For the past few years I’ve been setting myself reading challenges, with a target number of books to get through each year. After being an avid reader of Alison Willson as a child, and Harry Potter as a teen, I fell out of love with reading in my early twenties. It wasn’t a conscious decision, just that other things took priority, but after making more effort to carve out the time to sit with a good book, I’ve learnt now that I couldn’t be without it.
Reading for me is one of those activities like knitting. It allows you the time and space to switch off from things and recuperate your energy, while flexing your creativity. I set myself the target to read 30 books in 2018. It was the same as the year before, and felt like a manageable number, and that turned out to be right. Even with a big gap around the time that I moved, partly caused by that, but mostly caused by the one book that won’t make it on this list, because I just couldn’t get through it – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m not really one to give up on things, but after a long stretch of weeks without progressing, I knew it was time to throw in the towel and move on to better things. So, here’s the list of everything I read this year, with a few comments thrown in…
- Radio Silence | Alice Oseman
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race | Reni Eddo-Lodge*
- Some Kind of Wonderful | Giovanna Fletcher
- 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot | Richard Wiseman
- The Help | Kathryn Stockett
- Under the Udala Trees | Chinelo Okparanta
- Furiously Happy | Jenny Lawson
- The Nowhere Girls | Amy Reed
- Coming Clean | Kimberly Rae Miller
- Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? | Mindy Kaling
- Chocolat | Joanne Harris*
- Nina is Not OK | Shappi Khorsandi
- I Let You Go | Clare Mackintosh
- The Art of Being Normal | Lisa Williamson
- The Time Traveler’s Wife | Audrey Niffenegger
- The Girl on the Train | Paula Hawkins*
- One Day | David Nicholls
- Like Water for Chocolate | Laura Esquivel*
- Only Ever Yours | Louise O’Neill*
- Me Before You | Jojo Moyes
- Life of Pi | Yann Martel
- The Cows | Dawn O’Porter*
- The Lollipop Shoes | Joanne Harris
- Jayne Eyre | Chartlotte Brontë
- The Viscount Who Loved Me | Julia Quinn
- Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal | Jeanette Winterson
- Affinity | Sarah Waters
- Dying in the Wool | Frances Brody*
- Peaches for Monsieur le Curé | Joanne Harris
- The Hating Game | Sally Thorne
- Becoming | Michelle Obama*
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race | Reni Eddo-Lodge
I must read this book again. In fact, I think that everyone should read this book. It should be compulsory. I learnt so much from it, about black history and white privilege and it ignited a fire in me to become a better ally. I’ve got so much to learn, we all do, and this is where we can start. The first time round it gave me the determination. I’m hoping the second time round I’ll take away some tangible actions I can build into my life to be better to and for people of colour. Side note: I also plan to carve out time in the new year to work through Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy Workbook, which is relevant to this topic.
Chocolat | Joanne Harris
I love this book, and I read the whole series this year. It’s beautifully written, and it sweeps you into a world of magic and love, exploring change and relationships in a way that got me hooked. Picking up Peaches for Monsieur le Curé towards the end of the year, and reading the first chapter, felt like coming home. I don’t often re-read, favouring a new story over one I already know, but I definitely see myself coming back to this one in the future.
Like Water for Chocolate | Laura Esquivel
Similarly to Chocolat, there’s an element of magical realism to this book that I love. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was so drawn in by the structure of the book that I read the whole thing in one afternoon.
Only Ever Yours | Louise O’Neill
I was intrigued by the concept of this book but, sadly, it fell way short for me. It barely touched on so many elements of the subject that could have been explored, and while it had the potential to be an intelligent and much-needed lesson, it turned out to be one-dimensional and shallow.
The Cows | Dawn O’Porter
Unfortunately, this was another book that missed the mark for me. I really like Dawn O’Porter from other things, but The Cows felt to me like such a try-hard attempt at progressiveness that it ended up being absurd. The key plot point that kicks off the book is entirely unbelievable, and there’s so much lacking in its attempt to be feminist. Probably my least favourite book of the year.
Dying in the Wool | Frances Brody
I picked this one up at my local Little Free Library, and I thought it might be a fun read because there’s a nod to the wool industry and it’s set right around where I live. Honestly, I didn’t expect much from it, but I was pleasantly surprised. The mystery unfolded slowly enough to keep my inner-detective interested, while the references to local villages made everything feel so quaint and personal.
Becoming | Michelle Obama
I’ve loved everything I’ve seen about Michelle Obama, and so I was always going to read this book. I wasn’t sure what I expected to take away from it, but what I did get was an overwhelming motivation to show up more – for the people in my life, for the people in my community and for the people in my country. It further fanned the flame that was ignited in me this year to be a better ally, and use my privilege to lift others. I’ve got the drive now, I just need to learn what to do with it.
Looking back on the books I read this year, and ahead to 2019, I definitely want to read more non-fiction. This year reading has served to allow me to detach a little and get lost in other worlds, but next year I want to learn more. I’m sure I’ll re-read Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, and I’ve already downloaded You Are a Badass at Making Money to my Kindle. If you’ve got any suggestions for other non-fiction, let me know! I always love to see what other people have enjoyed reading.