe there's something missing from what he can recall too.

4.) Dracula by Bram Stoker. A re-read of one of my favourite classics, this book is where a lot of our modern lore about vampires comes from. When Jonathan Harker stays at Count Dracula's castle, he notices a lot of strange things. The Count then visits England, leaving a trail of pale, blood-less women in his wake, forcing Dr Van Helsing to look into what he's always dreaded: that there might be a vampire on the loose.

3.) Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh. A crime drama novel set in modern day America. This follows the trial of a person falsely accused of his girlfriend's murder: the reader knows it's false because the murderer has managed to get onto the jury. The novel is split into the points of view of the lead defence attorney and the killer. 

2.) This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. A horrifingly poignant look into the state of the NHS by a junior doctor. Adam Kay was working in the OB/GYN department at his hospital, and kept a diary of sorts. This book is the result of that diary, telling us both very humorous stories as well as ones which are quite upsetting.

1.) Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe. This book is a full on expertly researched attack of modern diet culture. It takes you through the history of the expectations put on women (and men), debunks myths around the links between weight and health and I've bookmarked so many pages of facts to come back to that the whole thing is basically dogeared.

I really didn't expect my top 2 books of last year to be non-fiction, as it's something I rarely delve into, but it's been so worth it this year. I read a lot of variety in terms of genre, but always come back to crime/thriller books, and it shows. 

Steph wearing an orange jumper holding a book stack on top of her palm

And now for my bottom five - these aren't ranked in order of worst to best, and I'm sure some people love them, but they just didn't hit the spot for me.

A stack of five books next to a small lit candle

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. Literary realism is something I really struggle to get into. Whilst this book did analyse what a conversation is and what a friend is, it really seems to me to be this analysis forced across through mundane communication. The only thing it really had going for it was that it explored endometriosis in the most straightforward way I've come across in books.

The Hunting of the Last Dragon by Sherryl Jordan. This came with a whole lot of icky feeling. I'd read a few of Sherryl Jordan's books as a teen and regret revisiting this. The whole premise is that a white man is trying to kill the last dragon left where he lives. He 'rescues' a Chinese woman from a circus that are keeping her as part of their freak show, but he never truly trusts her, thinking she's trying to manipulate him because she's not a native of his country.  He thinks it's kind to throw a bucket of water over her instead of leaving her unable to wash. As the book's told solely from his point of view, it feels like the author is trying to force his low opinion of the woman who eventually he 'falls in love' with on the reader.

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sara Manning. Maybe it's because I've not read Vanity Fair which this is based on, but this is a book I really struggled to get through. The main character Becky Sharp is obsessed with become rich and famous. After placing second on Big Brother, she does whatever she can to try and secure her bag, always in a duplicitous way. She was just such an unlikable character that whenever the tension was picking up I struggled to feel invested because I didn't care if she got pushed back down again.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This was another book that just made me feel quite uncomfortable. Set in an office, the main character is an IT guy who looks at automatically flagged emails and decides whether they really ought to be flagged as not being entirely related to work. However, as he reads more and more flagged emails from two women who spend their days gossiping and chatting over email he begins to fall in 'love' with one of them. He then pursues her in a way he thinks will be amenable because he knows so much about her. It's creepy and absolutely not okay, but it's portrayed as being totally fine in the book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. The basic premise of this book is a good one: two very different boys with the exact same name meet completely coincidentally. However, one of the boys is gay, and has a whole load of internalised homophobia that comes with it. His partner in the book is fat, and the language surrounding that is truly horrifying. To a point where I'm not sure why the editors didn't cut it?!

What books would you recommend to try or to steer clear of that you read last year?!

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  1. I loved this is going to hurt, I really need to read more medical inspired books. The binding is a book I keep see cropping up, I will have to pick it up x

    1. I read The Prison Doctor too this year but I was nowhere near as much of a fan. Honestly, The Binding is such a good read once you get past it being a little slow

      Steph x

  2. someone we know sounds really good!! Loved that youve included those that didn't float your boat as well. For me, Will Grayson Will Grayson was one of those books that I read when I was younger and absolutely loved!
    Charlotte / Charlotte's Picks

    1. I really enjoyed it! I probably would have liked WIll Grayson Will Grayson when I was younger too, but I just couldn't get behind it now

      Steph x


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