We are nearing the end of June and it seemed only fitting that I check in and do a Favourite Books Of The Year So Far post. Its nice to do this at the halfway point in the year so that at the end of year I can look back and see if any of them make the overall final cut in the Favourite Books Of The Year post.
It has been a happy coincidence that I have chosen ten books for this list, which is a lovely round number. I selected them by the very scientific method of scrolling through my Goodreads and assessing my gut reaction to the book. I know, complicated right!
I am pleased to say that there is a non-fiction book and three short story collections/anthologies on this list, something I wouldn’t have thought would happen this time last year but you all know I’ve found an affinity with short story collections this year.
So without further ado or preamble, lets get stuck into the Top Ten of 2019 so far….
(These are in a loose date of reading order, with the oldest one first)
First up we have:
When I Had A Little Sister by Catherine Simpson – Fourth Estate 7/2/19
This book is the only non-fiction book to appear here. It tells the story of Catherine Simpson’s sisters mental health issues and ultimate suicide. It totally broke my heart. I’m not a huge crier but I do remember finishing this book in the bath and sitting there crying until the water went cold. It totally drained me and wrung me out. I still often think about it now. My review is here.
Dignity by Alys Conran – W&N 4/4/19
This is a book that had the potential to fly under my radar were it not for being a book blogger. It’s books like this that make me forever grateful that I get sent books unsolicited. This book has a carer/patient relationship at it’s centre which is something I always love in books, so much so that I plan on doing a blog post about this whole dynamic soon. However, it is also much much more than this. We flit backwards and forwards in time and meet some phenominally strong female characters. It totally blew me away and my review is here if you want to check it out.
Its Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mothers by Lisa Blower – Myriad 11/4/19
This is the first short story collection to appear on this list and is a book that will always have my heart due to the nostalgic nature of not only the title but the stories contained within it. These stories based around the Stoke Potteries area have strong working class values threaded throughout. We are introduced to some extremely strong, gutsy, northern matriarch voices that I for one will never forget. My review is here. Please do check it out.
Common People edited by Kit De Waal – Unbound 1/5/19
I have bundled Common People into the three short story collections but that isn’t strictly true. It’s an anthology of poetry, memoir, and essays surrounding working class writers and what it means to them to be working class. I absolutely devoured this collection and as with Its Gone Dark Over Bill’s Mother’s it was absolutely dripping with nostalgia. I could draw so many parallels with my own working class northern upbringing that I could identify with elements of each and every piece. The calabre of writers who contributed was astounding and I discovered some new favourites aswell. My gushing review is here.
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal – Picador 2/5/19
Now you should all know by now that I love historical fiction. Not only that, I love dark, gothic, historical fiction and The Doll Factory is an exquisite example of this. This is a book I would like to put into everyone’s hands and say ‘Just read it!’. In fact when I see people reading it for the first time I get jealous! I have a beautiful Waterstones copy with the sprayed edges sitting proudly on my forever shelf and there it shall stay. Check out my review here
The Rapture by Claire McGlasson – Faber & Faber 5/6/19
Another perfect example of historical fiction with an educational edge! Not so far back in time this time though, Bedford in the 1920’s and the Panacea Society is the subject matter. I found this book fascinating and it led to me doing lots of Googling throughout! My review is here.
Some New Ambush by Carys Davies – Salt 1/10/2007
I picked this short story collection up from Salt when they were doing a 20% off offer. I had heard great things about Cary’s Davies’s novel West but hadn’t read it at the time. What I loved about these stories was the fact that they were a little ‘off’, some elements of magical realism, modern fairytales and fable-esque qualities. I read a fair few short stories and can sometimes get them mixed up in my head with other collections, however I can bring these stories to mind so effortlessly. A real stand-out collection. I have now reserved her second collection The Redemption Of Galen Pike from the library and I’m really looking forward to it.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell – Fourth Estate 28/1/2020
This was the first 2020 proof I received and I did toy with the idea of saving it until closer to the publication date but I ain’t about the delayed gratification life so I jumped right in! I know that this book will become a HUGE talking point next year on it’s release. It covers the very difficult subject matter of sexual abuse and coercion between a male teacher and an underage female pupil at an american college. The protagonist, Vanessa has a relationship with her English teacher Mr Strane which disturbingly carries on in secret throughout her adult life even when he is accused by another former pupil of his of sexual misconduct. Its a tough read and one that will prompt a lot of discussion. It’s timely and compelling and raw. It was a real eye opener for me and I have yet to assimilate my thoughts coherently enough to review it! So watch this space!
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield – Orion 1/11/2007
My first Diane Setterfield book was her most recent one Once Upon A River, which I just adored and reviewed here. When I posted pictures of The Thirteenth Tale EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE said how great a book it is. It seems to be a story which has stood the test of time, with lots of people choosing to re-read it. It seems to stick with people in their minds and I know for sure it will stick with me forever. A perfect piece of historical fiction with a dual timeline narrative. So atmospheric and just stunning.
Finally we have The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns – Virago 1981
I have chosen this one having just finished it today. It will be interesting to see if it makes the final cut at the end of the year after some time away from it. At the moment I can safely say it has blown me away. I am not going to say much more than that because I am in the process of writing the review which will be up soon. Suffice to say that since closing this book a few hours ago I have been online buying and reserving from the library any Barbara Comyns books I can get my hands on! A true testament of a great author!
So there we have it. My half way Top Ten. Any surprises there?
Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts? and what will make in into your top reads at this half way point of the year?
See you all soon!
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx