Books Life Reading

A Decade In Books

19th December 2019

I’ve read 339 books (so far) this decade. While figuring out my favorite books of the past ten years, I counted them all.

This has been some ten years, in books and life. Books are life.

And truthfully, I’ve been working on this post for a while. This has been the House of Germs recently, with Isla’s Christmas play, and that time she decorated Neil with tinsel. He wasn’t even asleep.

However. Back to the books.

My favorites from the last ten years are my favorites because of what was going on in my life as I read them. And because they’re awesome books.

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure here.)

In 2010, my big thing was moving in with Neil. When we first met, we bonded over books, and the first things we merged were our book collections. Every time he visited before we moved in together he brought me books to read. Death and The Penguin was inscribed for me as Neil: 101. Love, Neil. I read that over our first Christmas, in 2009, and how are we counting this decade?

In 2010, there was a lot of trading of books, and houses and other things. Neil would spend three nights a week with me, and I would walk up his three flights of stairs at the weekend. We still have the stack of train tickets we used as bookmarks, and have continued that square little tradition.

In May, I moved my bookcases into a flat we found together. My books were triple-stacked, but I kinda let him have some space in there. His Japanese fiction next to my Stieg Larsson.

We had books back then, but no TV or internet for a month after we moved in. I read a lot, in stacks from the local second-hand shop.

Maybe because of how we met, or maybe because of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I was obsessed with epistolary novels.

My favorite and most quirky book of letters that I read in 2010 was Ella Minnow Pea.

Fast forward a little and one of the best parts of Christmas is books. That Christmas my Dad bought me The Lacuna, because of my obsession with Frida Kahlo. I started that one during Christmas week, and finished it in 2011.

As well as using books as markers in my life, I have a few criteria on what makes a best one. I like writing that doesn’t sound like writing so I can get immersed in the story, and I need to feel an emotional attachment somewhere, even if one of my favorites is an unlikely one.

As an example, my best full reading experience in 2011 was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which had me sobbing in the bathroom hours after I finished it.

2012 was the year I got engaged, and my Dad had cancer. I leaned into books, but remember little of what I read. The Snow Child was my read of that year, and brought me to fairytale retellings.

I got married in 2013, I was pregnant by the end of that year. I was too jumped up to read much, but managed 35 books, and found two overall favorites.

A Tale For The Time Being broke my heart and put it back together. And I’ve since sent it out to my global book group. It’s been away for something like three years now, but it’s having a good trip.

And May We Be Forgiven is my kind of dysfunctional family road trip.

I spent a quite a lot of 2014 pregnant and too nervous to read. What I lost in reading mojo, I gained in mashed potato and sour sweets (but never together).

The night before I had Isla, in the hospital and knocked out on anxiety meds, Neil read Where’d You Go, Bernadette, because I said so.

Neil bought me a monthly book subscription box that year, and Isla got a library card when she was six days old.

Having Isla made me even more nostalgic, and I went back to summer camp with The Interestings for a while.

2015 was another year of two favorites. Defending Jacob was my plane book when we took Isla to New York for the first time. I finished it there, too. Because we got caught in a blizzard. Or February, as it’s also known. But a blizzard, too.

Also while in New York, I discovered The Last Summer of The Camperdowns, and got my unseasonable read on. That book inspired me to start a goodreads shelf called gin-soaked prose.

At the end of that year, the three of us moved to Skye, and I avoided reading mystery books set in country houses.

We moved to our own house in February of 2016, and my book of that year was In The Woods, which we’re now watching on television as Dublin Murders.

The Unseen World was the first book I read in 2017, and it stayed with me all year, and even now. Yes, kids are that smart and full of feeling. Yes, Alzheimer’s is that full of shit. This book took me back to places I didn’t want to go, but I was also hugely comforted by it.

I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my go-to brain-candy book genres is literary crime. With that said, the top book I read last year was The Dry. The most hyped book that’s actually worth all the hype. And I read Force of Nature in hardback the week it was released.

That’s never happened before.

And now, you guys, we’ve reached THIS YEAR.

Before I talk about this year, some real talk.

Every year, I set a goal to read 50 books. Two years in a row, I made 49. This was not one of those years. This year, I’ve read 14 books. So far. 14.

I don’t have a particular excuse for the low number. Maybe I’m writing more, but then there’s this.

Maybe I’m binging on blog training, maybe I’m staring at Isla all the time, before she turns 17. And maybe we re-watched Friends, twice.

All of that.

But out of those 14, I’ve found three favorites.

I read The Gunners as part of Love Books Group book group. I’ve missed character-driven gems that squeeze the heart.

I started Ask Again, Yes while in the bottom bunk on our trip to London. A book and a trip I didn’t want to end, except maybe for the part where we drove all the way back.

One more.

I’ve been sick this week, not writing much, and feeling bad about it. I craved something to keep my writing brain switched on. A few weeks ago, I discovered Love Letters to Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-Telling while trading Facebook comments with the author of the book in the FB group Create If Writing. (More FB groups for writers and bloggers can be found here.)

Anyway, I started reading these letters on Monday, sneezing in bed. Andi is gentle with us writers, but also offers some tough love on why we write and why we shouldn’t stop.

Read it if you need it.

And so, those are the books of my decade.

What are the books of your decade?

And I wonder what stories the next ten years will bring?

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15 Comments

  • Reply Ritu 19th December 2019 at 2:35 pm

    I don’t think I could choose a couple… But then, I’ve read 140 THIS YEAR!!!

    • Reply Lorna 19th December 2019 at 3:49 pm

      I would expect nothing less. Didn’t you get Best Book Blog? Do you follow Tracy Fenton/TBC/Compulsive Readers? https://www.compulsivereaders.com/

      • Reply Ritu 19th December 2019 at 3:53 pm

        Thank you for the recommendation!!

  • Reply Danni Ever After* 19th December 2019 at 3:17 pm

    A Tale For the Time Being, Death and the Penguin, and Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – So much love!!

    I added The Lacuna to my list bc Frida, and I need to dig out The Peculiar Sadness…because you recommended it so highly that I bought it and promptly lost it in storage.

    I tried so hard to love Ella Mnnow Pea, but wound up frustrated with it. I read it for a round robin book group.

    One thing I definitely became more conscious of is how white and male bookshelves can be – this decade I made a concerted effort to branch out into reading more diverse voices and I’m so glad I did. I’m looking forward to continuing the trend in the next decade.

    Right now, though, I want to savor my way through My Brilliant Friend. I’m a few chapters in and head over heels in love.

    Dammit I’m going to have to write my own post about this! Too many books to talk about!

    • Reply Lorna 19th December 2019 at 5:07 pm

      Holy shit, my Nana would not be happy I forgot My Brilliant Friend. Reading it was like sitting with her, so maybe that one’s just for us. And I would LOVE to see your version of this post! PS. I think I wrote you a four-page letter about Lemon Cake.

      • Reply Danni Ever After* 19th December 2019 at 5:34 pm

        You did, which is why I picked it up! Hoping to focus more on my reading next year, without the pressure of a GoodReads challenge!

  • Reply Paulette 19th December 2019 at 3:39 pm

    Oh no, 14 books for me would be an amazing goal! When I had a 4-hour round trip white-knuckle commutes in a manual transmission, books are what kept me sane and I listened to SO MANY. But my life is less stressful these days so I find myself reading less. That’s sad, right? But there are some amazing recommendations here, which I appreciate!

  • Reply Chips and Cookies 19th December 2019 at 3:48 pm

    I just finished reading “A Place For Us,” and it wrecked me in the best possible way. I recommend.

  • Reply parkermccoy 19th December 2019 at 8:51 pm

    That’s a really cool list. Books truly bring people together. Great post!

  • Reply Debbie from Deb's World 19th December 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Wow what a great post Lorna, full of tales and how the books you’ve read have slotted into your life. It was fabulous and really hooked me in. Some of these I’ve heard of but others not, so I’ll add them to my list. I’m so glad you enjoyed The Dry so much, I loved it too. Thanks again for the recommendation of Where the Crawdads Sing, my mother and sister also loved it – after I told them all about it!!

  • Reply sarahrmorrison 19th December 2019 at 10:11 pm

    This is a fantastic, comprehensive look back on your life and your reading life over the last decade! You listed a few books that I have been really wanting to read. Are you enjoying the Dublin Murders television series?

  • Reply ellenbest24 20th December 2019 at 11:05 am

    I love your blog, and look forward to catching up with what ever you write. So my reason for reading fewer books this year as I read you. Xx Merry Christmas. My favorite so far this year is Post Script by Cecilia Ahearn. OMG You just need to read it. I Re-read ‘P.S. I love you’ before reading this, as there has been nine years between the two. A book really worth every turn of the page.

  • Reply Rebecca Moon Ruark 20th December 2019 at 11:38 pm

    Oh, wow, I’ve got to save this post and pore over it. My first thought was a recommendation: your love of epistolary (and also diary-type, maybe???) novels plus Frida Kahlo equals Courtney Maum’s COSTALEGRE. I think you’d love that. I did. Typically, I read so much for the blog and looking for comps for my novel MS–but for pure pleasure, my top few recent pics would be: novel: A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW; essays: Ross Gay’s THE BOOK OF DELIGHTS; craft book: Jane Alison’s MEANDER, SPIRAL, EXPLODE; and poetry: Dave Lucas’s WEATHER (cuz it’s like Lake Erie wrapped up in a book). Really, fantastic post, Lorna. I love how you link up your life with what you’re reading. An aside, there’s a writer (I found on Twitter) who recommends perfume based on the books you read. She actually did the opposite for me. Anyway, I find so much joy in learning what books others love and in recommendations. Saving this list of yours! If we don’t connect before, happy happy joy joy for your 2020 start!

  • Reply Rachael Stray | https://rachaelstray.com/ 21st December 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve managed to read 43 books this year which I surprised myself about. Always enjoy finding out what books others enjoy.

  • Reply Lauren Becker 24th December 2019 at 5:00 pm

    I love this post! I don’t think I could figure out favorites from every year of the past ten years, but it would be interesting to look back.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

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