Top 5 Books I Read in 2019

Published on 3/2/2020

Since I was a little girl, I’ve been an avid reader. Looking back now that I’m at the ripe age of 23, I can definitely recognize that it is entirely thanks to my Dad. He was quite the bookworm as well, and since a young age propelled us towards fat books with contents far beyond our years. Having the first five Harry Potter books read to you is also a phenomenal way to start your reading career.

But as years progressed, and life started to get in the way, I noticed my reading starting to dawdle. No longer was I devouring a book per week, new titles sat untouched on my shelves. And as a writer, this simply won’t do.

Then one of my brilliant sisters, a fellow bibliophile, posted an article about how to read 100 books in a year. She sent it to me, asking for any edits, and my response was along the lines of “Stop lying, how the heck did you do this?”. She told me to read her article, and I did, and you can too. One of the main tips I took from it, was to also keep track of the books you’re reading. Consider, what did you like about them? What score would you give them? This also helps when referring books to a friend.

While I didn’t manage 100 books last year, I did succeed in reading 10 new books. Double the previous years and a success in my eyes. I also ensured that I varied the books I read, instead of bingeing on Jodi Picoult as I have in the past. I discovered amazing authors, both of the present and past, and I willingly read non-fiction books for what may be the first time. And out of those 10, I will now share my top 5 reads for you! With plenty of details obtained from my little excel spreadsheet - colour coordinated, I had help.

1. Normal People (Sally Rooney)

I was a little late to the Sally Rooney train, having brushed over my friends insistence that I need to read it. I started with her second novel, finding it through an Amazon recommendation. At first, I struggled with her style, namely the lack of speech marks. I’d go back and forth, working out who said what and when. But once I captured this skill, I was absolutely hooked.

In this hauntingly beautiful novel, Rooney follows the tangled lives of Connell and Marianne, as they fall in and out of love with each other, while progressing from adolescence into young adulthood. Rooney paints such vivid characters, that I still think about them, months later. The themes of mental health woven into the novel were painful, mainly in how relatable they were. It was an incredible story of love and loss, not only with another, but with yourself. My copy sits proudly at the top of my bookshelf, and will be re-read for years to come. The beauty of this novel lay in the simplicity, Rooney didn’t require any fancy narratives, yet the normalcy of this novel was the best part. I have since read her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, and while I liked it, Normal People stood out for me.

Curious about the story but not a reader? BBC and Hulu are releasing a series based on it this year!

2. Daisy Jones & the Six (Taylor Jenkins)

This is the first book I read on my new Kindle - busy reader girl needed to catch up and get an e-reader! I devoured this novel, and when I say devoured, I mean it. I finished the entire book while travelling from Amsterdam to Sydney - my boyfriend was appalled that I hadn’t touched the inflight entertainment system.

I found the novel on Penguin Books Instagram, which I follow and constantly save titles from. And in all honesty, I had somehow misread the description, and believed this to be a nonfiction novel. While reading, I was so excited to land and use the airport internet to listen to the band’s songs, and look up the mentioned album cover. Only to find out when searching, that the band is fictional, as is the novel.

Despite this disappointment, I still consider it one of my favourite reads of the year! The novel is comprised of interviews regarding a band of the 70’s that rose and fell from fame. The author uses quotes from each character to move the narrative along, and the disparages between accounts really fuelled the excitement of the novel and added a comedic touch. The characters were beautifully crafted, with their flaws serving to highlight their humanity.

And while this may not be a real band, we’ll probably get the chance to hear some of the songs mentioned (lyrics at the back of the novel!) in the upcoming musical limited series, produced by Reese Witherspoon and starring Sam Clafflin!

3. The End of the Affair (Graham Greene)

The elder amongst these novels, Greene released this novel in 1951 and I was begged to read it by my partner. He isn’t much of a reader, with the same untouched book of poetry on his bedside table since last summer. So the fact that he had finished this book and enjoyed it sparked my curiosity. He had read it due to being a Ben Howard fan, and loving “End of the Affair” on the album I Forgot Where We Were, which is based on this novel. Whatever gets him reading, right?

Set in London following the Second World War, writer Maurice Bendrix reflects on his failed affair, working backwards from her death to try and discover why it ended. The novel explores obsession, jealousy and religion - or rather, the lack of it- in a painfully self-aware account. Despite this novel being released almost 70 years ago, it is as relevant as ever. I would recommend any writer, artist, or human, to read this. As you will find some part of yourself in Greene’s characters.

Fun fact: The novel is rumoured to be based on Greene’s own affair with Catherine Walston, with the novel being dedicated to a mysterious ‘C’...

4. Educated (Tara Westover)

I found this book randomly in a bookshop before a long train ride, and was recommended it by the assistant working at the time. And I’m so grateful that she did!

Westover was born and raised by survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, never seeing a doctor or classroom until young adulthood. Westover taught herself everything, and managed to escape an increasingly violent home to Brigham Young University, where her quest for knowledge began.

It’s a confronting story, but also one so removed from our everyday reality that you almost feel like it’s fiction. Westover writes honestly, acknowledging differing accounts for certain events and included her siblings' versions. She writes without blame for the violence, the neglect, instead focusing solely on her own growth from it. It’s a story of family, of loyalty, but also of leaving those things to survive and thrive on your own. Despite the difference in our worlds, I think we all could learn from this book.

5. Everything I Know About Love (Dolly Alderton)

The first book I read in 2019, and technically I started it Christmas the year before, but I can’t stifle the urge to recommend it. I was given this book for my 22nd birthday from a good friend, and later discovered that the British literary world had been buzzing about it. I brought it to a dinner afterwards to lend to a friend, only for her to pull out the same book from her bag, what she had been reading on the train ride over!

This is also a memoir, but a memoir of the everyday girl. Alderton navigates adolescence and young adulthood, discussing the parties, relationships and friendships along the way. This book was the first time I could read my adolescence in a novel, and friends shared similar sentiments. Alderton is the closest autobiography to our generation, and to read about MSN names, party hookups and more was delightful. I describe it to people as the autobiography of a real girl, and think it is a hilarious must read.

There you have it, my top 5 reads for 2019! And above, a photo of my very own bookshelf in my Home Office. I’m always on the hunt for book recommendations, and aiming to read 15 books in 2020, so please comment any tips below. I’m also aiming to increase my number of non-fiction reads in particular.

Fleur

Fleur

Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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