I read a record number of books in 2013! I think it was a 2013 resolution of mine, to read more books – and particularly, to read more stories, and less self-help. I haven’t regretted that at all. Here is a selection of some of my best reads this year.
‘Rachel’s Holiday’ by Marian Keyes
– Marian Keyes is a fantastic writer of humorous women’s fiction, and this is probably one of her deepest and most moving books, dealing with recovery from addiction.
‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel
– Already blogged about this one.
‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson
– Quite entertaining, probably all the more so if you know a bit more of 20th century history than I do.
‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett
– Probably my overall favourite – a brave setting (black maids working in white homes in 1960s Mississippi), but really just a very well-written story – completely engaging from the first chapter.
‘The Hairdresser of Harare’ by Tendai Huchu
– I like stories that offer me a window into another culture. Having visited Harare many years ago, I enjoyed being able to picture it.
‘Love… From Both Sides’ by Nick Spalding
– Quite silly, but cleverly written and a good concept for a novel – seeing a relationship develop from both sides. The only book all year to make me laugh out loud on the bus. In some places I was laughing so hard I was crying.
‘Walden on Wheels’ by Ken Ilgunas
– Blogged about this too!
‘Nine Lives’ by William Dalrymple
– I’m still reading this one actually, but it’s very interesting – essentially nine documentary-like chapters about different people the author met around India, their spiritual beliefs and practices, and the context in which these sit in modern India. Some of these are a lot more disturbing than I imagined.
‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ by Brene Brown
– The only self-help book I would recommend from this year’s reading. Research-based, concise, and very practical. How to live a more whole-hearted life. See also Brene Brown’s excellent TED talks.
‘The First 20 Minutes: The Surprising Science That Reveals How We Can Exercise Better’ by Gretchen Reynolds
– Reports a load of research results, but doesn’t seem to do much in the way of drawing out the main messages or conclusions, so it felt a bit like reading a bowl of spaghetti to me. However, I did pick up some potentially useful tips from it. For example, did you know that stretching exercises as a warm-up are worse than useless? Neither did I!
‘Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness’ by Jessica Valenti
– I read this expecting to be put off the idea of having a baby, but if anything, it actually made the idea a little less scary. It’s people’s expectations of parenthood that seem to matter – and how helpful the society/workplace is (I’m glad I’m not in America after reading this). One other thing that stuck with me is the research suggesting that mothers working and children attending nurseries (part-time, especially) is probably better for both than staying at home full-time.
‘The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone’ by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
– Think I may have mentioned this before, too – it’s fascinating, compelling, and has made me see the world a bit differently.
‘One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One’ by Lauren Sandler
– Interesting, research-based, mostly positive perspective on singletons. One thing that stuck with me was the picture it paints of ‘suburban ghettos’ – the homogeneous, middle-class, out-of-town housing estates people are forced to leave city apartments for (and submit to the prospect of social isolation and/or many hours spent in cars every week), in order to have a family of a certain size – and the idea that there’s a middle way with a small family.
‘Why Aren’t More Women in Science? Top Researchers Debate the Evidence’ by various authors
– A series of essays pertaining to this question. I’ve been meaning to write a post on this for ages, but I haven’t summoned the energy to wade through the terribly dry, academic writing again and summarise. It’s only because it’s a topic of such personal interest to me that I even got through it once! I will write the post soon…
‘How to Get a Job You’ll Love’ by John Lees
– A real morale boost for anyone looking at their career. Lots of practical advice.