I’ve compiled a list of five of my favourite books I’ve read this year from around the world (in terms of where it is set). If you like the sound of one of the books, click on the in-text link and you can read more about it. Or buy it on Amazon (which, full disclosure, I make a really teeny profit off of).
One of my favourite books this year was My Sister, The Serial Killer, which I discovered when it was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and I attended an event where the shortlisters read extracts from their books. It is bloody hilarious (literally).
It is pretty much exactly what it describes in the title – a story of a young woman, Korede, who has a serial killer sister, Ayoola. Most inconveniently for Korede, Ayoola keeps murdering her boyfriends and then dragging Korede in to clean up.
She obliges the first time, thinking it was an accident and self-defence. She is suspicious but helpful the second time too. But when Ayoola has her eyes on one of Korede’s work colleagues (whom Korede happens to be in love with), things get a little more complicated.
It is a quick read and a little window into suburban Lagos life – a refreshing story that is able to be set in Africa without being about it specifically.
Set in Addis Ababa, Cutting For Stone was my Book Of The Month for August. It is a story so complex and multi-layered, a saga of so much that it is difficult to even tell you what it is about. Two brothers, conjoined at birth, enter the world never knowing their parents but are raised by the most doting of people. Growing up in Ethiopia’s capital, we learn through the two what it means to exist in socio-political turmoil and we watch as two young boys become two very different men. There is a particular scene in which author Abraham Verghese describes spices being prepared for a meal, and it still stands out to me as some of the most poetic writing I’ve ever read – the tastes, smells, textures materialise out of mere words.
Bridge of Clay is the wonderful new novel by Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief. It starts off slowly while you are getting into the style of Zusak’s writing, and then you become so engrossed in the intricacy of every character you can hardly bare it when it finishes.
It is about a large family of five boys, their absent father and the loss of their adoring mother, and coming to terms with this the only way they know how – with horses, jockeys, building bridges, pet mules. Though a simple story of growing up in Sydney and the path (or bridge) to forgiveness, it is also an intricately woven tapestry of words that read like the river Clay is building a bridge over – soft in parts, overflowing in others. Oh, and you will cry. A lot.
The Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen, 83¼ Years Old is the best diary-style book I’ve read, and that is including an all-time favourite, Bridget Jones. It is the secret diary of an old man who lives in a care home in Amsterdam who is attempting to remain youthful despite the evidence that he is not exactly the young whippersnapper he used to be. To do this, he sets up the Old But Not Dead club with his friends in the home, where they plan monthly activities to remind themselves that though life is getting increasingly more depressing, there is still life left in it.
Given the somewhat morbid premise, this is one of the happiest books I’ve read this year. It acts as an essential reminder to keep life full of wit, laughter, wine and friendship.
There are obvious picks when it comes to Swedish literature, like The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared, as well as all the books in the Millennium Trilogy – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire (which I read this year), and my current read: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.
To keep in line with the set-up of this article, I ought to be recommending the one I read this year. However, you are going to have a rather unpleasant time if you don’t read them in order – so if you haven’t already, do it. These journalistic thrillers about Sweden are fantastically exciting, action-packed and excellently written.
Get reading! And subscribe to ensure you get emailed all of this 2019-series of recommendations, so that your holiday is packed with excellent reads.