Highlights of 2019…Blogging and books

This year I started a blog!

I still have to let that sink in. I started it to record my reads, and expand my own love of reading. I could never have imagined the amazing and extensive literary world it has opened up to me.

From the amazing authors I have had the chance to connect with through reviews and blog tours, to publishers who have kindly gifted books for review and most importantly all the tremendously talented bloggers who have been so supportive and welcoming.

There have been lessons learnt and frustrations at times but starting Bookbound has definitely been one of my better 2019 decisions.

Over the past week I have been trying and failing to pick my 10 books of the year. My slightly unreliable stats (a.k.a – the list on my phone! ) says I have read 139 books, and picking 10 of the best has proven impossible.

So I had ‘one of those chats’ with myself, in which I remind myself for the billionth time that it is ‘my blog, my rules’ and decided to just go for the standouts. It is worth noting that not all these books were published in 2019, but they were all new discoveries to me.

Hope you enjoy …

Nonfiction picks…

The Salt Path – Raynor Winn

This was my very first read of 2019. I heard Raynor Winn interviewed as I drove my husband to a hospital appointment on New Years Eve 2018. This uplifting and inspirational tale of a couple overcoming adversity in their own unique and moving way did not disappoint.

This is most certainly one of my most recommended books of the year, and I see no reason to stop now. So if you haven’t read it, make some time to add this to your list.

Lowborn – Kerry Hudson

This book should be required reading for every single person who makes any kind of decision that affects social policy or spending in this country. In fact when a new MP is elected or a teacher trained, or social worker employed a copy of this book should be thrust into their hands and they should not be unleashed into the world of work until they have read every single last word.

Breathtaking, accomplished and heartbreaking, all in equal measure.

I am saying no more … just read.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper – Hallie Rubenhold

If you are looking for a book that retells the grisly details of this famous crime in glorious technicolour, or expounds yet another theory as to the killer’s identity then this book isn’t for you.

However if you want to look beyond the deaths of the women involved and understand the social constraints and poverty they lived in then grab yourself a copy.

Hallie Rubenhold examines the lives of each of the five women, looks in detail at the path their lives took before the murders and crucially and systematically debunks the age old myth that all these women were involved in prostitution. It is a comprehensive and sensitive social commentary, one which has rattled more than one Ripperologists cage. Highly recommended!

Fiction picks …

Everything Under – Daisy Johnson

My second read of 2019 and my first one by this author. And it certainly won’t be the last.

I loved this quirky retelling of the Oedipus myth. Beautiful writing, unique and compelling, it drew me and held me there. Almost a year on and I am still thinking about it.

The Doll Factory – Elizabeth McNeal

This one blew my socks off.

A Victorian setting, clever imagery and consistent themes and best of all a DEBUT novel which invariably means more treats to come.

It was one of my most viewed blogs of the year and should you so wish you can find it here!

The Rapture – Claire McGlasson

This was one of the first books I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of and honestly I couldn’t believe my luck. It was a pleasure to write this review

Based on the true story of an almost exclusively female religious cult based in 1920’s Bedford, I was totally hooked. If you haven’t already discovered the tale of the Panacea Society then you are in for a treat.

Expectation – Anna Hope

I discovered the writing of Anna Hope with the poignant and beautiful Wake several years ago. So I suspected I was in for a treat when I heard about Expectation. I wasn’t disappointed.

A stunning exploration of friendship, expectations and the underlying tensions and secrets, my review is right here

Lanny – Max Porter

Not dressing it up, I blooming loved this one! If I absolutely had to pick one book of this year then Lanny would be it.

When I wrote my review in the summer I was full of hope that this one was heading for the Booker Prize shortlist. Alas it was not to be…I am still recovering…

10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World – Elif Shafak

Looking for a book that assaults the senses in the most beautiful and profound way? Then look no further than this.

Everything about this book was stunning from it’s cover, it’s imagery and it’s message of true friendship. Reviewed as part of my Booker Prize reading, this one made the short list.

The CaravanersElizabeth von Arnim

This book was such an unexpected find. A most welcome gift from Handheld Press this book is a feminist triumph.

The story of a hapless German Baron and his long suffering second wife on their turn of the Century caravanning holiday made me quite literally howl with laughter. This book has been loaned out so many times since I reviewed it in the Autumn that I have lost count. Easily one of the cleverest and funniest books I have read this year.

Things in Jars – Jess Kidd

I am so late to the party with this one. It’s is the first Jess Kidd I have read … I know!! And I literally finished this hours ago.

Quirky, funny and historical, this book has left me wondering quite why I had taken so long to read it. It might be one of, if not the last read of 2019, but there is no way this wasn’t making the list.

I have The Hoarder on my TBR list and it has just been bumped right up the pile!

Short stories

Until a few years ago I would announce on a regular basis that I wasn’t a fan of short stories.

Well quite clearly I hadn’t read the right collections because 2019 has been a bit of a bumper year.

Witches Sail in Eggshells By Chloe Turner

Devoured in an afternoon and reviewed almost immediately, this collection of short stories was an absolute treat.

I know I would never have stumbled across and reviewed this book if I hadn’t entered this wonderful world of blogging. Thank you Reflex Press for the chance to get my hands on this stunner. Time for a reread me thinks.

Salt Slow – Julia Armfield

Carrying on the theme of end of year goodies, this collection had been floating around on Twitter for a while, catching my eye with it’s beautiful cover and high praise from impeccable sources.

Adding Salt Slow to my Christmas list was a definite winner. Another collection that took my breath away and inspired an impromptu, unplanned but oh so deserved blog post.

And then…

Let’s have a quick chat about Audiobooks. Now up until recently I haven’t been a huge fan. But the combination of AirPods and being thoroughly sick of listening to the news has lead to a relatively recent change of heart.

They are never going to replace the joy of reading a book but I have to admit I have come across some beauties.

If you haven’t already read it then you could do much worse than to listen to The Dutch House By Ann Patchett. A detailed and beautifully told family saga, made all the more intriguing by being read by the wonderful Tom Hanks

And if poetry is your thing then The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane is truly a thing of beauty.

Author of the year…

Well, this might be a slightly misleading heading as I suspect that this is too a hard a call to make. But this author has three titles that all crop up on my favourites list this year.

I truly haven’t recovered yet from my disappointment that her deliciously dark novella Ghost Wall didn’t make the Women’s Prize Short List – Sarah Moss was robbed I tell you!

This short but beautifully formed tale of dark family secrets was the catalyst that led me to Bodies of light and Signs for Lost Children, two connected novels set at the turn of the century. They deal with women’s suffrage and the price women paid for what they fought for. They are also a fascinating portrayal of how families both nurture and damage and the developing understanding and treatment of mental health.

Sarah Moss is a gem of an author with so much more for me to discover. I keep promising to blog about her and it’s a promise I will keep in the near future.

And finally… Book of the Decade???

So question has been floating around on various Bookish forums over the past few days.

At first I felt it was an impossible choice and it still might be. It goes without saying that there is no definitive answer, indeed the literary world would be so much poorer if we all agreed.

But for me the book I have read, reread, recommended and bored my entire family senseless about on a regular basis has to be ..,

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders

From the second I read this novel I was entranced by it’s premise and the originality of the telling. Humour, pathos, history and compassion – this one has the lot.

If you have got this far thanks for reading. Bring on 2020!

Wondering what the next decade will bring…

Rachel x

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