I am addicted to reading. I’ve read about fifty books since the start of this year. I’ve started, but not finished, about fifteen more, since I’ve recently made the life-changing decision that there’s no reason to finish a book if it’s not really your thing when there are so many others out there to explore.
The problem with reading so many stories is there just isn’t enough space in the inadequate filing system of my brain to store them all, so I forget the vast majority almost as soon as I’ve turned the last page. This can be extremely irritating, as I’ll often buy a new book and get to chapter 3 or 4 before it all starts feeling spookily familiar and I realise I’ve bought it before.
Once in a while, however, I read a story which, for some reason, doesn’t get immediately deleted, but nestles in my brain and refuses to budge. The books on this list have all done just that.
First up is Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is the story of a fictional 1970’s rock band, but you quickly forget that Daisy and the Six don’t actually exist. More than once, I found myself reaching for Spotify, so I could download their seminal album. This feels less like a novel, and more like an utterly engrossing Netflix docu-drama. It’s crammed with sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, and a bewitching heroine who refuses to settle for being someone else’s muse. I didn’t just mourn this book when it ended, I mourned living in a world without Daisy and her music.
I totally love David Nicholls, despite One Day being the only book I have ever thrown across a room in anguish because of that ending. So, when I heard he had a new novel coming out I managed to blag an advance proof copy from the lovely people at Hodder. Sweet Sorrow did not disappoint. It’s a gloriously nostalgic tale of first love and, as ever, Nicholls makes you laugh and cry and read out whole paragraphs to anyone in the vicinity, because it’s just too good to keep to yourself. When I finished Sweet Sorrow, I wrote on Twitter that Nicholls’ stunning prose makes me want to tear up my debut novel and never write again. Nicholls sent me a lovely direct message in reply, so now I love him even more.
If you like a gripping, twisty thriller, then Our House is for you. I was hooked from the first pages, as Fi comes home from a weekend away to discover someone else moving into her family home. This is almost painful to read, as deceits come to the surface and Fi’s perfect life unravels. Even months after reading this one, my stomach lurches whenever I see a removal van in my street.
Queenie has been described as the black Bridget Jones, but that description doesn’t really do her justice. Like Bridget, Queenie is totally screwed-up and insecure but with the biggest heart. Like Bridget Jones, this book is laugh-out-loud funny. But Queenie is way more raw, uncomfortable and real than Bridget Jones ever was. I went to see the fabulous Candice Carty-Williams talk about Queenie at The London Library. I imagine it’s the only time anyone has ever said ‘anal sex’ out loud in the Reading Room.
I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but The Doll Factory is every bit as magical inside as the outside suggests. Set in Victorian London, at the time of the Great Exhibition, the descriptions are so vivid that you can hear, smell and even taste your surroundings. The Doll Factory is a glorious gallop of a tale about love, art, collecting, and the fine line between passion and obsession. And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s a wombat.
Do let me know what you think of my top 5 reads in the comments, and please add suggestions of your own. Happy holidays to you all.