Question 1 – The best book you’ve read so far in 2019
Hands down, no competition, Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, one of the most informative and engaging pieces of nonfiction I’ve read in years, which masterfully contextualizes the Troubles and fills in so many gaps that Keefe’s primarily American audience is bound to need filling in. I can’t recommend this highly enough. Review here.
Question 2 – Your favorite sequel of the year
I’ve only read one sequel in its entirety – The Killer In Me by Olivia Kiernan. Thankfully I loved it – I thought it was a lot stronger than its predecessor, and even though I’m not wild about police procedurals most of the time I’m really hooked on this series. Review here.
I’ve also started two others: The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang (I’m about 40% through) and Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb (around page 120) so the jury’s still out on both of these, but I don’t have any complaints about either so far.
Question 3 – A new release that you haven’t read but really want to
All UK releases, but oh well.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes: This is an Iliad retelling that recounts the Trojan War from an all-female perspective: need I say more?
Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson: I believe this is a memoir (essay collection?) about health and the body and feminism, or something like that. I haven’t heard a single negative thing about it. This is the only one of these three that I own and I can’t wait to pick it up.
What Red Was by Rosie Price: I mean, I rationally understand that marketing comps aren’t to be taken too seriously, but when a book is pitched as Normal People meets Asking For It… I mean. I need to read it.
Question 4 – Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea, Valerie by Sara Stridsberg, and The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson will hopefully all be excellent. More thoughts on why I’m excited for these here.
Question 5 – Your biggest disappointment
When All Is Said by Anne Griffin: I just don’t get this book; I simultaneously don’t get why I didn’t like it more and don’t get the excessive amounts of praise it has received. Everything about this book seemed like it was going to be right up my alley (Irish! depressing!), so it’s probably my biggest disappointment of the year that I remained so utterly unaffected by it. Review here.
Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden: Is there anything worse than enjoying a book only for it to be utterly undermined and destroyed by a horrifically bad conclusion? More on that here in one of my rare spoiler-filled reviews.
The Cassandra by Sharma Shields: You know me – I love a Greek myth retelling and I adore Cassandra, but this was ruined by positively absurd characters and awful plotting. Review here.
Question 6 – Biggest surprise of the year
Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev: This book seems to be very hit or miss for most people due to Shalmiyev’s slightly unconventional style of prose, but I really got on with it and this remains one of the most heart-wrenching memoirs I’ve read. Review here.
The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino: A very random title by a debut author that I hadn’t heard anything about – I picked it up on a whim and adored it. Review here.
Cherry by Nico Walker: it is a rare and talented author that could keep me riveted by the story of a young, remorseless man who joins the army and develops a drug addiction. Review here.
Question 7 – Favourite new to you or debut author
Mathias Énard: It could just be Charlotte Mandell’s exquisite translation, but Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants probably had the most beautiful writing of anything I’ve read all year. I just adored everything about that book and cannot wait to read more from Énard.
Robin Hobb: When I started Assassin’s Apprentice I fell instantly in love with Robin Hobb’s prose, and despite that book’s overly slow pace, I got the impression that I had found a new favorite fantasy author. Royal Assassin has so far been confirming that suspicion!
Colin Barrett: Such a brilliant fresh new voice in Irish fiction that I cannot wait to read more from in the future. Calm With Horses from his collection Young Skins remains one of the best short stories (novellas?) I’ve ever read.
Question 8 – Your new fictional crush
Question 9 – New favourite character
Billy from Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid is so my type it’s not even funny.
Tom from A Natural by Ross Raisin is a quiet character who made a huge impression.
Fitz from the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb has been a brilliant protagonist whose journey I’m really enjoying following.
Question 10 – A book that made you cry
Only one – Maus by Art Spiegelman. I pretty much don’t cry as a general rule, but my god, this book wrecked me. Thankfully I was house-sitting while reading this and was alone so I could unashamedly weep through the last 100 pages or so.
Question 11 – A book that made you happy
This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps: Though this occasionally touches on heavier subjects, there were so many anecdotes that actually made me laugh out loud. The story about Busy breaking her leg while moshing to Nirvana at a school dance makes me laugh even thinking about it now.
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: To describe this as a romp would be somewhat dismissive of its thematic depth, but my god did I have fun reading this.
Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett: Bizarre and occasionally unsettling, but very hilarious as well.
Question 12 – Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year
I haven’t read this book yet, but I absolutely adored the film The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I don’t usually get on with films aimed at teenagers (which is fine! I can admit when I’m not the target audience!), but I thought this film navigated its horrifying subject matter with the right amount of warmth and seriousness, and I was really moved by Chloë Grace Moretz’s performance.
Question 13 – Favourite book post you’ve done this year
Read More Women: a post I did for International Women’s Day where I talk about several popular male-authored works and suggest female-authored alternatives.
Also, all of my Women’s Prize coverage:
Question 14 – The most beautiful book you have bought/received this year
Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants by Mathias Énard, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler are all gorgeous.
Question 15 – What are some books you need to read by the end of the year
How’s your reading year been going so far? Comment and let me know!