2019 was the year I thoroughly found my reading groove again. I surpassed my original goal and managed to read 32 of the books on my continuously growing reading list. Today, I wanted to share the best of the best and talk through the top five books I read over the course of the year.
Seed by Lisa Heathfield
This is a YA thriller, published in 2015 as Heathfield’s debut novel, that tells a story of a life lived in a cult. From the very first page until the final sentence, Heathfield pulls you into this world, bringing a new shock with almost every chapter and cementing the novel as being completely unputdownable. I found myself so engrossed in the novel that I was skipping ahead in a desperate urge to find out what happens, before going back to read and digest it properly. With its dark themes, shocking revelations and an ending that has stuck with me ever since, this is a YA novel that can be enjoyed by young adults and adults alike.
“Fifteen-year-old Pearl has lived her whole life at Seed, where they worship Nature and idolise their leader, Papa S.
But when a new boy from the Outside arrives, Pearl experiences feelings that she never knew existed and she begins to realise that there is darkness at the heart of Seed. A darkness from which she must escape, before it is too late”
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Having already read some of Rowell’s young adult novels a few years ago, I wanted to experience some of her adult work, and this 2011 debut landed itself as my favourite of her books to date. This is a heartwarming, romantic read following male protagonist Lincoln, who monitors the emails of a newspaper office and in doing so finds himself gradually falling in love with a woman who works there. It’s an original, sweet story of friendship and love, perfectly suited to a cosy evening in.
“It’s 1999 and the internet is still a novelty. At a newspaper office, two colleagues, Beth and Jennifer, e-mail back and forth, discussing their lives in hilarious detail, from love troubles to family dramas. And Lincoln, a shy IT guy responsible for monitoring e-mails, spends his hours reading every exchange.
At first their e-mails offer a welcome diversion, but the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realises just how head-over-heels he is, it’s too late to introduce himself.
After a series of close encounters, Lincoln eventually decides he must follow his heart … and find out if there is such a thing as love before first sight”
Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
Haig brought us his number one bestseller Reasons To Stay Alive back in 2015, and back in 2018 he followed with Notes on a Nervous planet, exploring the link between our modern technological world and the growing rates of anxiety and depression. This is my fourth Haig book that I’ve read and the fourth that I’ve absolutely adored. Whether he’s writing fiction or non-fiction, I find myself instantly connecting with his writing, and I devoured this insightful, accessible book in no time at all. I ran out of sticky tabs for all the ideas, information and quotes that I wanted to imprint on my mind, and it’s another of his books that I will shout for everyone to read, especially if it isn’t something you typically would. Haig’s writing has the ability to open a lot of eyes.
“The world is messing with our minds. Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.
How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? How do we stay human in a technological world? How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?
After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him. Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the twenty-first century”
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Published in 2017 from the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, this is a novel that sang to my soul from the first page to the very last. Joyce writes an utterly radiant story of love and music, and how they can inspire, change and save us. With lyrical prose that reads as one long, beautiful song, this novel is a love note to the power of music and how it can bring us together when we least expect it. This was my first novel by Rachel Joyce, and I cannot wait to explore more of her work.
“1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day, Frank finds his customers the music they need.
Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Isle asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen and a past he will never leave behind”
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
I’m an incredibly late reader to this 2011 bestselling debut by historian Deborah Harkness, but from the moment I submerged myself into this world I could not pull myself out of it. At almost 700 pages long with two more novels that follow, this is a trilogy with a highly original take on the world of witches and vampires, offering pure escapism from real life. Insightful, intelligent and exhilarating, Harkness uses her knowledge as a historian of science and magic to create the intoxicating world of All Souls, and writes a story that keeps you questioning until the very end.
“A world of witches, daemons and vampires.
A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.
Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it”