I have far too many books saved on the ‘To Read’ lists on phone and notebook; I always make a note of books that I’d be interested in after reading great reviews for them on Instagram and blogs and if they’ve caught my attention in bookshops.
So, I thought it would be a good idea to narrow them down into a personal Top 10 which feels much more manageable because choice paralysis ain’t cute.
1. Exciting Times – Naoise Dolan
Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children. Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than ‘I like you a great deal’.
Enter Edith, a lawyer. Refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest, Edith takes Ava to the theatre when Julian leaves Hong Kong for work. Quickly, she becomes something Ava looks forward to.
Then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong…Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?
2. The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary
Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
3. Such A Fun Age – Kiley Reid
In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.
4. Adults – Emma Jane Unsworth
Jenny McLaine is an adult. Supposedly. At thirty-five she owns her own house, writes for a cool magazine and has hilarious friends just a message away.
But the thing is:
• She can’t actually afford her house since her criminally sexy ex-boyfriend Art left
• Her best friend Kelly is clearly trying to break up with her
• She’s so frazzled trying to keep up with everything you can practically hear her nerves jangling
• She spends all day online-stalking women with beautiful lives as her career goes down the drain.
And now her mother has appeared on her doorstep, unbidden, to save the day…
Is Jenny ready to grow up and save herself this time?
5. Winter in Sokcho – Elisa Shua Dusapin
It’s winter in Sokcho, a tourist town on the border between South and North Korea. The cold slows everything down. Bodies are red and raw, the fish turn venomous, beyond the beach guns point out from the North’s watchtowers. A young French Korean woman works as a receptionist in a tired guesthouse. One evening, an unexpected guest arrives: a French cartoonist determined to find inspiration in this desolate landscape.
The two form an uneasy relationship. When she agrees to accompany him on trips to discover an ‘authentic’ Korea, they visit snowy mountaintops and dramatic waterfalls, and cross into North Korea. But he takes no interest in the Sokcho she knows – the gaudy neon lights, the scars of war, the fish market where her mother works. As she’s pulled into his vision and taken in by his drawings, she strikes upon a way to finally be seen.
6. My Dark Vanessa – Kate Elizabeth Russell
All he did was fall in love with me and the world turned him into a monster.
An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher. Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher.
She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.
Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.
7. The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena
Who goes to a dinner party next door and leaves her baby alone in the house? What kind of mother does such a thing? She feels the familiar agony set in – she is not a good mother.
People are capable of almost anything.
You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying. Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last.
But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realised. She’s gone. You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.
What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?
8. Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardrine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.
9. How to be famous – Caitlin Moran
Johanna Morrigan (aka Dolly Wilde) has it all: she is nineteen, lives in her own flat in London, and writes for the coolest music magazine in Britain. Her star is rising, just not quickly enough for her liking.
Then John Kite, Johanna’s unrequited love, has an album go to number one. Suddenly John exists on another plane of reality: that of the Famouses, a world of rabid fans and VIP access. Johanna lacks the traditional trappings of fame (famous parents, mind-scorching hotness, exotic sandals, etc.), so she does the only thing a self-respecting Lady Sex Adventurer can do.
She starts a magazine column critiquing the lives and follies of the Famouses around her. But as Johanna skyrockets to fame herself, she begins to realize that with celebrity comes sacrifice, and hers may mean giving up the one person she was determined to keep.
10. Our Stop – Laura Jane Williams
Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine.
Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died.
One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper:
To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime?
So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.
I’d love to know what’s on your ‘to read’ list or whether you’ve read any of the books on mine?!