It is Christmas present buying time, so time for my Books of the Year 2018. I’ve been spoiled for choice this year, with a constant list of books I really want to read and no book droughts where I had to search for inspiration of what to read next. I’m also really lucky that very many of my favourite authors have published hardbacks this Autumn, so I have plenty more fabulous books to feast on over the dark months of winter. Here are my highs and lows of what I read in 2018.
Most likely to change the world - Yes, We Still Can is a great book about politics – reflecting on the Obama years and galvanising change in the US in the run-up to the midterms. I would argue it has already helped to change the world, as it’s by one of the Pod Save America crew, who played such an important part in organising the ‘resistance’ to Trump, leading to the best midterm performance for the Democrats in 40 years in November. A blue wave indeed. Long may that continue.
Learned most from - reading She-ology by Dr Sherry A Ross made me realise just how much I didn’t know about women’s health, how un-talked about this subject is, even amongst my Feminist friends. I learned a lot and I hope this generation of girls growing up learns this when they need to, not waiting until their forties like I did.
Most captivating - Rising Ground by Philip Marsden is a beautiful book for all Cornwall lovers. It takes you right to bleak and windswept moors, to ancient burial sites where stones are lined up across the landscape and to muddy creeks in Cornish bleak midwinters.
Most changed my everyday life - How to Give up Plastic by Will McCallum is a brilliant book. It is packed full of advice on how to campaign to change the abundance of plastic in the world, as well as being full of practical tips of changes you can make in your own life. It has definitely changed my everyday life – I am now washing my clothes inside a bag in the washing machine to catch micro-plastic fibres, I carry a reusable cutlery set everywhere I go and I have a new mantra whenever I buy anything: ‘think plastic’, which is helping me make good decisions about what to purchase.
Most enjoyment from - Katherine by Anya Seton was a perfect piece of historical fiction for me, and very well chosen by my sister for my birthday. It is a brilliant novel about the woman who eventually became the Duchess of Lancaster, the third wife of John of Gaunt, and who was the mother of the Beauforts, the direct ancestors of the Tudor dynasty (and in the case of Henry Beaufort, the person who my comprehensive school was named after).
Most able to make a complex subject easy to understand - I didn’t read much non-fiction this year as my first full year in a new job meant I used fiction as a way to switch off. One non-fiction book I did read was related to work – It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton, written over ten years ago and recently refreshed with a new introduction. It brings the subject of child development to life and makes a compelling case of why how we as a society care for our children matters.
Most un-put-downable - I was late to the party but finally read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman this year and discovered everything everyone has said about this book is right. It’s an extremely well-written, clever and hopeful book that takes you into the dark reality of childhood abuse and the care system, but leaves you with renewed faith in humanity.
Least enjoyment from - I read my first Helen Dunmore this year, A Spell of Winter, hoping to find a new favourite author, but I just didn’t enjoy it. This is clearly my failing, as she is a writer I have heard nothing but good things about.
Most surprised by, in a bad way - I was so looking forward to reading Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, so much so that it was the first newly released hardback of the many that came out in October that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. It should have been perfect for me – set in postwar London in a world of spies and intrigue and by the author of The English Patient, which is one of my favourite books (and films). But this just didn’t do it for me – it was a clever story, I read dutifully to the end, but it didn’t captivate me.
Would most recommend for holidays - Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) is the best so far of the brilliant Cormoran Strike series. I didn’t read it on holiday, but it would make perfect holiday reading as it was deeply annoying to have to keep putting it down to get on with my everyday life.
Talked most obsessively about - The Road to Somewhere by David Goodhart is one of the most challenging books I’ve read for a long time. I still can’t stop talking about it to my friends and colleagues who share my worldview – about what it means for how we come up with a new politics that works for ‘Somewheres’ as well as ‘Anywheres’.
I hope some of these will help with your Christmas shopping!