As we’ve reached the middle of the year, now is an ideal time for me to big up some of my best books of 2019 so far. Let’s jump in!
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
This Agatha Christie inspired murder mystery with a Black Mirror twist follows Aiden Bishop, who is tasked with the mission to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle in order to escape the sinister Blackheath. This task is facilitated and complicated by the fact that every morning he wakes up in a different body.
Stuart Turton’s debut is exciting, gripping and suspenseful. The setting is alive and menacing, the characters are impossible to pin down and there are new twists and turns on every single page. A fun, absorbing read.
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Known for his inspiring TED talks and international health work, Factfulness was Hans Rosling’s final gift to the world before he died in 2017. He co-wrote the book with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund, his son and daughter-in-law who continue their Gapminder foundation today.
This is an eye-opening and uplifting non-fiction book that debunks myths about global health, population, gender equality and much more. It also reinforces that climate change is today’s primary concern, urging us to focus our energies on this global issue rather than getting sidetracked by statistically unlikely catastrophes. An essential read.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeline Thien
This historical novel won and was shortlisted for several prizes when it came out in 2016 and for good reason. It’s an evocative multi-generational story about the musicians that suffered during the cultural revolution in China and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square.
Thien has crafted a novel that is at once intimate and grandly political, rooted in the details of life inside China yet transcendent in its universality. Goodreads.
Not only is the writing poetic, fluid and compelling, but the characters are vividly painted and the story multi-layered and nuanced. Thien explores themes of family and identity, morality and politics, music and silence. And its layers are woven together seamlessly.
One I will definitely be rereading.
Hollow Pike by Juno Dawson
Hollow Pike is a young adult thriller with a supernatural element. It opens with Lis moving to a new village to escape her school bullies. She hopes for a fresh start but instead faces Mean Girls style school politics and is plagued by frightening crimes and sinister nightmares. Could the local rumours about witchcraft be true?
This book is atmospheric, original and keeps you on your toes. It’s also the book I read the most compulsively and finished within a couple of days. It feels cosy in places and chilling in others. Sometimes a fast-paced YA thriller is exactly what you need.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This month, Tayari Jones won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 for An American Marriage. This novel is about a black American couple, Roy and Celestial, who embody “both the American Dream and the New South” until their lives and their marriage are torn apart by Roy’s wrongful imprisonment.
This is an honest and moving portrayal of relationships, race and injustice. The foreboding sense of inevitability in the first chapters is chilling, the letters the couple exchange are heart-wrenching and the shifting dynamics between the characters kept me invested throughout.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This book kicks off as Korede gets a phone call from her sister, Ayoola, who has murdered yet another one of her boyfriends in so-called self-defence. Korede rushes to help dispose of the body while wrestling with her suspicions that her sister might actually be a serial killer.
This minimalist, fast-paced and episodic novel has lingered with me since I finished it. As well as being fun and pacey this book is also layered with deeper themes of gender, family and how far one will transgress for someone they love. The sparse writing style is admirable and extreme circumstances are made uncannily day-to-day.
The entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I re-read the whole series this year, trying to space the books out between others to make the joy last because I suspected finishing the series again would be sad. Spoiler alert: I was right.
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin
My favourites from this collection were “Headlights”, a vivid, eerie story about women abandoned on a highway and “Toward Happy Civilisation”, a strange tale about a man who gets stuck at a rural train station for months because he doesn’t have the correct change.
(Apparently, I like stories about people getting stranded.)
“Neck” (chapter one of I am, I am, I am by Maggie O’Farrell).
This memoir tells Maggie O’Farrell’s life story through seventeen brushes with death. In “Neck”, she recollects an encounter with a man on a rural walk which almost turned fatal. It’s a disturbing, subtle exploration of gendered violence.
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