I have read quite a few books this year so far, and I’m very happy about it! I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find the time to read when I started my new job, but to be honest, this is what has kept me sane these past few months. Not all books are pictured as some were borrowed from the library, I am lending some others to relatives, and some I just donated.
Bill Naughton, Neither Use Nor Ornament (1995)
Bill Naughton was a playwright, his works include Alfie which was made into a film with Michael Caine (it’s really good, by the way, especially if you love the Swinging London era). This book is a volume of his memoirs where he retells a small part of his childhood, growing up as an Irish immigrant in Bolton, Lancashire. It’s a very sweet book and it depicts a very realistic image of working-class life in the 1920s, with endearing portraits of Boltonians.
Sophie Kinsella, I Owe You One (2019)
As I have already said, I’m quite partial to a good Sophie Kinsella book when life gets a bit too much. This book was exactly what I needed: a cute romantic comedy peopled with sweet characters that I really grew to love.
Candice Carty-Williams, Queenie (2019)
I have mentioned Queenie already, on an article about books that changed my outlook on race. It really opened my eyes on the added difficulties black women face each day – whether at work, on dates or in their daily lives. I didn’t find it particularly funny but Carty-Williams writes her main characters in such a way that you can’t help but feel for them.
M.C. Beaton, Agatha Raisin: There Goes the Bride (2010)
I’ve always wanted to read Agatha Raisin as it sounds like a very fun story, however I should probably have picked up the first book of the series… I felt completely lost in who was who, and I didn’t really enjoy the story because of this. Also, I think this is the kind of stories I enjoy to watch on TV after work, rather than something to read. It reminded me of Midsomer Murders, which I’ve always loved – although this is a source of fun for everyone as I’m apparently not the target demographic for this show.
Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six (2019)
This book was cool. It tells the story of a fictional band in the 1970s through different interviews of its members in the present day, and the atmosphere in this book is absolutely amazing! I felt like I was around the pool of the Chateau Marmont, enjoying the Californian sun with psychedelic rock in my ears (when in truth, I was stuck on an immobilised plane during a storm). I love this period in terms of music and I was just so sad none of the music was real! But this is a great book, and an especially good thing to read during the summer.
Elena Ferrante, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (2014)
I have talked a lot about Elena Ferrante in an article dedicated to the Neapolitan novels, so I won’t repeat myself too much. I will just say that Ferrante’s writing is addictive.
Hallie Rubenhold, The Five (2019)
A series of portraits of Jack the Ripper’s victims to give back to Mary Ann, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Mary Jane their voices – which have been long lost amongst various cliches and prejudices. It’s an excellent book that is very hard to put down, and it’s also very accessible – you don’t need to know much about the Victorian era at all to make sense of what’s explained. To be fair, nothing has really changed since the late nineteenth century when it comes to judge working-class women, I think. Something very positive is that there was a mural representing the five women in Whitechapel and Rubenhold is actively seeking to have their memories celebrated to counter-balance the grim appeal of Ripper tours.
Elton John, Me (2019)
I listened to Elton John’s memoirs on Audible at the beginning of lockdown, whilst I was working from home. I think this was everything I needed during this strange time as it brought me so much joy! There’s a lot of name-dropping and extravagant displays of wealth, but it seemed to me that Elton John had a very honest look on himself and who he used to be. If you’re a fan, you will love it. I listened to his music for days on end after finishing the book. Also, the audiobook is narrated by Taron Egerton, so it really is quite perfect.
Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle (1986)
I first read Howl’s Moving Castle when I was little and I remembered the book to be quite dark – much darker than the Studio Ghibli’s adaptation – which is a masterpiece by the way. So I was a little surprised to see that it was not very dark at all, just rather quirky and all-round lovely. It’s a great story, with absolutely amazing characters and I love them all. Of course, the fact that the main character’s name is Sophie only makes the book better.
Elena Ferrante, The Story of the Lost Child (2015)
Did I not say it was addictive? I finished the series earlier this year and I felt so sad to say goodbye to this world. I’m not sure why as the characters are not exactly lovable and it’s all very violent. I think I just loved Elena’s narration so much, it’s still with me months later.
Sophie Kinsella, Twenties Girl (2009)
As much as I love Elena Ferrante, I was very much in need of a happy story after that so of course, I turned to Sophie Kinsella. I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one as I didn’t think many of the characters were developed (I love how she writes parents, usually) and it was a bit too far-fetched for me at times. I still had a nice time reading it, but I think Kinsella has written much better books.
Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (1979)
I was so excited to read this book as I love metafiction and thinking about the act of reading and writing. The book starts by telling the reader that they are reading Italo Calvino’s latest novel If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, and what’s happening around them. It was not really what I was expecting as there were less philosophical reflections than strange and funny meta-scenes. Of course, the reader is a man so it all becomes very tricky to relate to him at one point, but it’s still a very enjoyable, clever book.
Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (1954)
I love eccentric older women from the past, so of course I love Auntie Mame. Little Patrick becomes an orphan at the age of 8 and he goes to live with his aunt, a wealthy single New Yorker. The story starts in the late 1920s and follows the adventures of Mame and Patrick throughout the years. It’s very funny and a very interesting thing to read at the moment because Mame is always standing up for the less privileged and against injustice – which makes her a very liberal woman for the time. I was so happy to find this early edition at Oxfam, because I find the cover absolutely gorgeous!
The School of Life, How to Overcome Your Childhood (2019)
I talked about this book in more details already, so you can just click the link if you’re interested in knowing more.
Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere (2017)
That’s a strange one. I absolutely loved that book and I couldn’t put it down, but I’m unable to say why. The story is great but it’s not ground-breaking, the writing is also very good but I’m not sure this is why I loved it so much. I’m currently watching the TV adaptation on Amazon Prime, and I might manage to be more eloquent on the topic of Little Fires Everywhere later!
Giovanna Fletcher, You’re the One that I Want (2014)
This was a book which had been in my TBR list on Goodreads for quite a while. As I was in need of a cute little romantic comedy, I picked it up and to be honest, I was very disappointed. First of all, I forgot how much I dislike love triangles but here, it was especially strange and the characters’ decisions were questionable to say the least. I’m not sure I understood why they did what they did towards the end, but also, I did skim some passages so that might explain a few things!
Yvonne Battle-Felton, Remembered (2019)
I mentioned this book briefly in this article. It’s a rather hard book to read as some scenes are quite violent and graphic, but I would highly recommend it. I think some stories need to be told as they happened, even if they are hard to hear.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
I’ve been slowly collecting the books in the Harry Potter series (some first and early editions!) during lockdown, and I’ve read the first tome for the first time in English. I decided to dissociate the author from the works completely because Harry Potter is for me a little therapy in itself! I felt so happy whilst reading this book, it was a very Proust’s madeleine moment for me and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series in English, now.
Édouard Louis, En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (2014)
I wrote quite extensively about this one in this article, so please have a look if you’re interested in knowing more about this great little book.
Overall, I have read some very good books so far this year. Please, let me know what’s been your favourite book so far this year, I would love to know and find inspiration for my next read!