I think one of my very favourite things about this time of year is how we all have a little extra time to play with. Whether that’s spent with friends and family, spent jet-setting to escape the winter chill, or even just some quality time to yourself, it’s such a luxury to have some time. And, as many of us choose to over the festive period, it’s the perfect time to cosy up with a stack of books and push aside other obligations.
No commute, no work hours taking up most of the day, no need to be ‘on email’. Switch your phone to ‘Do not disturb’ mode and immerse yourself in a fictional world for a few hours. With all of that in mind, here is a round-up of the best page-turning reads I adored in 2019…
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
If you’ve read any of my previous bookish content, you’ll already know that Pachinko by Min Jin Lee was one of my standout reads from this year. I came across it ages ago and added it to my huge to-be-read list, but when Harvey gifted me a three-month Kindle Unlimited subscription and I spotted it in the library, I made it a priority to read it.
Pachinko is an historical fiction novel, following a Korean family who migrate to Japan. Set during the 20th century, the story follows an ensemble of characters from one family, each subjected to struggles and torment that are brilliantly told. I’m reluctant to say much more about the plot because, certainly for me, the magic was realised through me not knowing anything. The story is truly beautiful, heart-achingly so, and I fell in love with almost all of Min Jin Lee’s wonderful characters. I’d love to reread Pachinko in 2020, and you should 100% add it to your reading list.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I read Homegoing as part of Bee’s Patreon book club and absolutely loved it. In fact, I’m constantly recommending it to my friends! Written in a similar way to Pachinko, it follows the many descendants of an Asante woman, Maame. Starting on the Cape Coast, it tells stunning stories of each generation of the family, the struggles each go through, until we come to present day.
It opened my eyes to an entirely new sub-genre and has willed me to read more thoroughly into African-American history, an undeniably important part of the world’s history. Although I have read several more titles in the genre, none have matched up to Homegoing thus far. I’ll keep you updated on this mission next year!
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie was one of the most-talked about books of 2019 and for good reason. I read this over ONE weekend in the summer and literally couldn’t put it down. I even ended up not eating dinner until 9pm because I loved it so much! Our heroine Queenie Jenkins is unlucky in love, life and, well, everything. It’s a wonderfully fresh coming-of-age novel set in modern Britain and encapsulates hilariously funny and relatable moments of a young woman raised in a Jamaican-British family. Queenie navigates relationships, career crisis, friendships and more in her truly unique way, and Carty-Williams’ debut is nothing short of astounding. I found myself rooting for our flawed heroine, cackling with laughter, and feeling heartbreak when Queenie did. I only wish I could read Queenie again for the first time!
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
I first met Natasha at a blogging event, Motel Rocks I think it was, and I couldn’t be more proud of her writing success as an author! Her newest release, Girls of Paper and Fire was one that I’d been dying to read for months and it didn’t disappoint.
Set in a dystopian world inspired by her British Malaysian-Chinese roots, we follow Lei, a girl with luminous golden eyes who is selected as one of the king’s Paper Girls, 12 girls chosen to entertain the king. What I adored most about Girls is how gloriously colourful and meticulously detailed the world Natasha has created is. From the palace to the characters you encounter, to the intense moments Lei goes through, it all feels real and from the heart. Plus, fellow British Chinese readers will adore the language inflections and little cultural snippets woven throughout! I can’t wait to read the next instalment in this trilogy.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
I read Emergency Contact only a handful of days ago and totally didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. I suppose I added it to my to-be-read list months ago in a bid to read much more from women authors of colour, but didn’t notice that it was in a genre that I rarely read from: YA romance.
Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the love story between Penny and Sam unfurl. Penny is a Korean-American girl who has recently started college and she has felt othered her entire life, both from outsiders and her own mother. Sam is a 21-year-old man with no savings to speak of, an ex-girlfriend he can’t stop thinking about, and a niece: Penny’s roommate. Penny and Sam meet twice, and by chance they begin messaging, constantly. I think we’ve all been there with a text message relationship, and I just loved the nostalgic, teen romance vibes of this novel. It’s wonderfully written in a refreshingly modern way without feeling too forced.
Other Honourable Mentions:
- The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
- Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
- The Binding by Bridget Collins
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
- The Familiars by Stacey Halls
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- The Book of Dust, Volume 2: The Secret Commonwealth
What are some of the page-turning reads you’ve adored in 2019?