Updated: Feb 11
Reading has and I hope always will be an escape for me. Here are some notable books I read in 2019:
This is going to hurt // Adam Kay
This is such an easy read. Adam Kay is a fantastic writer and super engaging. The book narrates his time as a junior doctor, following the emotional rollercoasters of his career. He had me laughing one minute and crying the next, which is extra embarrassing considering I do most of my reading on the train. It’s written in diary form and each entry is often less than a page long, making it an accessible way to introduce reading into your daily routine. I enjoyed the use of footnotes throughout which supposedly explain medical phrases or add context, but really they just cram even more of his personality into the pages.
Adam starts a realistic conversation about our healthcare system, one that as I have gotten older and surrounded myself with more people who work for the NHS, I realise we desperately need to have.
‘One day you’ll blink and the NHS will have completely evaporated - and if that blink turns out to be a stroke you are totally screwed’
Becoming // Michelle Obama
For anyone nosey about life in the ominous White House this is the book for you. It's spilt into three sections; Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. The first third of her book took me a whileeee to get into. However it was worth the grind as I speed read the rest. I was pleasantly surprised by how much Michelle didn’t hold back. She was more honest than most would be in her position, opening up about her marriage and the struggles of being a working mum. The third and final section about Barack’s time as president was so interesting. Life in the White House is insane, she discusses the guilt she felt as a parent raising her children in such a setting. It really brings home that these are real people, with real emotions and real thoughts trying desperately to do an impossible job.
My favourite sections were all the random facts about being a US president. Did you know the president always travels with a fridge full of their blood type in case they need an emergency transfusion. The security is mad, they have an emergency helicopter following them every time they leave the house incase they need to be immediately evacuated.
‘Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?
Not that kind of love // Clare Wise and Greg Wise
This book originated as a series of blog posts written by Clare Wise and later her brother Greg. They follow her journey with breast and bone cancer. She documented the surreality of her life and health falling apart on a blog. Her brother Greg carries this on when she could not. I haven’t read much literature about siblings so I thoroughly enjoyed reading Clare and Greg tease each other whilst loving each other so unconditionally. The entries are funny but no matter how many jokes you crack the subject is a heartbreaking one. Each entry gets more and more raw, meaning buckets of tissues were needed. Despite them both writing about the heaviest subject matter somehow the book is a beautiful read. Desperately sad, but you find yourself smiling.
‘If you find yourself with matching socks as you leave the house in the morning, that is a cause for celebration. And I couldn’t agree more. If the rest of the day is spent finding the cure for cancer, or brokering World Peace, then that’s a bonus. And there are gems, there are tiny powerful moments, if we just make ourselves available to witness and mark them. They are there, every day, all around us.’
Happy // Derren Brown
I have never read ‘self help’ books and I was sceptical about this because I assumed it would have a similar tone to what I imagine they are like. But Derren is openly sceptical about ‘positive’ thinking as it’s shown to us in media. For example the Law of Attraction, that branded everywhere a few years ago. The theory was if you think positively then positive things will happen and if you believe in anything strongly enough then it will happen for you. Derren takes a more realistic view. If you dream and have huge unattainable goals then you are more likely to be disappointed when they don’t happen. He argues that living in the future is damaging and we should be focused on what surrounds us now. Most of his thoughts are similar to this, radical yet simple. Derren isn’t religious, in fact he is vocally atheist, nonetheless I found his book a spiritual read.
‘There is a deeper happiness to be had in knowing that your life is part of a story of flourishing than there is merely pushing entertainment’
Why we sleep // Matthew Walker
Must confess, I never actually finished reading this book. Unsure why and I definitely want to finish reading it soon. It’s heavily science based and unlike most other books I read. This isn’t a novel you’ll race through but more a practical guide on how to better your life. We all know sleep is good for you but as our world increasingly becomes more 24/7 this can be hard to achieve. The fact that shocked me the most was that caffeine stays in your system for an average of 14 HOURS…so the last time you should be drinking it is 14 hours before you go to sleep.
‘Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan—two heads of state that were very vocal, if not proud, about sleeping only four to five hours a night—both went on to develop the ruthless disease. The current US president, Donald Trump—also a vociferous proclaimer of sleeping just a few hours each night—may want to take note.’
Olive Kitteridge // Elizabeth Strout
Commonly when a book is named after a character they are the obvious main focus of the story line. However Strout cleverly weaves Olive’s life in and amongst other narratives using the omniscient point of view. This means that you get to know Olive not only from her own thoughts, but from a wide variety of people who come across her. At first you don’t really warm to Olive’s personality but the more you read, the more compelling she gets. This novel is a reminder of the complicated nature of personalities and why people act out in certain ways. You find yourself identifying with a women who you initially didn’t like. This book addresses the fickleness of humanity. A reminder that everyone gets angry when they shouldn’t, everyone feels disappointment, everyone catches moments of pure happiness directly followed by loneliness. This is being human and Olive represents that.
‘Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most likely not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.’
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine // Gail Honeyman
I raced through this book whilst on a hen weekend, this entailed ignoring my friends on the plane home trying to finish it. The narrator, Eleanor, is unreliable and we can't take all of what she believes is reality to be fact. The latter section of the book reveals these disparities between Eleanors mind and reality when Eleanor herself starts to unveil the truth. This novel addresses loneliness and trauma whilst teaching you how be a good friend to people who aren’t ready to open up. Despite the heavy subject matter and sad story line the book remains upbeat and cheerful as you grow to love the main character Eleanor.
‘When you're struggling hard to manage your own emotions, it becomes unbearable to have to witness other people's, to have to try and manage theirs too.’
Nine Perfect Strangers // Liane Moriarty
The beginning of this book I found to be very gripping. I enjoyed juggling the perspective between the characters to get a more in-depth version of each personality. Not only learning how the characters views themselves, but how they come across to everyone else. Similar to Strout’s writing style you see that characters often judge other people based on their own insecurities. The interactions between the different temperaments are then, all the more interesting. However I didn’t love the last two thirds of this book. It got too dramatic and implausible for my personal preference. A vast variety of subjects, such as grief, wealth and loneliness, were all trying to be explored but non done successfully.
That being said this book is a page turner for sure, and if you enjoy lots of plot twists this is the book for you. Definitely a good beach read if you are looking for lighthearted entertainment.
Normal People // Sally Rooney
This novel is an unexpected page turner considering nothing overly dramatic happens. The main reason I found it so compelling are the two main characters. The personalities are intricate and developed so incredibly throughout, you get a grasp of all sides of their personality. I think a reason you feel you know them so well is because the story solely focuses on these two with other characters given next to no background or charm.
Sally covers a huge variety of subjects such as class, power, abuse, grief etc. She uses the unoriginal, and potentially overused, plot line of ‘will they, won’t they get together’. Yet somehow this feels different. The couple aren’t and won’t ever be perfect for each other but perhaps that’s the beauty of it.
'No one can be independent of other people completely, so why not give up the attempt, she thought, go running in the other direction, depend on people for everything, allow them to depend on you, why not.'
Side note : Sally doesn’t use quotations marks which makes for a slightly confusing read at the beginning.
Thanks for getting nerdy with me, heres to many more book worm sessions in 2020.