My Reading Year So Far | 2018

It's halfway through the year (okay, it took me a while to get around to writing this so now it's a bit past the halfway point) so I wanted to take a look back at some of the books I've read so far this year. I've made a couple of videos like this on my youtube channel, but I thought with this blog post I could go a little more in depth. So I asked myself a few questions and I've picked out some books to talk about that really stood out to me this year!

Best Young Adult & Adult Books

There are a couple of YA books that have really stood out to my so far this year: The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed, and State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury. The Nowhere Girls is a contemporary book about rape culture - and it was done so well! You follow three different girls living in a small town where, the previous year, a girl was raped by some boys on the football team, and no one in the town really believed her, and her family ended up moving away. The plot of the book follows a group of girls who are outraged by this, and start trying to defend her and shine a light on the rape culture that exists within their school and their town. The whole book was so cleverly done, and tackled larger, more obvious acts of sexism, as well as smaller, everyday things, and shows how small everyday acts of sexism can build up and overall contribute to rape culture. As well as discussing rape culture in a very realistic, nuanced, and understandable way, the book was really well written and had me gripped the whole way through. Definitely a standout book of the year.

Another one I loved was State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury - and I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this! I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but I really enjoy the political side of fantasy, rather than battles or magic, and that's completely what this book was. It follows a girl who is the daughter of the leader of her country, which has been in mourning for 16 years since her mother and brother died when she was born. No one is very happy with how her father has been ruling the country, forcing mourning and basically putting the country at a standstill - and something big happens which means she has to take charge. The world building in this book was incredible - there are a lot of different countries in this world and oyu get a flavour for them, and you really understand the histories and different tensions between them all. You really understand everyone's political leanings and this book is all about alliances, political intrigue, and figuring out who can be trusted. It takes a lot to write a book like that well and I really enjoyed it - can't wait for the next one in the series!

I've made a whole video about my favourite adult books so far this year, but I'll sum up a little here. A book I was not surprised to love was Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers, the third book in the Wayfarer's series - I continue to absolutely love this series, Becky Chambers has created an incredible world. I've also discovered a new favourite author, Ramona Ausubel, and I've loved both of her short story collections, A Guide to Being Born and Awayland. Another short story collection I've loved is Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado - a book which centers around the theme of violence against women and uses fabulism, magical realism and a touch of surrealism, and is a really stunning collection.

A real standout book for me this year has been Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, which follows multiple women in a near future where abortion, IVF, and single parent adoption are about to be outlawed, and we see the effect this has on lots of women living in a small, coastal town in America. I adored the choppy, spare writing style and can't wait to try more from this author.

Most Disappointing Books So Far

I have had a few disappointments this year! I'm trying to get better at DNFing books, but there are a few I read to the end and was just let down by. A big one is The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell - I probably would have DNFed this book if I hadn't been reaidng it along with my mum and my nan. It aims to be a gothic horror but just fell completely flat for me, with a lot of story choices that just didn't make sense to me.

Another disappointment was Idaho by Emily Ruskovich - this was disappointing because I was so sure I was going to love it, but again, it just fell flat. It aims to be a literary novel with a dark edge and a little mystery behind it, but I just found it slow and dull and ultimately didn't find any aspects of the plot were resolved in a way I found satisfying.

I also read a pretty disappointing non-fiction book - The Happiness Industry by William Davies. I find it fascinating how very recently 'happiness' has become an industry in itself - with the rise of meditation apps, self care books, and quick fixes. I was hoping this book would be about that, and about how business capitalise on society's need to fill some hole in their lives and find happiness, but it didn't delivery. It was mostly a history on how happiness has been studied scientifically, which could have been interesting if it was written in a way that was at all engaging. It discussed the topics I was interested in right at the last minute, where it sort of touched on them and then the book ended. Not what I expected at all!

Most Surprising Books of the Year

There are a few books which I feel like I want to shine a light on, but that haven't quite managed to make it to my top list. These books I gave 4 stars to and wasn't expecting to enjoy them as much as I did! First is Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson. I think this didn't manage to make it to my top list because the writing style is just quite simplistic, but I connected with the main character and it made me think a lot. It's set in the 70s and follows a woman who, after becoming pregnant by a man who doesn't stick around, joins a scientific study called The Infinite Family Project, where she moves into a group home with other people who are all about to have children who all agree to raise their children together, as one family. The book really tackles the idea of families and found families, who is important, and how we can raise our children to be good, kind people. I feel like I got a lot out of it!
Another surprising book was Sourdough by Robin Sloan - again, the writing was quite simplistic but I loved the story itself and it was a light, fun, quick read. It follows a woman who is a software engineer, stuck in the grind of borning, modern life, who gets swept into the world of baking when she is given a strange sourdough starter. It has just a touch of magical realism and a great, odd sense of humour!

A non-fiction book I wanted to mention was The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust by Laura Smith. I read it quite early in the year and it's one that's really stuck with me, and I've thought about it a lot since reading it. It's an odd memoir, since it originally started out as a biography of an itneresting woman who disappeared, and ended up being part biography and part memoir about the author's experience writing the book and what was going on in her life at the time. It talks a lot about freedom - feeling free in your life to do anything an go anywhere and be who you want to be, and avoiding the sort of mediocrity of normal every day life, getting married, moving to the suburbs, getting a normal 9-5 job and reapeating the same patterns over and over. It really gave me a lot to think about!

So these are some books I wanted to highlight, I feel like they represent my reading year so far quite well, there's a realy mix of genres here - although it doesn't really give oyu a sense of the amount of non-fiction I've read so far! About 25% of my reading has been non-fiction, and I've been really enjoying that. It'll be great to look back at this at the end of the year and see how many of my favourites are still on the list!

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