Books of 2019

I spend a lot of time scrolling through Twitter, Instagram and Reddit on my phone. I waste so much time taking in the sort of temporary news and narration that is ultimately completely useless to me. Someone had pasta for lunch. An agony aunt has some irrelevant advice.

Now I have a Kindle, I'm making the effort to actually use it. I've also got, oh, about a million paperbacks to plough through. So here is my ongoing list of everything I've read this year, and what I thought of them. Hopefully you'll find something you end up reading and liking as much as I did.

My Kindle wishlist can be found here... If you're feeling generous, of course.




My Year Of Rest And Relaxation
Ottessa Moshfegh

I devoured my first book of the year in a full day. The first half left me feeling sleepy; an envious response to the protagonist who attempts an opiate-induced year of sleep in order to reset and restart her life. The second half kept me up until 2am until I had finished the story, unable to put it down.





My Sister The Serial Killer 
Oyinkan Braithwaite

My desk was a haven of unfinished novels until I received a Kindle for my birthday and had a twelve hour shift at work. I read this in a day between performances, hooked by the offbeat, fragmented narration and flawed characters.





Dark Pines 
Will Dean

A murder mystery in a wintery Swedish forest, I'd heard good things about this on Twitter so purchased the ebook as it was 99p on the Kindle store. I wasn't disappointed; Tuva Moodyson is probably the first deaf LGBT protagonist I've encountered and I walked around with her voice in my head between readings. I cried at the end.




Sealed
Naomi Booth

I was pretty blown away by Sealed, an apocalypticish novel where people's skin starts closing up, sealing them in. It read more like an allegory for health anxiety in parts and the writing was beautiful, one of the most stylistically enjoyable books I'd read in a long time.





Vox 
Christina Dalcher

A dystopia in the same vein as The Handmaid's Tale, I enjoyed the build up more than the end events of the story. A little heavy handed at times but still a fascinating premise, especially detailing how fascist states are created and their people are brainwashed. It sounds horrible to say, but I wanted more time with Jean when she was limited to 100 words, rather than her immunity as a neurolinguistic genius.




Red Snow
Will Dean 

The second Tuva Moodysen mystery, following on from Dark Pines. I liked this one less, but that's not to say I disliked it. I liked being in Tuva's head and reading more of her during her downtime from playing detective. Her praises are sung for being an excellent reporter with a knack for getting people to open up to her, but I think Will Dean struggled to show that. Additionally, and I feel bad for saying this as the geography and character of the town is so intrinsic to these novels, but there was so much to-ing and fro-ing between locations that it got really tiresome. But I would definitely read a third book!

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life
Samantha Irby

I loved this essays. I almost woke my boyfriend up during the night because I was laughing so hard whilst reading. Because Samantha Irby has such a  disitinctive, strong voice and a knack for just getting it that I'm both super jealous and mad that she doesn't already have ten more books I can tear through next.




Forever
Judy Blume

The shameful teenage secret, read under duvets to learn what sex was. Upon re-reading, I hated Michael with every fibre of my being. Forever is a quick read and realistically bleak. It's not needlessly dramatic and I think it captures teenage relationships pretty well. Ralph, though.





The Vegetarian
Han Kang

It really annoys me that I can't give this half stars on Goodreads, because it's a solid 3.5. I was enamoured at the beginning but would have preferred to stay in the first story rather, told from the husband's perspective. The book is haunting and sad, and easy to get lost in - but not only in a positive way.





Would You Rather?
Katie Heaney

A selection of essays by an author formerly known for her selection of essays on never having had a boyfriend.. turns out she was gay all along! A book of interesting and relatable self-exploration, and if I wasn't living with my male partner I would probably proclaim myself "more gay now" because of it.





Wilful Disregard
Lena Andersson

I wrote on twitter that reading this felt like someone had put all my crushes since I was thirteen in a blender and then made me drink it. This short novel is about ghosting and romantic disinterest and I had to keep putting it down to grab my camera and take a photo of the page.





Calypso
David Sedaris

You really can't go wrong with Sedaris; I've enjoyed everything he's ever written and just being in his head is like eating comfort food. That's not to say it's simple; he's an excellent writer which is demonstrated in his ability to show you such clear snapshots of his life. I laughed out loud.





The Pisces
Melissa Broder

I feel conflicted about this book, and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. I disliked it, then loved it, then got burnt out on it I think. It's a lot. I love the story but the excessive philosophizing bogs the book down. It's best when not everything is being spelled out to the reader. She got me reading Sappho though.




I'll Be Gone In The Dark
Michelle McNamara

For me, this book stalled around 40% in. It's definitely not a pick-up-put-down book, as it's filled with names concerning the prolific spree of rape and murder of the Golden State Killer. I read a lot of it in sporadic hours before bed, so after a while details of the cases started to blur. And there's the fact that the end of the book is so unsatisfying, through no fault of McNamara who died before she could finish it. But after two weeks with the book, finishing it felt anticlimatic.


The Incurable Romantic
Frank Tallis

Written by relationship therapist and psychologist Frank Tallis, these short stories document his encounters with people on the extreme end of the love spectrum. It's certainly interesting, but loses steam after the third of fourth story, and a lot of the middle is filler. The stories get shorter, as if he ran out of ideas before he had enough material.




The New Me
Halle Butler

Short and punchy, and brilliantly capturing both the existential dread of the 9-to-5 and the annoyance of other humans. Once I settled into Millie's inner voice, the book was a relatable exaggeration of temping, unemployment ad purpose. Deserves the comparison to My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much.




Daisy Jones & The Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid

By the halfway mark, I forgot this was fiction. The interview format this story takes really works, and Taylor Jenkins Reid has managed to create real people from these characters, people who make us feel their pain. I loved it.






Forever, Interrupted
Taylor Jenkins Reid

I went straight from Daisy into a previous book by the same author, and I'm afraid I set my expectations too high. It's a good rendition of grief but overall felt basic as a story. I kept waiting for something dramatic to happen (again, overhyped myself) and the novel as a whole failed to make much of an impression.




The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath

I read The Bell Jar as a teenager (of course) and figured it was time to repeat the process. I had forgotten most of what happens, so the beginning with its seemingly normal young-woman-in-New-York happenings threw me off a bit. But The Bell Jar is and has been a depression classic for sad girls since the sixties and immensely powerful considering Plath killed herself a month after its publication in the UK.



Acts of Infidelity
Lena Andersson

Only two of her novels have been translated into English, but Lena Andersson has nevertheless become one of my favourite writers. This novel was so stressful to read, in a good way. It's like having a circular conversation with a friend and feeling that frustrated resignation that comes from knowing you have to let them make their own mistakes. I loved it.




The Death Of Grass
John Christopher

A bleak look at the collapse of civilisation (on a small scale) as all the world's grass withers and dies. Kind of like a British Blindness in its depressing and swift abandonment of morality. Despite this it's a short, impactful apocalypse read.





Suicide Club
Rachel Heng

The idea of a world of "lifers" and eternal living is so cool from a fictional perspective. Unfortunately, the story itself doesn't make the most of this dystopia. The story drags and feels muddled, and one can't help but feel they are watching a much more interesting plot disappear into the distance, leaving you with this one instead. I mean, it's not awful but it could have been so much more.



Almost Love
Louise O'Neill

The fact that the protagonist is so unlikeable only made me read onwards, finishing the book in less than a day. Sarah completely fucks up her life in pursuit of a man with no interest in her, and it's a stark and honest look at the bad decisions people make.





Alanna - The First Adventure
Tamora Pierce

I never read these books as a kid, and I'm sort of sad I missed out on them. A girl pretending to be a boy, doing boy things? Child Red would have loved that, and found a new favourite character to join George from the Famous Five. For a YA book written in 1983, I was impressed that the author talked about periods!




Strange Weather In Tokyo
Hiromi Kawakami
This was such an affecting slice of life tale, an unconventional love story. Am I rooting for these two weirdos? They're a hard pair to believe in, both flawed and full of sake. I imagine that would put a lot of people off. I enjoyed being taken on their problematic journey though, and the ending made me tear up a little.




Convenience Store Woman
Sayaka Murata

Another weirdo. Keiko has worked at the same convenience store for 18 years and has some form of undiagnosed Aspergers. It's an odd little story but very enjoyable and subtly funny, at first seeming to about finding the push to leave your comfort zone and then... not bothering.





Supper Club
Lara Williams

Borrowed a proof copy from my bookseller mates and devoured this in a day and a half. Excellent writing and a really gripping tale of a woman finding her confidence through friendship and food. Definitely one of my favourites so far.







You Know You Want This
Kristen Roupenian

I was eager to read this after the New Yorker published Cat Person, and the rest of the stories are an unnervingly creepy bunch of tales about people with various oddities. They're all solid, reliable pieces and feel like a Creative Writing project submission - in a good way.






Conversations With Friends
Sally Rooney

I read this in eight or nine hours straight through. I couldn't stop. My shift at work ended and I had to go find a pub to finish it. Partly this is because it feels like every chapter past 22 or so is the last chapter. It starts to feel long after a while. But as ever I am here for complicated relationships, oh yes I am.





How Do You Like Me Now?
Holly Bourne

Here I am, reading a book about a 31 year old writer having a crisis because her boyfriend refuses to discuss their future, because I just love to torture myself apparently. Perceptive and honest, and written in a down to earth relatable way, it's probably not going to win prizes for great literature but was the perfect way to spend a couple nights of insomnia. Cue breakdown.




Animals Eat Each Other
Elle Nash

The nineteen year old unnamed author floats through life nourished only by the sexual attention she receives from others. Then she meets a married couple and opens the doors to violence and obsession. It's a bracing look at how people allow themselves to be treated and I thought it was solidly written and well-paced.




Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered
Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

I became obsessed with the podcast My Favorite Murder instantaneously and have been working my way through the near-200 episodes over the last few months. So I was elated when I discovered my favourite ladies had written a joint memoir! Super informal, down to earth and inspiring, it was exactly the sort of personal reflections I was looking forward to.




Severance
Ling Ma

A satire on employment set during the apocalypse, there was a lot I loved about this novel but felt the disjointedness of time and place was wrong. Most of the "end of days" scenes came later in the novel, when it could have done with being set earlier in the novel.





The Girl In Red
Christina Henry

Exciting post-apocalypse story of a girl alone in the woods; a very loose take on Red Riding Hood. Christina Henry is aware of the genre and all that came before it, and she's embued her protagonist (called Red!) with that awareness. It ends quite abruptly and I'm not sure how necessary the added layer of sci-fi was, but I enjoyed the journey.




We Are Okay
Nina LaCour

A sweet story of grief and love. Following the death of her grandfather, a girl ups sticks and moves to New York without telling her best friend. Best friend comes to visit on winter break. Oh, and they're romantically involved. Anyway, it's short and touching, and conveys the awkwardness of suffering.






My Dark Vanessa
Kate Elizabeth Russell

I was worried I'd have to wait until its release in January, but my friend brought back a proof copy from a bookseller conference! My Dark Vanessa is the perfect unravelling with a student's affair with a much older teacher told in the then and now, fifteen or so years later. I'm going to be telling everyone to read this, because I loved it. I felt I was Vanessa for the 24 hours I spent totally engrossed.



The Body Lies
Jo Baker

I was not impressed by The Body Lies, with it's abrasive inserts of a character's creative writing piece and overly dramatic plot. I hate it when people say this about fiction, but it just wasn't believable and I needed it to be to feel invested. Some of the writing was quite jarring, in a poorly written sense.





The Pigeon
Patrick Suskind

Due to a life in turmoil, it's been a good few months since I read a whole book. The Pigeon was perfect for bringing me back; it's short and hilarious, and made me chuckle out loud at work. A man sees a pigeon in his hallway and completely unravels, and it's both absurd and believable. Loved it.

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