I read some cracking books in 2018. There was a really great mixture of both fiction and non-fiction and I can’t wait to share them with you, so let’s take a look:
ONE: All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr
“Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.” (Good Reads)
This book was so beautifully written. It details the lives of two young people from different backgrounds and how the war affects them as they grow up. The descriptions of each of their worlds are so stunning, you can almost picture living with them. It is full of love on almost every page and makes you wonder what you would do in both Marie-Laure and Werner’s position had you been able to walk in their shoes. It will have you beaming with pride and crying tears of sadness all at the same time. Score: 9/10
“Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.” (Good Reads)
There are some books you read that you just know you will keep. I often pass on books and even with some of the best stories I have read, I don’t mind donating to various people or charity shops when I am done with them. Big Magic however will stay with me for a long time. I don’t think I can pass it on now anyway considering how much I highlighted, annotated and doodled in it. It was a refreshing and powerful insight into the world of creativity and gave me the boost I needed to believe in myself when I really needed it. A stunning piece of non-fiction. Score: 10/10
“When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that. Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make…” (Good Reads).
This book had so many twists and turns right up until the very last page. I was permanently on edge trying to figure out what was happening and who was responsible. A really great idea for a storyline and a really gripping read. I was finished with it in days. Score: 9/10
“A spot-on, wildly funny and sometimes heartbreaking book about growing up, growing older and navigating all kinds of love along the way. When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough. Glittering, with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton’s powerful début weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age – while making you laugh until you fall over. Everything I know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.” (Good Reads)
This book filled me with joy, made me laugh out loud and made me want to call my best friends and declare my love for them. It left me full of positivity and a zest for life. If you’re in your mid-twenties to mid-thirties you have to read this book. Score: 12/10
“In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners. Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive. One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her. A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.” (Good Reads)
By the time I finished this book I felt grieved for the characters. It tells the true story of Lale Sokolov and how he met the love of his life in Auschwitz. It’s a beautifully told story; full of love, loss and the determination to survive once you have something and someone to survive for. Definitely the best ‘fiction’ book I read in 2018. Score: 11/10
“When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.” (Good Reads)
I have read and watched so much about Malala online and have always found her so inspiring, but it was incredible to read her story in her own words. You could feel the power and bravery coming off each and every page. It was even greater reading it now knowing that not only did the Taliban not defeat her, but that she showed her strength and abilities even further by gaining a place and studying at Oxford university. Score: 10/10
“No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.The only way to survive is to open your heart.” (Good Reads)
I adored this book. It was heartwarming and beautifully sad. The telling of Eleanor’s situation is very appropriate right now as we start to recognise loneliness as a serious cause of mental health issues and there will be a lot of people that can relate in many ways. This book really highlights the everyday battle of loneliness and how it can creep up on you without you even realising it was there. If you haven’t read this book already I suggest you add it to the 2019 reading list immediately. Score: 10/10
“Adam Kay was a junior doctor from 2004 until 2010, before a devastating experience on a ward caused him to reconsider his future. He kept a diary throughout his training, and This Is Going to Hurt intersperses tales from the front line of the NHS with reflections on the current crisis. The result is a first-hand account of life as a junior doctor in all its joy, pain, sacrifice and maddening bureaucracy, and a love letter to those who might at any moment be holding our lives in their hands.” (Good Reads)
This was a fascinating and hilarious (in a very dry humour kind of way) insight into the life of a junior doctor on the NHS. I couldn’t put it down. I think we all know our junior doctors are overworked and exhausted, but this really educates us further. It’s incredible to think how much our doctors are expected to do, with no sleep, barely any food and putting their own health and personal life second to those they are treating. You’ll find yourself laughing, then thinking differently and then thanking your lucky stars that the NHS exists. Score: 10/10
“Put yourself in their shoes. In 2007, Stacey Dooley was a twenty-something working in fashion retail. She was selected to take part in the BBC series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts which saw her live and work alongside Indian factory workers making clothes for the UK High Street. This sparked her series of hugely popular investigations, establishing her as one of BBC3’s most celebrated presenters.Through the course of her documentary making, Stacey has covered a variety of topics, from sex trafficking in Cambodia, to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria. At the core of her reporting are incredible women in extraordinary and scarily ordinary circumstances – from sex workers in Russia, to victims of domestic violence in Honduras. In her first book, On the Frontline with the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey draws on her encounters with these brave and wonderful women, using their experiences as a vehicle to explore issues at the centre of female experience. From gender equality and domestic violence, to sex trafficking and sexual identity, Stacey weaves these global strands together in an exploration of what it is to be women in the world today.” (Good Reads)
I personally think Stacey is one of the most powerful journalists and documentary presenters of our generation. She is feisty, determined and brilliant and she has highlighted some of the most harrowing situations people are facing across the globe. In her book, she tells the stories of some of the most inspirational women she has met that are determined to fight back. They are determined to fight for the rights of their children, themselves and of of others. They put themselves through the most difficult of situations to seek a better life to try and change how they are perceived in their societies. Many of the women she meets, although faced with the hardest of problems, come across as the most positive of women. They are hopeful, courageous and fun. In a time of changing mindsets when it comes to women’s equality, her book shows that whilst some countries and changing laws and developing for the better when it comes to women’s rights, other countries seem to be taking backward steps. Yet these women will continue to fight no matter what. Score: 10/10
“In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same. In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.” (Good Reads)
I happened to pick this up on whim one day whilst shopping at Tesco and it was such a good choice. I really enjoyed this book. It was a great thriller that was easy to read and get stuck into. A really good option if you want to indulge in a really good story with an unexpected ending. Score: 9/10
So there you go. If you’re looking for a good book to get your teeth into (or your looking for a holiday read for Easter break) and you haven’t read some of these then I suggest you give one or two a go.
Let me know if you read/have read any and what you thought of them in the comments below.
**Credit for the header photo goes to Chuttersnap via Unsplash
**Please note: Links to each book on Amazon can be found by clicking the link in each of the headings (from which the photos used in this blog post were taken).