Some of the best books I read in 2017 were classics and books that many people believe should be read by everyone before they die. Due to this I decided to create a reading list challenge for myself for 2018. It features more of the classics, books I bought years ago and haven’t gotten round to reading plus books that my friends believe everyone should read and that they generally loved. I posted across different social media asking for suggestions of books of any genre that people believe to be must-reads and created this list that I will be trying my hardest to finish before the end of the year.
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
- 1984 – George Orwell
- The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
- The Last Piece of My Heart – Paige Toon
- When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie
- The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
- The Bean Tree – Barbara Kingsolver
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie
- The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- The Book of Dust – Philip Pullman
- N’oublier jamais – Michel Bussi
- Maman a tort – Michel Bussi
- The Light Between Oceans – L. Stedman
- Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
- Parsnips, Buttered: How To Win At Modern Life, One Email At A Time – Joe Lycett
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ – Gail Honeyman
- Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
- Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell
- Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Cien años de soledad – Gabriel García Márquez
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon
- Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
- And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
- El tiempo entre costuras – María Dueñas
- The Waves – Virginia Woolf
- The Color Purple – Alice Walker
- The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende
- Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
- Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
- I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
- Twelve Years a Slave – Solomon Northup
- The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
- White Teeth – Zadie Smith
- Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
- The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
- The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton
Thank you to everyone who suggested something and stay tuned for updates and reviews.
November’s reading was full of nostalgia and books aimed at children which was a perfect way to get back into reading by harking back to an age when I used to devour books over two evenings – sometimes buried beneath my duvet with a torch in hand so as not to wake my sister. Due to this I read every day of November and on more than one occasion was going to bed early so I could read more before going to sleep.
Madeleine L’Engle – A Wrinkle in Time
Despite this being released in the 60s I hadn’t heard of it till earlier this year when it was suddenly all over my Instagram after Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah were signed on to the film. After watching the trailer more recently I decided to read the book before the film comes out – as I always plan to but generally don’t get round to – and managed to find it in Waterstones. It follows Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace and friend Calvin O’Keefe as they travel across the universe to rescue her father. It is full of suspense and had I known about it earlier I would’ve loved to have read it when I was younger and will definitely be lending it to my younger cousin to read. Despite it being aimed at a younger audience I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was short enough that I could read it quickly and I would definitely recommend it to everyone.
Roald Dahl – Billy and the Minpins
This was the only Roald Dahl children’s story I never read as a child as it was never in any of the box sets due to not being illustrated by Quentin Blake. Earlier this year it was re-released with Quentin Blake’s distinctive style of drawing and I was given it as an early Christmas present from one of my best friends who also adores Roald Dahl. It isn’t very long and I read it one morning in less than an hour. As expected it is another gorgeous story by one of the world’s best loved storytellers complete with the perfect final page.
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
I first read Harper Lee’s classic novel for my GCSE’s when I was 15. It was the first book that I was assigned where I reached the point and couldn’t wait for the class to catch up; I went home and read the second half of the book over the space of a few days only to read it again with the class. I thought that on second reading I may struggle to read it as quickly but after a few chapters I realised I had forgotten 90% of what actually happened and thoroughly enjoyed delving back into Scout’s world. The book was just as excellent and thought provoking on a second read and I would not be surprised if reading it again becomes a regular thing. If anybody has not read it, I would recommend reading it as soon as possible.
Harper Lee – Go Set a Watchman
I was excited to read this as soon as I had heard it was being released but after reading lots of mixed reviews I decided not to run out and buy it and quickly forgot about it. I then found it in a charity shop recently and figured I may as well give it a try and decide for myself. After reading the first chapter I realised I had forgotten almost everything that happens in To Kill a Mockingbird so put it down and planned to buy it as soon as I could and re read that first – which I did a week later after a trip to Waterstone’s. Before diving back into Go Set A Watchman I did a little research into it and after discovering that it was a first draft rather than a sequel I continued reading with an open mind. The first thing I noticed was that there are some paragraphs that are exactly the same as in To Kill a Mockingbird – I probably wouldn’t have noticed had I not just read it – which makes sense after discovering Go Set a Watchman was never intended to be published. It has a lot of the same themes as To Kill a Mockingbird but shows a lot of the initial characters’ views and ideals to be unrealistic and portrays that nobody – not even Atticus Finch – is perfect. Many people have said they were disappointed with either the novel or the way it has been sold as a sequel – one bookshop even gave refunds to people who had read it and were disappointed. However I believe if you read it with an open mind and try not to compare it to To Kill A Mockingbird – despite the fact that is all I’ve done here – it is an excellent book written by one of the best authors in recent years.
As you keen readers may have noticed I skipped the September reading post as I ended up not finishing any books during the month – thus not meeting my NYE goal. I read sections of books but found that due to not getting into any of them, I struggled to finish any of them. By the end of October I managed to push through and finally finish the first book in months.
Mike Bullen – Trust
I had picked this up in a charity shop as it was written by the creator of Cold Feet – which I had watched last year and loved. I decided to start reading it as I wanted something that wasn’t too taxing after struggling to get past the halfway point of Hidden Figures because of all the maths and science. It deals with two couples and the effects of cheating on their relationships and families. In the end I finished it but just because I felt the need to finish a book, not because I enjoyed it. It is the first book I have ever completed and immediately put straight into a charity bag. Fortunately I was able to read most of it of over a few days so thankfully I didn’t waste too much time on a book I disliked but it has made me realise I need to stop reading books when I realise I’m not interested.
Despite reading the beginning of a few books in August I have only finished one which is why this post only includes Brooklyn. Hopefully by the end of September I will have finished all the books I’ve started and maybe a few more.
Colm Toibin – Brooklyn
I had wanted to read this since I had first seen the film advertised and realised it was based on a book. However I did seem to constantly forget about it and it wasn’t until I found the book at my Grandma’s that I decided to borrow it and finally get round to reading it. I enjoyed the book immensely and devoured it over 3 evenings – during my social media cleanse so nothing to distract me. It follows Eilis as she moves from her village in Ireland to Brooklyn for better opportunities during the 1950s. As with most books that are turned into films, there was a mountain more description in the book and I did find myself constantly comparing the two despite only having the seen film once over a year ago. I did however find Eilis a lot more likeable in the film than towards the end of the book when I seemed to be forever internally screaming –spoiler alert – “Get your arse back to your husband in Brooklyn!” This is not to say that the characters weren’t likeable and I felt the casting of them in the film did them a mountain of justice. I would definitely recommend this to others who both have and haven’t seen the film and it draws you in to Eilis’ life in a very compelling way – most of the time.
Although I was on holiday for the last week of July I didn’t manage to read as much as I had originally hoped. I took 4 books with me, bought another 4 in charity shops in the first few days yet still only managed to read half a book. I did, however, listen to an entire book with my family while driving around Northern Ireland. Prior to going on holiday we decided to borrow some audiobooks from the library and despite 2 of them being duds that we couldn’t listen to for more than 15 minutes, one was glorious.
Emma Kennedy – Shoes For Anthony
My Dad picked this after a number of the books he had reserved did not arrive in time and as he and I had both read The Tent, The Bucket and Me – and loved it – he thought this would be a good choice for our long car rides. He wasn’t wrong. The book follows a young boy Anthony who lives in a small mining village in Wales during the Second World War. The audiobook is read by Emma Kennedy herself and it was a joy to listen to, especially – and this came as a surprise to me – the accents. By the end of the story we were close to taking it into the house so we could continue listening to it. We had guessed one of the twists but we did not anticipate the turn it was going to take, nor did guessing this take anything away from the joy of listening to it. Shoes For Anthony would be an excellent read but I would definitely recommend getting a hold of the audiobook if you can!
Between travelling around Galicia with my family, moving home again after 8 months and a trip to New York I didn’t find as much time to read as I normally do but the one book I managed to read was glorious enough to make up for it.
Phoebe Robinson – You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain
I had been wanting to read Phoebe Robinson’s collection of essays/memoir since I discovered her on Instagram through Ilana Glazer. I had found it on Amazon but was working my way through a pile of other books and it wasn’t all that cheap. However when I walked into Strand books in New York I realised I would probably be able to get it a little cheaper and went off in search for it. It turned out it had been upstairs just as you walk in the door but looking for it hadn’t exactly been a chore. I started reading it that afternoon as I was waiting for Cat to finish work and knew almost immediately it had been worth tracking down. Phoebe talks about her life growing up and becoming a comedian and how being a black female affected certain things she did. She also ends her book with a collection of letters to her 2 year old niece which are especially glorious. I cried, I laughed and I will be recommending it to everyone till I die.
May began as a month where I thought I was going to get loads read but after spending weeks trying to read Eat Pray Love, in the end I only managed to complete 2 books. I had wanted to read Eat Pray Love for a while as many people had said they had loved it, it was slow to begin but I enjoyed the section in Italy – all those food descriptions – but once she made it to Indonesia I found the voice unbearable and the descriptions of meditation dull and monotonous. So I gave up and left the book in Spain. Less about that and more about the books I actually managed to finish. As the last 3 books I have read have been written by the same author it has meant that I have compared all of them against each other.
Liane Moriarty – Truly Madly Guilty
I had had this on my reading list for a while after it was recommended to me by a friend but after reading Big Little Lies it jumped up quite a few places. It was a slower read than Big Little Lies – although I still managed to read it in less than a week – but once I hit the halfway point I was gripped and finished it in one evening. It is written in a similar way to Big Little Lies in that it follows 2 timelines – leading to and after a big unknown event. It was excellent and I would definitely recommend it but I don’t think it is as good as Big Little Lies.
Liane Moriarty- My Husband’s Secret
My Husband’s Secret was my least favourite of the 3 but was again very easy to read so was perfect for between classes and reading at the beach. This was similar to the previous Moriarty books I had read in that it tells the story up to an event and after but differs in that the “event” in question was decades before the rest of the story. It would be worth a read if you’ve nothing else but not one I would be telling people to run and buy.
As I was at home for the first few weeks of April – and busy trying to do as much and see as many people as possible in 17 days – I didn’t get to read as much as I usually do and by the time I returned to Spain I had only read the first few chapters of Lion. I thought this would be first month where I only completed one book but in the end I’ve finished 3 books – 2 read in the last 6 days of April – and they have all been excellent. They all revolve around a search for the truth which for some is found within in another person and they all show strong friendship and familial bonds.
Saroo Brierley- Lion/ A Long Way Home: A Memoir
My Mam and Dad had seen this at the cinema and after loving it my Mam decided to read the book. She enjoyed it and recommended I read it too, which I did. Although it took me nearly 3 weeks between starting and finishing it, it was a surprisingly easy read – during which I definitely cried multiple times. It is the true story of Saroo who got onto the wrong train in India when he was 5 years old and, after growing up in Australia, begins to search for his family. It was heartbreaking to read but with the photos in the middle – I definitely looked at these before I even decided to read the book – I knew that he would find his family. However it was still incredible to read about his sheer determination to track down the town where he had been born and lost his family.
Liane Moriarty – Big Little Lies
As most people know – and anyone who has read even one of these blog posts – I am drawn to books that have been adapted into films or TV shows. So when I discovered the TV show – starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shaileene Woodley, Laura Deen and a host of other famous faces – was based on a book, I knew I had to read it before I would be able to watch the show. The TV show is being raved about by everyone I know who has watched it – I haven’t started to binge yet – and I am not surprised as the book was superb. Over 3 days I laughed, I cried, I sent quotes to my friends and at one point I even threw my kindle across my bed as the twist came as a massive shock to me. After I made it past the halfway point I couldn’t put it down and walked across the road still reading it and for the first time read on the bus on the way back from school. The story follows a group of mothers of kindergarten children in Sydney and tells their story leading up to the murder of one of the parents. It deals with a multitude of issues that women face such as domestic violence, abuse, problems with their children while also depicting female friendship as the incredible force that it is. I couldn’t recommend Big Little Lies highly enough.
Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
I picked this book up in a second hand book shop in Vigo but had planned to read it later and try to read a book in Spanish first but when Katie said she had read it and loved it, I decided to start reading it straight after I finished Big Little Lies. I read it in 2 sittings – 2 3 and a half hour long but still – and it was an absolutely stunning read. It is set in South Carolina in the 60s and follows the story of Lily Owens who runs away from home with her black maid, Rosaleen, and finds refuge in the house of the Boatwright sisters who keep bees and sell the honey. The civil rights movement that was taking place at the time is mentioned throughout – Rosaleen wanting to register to vote, racism, Martin Luther King – the story focuses on Lily’s search for more information about her mother who dies when she was 4 and the importance of female role models. It is an excellent book that I would definitely recommend.
Last month I read fewer books than the previous 2 months but they were excellent, made even better by the fact I was able to read them while sitting on the beach in the sunshine.
Richard Morais – The Hundred Foot Journey
I had had this book since the film was first released in the cinema and my Mam had picked it up in Tesco on offer. I had planned to read it and watch the film after but after watching the film earlier in the year – and absolutely loving it – I decided it was time to give the book a try. It was different to the film, Hassan wasn’t quite as friendly and lovely as in the film and there was no Hollywood ending. However it was still excellent. I struggled to read it while hungry as it is full of detailed descriptions of amazing sounding food that in reality I probably wouldn’t eat but sounded so tempting I was close to eating my book. The book also came across as more real, the characters are more well rounded – less perfect and more likely to be asshats. All in all it was a very entertaining read and one I would definitely recommend- just probably for when you’re not starving!
Laura Bates – Girl Up
I had bought Girl Up last summer after seeing it just about everywhere but again I hadn’t gotten around to actually reading it. I wish I had read it sooner. What a book! It discusses a multitude of different things that young girls deal with every day. It is both overwhelmingly honest and full of humour. I have never read anything more relatable and it has also prompted many discussions with my flat mate who has borrowed it and read it quicker than she has ever read another book. It is an incredible read that I would recommend to everyone and should be given to every young girl as there is so much that would have been exactly what I needed to read while I was at school. In short, this book should be read by every female.
Yet again last month all of the books I read were written by a woman with a female at the centre of the story – or stories – and they have been excellent once again. Two have even centred around red headed females which I found strange as they were chosen by chance to read in the same month. With the weather being so good, reading between classes was a joy in the sunshine meaning that again I finished 3 books last month – success!
Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables is one of those classics I knew very little about until I started using Pinterest. I was forever scrolling through screenshots from the film but it wasn’t until I watched an adaptation with my Mam – it had Martin Sheen in and I feel like it was potentially on Hallmark – that I decided to give it a read. As it’s a classic the book was free on my kindle – winner – so while trying to expand my reading horizons I downloaded it. I found it very easy to read and it was a perfect accompaniment to my cups of tea at the beach during my breaks at school. It’s also always nice to read a book with a redhead as the main character – even if she spends the first half of the book complaining about it. As with other books I have read recently I thought it seemed to end quite quickly – although maybe it just feels that way when I’m enjoying a book so much – and after all the posts on Pinterest I’d expected a lot more Gilbert Blythe. All in all I liked the book a lot and am definitely enjoying reading more of the classics that I feel like should have already read.
Anna Kendrick – Scrappy Little Nobody
I knew I wanted to read this as soon as Anna Kendrick posted a picture on instagram saying it was going to be a thing. I got it for Christmas and managed to stretch reading it over a good 5 weeks by reading a little everyday before going to sleep. I loved it. I laughed, I cried, I cringed – it was exactly what I expected and I loved finding out a little more about an actress that I love so much. It was split into sections and contained anecdotes about her love life, career, family and friends. Before reading it I hadn’t realised she’d been a child stage actress and found it interesting to read about how she had grown up while working. I’ve already lent the book to 2 of the other girls here so I think it will be well and truly read and enjoyed.
Louise Jensen – The Sister
I decided to give this a read after it came up as a recommended read after Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. It was labelled as a “psychological thriller with a brilliant twist you won’t see coming” which – without giving too much away – would have been more believable if the book wasn’t named The Sister. That’s not to say the book wasn’t good or that I guessed exactly how it was going to end but another name may have been a better choice. When I first started I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to finish as Jensen does have a strange writing style which I found a little irritating at first. However once I got halfway through – and the plot began to thicken – I was gripped and finished it in a few hours. I have since downloaded her other novel in the hope that it will be as easy to read and help to fill the time.