The Lost City of Z – David Grann
Non-fiction. A fascinating cross-over between biography, historical fiction, and adventure novel. It was a gripping true story about Percy Fawcett’s journey into first South America, then obsession. It brilliantly made me feel like I was there in the jungle too.
The House on Pooh Corner – A.A Milne
Classic. While we think of this traditional children’s book as juvenile or simplistic and therefore uninteresting to an adult, I found it refreshing, hilarious and sassy. I’m glad I finally read it, especially as an adult, so that I could experience the multi-layered humour and sarcasm that underpins so many children’s classics.
Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
Mystery. Definitely a classic for a reason. I love the old format of her stories, always traditionally formulaic. The predictable nature of the build-up somehow doesn’t take anything away from the story. Having seen several TV adaptations, it was still interesting and worthwhile to go back to the original source material.
Vicious – VE Schwab
Fantasy. This book was like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I devoured it in a single sitting. I’ve heard it described as X-Men meets Frankenstein, and it’s great because I love both of those things. It wasn’t romance heavy, which is something I always appreciate, and its full of morally grey characters, which always adds depth. Short chapters keep the pacing fast and switching between timelines at the right moment leaves you on the edge of your seat.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
Historical fiction. I was very ready to be disappointed by this book, given all the hype surrounding it. There were a lot of things that I didn’t enjoy, especially how I felt that certain characters often came off as unconvincing and slightly cringe, I also predicted the plot twist and so the last-minute reveal did nothing for me. However, despite its flaws, I devoured this book in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It definitely left you wanting more every minute, and excited to see how it all came together at the end.
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
Contemporary. For an embarrassingly long time, I confused this book with Middlemarch, and associated it with Victorian England, and so put it off. Mistake! This is a really, interesting and unique read. Our main character (and narrator) is Cal, a hermaphrodite, who discusses family, self-discovery, and American culture over the span of almost a century. I love a good sprawling family history that comes back to impact the characters in various ways.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
Classic. Once again, a classic that I put off for far too long, only to be really impressed. The naivete of the narrator allows for a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour, and sass, that would probably not be as well received from an adult’s perspective. A really interesting and compelling analysis of American society that doesn’t weigh you down.
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Classic. This a Victorian classic with a lot more to it, it’s very accessible, and I believe would be a good place to start for anyone wanting to delve into the genre. Considered on of the first ever mysteries, it’s very atmospheric and builds suspense almost without you noticing. As someone who doesn’t tend to enjoy thrillers, I was totally engrossed.
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Science fiction. While I lived this story, and the wealth of pop culture that permeates it, I cannot deny that there’s a lot of cringe at times. I alternated between finding the main character super embarrassing and being really impressed by him. Loved the references, loved the idea, mindless entertainment at its best. Please don’t judge this book by the movie!
The Century Trilogy – Ken Follet
Historical fiction. I’m obsessed with Ken Follet, this was the second epic trilogy of his that I have read, and I loved it. It’s a very intense work of historical fiction covering the intertwined lives of many different characters during the period spanning WWI all the way to the 1980s. Incredibly rich world, crazy level of detail and research that makes you feel like you’re there alongside the characters. This was especially true as I have lived in two of the most prevalent settings, Wales and Washington DC.
Native Son – Richard Wright
Historical fiction. I found this fascinating, a difficult book discussing race, poverty, and the criminal justice system in America in the 1930s. Really interesting approach, because the main character does an undeniably horrible thing. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s say it makes you think.
The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
Fantasy. I feel like I’m biased in favour of this book, given its connection to the Dark Materials series, that I was very into as a child. What I love about prequels is that they cover a multitude of sins, because any mention to the earlier (later) story makes you feel like you’re in on a secret, and that rush can often make up for a less compelling plot this time around. Feels like a classic fantasy, doesn’t try too hard as the world is already so well expanded in the original series. I think that it could be read first without too much difficulty.
Anne of Green Gables – L.M Montgomery
Classic. Are you seeing a pattern with the children’s classic here? Anne is my new favourite sass queen. The whole atmosphere reminded me a lot of Pippi Longstocking. Super uplifting and entertaining while broaching some serious issues. I wish I had read it as a kid.
The Raven Cycle – Maggie Steifvader
Fantasy. I have never wanted so badly to be a part of a fictional friendship group. I love the whole vibe in this entire series, the casual mysticism that surrounds the story and the kooks of each character. I predicted one of the plot twists (a rare occurrence) so it didn’t shock me, but I’m not mad about it. The plot itself is a weak point, but it’s made up for by the wonderful character development and lyrical writing.
Stardust – Neil Gaimen
Fantasy. I have loved the movie for years, so I thought it was time to explore the original material. I have a difficult relationship with Neil Gaiman as I so terribly want to love him and yet, just don’t. Overall, I found it really cleverly written, I’m a sucker for interconnecting plot lines that all come together in the end. Let’s be real, I wish I wrote it.
Unbecoming – Rebecca Scherm
Contemporary. This is a difficult one to describe, half heist mystery, part love story, and part coming of age novel…Initially, I wasn’t grabbed by the story, but I soon realised that couldn’t put it down. The double timeline was very effective as it built up the past and I was dying to know what had happened to lead our characters into their current lives.
The Hate You Give – Angie Thomas
Contemporary. Everyone has been talking about this book lately, and justifiably so. It’s very powerful and provides a refreshing and much needed perspective on a gripping subject that we’ve all heard a lot about lately. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see things through Starr’s eyes. The ending wasn’t all that I wanted, but I suppose that’s true of real life as well.
Radio Silence – Alice Oseman
Contemporary. It’s really difficult to describe why I liked it, but there was an element of weirdness that stuck out for me (in a good way). The characters actually feel like real believable people and their decisions make sense, which I don’t often find to be the case. Good representation (I’ve never seen demi-sexuality in a book before) and I liked the strong focus on friendship as a defining relationship rather than a backdrop for romance.