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I’m doing something a little bit different this week. Along with the advice, tips, and stories that are usually included on this blog, I wanted to on occasion share some of my favorite hobbies. One of which is reading!
I enlisted the help of my little sister, Rachel, to comply a list of our favorite books of the last year. As massive book nerds with different tastes, I thought having her join me for this list would bring you a greater variety of recommendations. She picked some very proper books if that’s your thing and I have a nice mix of historical fiction, YA, and contemporary adult lit.
So without further ado, here we go!
The Help By Kathryn Stockett
Usually I am one to read the book before watching the movie. In the case of The Help, that clearly didn’t happen because I am years behind in getting this one read.
Set in the 1960s, this book focuses on a set of black maids being interviewed by a white writer who has hopes of getting a book published. Each of the main characters have their own unique voice as the book cycles through their perspectives giving you a full view of the events occurring.
If you have seen the movie, but haven’t read the book I recommend it. I hadn’t seen the movie in some time before reading this one, so it felt fairly new to me.
Rachel seconds this recommendation.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This book became my new favorite the moment I finished it. Dostoyevsky writes in a intelligent and captivating way that as I read further and further into it, I never wanted to put it down. As such, this book helped me out of a year-or-so long reading slump.
It starts with the murder (crime) and leaves you simmering along with the protagonist, wondering if the punishment will even come. I loved most of the characters, but even with the ones I didn’t like all that much, I was excited for their scenes because of how much flavor they gave the book. There were times reading this where I was laughing, and times where I was so gripped with anxiety that I could barely move.
This book deserves its place in the literary canon.
The Siren by Kiera Cass
This book centers on a group of girls who were saved by the ocean from death and now must spend a hundred years feeding the ocean by causing shipwrecks with their voices. When they’re not murdering ships full of people, they’re spending their time among the rest of the world. Their only restriction is they can’t speak. The main character forbiddingly falls in love with a human and desperately pursues this life she’s not allowed to have.
I’m not a mermaid fanatic. That angle almost kept me from reading this book, but I’m glad I decided to go for it. If you’re looking for a quick easy beautiful love story, this is it.
Aside from the love story, this book left me thinking about the ocean in a much different way. The world painted was so wonderful, I couldn’t help but think what if it was real.
Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
I’d probably be the first to admit that I’m a big fan of Gaiman’s work, and that I might possibly (most definitely) have a bias toward it. It’s best to get that disclaimer out of the way. However, I can also say that Ocean at the End of the Lane is very well-deserving of all of the praise that it gets.
It’s a tightly-structured, but open-ended 100-something page book that wraps itself back around when it’s done. If I owned this book, I’d probably read it every year (like I do with another of Gaiman’s books: Good Omens). It follows a man as he returns to his childhood home and reminisces with his neighbors about the past, until he remembers all of the wild, supernatural things that happened to him. He is another nameless protagonist, and I think he should be called “Ocean Man.”
The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir
The Book of Essie follows a 17 year old girl who has spent her life growing up on a reality show with her super conservative family (sort of gives up come 19 Kids and Counting vibes). She becomes pregnant creating a scandal that must be hid from the public or else her family’s image will be ruined.
With the cover and the summary, I was set. I needed to read this book.
This story had twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I definitely went in thinking it was going to be one kind of story and it turned out to be far more. To be honest, I was in the mood for a super sweet love story when I picked this up and this was not that at all.
Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
After Crime and Punishment, I had to pick up another Dostoyevsky. Since I had gotten busy with school, I had picked up Notes because of how short it is. The first half of this book is absolutely bonkers, with the nameless protagonist (referred to as “Underground Man” by reviewers) talking about the bull-headed philosophy he’d learned throughout his life. But the second half ties it all together; we follow Underground Man in his youth as he butts heads with former classmates and yells at his manservant. He’s not a nice guy, but I found him to be amusing.
I will always admire Dostoyevsky’s handle of character, and I believe some of the most realistic I’ve ever confronted came from this book.
Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
Yellow Crocus takes place on a plantation in the south before the Civil War. A young slave is forced away from her newborn son to be a wet nurse for the plantation owner’s newborn daughter. It showcases both the struggles of slavery as well as the expectations of the children of slave owners.
The beautiful part about this story is the bond that forms between the two lead characters Mattie and young Lisbeth. Their love for each other is so deep and, without giving away the ending, benefits them as time goes on.
I followed this book up with the sequel Mustard Seed, which was a nice snapshot into where the two were after the Civil War, but didn’t have the same beauty as the first one.
Othello by William Shakespeare
I’ve always been a big fan of Shakespeare. Of the two Shakespeare plays I read last year, Othello was the one I liked better because I found the characters more interesting. The story follows Othello as he’s manipulated by Iago (one of the greatest villains I’ve ever read) into thinking his wife is having an affair.
I honestly think the pure motivation and charisma behind Iago’s character is what made me love this play so much. The slow and steady build-up to the main conflict, and then when it happened, it was like a bomb had gone off, with how much excitement and drive had suddenly propelled the action into the grinding halt of an ending. While Othello hasn’t taken the place of my favorite Shakespeare play, it was certainly the one I liked the most last year.
This Bright Beauty by Emily Cavanagh
This Bright Beauty is about a set of identical twins. Franci who lives in Boston with her husband and twin daughters and Lottie who lives in Berkeley and suffers from bipolar disorder. After nearly a year of not speaking to one another, an accident brings the sisters together again. Franci is forced to jet off to California to tend to Lottie discovering that while they were not speaking, Lottie had a baby.
The book took split perspectives between the sisters. I found that to be interesting in this instance because of the mental health that was at play. Franci has her thoughts as to the reasons why Lottie got into the accident, why she had a baby without telling her, her general mental state, but it’s interesting to get to see things from Lottie’s perspective and see really what’s going on inside her mind.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Putting aside the fact that its about Greek Mythology, this book was stunning. It was incredibly difficult to put down, with moments of action and anxiety interlaced with beautiful, quotable lines that I sent over text to a friend of mine (if just to convince her to read it.) The book is about Circe, a character from Greek myth that is present in the Odyssey and the story of Medea. However, Miller interlaces Circe’s story with a few others, like Icarus and Prometheus.
For someone who has studied Greek myth, this was not a book I could keep myself from. And I’m so glad I didn’t. Not only was it exciting to read about the different myths from Circe’s perspective, but I learned about an ancient play I’d never heard of before.
What was your favorite read of 2018? Let us know in the comments below! We’re always looking for our next book!
Rachel is in her third year at university, studying English and Creative Writing. In her free time, she reads, writes, plays video games, and watches videos on Youtube. At the time of posting, she is reading a few graphic novels and Beowulf.