Arrgh! I’ve finally narrowed down my favourite books of the year to the magical number of 10. It’s been hard but hey, I’ve just about managed to do it. What can I say, it’s been a year of top reads! Most are fiction but a couple are non-fiction too. In their own unique way, these reads are all brilliant and have all educated me. They have also all been published this year. Some I’ve previously blogged about and some I haven’t so read on and be inspired to read, read, read! 😉
Betsy & Lilibet by Sophie Duffy
Awww! What an utter delight Betsy & Lilibet is; it has everything – laughter, tears and a beautifully woven story. Born on the same day as Queen Elizabeth II just a few miles away, Betsy Sunshine shares more than just a birthday with Her Majesty.
This is a book brimming with humour, nostalgia and pathos. I couldn’t tear myself away. Betsy Sunshine left such an impression on me. I absolutely loved her. To find out more and why I loved this funny, tender novel so much read my full review of Betsy & Lilibet.
Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart
Since its publication in October, Pieces of Me has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. I’m not surprised; this is an astounding debut novel that is sensitive and thought-provoking as it explores the residual impact of war. This is a book that needs to be read, bringing to the fore the horrible impact of racism and cultural isolation in today’s world.
Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
What an unbelievable writer Clare Mackintosh is! If you haven’t read her latest book Let Me Lie you need to read it soon because it’s brilliant – I mean unbelievably brilliant! Let Me Lie is Mackintosh’s third novel; an unsettling psychological thriller that explores the difficult theme of suicide.
I genuinely thought I had the plot worked out but as always, Mackintosh floored me with an astounding twist – I was left speechless and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Only Clare Mackintosh can do this!
And hey, although Let Me Lie came out early 2018, the paperback version has literally just come out (27 December). So go and grab your copy now!
This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay
Dare I say This Is Going Hurt is my all-time top read of the year; hell, maybe even the decade! Yes, it is that good! And it’s not even fiction – my chosen ‘go to’ type of book.
Kay relates in sardonic and witty detail the truths about working as a junior doctor for the NHS. Never before have I laughed so much reading a book; and I mean really belly laughed. But it broke my heart too, opening my eyes wide to what NHS frontline staff have to face on an every day basis.
It’s no surprise that This Is Going To Hurt is now a multi-award winning read. If you’ve not read it yet, read it now!
Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce
Crikey, what a book this is. I’m going to be honest with you, when I was initially sent an advance copy of Dear Mrs Bird to review, I started reading and threw it aside after about 10 minutes thinking it was way too fluffy and Hooray Henry for me. How wrong and small minded I was! Thank goodness I went back and gave it another try. I loved it and couldn’t put it down.
Set in London during the blitz, Emmy believes her dreams of being a female war correspondent are about to come true when she accidentally takes a job typing up letters for Mrs Bird’s problem page. Emmy doesn’t always agree with the formidable Mrs Bird’s advice to her readers. Hence Emmy takes matters into her own hands.
Initially Dear Mrs Bird could be mistaken for being a light, fun read. But it is so much more – it poignantly explores the true impact of World War II on the home front. I cried buckets reading this novel but I also laughed loads too. This is a profound novel about friendship and integrity. It is simply brilliant.
The paperback version of Dear Mrs Bird was released very recently – 27 December. So go and get your copy now.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
I read and reviewed Next Year in Havana back in July and I still frequently think about it – I loved it that much. This is a novel full of passion, secrets and sacrifice.
Set against the backdrop of Cuba’s turbulent history and politics, this is a book that educated me, tore at my heart and inspired me. It is such a fantastic read – it really is historic fiction at its best. I loved it and I’m not the only one as Reese Witherspoon chose Next Year in Havana as one of her book club picks.
I’m so excited for the sequel When We Left Cuba out in April 2019. Chanel Cleeton – if you’re reading this, please can you sort me out with an advanced copy? 😉
Repeal The 8th edited by Una Mullally
On 25 May 2018, over 66% of the Irish population voted to remove the Eighth Amendment, the Irish constitutional ban on abortion. This was a referendum that the whole world followed with bated breath. Yet the referendum only happened due to a long, bitter yet inspiring social movement for women’s reproductive rights in Ireland.
Repeal The 8th is a poignant anthology of this social movement; it is creative activism. It shocked me, made me cry (a lot), educated me and inspired me. It made me really appreciate the power of choice that I have always had being a woman brought up and living in the UK. This is a power, a human right that all women throughout the world should have.
This year the Manchester Literature Festival hosted Una Mullally, Repeal The 8th editor, along with Tara Flynn and Sinéad Gleeson who contributed to the collection. It was a sheer privilege to attend as they discussed the power of activism which ultimately brought massive political, historical and social change.
Repeal The 8th is a book that needs to be read.
Dark Pines by Will Dean
The first book in the Tuva Moodyson series, this is a chilling, enticing read that had me hooked. Throughout 2018 there has been a lot of buzz about Dark Pines with very good reason. If you’re looking for a new crime series to get into, then I think you may just have found it.
When a dead body is found with eyes missing deep in the Swedish forest, Tuva, a deaf reporter working for the local paper believes this is the story that could make her career.
Inspired by small town dynamics and dramas such as Twin Peaks, Broadchurch and Fargo, British author Will Dean brilliantly captures an underlying sense of menace throughout Dark Pines that dramatically builds and builds.
This dramatic tension is intensified through the portrayal of Tuva’s deafness, which Dean handles with great sensitivity. When I saw Dean at the Manchester Literature Festival he said that Tuva arose as he was shocked he hadn’t come across deaf characters in books or TV before. He continued by saying that it has been emotional for him when deaf readers reach out to him once they have read Dark Pines.
I’ve been sent my advance copy of Red Snow, the second book in Tuva’s series (out on 10 January 2019) – I’m so excited to be reviewing it very soon. Watch this space!
The Key by Kathryn Hughes
I firmly believe reading is so important – as well as teaching us empathy, it teaches us about historic societal issues that still impact us today. The Key, with its brilliantly constructed plot definitely did this for me. It had me hooked.
Inspired by tragic and very real events, The Key is set in the mid 1950s in a fictional psychiatric institute. With flawed characters and a heartbreaking twist, this is a read that exposes how far we’ve come as a society regarding attitudes and the treatment to mental health and vulnerable people. It also sadly exposes in some ways, how little has changed.
As well as being a real page turner, The Key is an important read.
The Reckoning by Clár Ní Chonghaile
The Reckoning gave me one of my favourite characters of all time – Lina Rose. It also gave me a story that captivated me and I never wanted it to end. The Reckoning is Lina’s story and what a story it is.
Lina is a successful, enigmatic author. She is also arrogant, brusque and witty. But I couldn’t help but love her.
Lina is writing one last story; she is writing her life story for her daughter who she abandoned as a baby. This is a story of loss, courage and war. It explores what we now know as post traumatic stress disorder, the emotional cost of survival and the true impact of war.
The Reckoning is a tender novel that had me hooked right the way through. I got so much from reading this book and I can’t wait to read it again. I urge you to read it – it really is brilliant.
Well that’s my top ten. I have to admit I’ve really struggled to compile this list, as it really has been a brilliant year for new books.
I’ve also been very busy lately reading lots of new books due to be published in 2019. And believe me, there are some explosive reads coming your way. So enjoy and watch this space – 2019 is going to be a brilliant year for new and exciting reads.
Happy reading everyone! 🙂