#2018RoundUp: Best Books

Saturday, 22 December 2018


Ta-DA! Here's what reading all year was all about - the creme de la creme, the diamonds in the rough, etc etc etc. If I am being honest, I read some pretty terrible books in 2018, but was it a bad reading year? No. Because I got to experience all of these and let me tell you, they're pretty bloody amazing.

I wish I had the words to do justice to the wonderful, inspiring, fucking badass, Edith Eger and her memoir. But, I don't. And I don't think I ever will. Her blunt, matter-of-fact and unflinchingly honest look at her experiences in the bowels of Nazism and her surprisingly clear-headed examination of the long-reaching nature of trauma and the realities of PTSD, manages to show a sense of resilience and strength that I can only dream of. So yeah, it is the most horrifying (and only true!) account of the Holocaust that I have ever read, but even through that, it somehow manages to be the most hopeful.

Compiled by the ever-wonderful Roxane Gay, Not That Bad is a resolute crescendo of strong, beautiful voices that manages to simultaneously be incredibly personal, and almost have a sense universality in relation to the modern female experience. It is a rallying-cry; telling people not to give up, to keep on fighting, to stop downplaying the shit that happens to them and to instead drawn attention to it. Powerful. Raw. Sublime. A must-read for everyone, whether as a reminder to speak out or as a much-needed reality-check.

Everyone has heard of Truman Capote and everyone has heard of his fall from grace. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott turns an examination of his life and the choices that he made into a non-fiction novel that I can imagine that Capote himself would have enjoyed. It is honest, catty and a little biting, evoking a time in old Hollywood that most of us can only dream of.

Jessie Greengrass' phenomenal debut features an introspective look on the prospective of motherhood. Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction alongside Kandasamy's When I Hit You, it is a literary masterpiece that is only made more brilliant by the fact that Greengrass was too busy to attend the award ceremony because she was giving birth to her first child.

Meena Kandasamy's unflinching and raw look at an educated woman being the victim of domestic violence is a sight to be beheld. Emotional, hard-hitting and even a little funny at times, I can't imagine that I am the only one who believes that this should have won the Women's Prize for Fiction. Either way, it is a book that I won't be forgetting anytime soon and one that I cannot help but press into the hands of everyone that I meet.

R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries is a searing examination of obsession, grief and the extremes that people will go to fill the hollow emptiness left behind by loss. This book truly is a masterpiece and the way that it manages to build a relationship between the slightly-too obsessional, too singular, too dedicated feelings associated with romantic love, and those associated with religious fervour and obsession, is really a marvel that almost felt like a visceral punch to the chest. The blurring of the edges and boundaries shows just how close extremism (of all kinds) is looming at the peripheries of our experience.

Ghost Wall is an intense and masterful novel about the harrowing realities of a family affected by domestic violence and the lengths that people go to justify their behaviour. Through her masterful (and often quiet) examination of the natures of mob mentality and the incredible strength that is needed to act against it, Sarah Moss has created a tense, atmospheric book of barely 150 pages, that certainly packs one hell of a punch.

Sometimes it is good to read about someone's life that is completely different from your own. And Tara Westover's life is about as different from my own as it gets - raised by a mentally-ill father who was obsessed with the end of days, she doesn't step foot into a classroom until she enters college at age eighteen. Then suddenly, her tale becomes about belonging; about being too much of one place to truly fit in in the other. And that is where I quickly realised that, no matter how different we first appeared, the universality of the strands of human existence and experience managed to somehow knit us together.

I don't think I will ever be able to find the words to explain just how much this book means. Angie Thomas draws timely attention to the everyday realities of far too many black teenagers and their families in America. There's no extremes here, no pushing the boundaries, nothing out of the ordinary that wouldn't happen in the day-to-day. And that's why it is so important. Because it should not be a person's lived experience. And because of that, this book manages to transcend the perceived frivolity of the YA genre by creating something that does include prom and first love and all those genre staples, but by juxtaposing them with the hatred and the darkness and the brutality of real life, it shows a depiction of a teenager that has never felt more real.

This book is a murder-mystery the likes of which I have not seen in a long time. A lot of them are average, sub-par, but in The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton has crafted a novel that is not only unique, but incredibly enjoyable. For fans of Cluedo and murder-mysteries of old, step inside the world and see if our protagonist can stop the murder of the girl he witnesses every night. This is a book that you are going to want to read in one sitting.

Head on over to http://bit.ly/2y7JSWV for these books, as well as all of the others featured in my reviews, complete with the added bonuses of free worldwide shipping and bringing a little joy to my life.

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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