Well here we are. The end of the year.
And. What. A. Year.
Let’s not dwell too much on the negative and celebrate the positive! I’m here today to bring you my top reads of the year. Books that have stuck in my mind or given me ‘the feeling’. I always include books I’ve read during the year regardless of publication date. So there are books on this list that aren’t published until 2021. I have included fiction, non-fiction and short story collections.
So…..without further ado, let’s get going! In no particular order…..
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld – Jonathan Cape
I read this book early on in the year and it was an absolute treat. It has lingered with me all year. A triple timeline narrative told by three very different women set against the backdrop of The Bass Rock in Scotland. My review is here
Boy Parts by Eliza Clarke – Influx Press
When I first read this book I think I went on Twitter and described it as a ‘shot of adrenaline right in the arse cheek’ and I stand by that quote even now. Another book I read early on in the year which has burrowed its way under my skin and stayed there festering away….in a great way! My review is here
Rest And Be Thankful by Emma Glass – Bloomsbury
This is another book that found its way under my skin and I can still remember how I felt when I read it. A depiction of an exhausted nurse who is barely keeping a hold on her life and her sanity. It’s stark and hard hitting but has a dreamlike ethereal quality to the writing. My review is here
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers – W&N
This is one of those books that I read and really enjoyed at the time but has since grown and grown in my heart and whenever I see anyone talking about reading it I find myself feeling a little jealous that they’re getting to read it for the first time. A story of a journalist who has been tasked with exploring and reporting on a case of a ‘virgin birth’ and who gets more involved with the family than she anticipates. My review is here
A Place For Everything by Anna Wilson – HQ
I listened to this one on audio and I raced through it. I don’t listen to many books on audio at all, but with this one I found myself wanting to get back to it every time I was away from it. A very touching yet honest account of Anna’s mother’s autism and the late in life diagnosis of this. It’s heartbreaking and hopeful and utterly fascinating.
What Have I Done by Laura Dockrill – Square Peg
This memoir of Laura’s struggle with Post Natal mental illness after the birth of her son Jet really resonated with me. I suffered with PND after the births of both of my children and some of the thoughts and feelings Laura had were the exact same for me. It felt raw and honest but had a real humour to it too. I highly recommend this one.
The Push by Ashley Audrain – Michael Joseph
Another book about motherhood but this time fictional. The Push is one of those books I want to push on everyone (no pun intended). This is the story of a woman who fails to connect with her baby daughter Violet. She knows from her past that the women in her family do not take naturally to motherhood so when she has doubts about her daughters strange behaviour she questions whether the fault lies with Violet or herself. I remember physically covering up the last couple of paragraphs with my hand when I was reading it because I didn’t want the ending to be revealed too quickly and my eyes kept flicking to the final paragraph. A paragraph which is a sucker punch! Brilliant stuff.
This Little Family by Inès Bayard – 4th Estate
Yes, another book about motherhood! This one is so dark and compelling and is by no means an easy read. It opens with the murder of a young boy and his father at the hands of the mother. Our protagonist is a woman who suffers a brutal rape by her work colleague and falls pregnant. She spirals down into mental illness believing her child to be the devil. It is achingly sad and a real eye-opener. It’s a tough read but worth it.
Famished by Anna Vaught – Influx Press
Let’s take a detour from motherhood through food shall we?! Famished is the short story collection I was waiting for. Anna Vaught writes these dark, delicious and disgusting nuggets of fiction that really worm their way into your brain! They are at once stomach churning and tastebud tingling and I loved them! My review is here
The Harpy by Megan Hunter – Picador
That cover still blows me away. I’ve chosen this one because the ending still sticks with me even now. This is the story of a woman who discovers that her husband has been having an affair. But far from being the typical ‘woman scorned’ fiction, this tale takes on a dark and sinister twist. Interspersed with harpy folklore this is a taught and claustrophobic tale that I would heartily recommend. My review is here
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell – Tinder Press
An oldie but a goody! I’ve read one or two Maggie O’Farrell books in my early twenties but this one blew me away. I love a dual timeline narrative, I love a struggling mother, I adore family secrets…..boom! This book had all three elements. Maggie O’Farrell is a wonderful storyteller (you all know this!) and my next foray into Maggie’s writing will be Hamnet which I have had on my shelf for too long.
Here Is The Beehive by Sarah Crossan – Bloomsbury Circus
Another tale of an extra marital affair but this time told from the perspective of the other woman. However, this affair is ill fated and the man our protagonist is in love with dies. This story told in verse explores what you do when a secret relationship ends and you have to deal with your grief quietly and alone. Such an interesting concept that Sarah Crossan deals with beautifully. My review is here
The Inverts by Crystal Jeans – Borough Press
This book is every bit as bold and colourful as its cover. The Inverts tells the story of good friends Bart and Bettina who are both struggling with their sexuality. As a cover for their true feelings, they embark on a ‘lavender’ marriage whereby they use each other to conceal their true sexuality. This is a tale that spans decades and deals with love and friendship brilliantly. Both poignant and very funny in places. Bart and Bettina have a little place in my heart. My review will be up closer to publication in April 2021.
Hungry by Grace Dent – Mudlark
This memoir of northern working class Grace Dent was absolutely dripping in nostalgia for me. I could draw so many parallels between Grace’s upbringing and my own that it really touched me. Heavily focussing on food, family and nostalgia, this book was touching, funny and just a joy to read.
The Sound Mirror by Heidi James – Blue Moose Books
Heidi James has become a new favourite author this year. Not only is she lovely she is an absolutely wonderfully immersive writer. The Sound Mirror is a multi generational exploration of family, motherhood and identity which absolutely drew me and had me utterly absorbed. My review is here
The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex – Picador
Sorry folks but you’re going to have to wait until March 2021 for this one to be published. Such a tease! I love a book which is based on a real life event as this one is. When three men disappear from a lighthouse they are manning and the door is locked from the inside, the clocks have stopped and the table is laid ready for a meal, it leaves everyone wondering what on earth could have happened to them?…….brilliant stuff.
The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward – Viper
This is an absolute mind bender of a book! And again you’re going to have to wait until March 2021 for this one I’m afraid! I can’t even tell you anything about it as it will spoil the whole book (the review was hellish to write!). Just trust me that you need this book in your life!
Lullaby Beach by Stella Duffy – Virago
Another 2021 release that you should all have on your radar. I stayed up way too late reading this one and I had zero regrets. This book has a protagonist who I still think about and miss regularly. I love you Kitty! Please please look into this one. My review will be up closer to publication in February.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart – Picador
Ahhhhh Shuggie……I know I said that this list was in no particular order but I have to say that if I was asked what my book of the year was it would hands down be Shuggie Bain. This is a book I will think about ALWAYS. I don’t do re-reads but I’m DYING to get back to this one. Shuggie has a huge place in my heart and Douglas Stuart has written an absolute masterpiece. My review is here
So there we go! A brilliant bookish year where I read some absolute corkers!
I just want to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy new year and thank you for your continued support of my little blog and my bookish blatherings elsewhere. You really do make my day and I don’t know where I would have been this year without you all.
As always many thanks to the very generous publicists and publishers who allow me to read their books in advance. I’m a very lucky girl!
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx