Romy’s Reads to Remember: 2019

I have read some amazing books this year. My book worminess has most definitely not faltered in 2019 and I plan to read even more in 2020… maybe the target should be 50 for next year? I love a challenge. This year I have managed 42 books (mini brag). Reading is just my thing…I think it always will be, from sitting crossed legged inside a ladybird tent in the garden with a pile of Winnie the Pooh books before I could even read, scrutinising every page, ‘reading’ aloud to now (I still love reading aloud when I can- fun fact), books are my tonic.

I thought I would share my 5 most memorable books of this year and a little bit about what made them so marvellous. (Head over to @romy_reads on Instagram to see their full reviews)

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Wonderful wonderful wonderful. Delia Owens is a magnificent writer, crafting the most spectacular settings, sensitively layered characters and a completely consuming plot. Mainly set between the 1950s and 1970 on the coast of North Carolina and centred around a social outcast named Kya after a violent crime is committed in her town- but it is NOT a thriller. I can’t even put into words how much I loved this book. It has stayed with me since I read it in the summer and I wish I could unread and re-read it all over again. Pure magic.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Another absolute gem. I must have told at least 25 people to buy this book. I absolutely adored this story, the characters and the beautifully atmospheric setting. Set in a snowy, remote town in Sweden, the star player of the local hockey team is accused of a horrific crime and the whole town falls apart. Again, not a thriller at all, despite what the subject might suggest. I truly loved this and Backman writes with such empathy, thought and power. Yes from me.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This really does live up to the hype and I gobbled it up in one day while I was on holiday in May. Some of my very favourite books actually don’t have a fast changing, quick paced plot, but are a real deep dive into humans, relationships, life, love, pain and connection. Something I struggle with when I write is not rambling (obviously), but Rooney manages to write SO much with such few words. Really a great, great memorable read.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

One of my first reads of 2019 and I finished it when we were driving up the West Coast of Australia in January. I remember because we were in the car and I shut my kindle and just burst into tears. Never did I think a true crime novel could make me cry like that. It follows the case of the Golden State Killer, who terrorised California for a decade from the mid 1970s, with over 50 victims. It wasn’t even just the brutality of the subject matter that made me cry, but it was the devotion the author had to solving the case and the last section of the book, in which her husband wrote about her, as she passed away before finishing the book. True crime can seem anonymous and distant at times, but the compassion, true fascination and care that is the foundation of this book makes it a real standout.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I reread this in November after first reading it at school quite a few years ago. I loved it. Harrowing but packing a serious punch. Atwood is a genius. No sentence is wasted, the characters are messy and bold, gentle and fragile but gritty and fearless. Such an original novel which has and will continue to stand the test of time.

There were also a few other books that I really did love….

Calypso by David Sedaris

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taft Brodesser-Amber

Do Pause: You are not a To Do List by Robert Poynton

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

Villa America by Liza Klaussman

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Who am I kidding…. I actually so enjoyed most of the books I read this year and could pretty much recommend them all for different reasons. I am TERRIBLE at narrowing down and picking favourites (clearly) but I get so much joy from reading and just want to spread the loooove for all of them. Happy New Year and happy reading!

Podcasts…and why I love them

In 2016 I was recommended the podcast ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ with Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper. Before this, I never really knew what a podcast was, I didn’t even know that the app is installed already into iPhones and I had it all along. Little did I know how much I was missing…. the world of podcasts have transformed my car journeys, my morning routine and have just generally improved my life. ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ is basically three friends reading out and commenting on a terrible (and I mean terrible) erotic fiction book that Jamie’s Dad wrote… Yes that’s right, his Dad. They read a chapter per episode and it is hilarious, leg crossingly cringe worthy and just bloody brilliant. The book is called ‘Belinda Blinked’ and Jamie’s Dad’s pen name is ‘Rocky Flintstone’…. I think that tells you all you need to know. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you want to look at it), there have been three series so far, as Rocky has written several books and I am eagerly awaiting the fourth, which I believe will be out next year. My obsession has got to the point where my friend and I have booked to see the live tour… I’m not sure if that is something to be shouting from the roof tops, but there you go.

I would so recommend this if you want some light hearted, witty listening or just a good laugh, as I have almost had to pull over the car once as I was laughing so hard.

So that was my first experience with podcasts, and from then on I have trawled the Podcast charts for my next obsession and have listened to quite a few others that I think are worth a mention.

  1. The High Low

I got into this podcast during the back end of last year, and have been putting it on at any possible moment and loving every episode. Journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes are the faces behind this brilliantly engaging, interesting and funny podcast in which they discuss what they have been reading, watching and listening to each week along with discussing news stories from around the world at the time of recording. It is a news and pop culture podcast, arguing that you can be interested in the trivial and the political. They always recommend the best reads, whether they are books or articles and discuss everything from ‘The Fall of Hollywood’s Ultimate Sex Predator, Harvey Weinstein’ to the BBC pay gap, to Blac Chyna suing the entire Kardashian family…. and I love it.

2.  Serial

This was recommended to me by one of my cousins last year, as I love any crime/thriller novels and documentaries and she told me I would find this completely gripping… and I did. If you have listened to the ‘This American Life’ podcast, then you might recognise the producer, Sarah Koenig from there. It has a couple of series so far and follows real life cases which I find so interesting, as Sarah digs deep, speaking to family members and the accused from jail, attempting to make sense of the case. They are typically murder cases, which include quite a lot of detail, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, I would suggest giving it a miss. The first series follows the story of Adnan Syed who was charged with the murder of his ex girlfriend in 2000 but maintains his innocence to this day. The podcast delves into potential motives, other suspects and hears directly from Adnan, whose case was appealed after Season 1 of Serial. If you watched Making a Murderer on Netflix or read any sort of crime novels then you will enjoy (is that the right word?) listening to this podcast.

There are several others that I have really enjoyed or that I’m working my way through, but I’ll leave it at that for now. For anyone who has never listened to a podcast before, I would thoroughly recommend plunging into the world of pornos, pop culture and innocence pleas.