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Top reads of the year so far

My reading mojo is back! I could jump for joy, really. Reading slumps are part of life, but I had never before encountered such a long one; I was beginning to get worried. But with the help of some truly fantastic books, the much-improved weather, and a can’t-stop-reading re-read of the Percy Jackson series, I love books once again. In no particular order, here are some of the books that page by page helped rekindle my love for a book-based existence.

The Binding

Borrowed from the library, I was wrongly concerned that maybe this wouldn’t be for me. The BindingHistorical novels are not what I tend to enjoy reading and fantasy is also not a preferred genre. However, with so much hype surrounding it and with such a gorgeous cover, I decided to venture outside my comfort zone and give it a chance. Holy wow, this book is incredible! Collins’ writing grabbed me within just a few pages and, while I took my time getting through it, didn’t really ever let go. I can definitely see myself wanting to revisit the story soon and will absolutely be buying myself a copy of the paperback.

Circe

One of my most anticipated reads of 2019, I couldn’t wait to dive back into Madeline Miller’s writing. Whilst I find them endlessly confusing, I’m really interested in the Greek myths, and Song of Achilles blew me away. Just like the tale of Achilles and Patroclus, this swept me away and only, reluctantly, returned me to the present world once I’d devoured the entire thing. I was so engrossed that reaching the last page was a surprise and I actually said ‘oh, I’ve finished it’. My copy seems to have mysteriously vanished, along with my Waterstones tote-bag, but once I find it – or cave and buy myself another copy – it’ll be taking pride and place on my shelves.

Brain on fire

I had wanted to read this book for a long time before I finally did in January. Chronicling Susannah Cahalan’s personal journey into madness and back out again, this was both a Brain on firechallenging and easy read. Difficult because of the subject matter, the terror, and how close it could have been, it was easy because it was so readable, relatable, and interesting. Even knowing the outcome, having seen the Netflix adaptation, and having been too impatient to hold off doing some Googling, I was swept up and completely taken along with every emotion, every dismissal, every hope, every close call, and then the breath of relief, of understanding, resilience, and survival.

Becoming

Michelle Obama’s memoir almost didn’t make the list which honestly surprised me. I switched between the physical book and the audiobook for this, ending up predominantly using the audiobook. It is fantastic. It made me laugh, made me cry, showed me a side of being a member of the presidential family that I had never considered, inspired me. But it also made me feel … very unaccomplished and maybe not in an inspiring way. I do think that most of this feeling is a symptom of how I was, and still am, feeling more generally – my feelings of anxiety, low-confidence, and lost-ness -but this is also a feeling that experience relatively frequently when reading about great accomplishments, something that I may explore more in the future.

Reassuringly though, it appears that Mrs Obama felt the same about her husband:

“All this inborn confidence was admirable, of course, but honestly, try living with it. For me, coexisting with Barack’s strong sense of purpose—sleeping in the same bed with it, sitting at the breakfast table with it—was something to which I had to adjust, not because he flaunted it, exactly, but because it was so alive. In the presence of his certainty, his notion that he could make some sort of difference in the world, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit lost by comparison. His sense of purpose seemed like an unwitting challenge to my own.”

Living Danishly: My twelve months unearthing the secrets of the worlds happiest country

I have long been fascinated by the Scandinavian countries and how, for the most part – nowhere is perfect – they seem to have it all figured out. There appears to be a high sense of trust and support, both between citizens and in the government, they don’t believe in The year of living danishlyhierarchies, are rather militant about recycling, create energy from waste so effectively that they import it from other countries, and Denmark routinely appears at the top of all sorts of happiness indexes. Maybe I am naive, but in this current climate – a climate I know is sadly also being felt by those same Scandinavian countries – I like knowing that such systems and ideas exist and have been working.  I am currently trying to plan a holiday to Scandinavia but with no more concrete ideas than ‘I just want to see all this in action’ – I’m not sure I could be vaguer – it’s proving tricky. But the small amount of research I have done led me to this book, and I am so glad. Funny, honest, wry, I loved every page and revelled in the opportunity to live, if only for a short amount of time, vicariously in Denmark.

What have been your favourite books so far this year? Let me know in the comments below. 

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