*Ok, twelve – I’m indecisive.
At this point in December, it’s become something of a tradition for me to share my ten favourite books from the year that’s about to leave us. I should really do it a little closer to the New Year, but to be honest, over the festive period, I like to enjoy a proper blogging break. That always leaves me the risk of reading the BEST BOOK EVER! just as New Year’s Eve rolls round, but I’m willing to take that particular bookish gamble. I’ve been struggling to pick my favourites from the 45 books I did actually manage to finish this year – I don’t need any eleventh hour contenders rushing in and making my choice even more difficult than it is! 🙂
On the subject of eleventh hour contenders, though, I do have to admit that my first two favourites (and these are in no particular order), don’t actually appear on any of this year’s reading lately posts. The Tattooist of Auschwitz was a library reservation I picked up a couple of weeks ago and devoured in no time – if you haven’t had the chance to read it yet it’s one I’d highly recommend. It tells the story of Lale Solokov, a Slovakian Jew who spent three years as the ‘tatowierer’ of the notorious concentration camp scratching numbers into the arms of arriving prisoners – numbers that would become their only identity during whatever lifespan they were afforded within the camp. During his time there, Lale meets and falls in love with Gita, and theirs is a story of enduring love, survival and unwavering resilience. It’s one that everyone should read, remember and recommend to others. It’s also a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of one of the most shameful periods ever known to man.
The second book on the list this year is another last minute entry I picked up in my reservations recently and This is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay’s diarised memoir of life as an (ex) junior doctor is every bit as good as I hoped it would be (even if some of the dark humour did make me wince a bit). It’s a no-holds barred account of the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly the ugly) of life on the NHS frontline with a serious and affecting undertone (the ending will hit you like a stomach punch). It will leave you feeling full of gratitude for a health service that, if Kay’s diaries are anything to go by, is rapidly drowning under the weight of ridiculous workloads, targets and government pressures. It might also make you hope you never have to go into hospital if you can possibly avoid it (some of the protagonists of the more ‘colourful’ episodes in Kay’s diaries should probably take note!)
Third on the list for this year is When Breath Becomes Air, the memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a gifted young neurosurgeon who died in 2015 after a diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer. The memoir charts Paul’s transition from doctor to terminally ill patient – there’s no doubt that it’s a devastating – yet utterly compelling – read. I read it in less than 24 hours, making it one of a few books this year that drew me in heart, soul and spirit. Like This is Going to Hurt, reading When Breath Becomes Air is actually at times quite painful. But despite that, I still can’t help thinking it’s a book that everyone should read.
Onto lighter fare now, and (like everyone else it seems) I couldn’t help but be charmed by Gail Honeyman’s unlikely heroine Eleanor Oliphant this year. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a lovely story about life, loneliness and how a little bit of kindness can change a person’s life. You might not be feeling the love for Eleanor at first, but by the final pages, believe me, you’ll wish you had a friend like Ms. Oliphant. If you haven’t read it yet, get it on your Christmas list – or beg, borrow or steal a copy to read over the festive break. (Okay, don’t steal).
Fifth on my list for this 2018 round up is A Better Me by Gary Barlow. Mr B’s account of life in a boy-to-man band, life’s highs and lows and a difficult relationship with his waistband has to be one of the best celebrity memoirs I’ve ever read. It’s funny, sad and heartwarming – and will definitely be on my to-read list again in the future. I loved the overall message of the book – ‘like yourself.’ And whether you’re a Take That fan or not, by the end of this book I think you might find yourself liking Mr Barlow rather a lot aswell.
Next up is not one but two books – Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive and Notes on a Nervous Planet. I’ve grouped them together as 1). I’d call them companion books, and 2). I only have a photo of them in a pair 😉 . They both focus on issues around depression and anxiety, Matt’s own struggles with both, and his thoughts on making the best of life. If you have any sort of mental health issue, want to empathise with people who do, or otherwise live in the 21st century, just read!
Talking of mental – and physical – health, you’ll find plenty on both in my eighth pick for the year – The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, a searing account of addiction played out between the bright lights of London and the wild landscape of Orkney. It’s a particularly good read if you like stories about people, place and connection – and if you like a narrative that’s well written, thought provoking and ultimately razor sharp.
Staying on the darker side of life, my ninth offering for the year, We Own The Sky by Luke Allnut is a beautifully written book about love, grief and dealing with the worst that life can offer you. It tells the story of a young couple and their son and what happens when they discover that something is very, very wrong. If you can handle the difficult subject matter it’s a book that you’ll find heartbreaking, uplifting and absolutely unforgettable. I find that the books that touch me most in life are about the very biggest issues and We Own the Sky is no exception to that rule.
My final (well, nearly), book on the list this year is Thirteen Reasons Why which I read way back in February. Jay Asher’s story of suicide and teenage bullying is so well written and fast paced that it never loses its grip. Again, it’s a big issue book and it deals with a tremendously difficult subject. Asher copes with it admirably and I can promise it’s every as every bit as good as the Netflix series based on it suggests.
I did say there were going to be twelve books on my list this year and I can’t leave without mentioning the two sagas – Outlander and A Court of Thorns and Roses – that have completely drawn me in this year. Romance, other-worldliness and a sprinkling of magic – what’s not to love at Christmas? (or indeed at any other time of year). If you’re looking for some weighty tomes to delve into as the New Year approaches, I can definitely recommend them. And speaking of weighty tomes, I need to get back to my Christmas to-do list before the 25th December descends on us.
But before I go, do tell me – would any of these make it onto your top ten?
*This post contains affiliate links which means I will receive a small commission should you choose to purchase via them.
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