Another year at its end and I’m staring at the books I read throughout the year, trying to pick my favourites. I always find it interesting to look back over the year, seeing the books I rated highly (or lowly) at the time, but then seeing how different books have stuck with me over time. So, in general, I try to include books in my end-of-year round ups that have stuck with me, rather than the ones I rated highly in the moment — either that, or the ones I’ve found myself recommending the most. I like to include this little disclaimer just in case you get confused, if you happen to be well-versed in my Goodreads account as you’ll see discrepancies between the two lists!
And, as always, I can never decide on a nice round number, so here are my top 7 of 2019!
1. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
I wish I could download this book into my brain so that I was always prepared for arguments, or even just to have a little ‘fun’ fact up my sleeve. The author takes us through the data that exists (and, more often, doesn’t exist) for women living in our modern world that was built for men. Every single page had me saying ‘HUH???’ but it also explained why so many things are the way that they are.
This book is hands-down the book that has stayed with me the most. It’s a tough read, not only because the facts are hard to take in but because it’s stats-heavy. If your brain doesn’t process numbers very well (like me!) you’ll likely find it difficult to get through, but it’s worth taking it bit by bit, because it’s so eye-opening!
2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
I know shamefully little about apartheid and from my memory, this is the only book I’ve ever read that talks about it in any detail. I like learning about historical things through the eyes of someone who lived amongst it (I think we all do) — it makes it far more engaging than just a list of facts you have to try to relate to. Trevor Noah narrates the audiobook which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was funny, I learnt so much and have gone on to learn more. For the past couple of years this has been mentioned in a lot of people’s ‘Top Books of the Year’ lists and there’s a reason why! It was excellent.
3. She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twomey
I finished my comms degree, majoring in Journalism, back in 2014 and I have no desire to delve into that world again, let me tell you. Again, everyone was raving about the relatively new release of She Said, by two of the driving forces behind the #metoo movement, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twomey. I found it really engaging as it took you through every step of breaking the Harvey Weinstein story and it almost made me want to start using that degree I got (… but not quite). I was hooked, it was so easy to read and I found myself understanding more and more about the #metoo movement, bits of the story I’d missed before.
4. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
I think Dumplin’ has defined my year more than any other book. Prior to 2019, I hadn’t gone swimming in … possibly years? Dumplin’ wasn’t the only reason I donned the terrifying cozzies again but it was definitely one of the reasons. The release of the movie was what made me finally read this book and, to be honest, I preferred the movie (I found Willowdean to be fairly irritating in the book) but the story has stuck with me all year. I wish a book like this had been around when I was going into my teens. A plus-size gal, finding her way in the world and learning she’s just as deserving of love (every kind of love) as everyone else? I still haven’t accepted that, so it would have been good if I could have realised that a little earlier on in life.
5. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty
There was no way a new release from my favourite wasn’t making the cut. Gravity is the Thing is a weird book — all Jaclyn Moriarty’s books are. But they’re exactly my kind of weird. The mysterious letters, the Sydney setting and the fantastic, all wrapped up into one book? It’s my favourite thing.
6. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I originally listened to this book on audiobook because it was a quick listen. I am so glad that I did because I loved it! A lot of people have been disappointed, because I think they thought it was going to be a scary book, something that could be made into the next crime series on Netflix, and it’s not really like that. It’s about sisterhood and how far you are willing to go to protect one another. It’s funny, it’s dark and it’s entirely not what I expected but it was great. Hearing the author speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival was also a joy – she was definitely the kind of person you could imagine being friends with and she was taking no one’s crap.
7. The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper
The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper was one of my first reads of the year. It was brought out to coincide with the 10 year anniversary of the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria but who among us knew that we would be looking at our country burning to ashes right now, all over again. Today’s crisis is very different to that depicted in The Arsonist but if I hadn’t read this book, I think I would be just as incredulous that anyone could ever start a fire. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for arsonists but this book made me see that there’s so much more to the story than we think there is.
It was compelling, it made me feel sick to my stomach and I’m glad I read it at the start of the year, rather than now — if you are sensitive (which I don’t consider myself to be, and yet I was deeply moved by this story) and you are finding yourself overwhelmed with the uncontrollable tragedy of what’s happening in our country right now, I urge you to wait to read this book until it rains. Until we start seeing daily images of greenery shooting through the ashes. If it was hard to read at the beginning of the year, it’s almost impossible to read right now but it is an important book and one that I think everyone should read, when they think they can handle it.