My Top 5 Reads for 2019
2019 was a roller-coaster year to say the least. It marked probably my biggest year of reading yet (I surpassed last year's mark in November) and the quality of books was the highest I can remember in a while. But now comes the difficulty of ranking my favourite reads and it is a very close call this year.
I thought I read my book of the year back in April with another strong contender in March. Then I was blown away by an author's masterpiece thinking nothing could get close to it until another great novel took me away. Reading through some of my reviews this was a year of books I won't forget. Tragically I can only include 5 of them in my Top 5. So after much to-ing and fro-ing and constant rearranging of titles here is My Top 5 Reads of 2019:
This novel is truly exceptional, in every sense of the word. The book is told by Danny and centres on his life growing up in The Dutch House of the title with his older sister Maeve. Danny recounts the history of the house they both grew up in, how it came to be the family home and the sacred place it holds in both their lives. The house draws people towards it like a moth towards a light, while others are forced away from it, banished, sometimes by choice, other times by events outside their control. This is a true masterpiece by a writer who somehow keeps getting better and better. It is so good it almost ruined fiction for me for the rest of the year.
This book is an absolute firecracker of a novel. The fuse is lit the moment you open the book. It sparks and crackles as it burns as you get to know each character and the story builds until it explodes with every emotion you can think of; joy, despair, elation, misery, excitement and more. Your pulse literally races as you read this book and you will have a smile on your face one moment and be reaching for tissues the next. You will want to read the whole thing in one go and then sit down and listen to the great music of the era it depicts. This was one of the best reading experiences I have ever had. If this book was an album I would read it on repeat all night long.
I was utterly convinced this was going to win the Booker Prize this year and I am still filthy it didn't even make the longlist. Set in Zambia over two centuries and follows three generations from three families whose lives become coiled together. Namwali Serpell’s debut is not just genre defying but genre encompassing; part-fairy tale, part-historical epic, it is a tragic love story and cutting edge science fiction. The language is inventive, playful and has bite. It is a wonderful historical novel that deals with colonialism, family ties and genetics but doesn’t conform to a set timeline or set conventions, jumping forwards and backwards as it suits the story and its characters. This is a book that captures your heart, your mind and your imagination before leaving you both satisfied and aching for more at its brilliant conclusion.
This book should have received the same buzz as Sally Rooney’s Normal People, it is that good. I am a sucker for a coming of age novel and The Falconer has got to rank amongst one of the best I have ever read. Think The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach but with basketball instead of baseball and you still aren’t even halfway there! Set in New York in 1993 we follow 17-year-old Lucy Adler as she navigates life whilst trying to find her place in the world and the city. Lucy is carving out her identity and being true to it while at the same time she is exploring and examining her friendships and what each of them really mean. This is an ode to growing up and an ode to New York City. The vibrancy and turbulence of both.
This is an amazing read. Jaw-droppingly good. I couldn’t inhale the words fast enough, I was totally addicted to the characters, the story, the writing, everything. When I finished the book I was upset that it was over. It is an outstanding story of family, friendship, love and how all three entwine, entangle and entrench themselves for good, bad and everything in between. It is about how trying to pave a future away from your past inevitably will bring you back to confront the past before you, and those you love, can truly move forward.
Honourable mentions go to Philip Pullman's The Secret Commonwealth; which is so immersive, so intense that you literally have to snap yourself out of it to return to the real world. And then all you want to do is go back. Elizabeth Strout's Olive, Again; Olive Kitteridge is such a wonderful character to get to know it was such a joy to be reacquainted with her. Julia Cohen's Louis & Louise (now published as The Two Lives of Louis and Louise) which takes one character and imagines two parallel lives; one as a male and ones as a female. Andrew McGahan's The Rich Man's House, the final opus by a writer I will never forget. And Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other which should have won the Booker in its own right.