I'm closing in on my target of reading 100 books in 2015, with only a few days left to go. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to finish in time and, looking back, I can't believe how many books I managed to get through in just one short year. I feel like I've learnt a lot from taking on this challenge, not least that I really can find time for reading if I prioritise it. I've fallen for reading all over again, and I've discovered new authors and a book-ish community online, and it's just been wonderful. My 'to read' list was around 200 books at the start of the year and, although I've read almost 100, the list has grown to over 400 in that time. Reading more makes me want to read more - there are so many fantastic books out there to get my hands on and I'm discovering more all the time.
That said, not every book I've read this year has been a stand out. There have only been a few duds, books I wish I hadn't picked up but finished for the sake of this challenge, and only one that I put down and never picked back up again. There have been lots of enjoyable books, but many of them don't stick in my mind longer than a week, and are unlikely to become permanent favourites. However, these ten books have stayed with me throughout the year for one reason or another, and I've been recommending them to as many people as possible. Some are just incredible reads; the kind you want to tear through in a day and simultaneously wanting to get to the end, whilst never wanting to get there because it will all be over. Some are thought-provoking and life-changing. A couple are a mixture of both.
Dare Me by Megan Abbott
Addy and Beth are the queens of the school, and of the cheerleading squad. But when a new coach begins to favour Addy over Beth, who has always been top of the stack, the cracks in their friendship begin to show. This book set me on a bit of a Megan Abbott binge and, although her other books are enjoyable, this one is addictive. It's fast-paced, slick and tense. It captures something unique about teenage girlhood, friendship and ambition, and you'll devour it in a day.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
This is Amy Poehler's memoir and it has changed my life. I'm not exaggerating about that (for once). Not only is this a gentle, funny look at Amy Poehler's life, it's also full of wisdom about being a woman in the world. I bought the audiobook, too, and listen to it whenever I feel sad. Amy Poehler has such a wonderful way of looking at things, and I hope one day to be able to be so generous of heart and spirit.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I was initially dismissive of Rainbow Rowell's work, which seemed too romantic, too schmaltzy for my tastes (based on the cover I should add - a lesson for all of us). I was so, so wrong. Her books are heart-warming, smart, funny and an all round delight. Fan Girl follows fan fiction author and new college student Cath as she navigates the new world she finds herself in on her own, without her sister Wren. Prepare to laugh, cry and nod your head in recognition.
Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill
This book is so hard-hitting, it will stay with you for a long time. It was one of the first books I read in the year, and I'm still recommending it to people all the time. Set in a dystopian universe where women are bred to be wives and concubines and trained in the art of pleasing men, competition is fierce between girls for the most covetable 'wife' spot. It's uncomfortable and a little too close to home, despite the dystopian setting, but so, so good.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
I went into this book blind, and it absolutely blew me away. The book tells the story of Rosemary and her family, including her unusual sister Fern, who disappeared when Rosemary was young, and her estranged brother, Lowell, who is wanted by the FBI. As the tale unfolds, this book will make you question some of your most deeply held beliefs about family and humanity. Truly unusual and astonishing.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
This book is magical - it seems that everyone who picks it up absolutely loves it, and I'm sure you will, too. I'm not usually one for post-apocalyptic takes, but this one is just so riveting and so wonderfully weaves together personal narratives with a wider story arc - both as poignant as each other. A flu virus takes out most of humanity, and you must watch as mankind is devastated. Fifteen years later, you pick up with a group of travelling Shakespearean actors, bringing hope to this new world, until they come across a violent prophet...
You by Caroline Kepnes
Oh gosh, this book. I wanted to read it again as soon as I had finished the last page, and I'm so excited to hear that there is a sequel on the way. 'You' follows stalker-turned-boyfriend Joe, as he obsessively manipulates beautiful, aspiring writer Guinevere Beck. This book is absolutely thrilling, and it's definitely interesting to hear things from the stalker's perspective...
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
Sofia Khan is a Muslim woman living in London and trying to navigate dating, her family, her friends and her religion. It's a Bridget Jones-style take on modern dating life from a character that you can't help but love for her forthrightness and her kind heart. For non-Muslim readers it feels familiar and unique all at once, and is truly a charming read.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates tells his life story, focusing on what it really means to have a black body in the USA. It's incredibly moving and so thought-provoking; I've had numerous conversations about its contents since reading it on holiday in October. With race relations in the USA being what they are, this is a really important book.
Home is Burning by Dan Marshall
Don't read this book if you don't want to be completely emotionally wrung out by the end, because there's no way to survive this book intact. Dan tells the true story of his chaotic family life, as they struggle to care for his terminally ill father, who was once the head of the household and the centre of their family, and their mother, who is battling cancer. It's frustrating, it's surprisingly funny, it's dark, it's emotional. It's brilliant.