Favourite Books of 2019

That time of year again, where I do my list of best books and movies. As usual, I’ve split my favourite books into fiction and nonfiction. Let’s crack on.

Nonfiction

5. Jump! by Daniel Engber

Engber’s short book is about the attempts to create parachutes as aviation began to take off (pun intended). He captures a sense of the men involved in the story he tells, a stuntman and a would be inventor, and captures a sense of time when massive strides in technology were occurring and the risks that came with them. A captivating short read that I reviewed here.

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4. Stronger by Jeff Bauman

Bauman was caught up in the Boston Marathon bombing and this book charts his progress as he deals with the aftermath. His injuries meant that he lost both legs and this tells of how he struggles to adjust to his new artificial legs and changes in his life. It’s a very open and honest account, with Bauman expressing his frustrations clearly and not shying away from times when he was feeling the strain and reacting badly. My only criticism is that it feels a little too close to the event and too early in his story, it might have benefited from Bauman waiting a little to get more perspective on things and to show how his life had moved on. Review.

3. No Wrong Turns and Into the Sunrise by Chris Pountney

Chris Pountney decided to travel around the world, only using bike and boats for transportation. The journey is arduous at times but Pountney is a likeable enough narrator and writes with warmth and humour. His attitudes towards cars and bikes are a bit intense at times, but it’s a really charming story about a guy sticking to his guns and taking on a tough challenge. Reviews are here and here.

2. Just Off For a Walk and Walk Sleep Repeat by Stephen Reynolds

I really enjoyed these two books, which follow Reynolds’ walking trips, the first on the South West Coast Path and the second along the West Highland way. The second book is better, as the route is shorter and Reynolds can take more time with the sights and people he meets. They inspired me to get out walking more and are charming, easy going reads.

1. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

A marvellously moving, intelligent and well written book about Haig’s struggles with depression and anxiety this is insightful and engaging throughout. Haig talks with candour about the dark periods he’s endured and what has helped him. By writing in short, punchy sections he stops it from being too heavy and makes it a quick, engaging read. Review.

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Fiction

5. Mythos by Stephen Fry

Fry’s retelling of Greek myths is simply wonderful, with a clear knowledge of the subject and witty asides throughout. It’s a good mix of entertaining and educational, especially as it covers some of the less well known myths and Fry highlights just how much of the Greek influence persists in our language and culture today. Review here.

4. Vet in Harness and Every Little Thing by James Herriot

Herriot’s semi-autobiographical stories of life as a vet in Yorkshire are filled with warmth and good humour. He has a knack for telling amusing anecdotes and creates a charming picture of the places and characters he encounters. Reviews of the books can be found here and here.

3. The Inimitable Jeeves and Ring for Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I’d never read any Wodehouse before, but I was massively charmed by these two books and will definitely search out more of his stuff. The Inimitable Jeeves is a delightful read about the various misadventures that Bertie Wooster winds up in, mainly because of a friend who seems to fall in love every other week, the episodes are all rather funny and Wooster is usually saved by his artful valet Jeeves. It helps that in Wooster, Wodehouse creates an affable narrator, and that the interplay between servant and master is delightfully written. Ring for Jeeves, based on a stage play, is set later on and lacks Wooster as a narrator, but is still an extremely amusing farce filled with misunderstandings and confusion.

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2. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Poirot deals with another murder while trying to enjoy a holiday, this time aboard a river cruise in Egypt. Christie does a superb job in creating a host of potential suspects and a tangled web of subplots. The crime at the centre is finally revealed and is truly ingenious, aided as it is by the fact that Christie has laid in false trails and red herrings along the way. An utter delight. Review.

1. Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Eames’ follow up to his amazing Kings of the Wyld is another rock ‘n’ roll fantasy adventure that tells of a young girl who joins up with a travelling band of warriors and learns that the songs tidy up and sterilise what fighting life is really like. There’s a fizzing energy to Eames’ writing and a clever sense of humour in creating a wonderfully unique fantasy realm. I can’t wait for more from the writer. Review here.

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Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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