However, there have been some good ones. Here are a few of my favourites.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Until this year, I hadn’t read anything by Sophie Kinsella since I was about fourteen. However, this one arrived as a free review copy, so I gave it a chance. And I was glad I did: it was really good.
The story follows Audrey, a teenage girl who is too afraid to leave the house. She wants to get better, but everything is so terrifying, and people treat her like she’s some kind of freak. The main jolt of hope comes from her brother’s friend Linus, who sees her for who she really is.
It’s a book that’ll be relatable to anyone who’s struggled with mental health, and it’s quite hard-hitting in places. But there’s also a level of humour running through the novel; Audrey is able to laugh at herself and takes everything not entirely seriously. It’s the kind of book that genuinely might make you laugh and cry in the same chapter.
A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman
The acclaimed author of When God Was a Rabbit returns with this beautifully-written work. It’s the kind of book that sucks you in and carries you along to a whole different world: the kind best enjoyed over the course of a couple of days curled up in front of an open fire, crusty rolls and homemade soup for company.
The book follows the story of Marvellous Ways, an old lady who lives in a forest, and a young soldier who stumbles across her path and befriends her.
You’ll want to keep a notebook beside you throughout, if you’re anything like me and enjoy recording your favourite quotes. There are a lot of them in A Year of Marvellous Ways and it’s one of those books that couldn’t possibly have been written by anyone else. The writing style is so unique, so artistic, that it can only have come from the fantastically whimsical mind of Sarah Winman.
spill simmer falter wither by Sara Baume
I wasn’t sure about this one when it dropped through my door. It looked suspiciously self-published and the title had no capital letters.
I put off reading it for ages, because I was expecting some kind of crappy self-published fantasy book, and so far I’ve mercifully managed to steer clear of those.
Eventually, however, I ran out of other things to read and decided to give it a go.
You know that old adage, You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover?
spill simmer falter wither is a beautiful little book. It’s about a man who is an eccentric loner, living in a little cottage with only his one-eyed dog for company. Soon driven out by the village community, they end up living in a car and travelling around the country together.
It sort of reads like an internal monologue, but more poetic than that.
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
I kept seeing this in bookshops and on recommendation lists, but I didn’t pick it up until I found it in my local charity shop. I loved it, I read it in one sitting, and I recommend it to everyone.
Maud is an old lady who’s developing dementia. The lines between past and present are blurring, she keeps forgetting things, and some of the time she’s not sure who or where she is. But there’s one thing she is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing, and no one seems to care.
She knows this because she’s got a piece of paper shoved up her sleeve to remind her. When she goes to Elizabeth’s house and finds it empty, she is concerned and disconcerted. Something bad has happened here, but what?
It’s a great book, beautifully written, and Maud is a scarily relatable character (for me, at least, although that probably says more about the state of my brain than anything else). Plus, the twist at the end is brilliantly done.
Mobile Library by David Whitehouse
I recommended this to one of my librarian friends after I’d finished it, and she loved it too, so this one has a double recommendation.
It’s a book about outsiders, about being misunderstood, and about how libraries can save your life.
A boy with an awful home life who’s also bullied at school befriends a disabled girl who is home-educated by her oddball hippy mother. They make up an unlikely trio, but end up sticking together and leaving the town in which they all met. In a mobile library van, they travel the length of the country, befriending a war veteran along the way and ending up in an abandoned house in Scotland.
It’s a story of friendship, outsidership and confusion; love, loss and hatred; and the ultimate importance of sometimes being willing to break the rules.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
I’m going to stick my neck out and say it: I actually preferred this to the original Millennium books. I’m not always a fan of authors picking up other authors’ work and running with it, but this time it’s worked out well and I hope they commission more.
I remembered once I started reading it that I’d actually found Stieg Larsson’s writing style quite difficult to get along with. Lagercrantz, on the other hand, provides an easy read without sacrificing any of the kick-ass storylines.
Lisbeth is back, and in my opinion, she’s better than ever.
What were your favourite books this year? What do you think I should read next?