As the end of 2019 is fast approaching, I thought I’d write a list of my top ten books of this year. If you like the sound of any of them, you’ve still time to pop down to your local bookshop before Christmas. The following books are not in any particular order of preference, they are ALL fabulous! They include fiction, poetry, auto-biography, non-fiction, letters & diaries and books I have read to my children.
It really doesn’t matter if you are a young reader or an old reader or anywhere in between, this is for book lovers everywhere. Each double page spread is a visual feast in which illustrators are matched with scientists, artists, authors, CEO’s and many more to provide a glorious love letter to the power of books.
Through Macfarlane’s flowing blend of poetry-prose and Morris’s atmospheric illustrations, words such as willow, acorn, bluebell and kingfisher (now removed from a children’s dictionary) are breathed back to life. With increasing numbers of species in decline, we cannot love what we cannot name. A deeply important and beautiful book.
Elena Ferrante had been on my radar for some time, but I’m unsure how it took me until this year to read one of her books. Ferrante’s inimitable style of prose has rightfully garnered global accolades and this tightly woven tale of an unlikely friendship between two girls in a 1950’s rough Napoli neighbourhood will stay with me for many years to come.
Another surprise: how had I never heard of Kent Haruf until this year? Set in rural Colorado, with the deftest touch, Haruf charts the disparate lives of two young brothers, a pregnant teenage schoolgirl and two elderly farmers and how their lives intertwine. This book was like a long, tender song; I could hardly put it down.
Don’t be fooled by the greyness of this book’s colour, for inside lies bursts of colour and vividly described life which will not leave any reader unchanged. Jewish Etty Hillesum lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and while it may not be hard to guess her fate, her collected diaries and letters utterly defy convention. Far from being a misery memoir, they strike at the very heart of what it means to be human; though we may not have control of the situations that befall us, we can respond with compassion and choose love over fear and hate.
I must confess I was fairly skeptical about this book as it just seemed to be everywhere and I thought it looked a little gimmicky. However, it won me over! The authors have done a fantastic job at seeking out fascinating, little known (as well as some more famous) global women over the course of history who have employed bravery, intelligence and determination to achieve impressive feats. Combined with some wonderfully sourced illustrations, I read one page a night after dinner to my children and they loved it too. (My eldest is currently enjoying the accompanying podcast which looks at each woman’s life in a deeper, more detailed context.) NB This book is NOT just for girls, my son also loved it!
At the age of 28, Hinton was wrongly convicted of two murders in Alabama and went on to spend 30 years on Death Row, a scapegoat for rampant racism. What follows is an extraordinary personal account of how he navigated the choppy waters of rage and despair and survived. And not only survived but, astonishingly, thrived.
Sarah Crossan writes novels in verse for Young Adults, but they read like a dream for readers of all ages (I would say age 12 and up as some of the themes can be challenging.) I have read a few of Crossan’s books this year, but Toffee is my favourite. What happens when a teenage runaway hides out in what she thinks is an abandoned, seaside house, only to find that it is occupied by an elderly lady with dementia? Read this wonderful book to find out.
And there you have it! I’d love to know: what have your favourite books of 2019 been? Old, new, any genre, I’m all ears.