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My favourite books I've read in 2018 so far


This year my priorities have had to shift and reading and blogging have had to take a backseat. However, I've still read some brilliant books that I want to share with everyone. So, here are my reading highlights from the year so far.

All links go to Goodreads pages.

Let me know what you've been enjoying reading lately :)

Fiction


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman

I mean, I'm sure everyone has heard about this book by now, but yeah - I loved it. This easy-to-read novel takes you into the world of Eleanor Oliphant - a lonely young woman just doing her best to get on with life in the only way she knows how. Everything changes when her life is disrupted through a chance encounter and an unlikely new friendship.

It's uplifting and funny, yet painfully honest too. It wasn't perfect, I had gripes with a plot detail at the end and some of the phrasing felt contrived, but honestly, it has my whole heart.

How Do You Like Me Now - Holly Bourne

Again, I got completely swept away by this novel. What I loved about this, as with Eleanor Oliphant, was the ease of reading, humour and characters I cared about, alongside deeper and darker themes. Our main character here is Tori Bailey - a best-selling writer and self-help guru in her early thirties who, from the outside, seems to have it all and be loving life. In reality, she feels unsatisfied, fraudulent and completely stuck.

Society's expectations of women and all the conflicting emotions that go with that are unpacked, but the strongest feature of this book was the depiction of an emotionally neglectful and abusive relationship. This could really help people in a similar situation. I loved seeing the character's journey through this story, and the insight into the feelings and thoughts that we so often feel we can't share.

Let Me Lie - Clare Mackintosh

What I loved about this, as I did with I Let You Go, is that it's a brilliant thriller - gripping and addictive, but the characters actually feel emotionally real. There's more depth than you'd expect, with feelings around grief and suicide, but also what it's like to be a new mum. This was the first time I've ever read about a character breastfeeding. The protagonist is in stressful situations, talking to the police and family, while also caring for her baby - because that's how life works. It felt really refreshing but also sad how rare this is, not just in books but in any storytelling medium.

Harry Potter - JK Rowling

I'm not going to go into detail on this for obvious reasons but this year I have finished reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. Turns out, you all had a point - I bloody loved it. I think my favourites were The Deathly Hallows and The Prizoner of Azkaban.

Non-Fiction


Somebody I Used To Know - Wendy Mitchell

In this memoir Wendy writes about her experiences living with early onset dementia - how she begins to notice herself slipping, how she learns to manage and finds a new life filled with opportunities, and how she remembers her life before. It's a book I'm sure will always stay with me, and one that challenged my perceptions - even though I felt like I understood the condition well.

Wendy is often met with people who don't understand how she can be so articulate, questioning whether she "really" has dementia - and she makes the point that the condition has to start somewhere. We are familiar with the later stages, but not so much with the beginning and the middle. We need to become more aware and understanding around dementia, and this book gives you the chance to do that while being a brilliant read full of warmth, honesty and, crucially also, hope.

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge

Again, this book is an education. We learn about black british history, something I had so little awareness of. Reni herself admits that prior to her research, neither did she. We are not taught this narrative and yet it's so essential - to understand the present we have to understand the past. And she moves onto the present also, the dynamics she faces everyday around privilege, ignorance, systemic racism and microaggressions. It was a book I knew I needed to read, but I felt gripped by it and now encourage everyone to read it.

Mayhem - Sigrid Rausing

Sigrid lost her sister-in-law through addiction - she died back in 2012. Really though, she lost her, and her brother, years before. They were here, but not really here. Sigrid took on their children, and the task of trying to help however she could.

Mayhem is a powerful read that hit on feelings that resonated with me around loving someone with addiction: the guilt and the responsibility. The imbalance of power and control that comes through helping, and the chaos and pain that reigns despite all efforts. The cultural parallels would lose me at times, but they felt necessary - for Sigrid to make sense of this, and for us as the reader to do so also while having some respite from the struggles so viscerally portrayed.

Dear Body - Hannah Hodgson

This short poetry collection explores Hannah's experience with her various disabilities and chronic health conditions - her frustrations with her body, and with the taxing ignorance and obstacles that society and individuals present. It is so rare that I read something that touches on my own experiences with chronic illness so I really appreciated this, but I also loved the writing style. It's clear and easy to understand, while being playful and powerful with the imagery and structure used. The collection is available to buy here.

Remember This When You're Sad - Maggie Van Eijk

I wish I'd had this book when I was in my late teens and early 20s, but even reading it now I got a lot from it. This is a wonderful book about living when your brain (and the world) make that tough. Maggie writes about her experiences with her mental health with absolute honesty but in a style that feels refreshingly real and easy to read, with humour and warmth. She imparts practical advice on coping, with an awareness of the limits of this - signposting to ways for people to access further help. I also loved the illustrations by Flo Perry.

How To Stop Feeling Like Shit - Andrea Owen

This is also a book I wish I'd had when I was younger. Andrea writes about the behaviours and mindsets that can impact on our mental health, such as negative self-talk and maintaining boundaries. She doesn't try to give us all the answers, but shines a light on each area as a possibility for further exploration, encouraging the reader to get underneath where these habits are stemming from.

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