It’s the time of year when everyone releases their end-of-year best-of lists. Normally I write about the best books I’ve read over the course of the year in August for the National Reading Hour, but this year I decided to fit in with the literati.
It’s important to note that some of these books weren’t necessarily released this year, but I just read them in the past twelve months or so. There were also plenty of great books that came out this year that I haven’t yet gotten around to reading, in which case they’ll probably make my list next year. So, without further ado, my five favourite books of the past year.
Friendship by Emily Gould.
I loved how unapologetically human and ugly the characters were at times. Though neither of the two protagonists were likeable, I found myself relating to both of them, perhaps Amy more so, who I somehow feel is the one you’re supposed to dislike most. I could totally see Greta Gerwig playing her in the movie version. The open-ended conclusion was great, too.
Between the World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
There are no words I could write to describe this book. Just read it.
Room by Emma Donoghue.
For some reason, I’d never gotten around to reading Room when it was released in 2010 but it had always been on my list. With the movie adaptation hitting cinemas (which I saw four times in cinemas and thought was the rare film that was better than the book), I thought I’d finally see what it was all about.
Told from the perspective of a five-year-old boy who never knew anything outside the titular room in which he was born to his captive young mother, I struggled sometimes with his voice (I don’t like children at the best of times, let alone when they’re trusted with an escape plan and attempting to adjust to a brand new world with rules and social norms they’ve never encountered before) but it was never at the detriment of the truly compelling story.
Hush by Eishes Chayil.
I just put this one down and it left enough of an impression on me to include it in this list. Eishes Chayil is a pen name meaning “woman of valor” and protected the identity of the author when this book came out in 2010. (The author has since been revealed as Judy Brown.) It deals with sexual assault and youth suicide in the Hasidic Jewish community and, although young adult fiction which I’m not usually a fan of, it doesn’t take away from the impact of the story.
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire.
This was definitely my favourite book of the year. The characters were so fully realised, the story familiar but still original, and the way Maguire writes about something we’re all too familiar with—the rape and murder of women—is far removed from the salacity with which it’s often covered.
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood.
This one deals with similar topics to most of the books on this list, (I’m often wary to recommend books I’ve loved to friends and colleagues because they’re usually about gendered abuse!) but the way it’s written and the almost spec-fic context sets it apart. I would recommend this one to more serious readers as the themes and tone of the book is more literary than others like it.