This is the time of the year when I try to narrow down the books that I’ve read to five that have become favourites, and I thought it was going to be really tricky this year. I read 51 books this year, and I enjoyed far more of them than I normally do. However, once I started, I realised that it was pretty easy to narrow down my final choices – the five books below really stand out to me as the highlights of my reading year.
- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
I picked up Doomsday Book at the start of the year and absolutely tore though it – I ended up reading through the night even though I had work the next day. Very unusually for me, I already wanted to reread it by the end of the year, so I picked it up over the Christmas period, and once again got through this 600+ page book in a day. Doomsday Book is definitely set to become a forever favourite for me.
- Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas
Here is a lovely story: after I read and loved Dragon’s Green, I recommended it to my mum (a primary school teacher) as a possible story time book for her class. She read it and also loved it, and proceeded to read it with her class. Not all of Mum’s class are avid readers, but they were completely delighted with the book – some of them even asked for it as a Christmas present from their parents – and it engaged some of her reluctant readers. (Here is a good Twitter thread Mum wrote about it). I feel as though I have had a tiny part in helping a few children to start loving books, which is one of my favourite things that’s happened to me all year. Anyway, the book is also great. Buy a copy for your nearest 8-year-old, and read it with them. If you don’t have a nearby 8-year-old, read it anyway, because it’s wonderful.
- The Vaccine Race
Of course I was going to love The Vaccine Race – I am a huge history of science nerd, and I wrote my undergrad dissertation about childhood immunisations. However, the fact that I loved it this much suggests to me that it is a good book even for people who aren’t quite as invested as I am.
- The Radium Girls – Kate Moore
Despite many half-completed drafts, I have not been able to write a review of The Radium Girls, so instead here is the review that convinced me to pick it up. Don’t read the book if you’re feeling fragile, but I think it is something that everyone should read sooner or later.
- A Grief Observed – CS Lewis
I love everything CS Lewis ever wrote, as long as it doesn’t relate to women’s rights, and this strange, dark, beautiful book is no exception. It’s less than 100 pages long, and somehow encapsulates the whole of his crisis of faith in that space.
Honorable mentions – the books that got bumped so I could make this a nice round number were The Way we Live Now by Anthony Trollope, which I loved but which is very long, and The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss, which let itself down by having vampires in its sequel.
This has been a great reading year – I’m especially pleased that I got to a lot of books that have been on my shelves for ages – and I am looking forward to discovering more favourites in 2019.