A year ago I set myself the fairly ambitious challenge of reading 52 books in a year. The decision to do this challenge was driven mainly by the knowledge that I wasn’t reading as much as I used to; I’ve always been a bookworm and during university I burned through more than three books a week through sheer necessity, but in the last few years online distractions have pulled me further away from my bookshelves. I wanted to change that, and pay a little more attention to the variety of books I was choosing to read.
I came nowhere near hitting my 52 books target – the count currently sits at 36 and going by the size of my current read I’m only going to finish one more by the end of the year. But I have read significantly more than last year, and been more active in seeking out new authors and reading a more diverse range of literature. I’ve also loved recording my progress on Goodreads and reviewing the books, and plan to continue next year with a more manageable target. In the meantime, these are the books I’ve loved most over the last three months of the year.
Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman
In October/November I was struggling through a hard read, and needed something lighter for when my brain wasn’t at its sharpest. I ended up returning to one of my favourite YA series from my teens, Noughts & Crosses, in which Malorie Blackman cleverly depicts a world where racial prejudice is flipped on its head. At the centre of the book are Sephy, one of the ruling Crosses, and Callum, an underprivileged Nought, trying to navigate their friendship as they grow up in a society that contantly favours one of them over the other. It’s a great starter commentary on civil rights for teenagers, and even at 25 it still makes me well up at times.
On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
At just 200 pages you could easily skim through this book in a day or two, but there’s something about the way McEwan writes that demands you take your time. While Atonement is (apparently, because I haven’t read it yet) his epic, On Chesil Beach is a much quieter, more understated tale of how the actions not taken and the things not said can have huge impacts on our lives. The story opens with two shy newlyweds contemplating their wedding night in the pre-sexual revolution 1960s, and slowly fills in the blanks of their characters with flashbacks to their courtship and individual childhoods, to heartbreaking effect.
Still Alice – Lisa Genova
Having experienced dementia up close in my own family, Still Alice was a challenging read and I still struggle to articulate how I feel about this book. What I can say with certainty is that it’s extremely well-researched and without the sensationalism or rose-tint that often accompanies dementia narratives, and anybody who is struggling to make sense of the disease in one of their loved ones should definitely give it a try. I especially love that it’s written from Alice’s own perspective, which can be maddening towards the end as her mind omits events with increasingly noticeable frequency, but also stops us from relegating her to the role of a passenger in her own life.
A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life is the epic I’m currently buried in, and it’s shaping up to be a real game changer. It follows the lives of four friends, Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm, as they pursue their dreams and tackle life in New York, but it’s so much more than the standard tortured-male-protagonist-coming-of-age tale. After the first hundred pages the narrative zooms in on Jude as the main character, and slowly starts to reveal his severe mental health issues and the traumatic childhood that has caused them. I don’t know quite where the story is leading, but it promises to be heartbreaking.
What have been your favourite books this year? Let me know below!