For the sake of symmetry, I’ve split my top ten 5/5 and if you have any problems with my life choices, you can fight me. Here’s the second set of five books I read and loved this year.
GEORGE by Alex Gino
Affecting, sweet, moving and important, George is the story of a trans girl who really wants to play Charlotte in her school’s production of Charlotte’s Web. It rings with authenticity as a trans story told by a trans author. I want to put this book into the hands of as many people as I can, because it is important without feeling worthy; it’s a little-heard story expressed with the utmost feeling.
OUR ENDLESS NUMBERED DAYS by Claire Fuller
A book as dark, hypnotic, lush as the wilderness. Peggy is eight when her survivalist father takes her into the woods to live in die Hütte, telling her the rest of the world has been destroyed. Peggy’s coming-of-age, the abuse she suffers, and her eventual return to the world are all brilliantly told, but it’s the imagery that’s stayed with me: the trees, the river, the chasm of the ended world, the silent piano.
A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab
I’m not much of a fantasy reader but I was so glad to have picked this up. It’s exciting, pacy and inventive and left me desperate for the next instalment. Kell’s travels through alternate Londons are just a whole lot of fun, and there are pirates and great outfits. What’s not to love? I think the cities are the true stars, but I’m a fan of bisexual royalty Rhy, too.
A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson
I loved Life After Life, and this was the companion novel, following Ursula’s beloved little brother Teddy. It’s an immense character study and honestly I would read a book on each of the Todds, vividly drawn and appealing as they are. A God in Ruins is often devastating, in its domestic intricacies (such as Teddy’s relationship with his daughter and her children) as much as in its powerful WW2 writing. It’s a rich, sad book to live in for a few weeks; to feel deeply.
A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara
Three months later, I still think about Jude St Francis. I can only quote from my review, written minutes after finishing the book in floods of tears: “A Little Life is devastatingly romantic. It made me want to call my friends and tell them I love them. It’s eloquent on loss, trauma, and grief but also on friendship, kindness, and love. I’m giving this book five stars not because it’s flawless but because the ways it made me think and feel were so profound. I was dreading reading this; I was expecting a slog. Instead I have confirmed my belief in literature as a tool for learning empathy. I read A Little Life obsessively and cried a lot, and now my own life feels a little fuller.” Have I been manipulated? Probably. Is it an experience I would recommend to others? Probably not. Am I glad I read this book? Yes, yes, yes.