Welcome back to the Pretty Normal Me Book Bag!

The last time I made one of these blog posts, I said it wouldn’t be long before I did another. That was two years ago now, sorry. But since today is World Book Day, I thought I’d take this as the kick up the arse I quite obviously desperately need to create this ridiculously overdue list.

I’ve been barreling through my books recently and have absolutely adored so many of them. I actually decided in January of this year that I was going to attempt the 52 book challenge this year (yep, that’s one a week) and planned to do a big blog post at the end of it detailing what I got through.

I still may do that but feel I read so many absolute corkers last year that it’d be a shame not to share them SO this is what we’ve got, there might be bit of overlap come December but I reckon we can live with that. Basically this is just a list of books i’ve read and loved over the last year or so, for anyone looking for some wonderful literature to fill their book bag with.

(I do document all of the books that I read in my instagram stories and have a highlight saved on my profile, just in case anyone can’t wait another two years for me to pull my finger out of my arse and do another one of these…)

I’ve linked all the books through Waterstones rather than Amazon. I know there are people who live the amazon prime life and I get ya but I’m all about supporting book shops wherever possible so if you’re going to buy any of these and being old fashioned is an option – maybe fun to do so in an IRL bookshop… maybe??

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

I mean I felt like the last person on the planet to read this, so it’s presence in here might be futile, since I’m sure you’ve all devoured it as well, but if not, lads, it’s brilliant. A beautifully written book and a lovely story and I just loved Eleanor so much and wish I could have stayed with her forever.

A Little Life – Hanya Yamagihara

By far and away the most haunting book I have ever read. I still think about it often, despite the fact it must’ve been a year since I read it. My mum read it just before me and my flatmate just after which basically meant I never stopped talking about it. Honestly. It’s extraordinary. It’s beyond sad, but SO beautiful. An exploration of childhood trauma and the effects that it has on adult life, a story about relationships, namely friendship and, as a perhaps unrelated aside, something I didn’t notice until about midway through the book, a story all about men. I can’t wait to read it again.

My Thoughts Exactly – Lily Allen

As a HUGE Lily Allen fan growing up I knew I’d adore this and listened to just about every interview she did in the run up to publication. It’s been out for a while now so any fans of her will probably already know the stories that the books includes, but it makes for a great read. Not least of all because it highlights the extraordinary life that the British media give to celebrities. Love Lily. Loved this.

Normal People – Sally Rooney

I read it in a day, if that gives you any indication of it’s fabulousness? I know it’s another one that everyone and their mothers have read (my mum literally has read it) but for good reason. It’s just fab. Highly recommend.

Vox – Christina Dalcher

No doubt inspired by the Handmaid’s Tale, the premise for this book is terrifying. Like, legitimately, terrifying. (Imagine if women could only speak a certain amount of words per day, TERRIFYING). Personally I kind of hoped for more from the actual book, because the idea was so extraordinary, it wasn’t the best ever, but it was still great. A brill beach book, if you catch my drift.

I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes

ANOTHER book that basically everyone has read and another book that I inhaled because it was brilliant. The plot was mega and it was exciting and great and I got the hype, totally. If I had to be THAT guy though, I’d say that at times it was a bit ugh. It was so obviously written by a dude. And I don’t mean that like “I hate work by men cos I’m a raging feminist”, I just mean I spent quite a lot of time rolling my eyes thinking “yeh right”. But that didn’t stop me loving it and won’t stop me recommending it.

Us – David Nichols

This was just lovely. David Nichols (author of One Day) is just so brilliant and I just loved this story. I read the book in a couple of days and put it down just thinking “that was nice”. Sometimes that’s all you need in a book.

An American Marriage – – Tayari Jones

Barrack Obama recommends a book, I buy it. That’s basically how it goes. I loved this. The story and the way it was told was amazing. It was sad and outrageous and heartbreaking and beautiful and I was so invested in it from the first page.

The Secret History – Donna Tart

In the last blog post like this I did I sung the praises of The Goldfinch, the book that I loved so so so much, also by Donna Tart. This was just as great, honestly. I loved it. It’s a big bugger but honestly sort of wished it’d gone out for longer.

Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez

Read it. Just read it.

The Light Between Oceans – M L Stedman

Get ready to WEEP. I loved this so so so much. This book is now a film which you also gotta watch (it made my fucking made of ice boyfriend cry!) but first, read the book. Be warned though, it’ll break your heart. The day I finished it I basically had to take an hour to myself to just sit in bed and cry. Not like, ooh, a little tear but like EXISTENTIAL CRISIS sort of tears.

Educated – Tara Westover

I was bought this as a birthday present by a friend and have never been so grateful for something (other than my scooter, perhaps). It is an extraordinary true story of a girl raised by mormon parents in America who wasn’t allowed to go to school, or doctors, or even have her birth registered. This whole book just had me realising how lucky I was to have received the education that I did, about how lucky I was to know things that I’ve always taken for granted. For that reason alone, I think it should be mandatory reading.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyle

WHAT A BOOK. I became a bit of a joke on holiday whilst I was reading this because I kept “audibly gasping”. I loved it. LOVED IT. Particularly I think because Alex is Irish and my resulting connection to the place, but honestly even without that I think I’d have adored it. I’ve subsequently recommended it to EVERYONE. They’ve all read it and loved it to. It’s so good. Read it. All of you. Read it, love it, thank me later.

The Case History Series – Kate Attkinson
(Case Histories, One Good Turn, When Will There be Good News?, Started Early Took my Dog, Big Sky).

Mum’s been on my case for about ten years to read these and I finally got around to it just before the fifth one came out. Powered through them, did them back to back and loved them. Literally the third one I did cover to cover on my flight out to New York. They’re easy reading and great.

The Prison Doctor – Dr Amanda Brown

I did this as an audiobook whilst running and loved it. If you liked This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, this is defo for you. It told the story of a female GP who just one day decided to become a prison doctor. Written like a diary it’s a look into a side of prison life that I’d never really considered before. It also opened my eyes to the staggering sadness that female prisons are often filled with, how so often the people in there are more victims than they are criminals. It was amazing, loved it, particularly as an audiobook.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

This was mega. First book of the year and a brilliant start. Loved it so much. It was thoughtful a lovely story and everyone I told I was reading it told me how lucky I was because they’d loved it so much.

Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evarist

OH MY GOD BEST BOOK EVER EVER. THE MINTUE I FINISHED IT I JUST WANTED TO GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING AND READ IT AGAIN. Read it. READ IT. Not only was it a phenomenal look at race in the UK, one that opened my eyes to a whole host of societal failings that I’m ashamed to admit I’d been blind to before. Please read this book.

Olive Kitterige – Elizabeth Strout

I think this might’ve been another of Barak’s recommendations, you know? It’s just a lovely story. Another really nice book. I just really enjoyed it.

Queenie – Candice Party- Williams

The girl in Waterstones described this to me as being “a modern, more feminist Bridget Jones” and I obviously bought it straight away, got home and read it all by the end of the following day. Loved it.

American Dirt – Jeanine Cummings

OK so there was a lot of controversy surrounding this book after Oprah put it into her bookclub this year. It was felt that the the story of the Mexican people trying to cross the boarder into America shouldn’t have been told by a person that wasn’t Mexican. I understood their point but read the book anyway and adored it. I thought Jeanine told the story incredibly and it is a massively important story to tell. She researched the book for seven years prior to writing it and it definitely shows. I learned a lot from it and I feel very grateful to it for opening my eyes to the plight of so many. Please read it. It’s amazing.

Girl – Edna O’brien

This was NOT an easy read. I’ve never read Edna O’Brien before but know she’s famous for creating not easy reads. It is fiction but tells the story, loosely of the girls kidnapped in Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Horan. It’s hard, but it’s brilliant.

Fran Kiss Stein – Jeanette Winterson

The premise for this book is fascinating and I loved it for that. It got me THINKING. About where we are now, about gender and about technology and about love and robots and artificial intelligence and what the future looks like. Still kind of can’t stop thinking about it.

The Mars Room – Rachel Kushner

And this brings us to where we are now. I’m half way through this and loving it already. It’s well written and interesting; about a woman’s prison in America and I’m loving it. In fact I’ve been rushing through this because I just want a few hours to sit on my own and finish it. No offence.


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