Reading is one of my first loves and this year really gave me the time to reconnect with that love. With the busy-ness of my uni years, I fell out of the habit of reading for fun but with so much spare time while I was on furlough and a desire to get away from screens, I really jumped back into it. My project is to work my way through all the physical books I have at home that are yet to be read before I let myself buy any new ones (there have been some exceptions that I couldn’t resist, but I am trying!)
For this blog post, I thought I would share the top 10 books I read this year that I would 100% recommend getting for yourself – or for your loved ones if you’re looking for Christmas gift inspiration!
If you do go on to buy any books this year I urge you to think about your local independent bookstores or second-hand books because the pandemic has hit these businesses pretty hard. If you can’t go to a bookshop in your area (or order direct from their website) you could check out Bookshop or Hive where proceeds of your purchase go to supporting independent bookshops.
So here we go, my top 10! In no particular order…
- Why I’m No Longer Talking (To White People) About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (Race)
There are a lot of great books out there to help with anti-racism education but I think this one is a great starting point. For those a bit nervous about reading non-fiction, this is not too long nor is the information in convoluted language. Another thing that’s great is that it’s UK-based rather than focussing on the state of race in America.
It is concise, understandable and logical. A really great read to open up mindsets and learn a little more.
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (Race)
Another great starting point to improve your anti-racism – this too is a very accessible and easy to understand book that considers a lot of the popular thoughts/assumptions/situations that we come across regarding race with positive advice on what to do or what you should be considering. This is often used as a handbook to work through and discuss for organisations/groups so maybe work through it with a pal!
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (True Crime)
You know I love me some true crime and I really enjoyed reading this Capote classic. I’ve included it in non-fiction because it is largely based on a real event but it’s not 100% factually accurate with certain details added in service of the story. Nevertheless, it is really such a well-written book and so gripping without being overly gory. It’s mostly about the investigation of a quadruple homicide in 60’s America.
- The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (History/Science/Worker’s Rights)
This book shook me to my core it was so shocking and angering. I think this is a story that everyone should know about because the injustice is just mind-blowing. I think I bought this book for at least 7 other people because I needed them to read it so I could talk about it. It follows a group of women who worked in watch factories painting the dials with radium so it would glow in the dark, instructed to use their mouths to make the brush finer without being warned how dangerous it is to ingest so much radium. As their bodies start to fall apart mysteriously they realise they need to fight this battle in the court. It’s a fascinating story that’ll really rile you up.
- Circe by Madeleine Miller (Fantasy/Greek Mythology)
This is one of the first books I read this year on loan from a friend (thanks again Grace!) and I wasn’t sure what I was getting into but I came away in love with it. Circe is the daughter of Helios (Greek God of the sun) but doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family’s bravado and godliness. She turns to humans for company, defying her father in the name of love, a path that leads her not to marriage but to a discovery of a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft. I really loved the personality and world-building in this book and Circe is just a plain badass witch.
- After the Fire by Will Hill (Contemporary/Young Adult)
Gripping, intense, psychological and not too strenuous (as those words may have you believe because it is a YA book). After the Fire is a story of a girl rescued from a cult, that flips between her memories from her time on the compound and her current therapy while she processes the truth of what happened against the lies she’s been brainwashed to believe.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Contemporary)
This is a firm favourite for a lot of people but it really lived up to the hype for me. The book follows the process of Monique writing the memoir of Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo as she recounts the tales from her 7 marriages. The book covers a really fun time period of Hollywood glamour from the 50’s up to present day and it has a level of reflection in it that elevates the book to be more than your usual chick-lit. I really enjoyed reading this one and I cried in the end which is a good sign that the book touched your heart.
- Out of Love by Hazel Hayes (Contemporary)
A love story told in reverse, beginning with the break-up and slowly unravelling and inspecting all the hurt through the hints and red flags set over the years. By the time you get to the joyous first kiss, you’re a bit broken from knowing how it all ends up but there’s an element of hope that is really lovely.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Contemporary)
I read this one so fast because I really enjoyed the personality of the characters (particularly, Queenie). This one is about a woman called Queenie who feels like life is just falling apart; her job isn’t going how she thought, her family don’t understand her choices and she’s struggling to get over her ex. She has to work through all her issues to come out the other side ready to keep going. It feels very real and honest and it’s just a great read.
- Kindred by Octavia E Butler (Fantasy/Historical/Sci-fi)
Written in 1979, but you wouldn’t think it, because it feels strikingly modern. Kindred is a book that really stuck with me and I couldn’t wait to jump back into it to see what would happen next. The book is about Dana, a woman who is being pulled back into the past to save her great (x3) grandfather, a slave plantation owner when he gets himself into various dangers. The problem is she’s being pulled back into a time where black women like her are treated as slaves. The time travel feels really organic (I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi) and the novel is just so well articulated and vivid. A definite new favourite.
My Reading Wrapped
As we all know now is the time where everyone is sharing their Spotify Wrapped but I think my reading stats are far more interested and the perfect tool for that is The Story Graph. The Story Graph is a new website where you can record your reading, keep a beautiful to-be-read list and get reading recommendations based on what you like. It also has super cool features like these stats and graphs which are so satisfying to look at!
If you’ve made it this far through the post, you probably really love books so I ask you – what are your favourite reads from this year that you’d like to recommend?