We’re now more than two-thirds of the way through the year and I still have not written a single book review, as was my vague plan, so I thought I’d write another round-up of the best books I read between May and August. There have been some good ‘uns! (Here’s January-April, lest you’re interested.)
So I have to start with Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, which I read back in May. If I was going to write a review it probably should have been on this one, as I had SO MUCH to say about it. It’s certainly not a perfect book, in my view – it was so over-the-top it strayed into the ridiculous at points, and it felt unnecessarily gut-wrenching towards the end – but I still fucking adored it. I have rarely been so absorbed in a book: it totally consumed me for the week I was reading it, and it will stay with me forever. I’ve basically only just recovered from it, to be honest.
The other best books in literary fiction that I read were two new releases: Helen Sedgwick’s The Comet Seekers, a gorgeous double-narrative story spanning several countries and almost a thousand years, and Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (awesome writer – read his short story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here if you haven’t already) about a family dealing with the effects of depression, suicide and mental illness. Speaking of short stories, I realised I’d never read Jackie Kay’s (which is quite shameful, really) so I read Reality, Reality while I was on holiday and loved it: funny, warm, well observed and very relatable.
I read a ton of YA while I was on holiday back in June and really liked The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea by Shyam Selvadurai, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and Mirror in the Sky by Aditi Khorana. I think my favourite, though, was You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. There was just so much to love about it: it’s primarily about a friendship between a gay boy and a gay girl (which you hardly ever see in books, or in other media) and is very sweet, heartfelt, celebratory and full of happy LGBT characters. It made me realise how much
More recently, I’ve really liked Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi, about a teenage girl with a drinking problem. It’s not technically YA – that is, it’s not being marketed as such, but it certainly could be – but to me it seemed like a cross between Louise O’Neill’s Asking for It and Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club series. I also read two of those this summer, actually! I liked How Hard Can Love Be? but I thought What’s a Girl Gotta Do? was really, really great: fun to read but also very bold, honest and nuanced. It’s must be super hard to create something that’s relatively light in tone but that also tackles a serious subject, so I was suitably impressed.
I read just two books in French – Le Liseur du 6h27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent and the excellent Kiffe kiffe demain by Faïza Guène – and in translation I only read The Vegetarian by Han Kang (also excellent) so I’m going to try and read some more translated or foreign-language books in the next few months. (Reading over this I think I should maybe, eh, read some more books by men, too?! Only 14 of the 50 I’ve read this year have been by guys. Is that weird?! I just bought Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter, so that’s another one. Sorted.)
Finally, I re-read Naive. Super by Erlend Loe back in June. It was one of my favourite books when I was a teenager, and it turns out it’s still one of my favourite books now. It’s small and in some ways quite straightforward, a story about a 25-year-old Norwegian guy who has a sort of breakdown and simplifies his life. It’s hard to explain but it’s amazingly calming, and life-affirming without being in any way twee. A great book to read when you’re feeling overwhelmed by the world (or, as I discovered, on the plane if you don’t like flying. Worked better than gin! Almost).
Next up: As I Descended by Robin Talley and The Good Immigrant, both of which I’ve been looking forward to for ages. Exciting!