My Favourite Reads of the Last Year

Sunday, 21 February 2021




This whole concept for a blog post would probably have worked MUCH better if it was a 'My favourite reads of 2020' post, published in January... But never mind, better late than never, right?

I've been reading a lot in the last year. I've always been a bookworm, but lockdowns, cancelled plans and slow days on the sofa have meant that I've been devouring books at a rate never seen before (not by me, anyway!) SO I thought I would share some of my favourite reads from the last year, the ones that have made me laugh, made me ugly-cry, kept me up until 2am and the ones that left me feeling forlorn when I turned the last page.


A Man Called Ove - Frederik Backman

Ove is the quintessential angry old man next door. An isolated retiree with strict principles and a short fuse, who spends his days enforcing block principles only he cares about, and visiting his wife's grave. Ove has given up on life. After a boisterous family moves in next door and accidentally flattens Ove's mailbox, an unlikely friendship forms.

'A Man Called Ove' was the first book I read in 2020, and while it took me a good 75 pages to get into the story, I remember finishing it with tears running down my face on the train home from Birmingham. The more I learned about Ove, the more I loved him. It's a tale of loneliness, friendship, love and growth and the other characters around Ove are just so endearing that you can't not get stuck into the story. 

The Flat Share - Beth O'Leary

Their friends think they're crazy, but it's the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy's at work int he day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven't met yet, it seems this flatshare is more complicated than expected...

The Flat Share got a LOT of hype, and I'll be honest, I was skeptical when I started that it was going to be a bit over-the-top-cheesy. And yes, it is a bit cheesy, but it's like a warm, rainy day rom-com, hug in almost 400 pages. I fell in love with Tiffy and Leon as characters instantly, rooting for them the whole way through. I love watching their characters develop both separately and together, and O'Leary isn't afraid to tackle sensitive issues such as emotional abuse and mental health and she does so beautifully. If you're a romantic at heart and you haven't read The Flat Share yet, you need to!

The Cactus - Sarah Haywood

Meet Susan Green: a prickly, independent woman who has everything just the way she wants it... Yet following the loss of her mother and, implausibly, the prospect of becoming a mother herself, Susan's life is about to become somewhat messier.

'The Cactus' has been widely compared to 'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine', which I personally loved but I think people tend to either love it or hate it. If you hated it though, still give 'The Cactus' a go because it is honestly wonderful! Susan is forty-five and unexpectedly discovers she is pregnant. Soon after, she loses her mother, and between fall-outs with her brother and getting used to the idea of her own impending motherhood, the perfect world she has built for herself begins to unravel. Susan had me chuckling out loud all the way through with her unique view of the world and everyone in it, her lack of understanding for social norms, and her candid thought processes as she tries to find her way through the new situations she ends up in. A truly heart-warming story with a unique character that you can't help rooting for!

Queenie - Candice Carty-Williams

A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on life, love, race and family, Queenie will have you nodding in recognition, crying in solidarity and rooting for this unforgettable character every step of the way.

Queenie is a twenty-something living in Brixton and caught between two cultures, not always knowing where she fits. All while nursing a broken heart, trying to make an impression in her career and battling with her mental health. There was so much in Queenie's story that I could relate to, while there was also so much that I was learning for the very first time about what it means to be a Black woman in Britain. Queenie herself is funny, relatable and just wonderful, you can't help but feel her pain when she is heartbroken, laugh with her, and cheer her on as she goes through the story.



How to Stop Time - Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing identity he can stay one step ahead of his past - and stay alive.

'How to Stop Time' is probably in my top three books I have read this year. Not only was I hooked by the story immediately, I just fell in love with Matt Haig's writing style. It's a beautifully written book, and it was so easy to devour. The story itself was so original, and it was wonderful to be whisked between Shakespearean London, to Paris, to New York and back again. I would recommend 'How to Stop Time' to anyone because it's just amazing.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo - Christy Lefteri

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live happily in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens and they are forced to flee... and they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. 

'The Beekeeper of Aleppo' is the most moving, heartbreaking novel I've read for a long time. Perhaps made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that Nuri & Afra's story reflects the stories of so many real-life refugees escaping war-torn countries, which is something I was so conscious of the whole way through reading. Lefteri's writing style is nothing short of gorgeous, a story of love, loss and tragedy, and I didn't quite know what to do with myself when I finished it. I was left desperate to know the rest of Nuri's story!

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife. The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow: from the Gold Coast of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi; from the missionary schools of Ghana to the dive bars of Harlem.

When done well, I love books that switch between different narratives and come from different characters' perspectives, and I think Gyasi does it so beautifully in 'Homegoing'. The way that each character's story threads into the one of their child is wonderful, and there's so much to learn in there about the slave trade, racism and the oppression that Black people have been subject to for generations. Definitely one to put on your list for your anti-racism education.

After The End - Claire Mackintosh

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. Only now they're facing the most important decision of their lives - and they don't agree.
With the consequences of an impossible choice threatening to devastate them both, nothing will ever be the same again.
But anything can happen after the end...

Oh my goodness, make sure you have tissues for this one. My heart broke over and over again whilst reading. Max and Pip are just both such likeable characters, and even more likeable as a couple. Without spoiling it, they have to make a decision that no parent should ever have to, and you can't help but wonder what decision you would make yourself. I was 100% hooked to After the End, because I loved the characters and I was desperate to know how their story ended!



Girl, Woman, Other - Bernadine Evaristo

From the top of the country to the bottom, across more than a century of change and growth and struggle and life, Girl, Woman, Other follows twelve very different characters on an entwined journey of discovery.
It is future, it is past. It is fiction, it is history. 
It is a novel about who we are now.

I LOVED this book, I think it's another absolute essential if you're looking to expand your anti-racism reading. The writing style does take a bit of getting used to, but once I got accustomed to it I really enjoyed it. As well as racism, Evaristo tackles issues like class, relationships and abuse, and does so in a way that is sensitive but eye-opening and very raw. All twelve stories intertwine throughout the novel which I loved, and I felt like although fictitious, I learned a lot about just some of the prejudice and issues that Black women in Britain have faced in the past and right the way up to now. 

Away With The Penguins - Hazel Prior

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She a loves a nice cup of tea and a good wildlife documentary. And she's never seen without her ruby-red lipstick
Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at eighty-five, her days are spent mostly at home. Alone.
Veronica doesn't have family or friends nearby... And she has no idea where she's going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today... today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change everything.

This book is nothing short of wonderful. I think I finished it in about three days, I just loved it so much. Veronica is your typical grumpy-old-lady character, but she endeared me straight away with her funny little routines and her viewpoint of everyone around her. She's stubborn, gutsy and knows what she wants, and I loved it! The story idea is so original too, and it features penguins! What more could you want?? It's such a lovely easy read as well, I'd definitely recommend if you want a light-hearted book to get stuck into.



Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

For years, rumours of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quite town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. 

Okay, I know this book gets a lot of hype, as well as a lot of mixed reviews. And if I'm being totally honest, I didn't get into it straight away, it wasn't until about a third of the way through that I really got invested in the story. But once I was hooked, I was hooked and I just couldn't wait to find out how Kya's story ended because she's just such an intriguing character. One that was worth the hype for me!


2 comments

  1. I love Frederik Backman, especially his Book “my grandmother sends her regards and apologises”

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