It’s New Year’s Eve and time to get back to the tour through the books I read over the past decade. If you read my post from a few days ago, you’ll know that we’ve reached 2015 and so far, we have established I read books about vampires, lots of celebrity biographies and the odd Stephen King. Join me as I look back over the second half of the 2010s.
One author who hasn’t featured on my list up until now has been James Patterson – the most borrowed adult fiction author from libraries in recent years. He comes up once in 2014 for ‘Invisible‘ and in 2015, I read ‘Private Number 1 Suspect’ on holiday (I think it must have been in the hotel library and I needed a quick/nothing to heavy holiday book). I have nothing against Mr Patterson and enjoy the odd book but he just has too many series to contend with, though I know that each can be read as a standalone novel too. Looking throughout my list, I don’t tend to read that many series, or if I do, I like to read them all together rather than as they are published. I forget what’s happened between books and find I have to re-read the previous book to remind myself. The only exception to this rule is the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child – for some reason, I can retain those stories in my head so that each year, about this time, I am ready for the next one (I’m currently waiting for my copy of ‘Blue Moon’ to arrive – as always, there’s a long reservations list for this one).
I read quite a bit of non-fiction in 2015. From RuPaul’s ‘Letting It All Hang Out’ (I got this one through inter-library loan as we don’t have it in Warwickshire) to Aziz Ansari’s look at ‘Modern Romance‘, from Mindy Kaling’s ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?’ to Hadley Freeman’s ‘Life Moves Pretty Fast’ (a look at the lessons 80s movies can teach us), I certainly read a specific type of non-fiction! Nothing too heavy, nothing too history based (which is surprising as I love history and do read a fair bit of historical fiction) and most of what I do read has a heavy link to either celebrity or popular culture! I like narrative non-fiction – the type of book that almost reads like a novel despite it being factual. True crime books are great for this – in 2015, I read ‘Murder in Mississippi’ by Jonathan Safran which is a really eye-opening book about race in America (another topic that really interests me – I would also recommend ‘Black Klansman’ by Ron Stallworth, ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge and ‘Furious Hours’ by Casey Cep, books that I have read recently and found incredibly interesting).
In 2015, I also read a lot of novels that have since been made into films or TV shows – ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins, ‘The Miniaturist’ by Jesse Burton, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey, ‘Orange is the New Black’ by Piper Kerman and ‘All the Bright Places’ by Jennifer Niven. That leads me to pose that age old question – which is better: the book or the film? I don’t think there’s one definitive answer, though for me personally, I prefer to read the book first then see if the film matches the film that played in my mind as I read the book. One book I read in 2015 that has been made into a successful TV series but I haven’t watched for fear it would ruin my love of the book was ‘You’ by Caroline Kepnes. This was such a dark and disturbing read that gripped me from the beginning and I recommend it to as many people as I can. That and its sequel ‘Hidden Bodies’ are must reads!
In October of 2015, I also read a book that quickly charged into my “Top Reads of All Time”. I mentioned it in the previous post – ‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ and as its title suggests, it is about a small town and the bookshop opened by Sara, a Swede who has recently moved in, knowing no one but looking for a change. It strikes me writing this that this is a theme of many books that have gained popularity recently – stories of people who are looking for a new direction or who are stuck in their ways and a new direction or change in their life forces them to adapt and grow into a new person. I’m thinking here along the lines of Gail Honeyman’s ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, ‘The Library of Lost and Found’ by Phaedra Patrick (I read this this year and LOVED it!), ‘The Trick of Time’ by Kit De Waal and ‘Convenience Store Woman’ by Sayaka Murata (translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori).
2016 has a lot of books listed that, although I know I’ve read them and I must have enjoyed them as I finished them, I don’t remember too much about them. I read a lot of thrillers again – ‘After Anna’ by Alex Lake, ‘The Widow’ by Fiona Barton, ‘Luckiest Girl Alive’ by Jessica Knoll, ‘Follow Me’ by Angela Clarke, ‘Night School’ by Lee Child’. One I do remember enjoying and have since read others in the series was ‘Orphan X’ by Greg Hurwitz. This was promoted as the perfect read for anyone who enjoys Lee Child and they weren’t wrong. My dad, who is a big Lee Child fan, now also looks out for these. I also seem to have enjoyed a number of dystopian/end of the world novels – ‘The End of the World Running Club’ by Adrian J Walker sticks in my mind as a page turner that I enjoyed reading. I also read the Rick Yancey ‘5th Wave’ Young Adult series which was made into a film, ‘The Wolf Road’ by Beth Lewis, ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman and ‘The Fireman’ by Joe Hill – a doorstop of a book (as you would expect from Hill) but brilliant!
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. I read more comic non-fiction by Mindy Kaling (‘Why Not Me?’), ‘Cheer up Love’ by Susan Calman – a cheerful book about depression by the Scottish comedian who stole our hearts in Strictly and who I adore plus a fair bit of Young Adult fiction. ‘Ask the Passengers’ by A S King sticks in my mind as one that I enjoyed, while the poetic form used by Sarah Crossan in ‘One’ made it a beautiful and powerful read that I would recommend to any reader looking for something slightly different. I also read most of the ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ series by Ransom Riggs. If you’ve not come across these books, they are wonderful – they feature old and vintage photos, and use the people and buildings in those photos as inspiration for the story. On my list for 2020 is the most recent book in the series ‘A Map of Days’ which I have not yet read.
I finished 2016 reading ‘The Princess Diarist’ by Carrie Fisher who died in the last days of the year – an actress whose writing I have enjoyed and who is sorely missed (if you’ve never read ‘Postcards from the Edge’ or ‘Wishful Drinking’, I recommend them).
I was back into the thrillers in 2017, reading authors I had read before (I’m looking at you, Lee Child and ‘No Middle Name’ and at Dan Brown’s ‘Origin’) and discovering new authors. I really enjoyed ‘Friend Request’ by Laura Marshall, ‘The One’ by John Marrs, ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’ by Matthew Sullivan (loved this one!) and ‘To Kill the President’ by Sam Bourne. Looking at my list of non-fiction that I read, there were quite a few tied to the US and to the election of the previous year – I read Hilary Clinton’s ‘What Happened’, ‘If Only They Didn’t Speak English’ by John Sopel and ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ by J D Vance. I have always had a fascination with the States and continue to try to figure out what’s happening over there through the many books that are published and that feature in later years on my list (‘Fire and Fury’ by Michael Wolff, ‘When They Call You a Terrorist’ by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandale and ‘Full Disclosure’ by Stormy Daniels in 2018 and ‘To Obama: With Love, Joy, Hate and Despair’ by Jeanne Marie Laskas, ‘West Winging It’ by Pat Cunnane and ‘Yes, We (Still) Can’ by Dan Pfeiffer in 2019).
Back to 2017, and my list also reveals how I was using reading as a way of working on my mental health. I read quite a few books about grief and end of life matters which, while sounding very heavy, actually helped – one in particular that provided a lot of solace for me (so much so that after I had borrowed it from the library, I ended up buying my own copy so I could highlight bits) was ‘A Manual for Heartache’ by Cathy Rentzenbrink. The author lost her brother and this, and her other book, ‘The Last Act of Love’ are insightful books into the pathways someone can take through grief. If you’ve read a previous blog post on such writing, you’ll know other books are available and not all will suit every reader but for me, this helped. Also poignant books for me in this year were ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness (a tale of a young boy coming to terms with the loss of his mother), ‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Rio Ferdinand and ‘Hold Back the Stars’ by Katie Khan – a wonderful novel set out in space that had me crying in the staff room during the lunchtime I finished it.
Other books that I want to flag up from this year because they are ones I remember enjoying and that I think everyone should read are ‘Reading Allowed’ by Chris Paling – a look at what happens day to day in a library, ‘Margot and Me’ by Juno Dawson, who is one of my favourite authors and ‘Books, Books, Books’ by Mick Manning and Brita Granstorm (a children’s book that celebrates the history of the book – really what could be better?)
During the last two years, I’ve tried to make an effort to read more diverse titles– books by writers in the LGBTQ+ community, authors of colour, both male and female and authors with differing life experiences to my own. Books like ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘Reading with Patrick’ by Michelle Kuo and ‘Trans Britain’, edited by Christine Burns have helped me understand more about other’s experiences and develop my empathy. I want to know about how others view the world, experience and live it and it’s often through their writing that this shines brightly. I will even say that I read ‘Rude’ by Katie Hopkins in 2018, not because she’s someone I admire but because I want to try to understand the world view she has. Fiction also features in this reading for me – ‘Clean’ by Juno Dawson was an eye-opening read about drug addiction, while ‘Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy gave a view of the world of a plus sized young person. ‘Kindred’ by Octavia Butler blew me away when I read it – despite being written 40 years ago, the story it tells and the issues it raises felt very current and I would highly recommend this novel.
For 2018, I can tell you exactly what my favourite book was as it’s one that I often recommend to people – ‘The Immortalists’ by Chloe Benjamin. Without giving too much away, it’s about brothers and sisters who one day visit a psychic who tells each when they will die. The book revolves around how they deal with this news and is one that will keep you gripped throughout. My second favourite for the year was ‘Dear Fahrenheit 451’ by Annie Spence (I can tell I loved this one as next to its place on my list, I’ve drawn a heart!). A collection of love letters and break-up letters to the novels read by the author, this is a wonderful little book for anyone who enjoys reading and who maybe doesn’t always like the books they think should like.
During this year, I also read books that are coming to the big screen or a TV screen near us soon – ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ by Celeste Ng – and some that were great fun to read. ‘My Lady’s Choosing’ is a grown up ‘choose your own adventure’ book while ‘The Adults’ by Caroline Hulse has a very funny finale and a story that will be very familiar to anyone living in a “blended family”.
And so we come to this year’s reading. You might think that surely, I will be able to remember most of what I have read this year – nope! I can though remember my highlights: ‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang, ‘The Love Factory’ by Elaine Proctor and one of my favourite non-fiction books that I have ever read, ‘The Five’ by Hallie Rubenhold, a look at the lives of the women murdered by Jack The Ripper that I’ve flagged up in other posts as being brilliant!
As already mentioned and by now should be apparent, I continue to enjoy reading book-themed books and this year hasn’t disappointed. ‘The Bookish Life of Nina Hill’ by Abbi Waxman gets a big thumbs-up from me, as does ‘The Library of Lost and Found’ by Phaedra Patrick. Other novels that I have enjoyed recently are ‘Queenie’ by Candice Carty-Williams (shortlisted for a Costa book prize), ‘Postscript’ by Cecelia Ahern and ‘Furious Hours’ by Casey Cep. For my recent thriller recommendations, I would say ‘The Holiday’ by T M Logan was fantastic, ‘The Unit’ by Ninni Holmqvist was thought-provoking and, because I haven’t mentioned him in a while, ‘The First Lady’ by James Patterson and Brendan DuBios was an action-packed page turner as expected.
Despite reaching a big birthday this year (I am not going to tell which one), I read a lot of Young Adult novels as the writing in them is cracking. I wonder if a lot of readers miss out on some great novels as they don’t have a look in that section so if that’s you, why not give those shelves a browse (or have a look at our Young Adult collection on BorrowBox as there are some fantastic books on there). This year, I have particularly enjoyed ‘Dread Nation’ by Justina Ireland – a Young Adult Zombie novel set during the American Civil War – ‘They Both Die at the End’ by Adam Silvera – a novel that was both heart wrenching and a joy to read, even though the ending is given away in the title – and ‘Orphan Monster Spy’ – an amazing novel set in Nazi Germany and following the mission of the young Jewish spy sent to infiltrate an all girl’s school that hides secrets within its walls. A sequel for this one is coming out in 2020 and I cannot wait!
So there’s a quick trip through a decade of my reading. Overall, I’ve read 1395 books at the time of writing this over that ten year period (and can remember about 1% of them). I read to escape, to distract myself and to turn off at the end of the day so it’s no surprise that I don’t remember much about what I’ve read, unless I really connect with a book.
For the next decade, I’m going to continue reading a diverse range of books, slipping in the odd romance or horror novel and a Stephen King here and there (I currently have ‘The Institute‘ on my TBR pile). I will continue to seek out books that will help in some way and books that will enlighten me about the world we live in. I will continue to share the books that I love with my friends, family and colleagues (and probably on here too!)
I’d love to know what you make of my decade, especially if you’ve read all the way to the end!
As ever, happy reading and here’s to another decade of books!
Happy New Year and may 2020 be book-filled!