At the start of 2020, I set myself one resolution: to read one book a week for the entire year. 52 books. The idea was that if I read more books, I’d spend less time with my eyes glued to a screen. I’ve managed to read 54 books already and somehow my screen time hasn’t gone down at all. I actually think it’s getting worse. Oh, well. I’ll take the victories where I can get them.
So, I’ve read a lot of books this year. Most of them were written by women. Here are a few of my favourites…
The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Yes, I read two novels about pandemics in 2020. Yes, I have anxiety and can barely ever sleep. What’s your point?
These books were both written before Coronavirus took control of our collective consciousness - one a fictional retelling of the 1918 Spanish flu, one a fictional imagining of a pandemic that wipes out the majority of the earth’s population. Both were gripping from start to finish and spectacularly unpredictable. Don’t read them if you still have pandemic anxiety, obviously. Be smarter than me.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
In the Dream House is an unconventional, inventive and heartbreaking memoir about Machado’s experience of being abused by a same-sex partner and the lack of resources she could find about abuse in same-sex relationships. Through her book, Machado offers her raw, awful, beautifully written memories as a resource to anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation. She became what she needed, for whoever might need her.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Sure, it was probably the most recommended book of 2019, you’ve seen it on every single list, so why haven’t you read it yet? Seriously? Why?
Girl, Woman, Other tells the stories of twelve different women - mostly black and British - who are all entangled with each other in one way or another. Masterfully and poetically, Evaristo covers an overwhelming array of experience, history and perspective through these twelve characters, resulting in a book you’ll still be thinking about for months afterwards.
The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
This is one I just picked up at random at my local library because I thought the cover was pretty, and it ended up taking over my entire life for three days. It’s a period piece, it’s an epic, heartbreaking love story, and it’s the story of the devastating love between a mother and her child. It gutted me. I read the last 150 pages in one sitting and sobbed the entire time. I would highly recommend this book if that’s the kind of experience you enjoy.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Yes, this is a book about therapy. But I promise, it’s not preachy. It’s warm and funny and a reminder that everyone fucks up and everyone is fucked up, somehow. Even therapists. Even therapists’ therapists. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll spend a little too long looking into moving to LA just so Lori Gottlieb can be your therapist.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
The Dictionary of Lost Words tells an imagined version of the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. Meticulously researched and beautifully rendered, Williams explores the gatekeeping of language: who decides what’s a word and what’s not? Whose language should be recorded for all of human history, and whose should be forgotten? Who gets to define who, and who gets to define themselves? This is a story about those conflicting histories - the one that the patriarchy was setting in stone, and the one that the Women’s Liberation movement was dragging to the forefront, screaming to be heard. Of course, it’s also a story about love, because all the best ones are.Support Villainesse