Top 2018 Book Recommendations

2018 was one of the few years to find me without an endless resolution list. As shared on the blog earlier this year, the only tangible goal I set for myself was to read 35 books. Twelve months later, I’m more than happy to announce that I not only met my goal, I went above and beyond – I read 40 books during 2018, not counting three or four that are still lying half-read around the house.

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These are the ones I’d recommend without second thought:

The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Francis-White

Deborah could sit still in silence and blink, and she’d still be brilliant. The fact that she decided to write a book makes it even better. For the fans of the Guilty Feminist podcast, the content of the book is not exactly brand new but it would be a great first reference for people who are getting a head start at reading and learning about feminism. Gift it to your teenage niece, your best friend, the best friend of your best friend, you mom, you guy friends who believe in gender equality but cannot still see the difference between feminism and man-hating. What I love about this book is that it’s so informed and well-rounded: Deborah acknowledges her weaknesses as well as her privileges (e.g. as a white, cis woman), strays clear of the notion of the “perfect feminist” that might alienate possible parts of the target audience, and writes with warmth, humour and enviable vivaciousness.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

To tell you that I was familiar with Bourdain’s work before his death made the headlines, I’d be lying. This is why reading this book made me feel like I’ve missed so much – and that I’ll be missing even more because of his premature departure. Part professional memoir and part behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens, this books provides insightful and humorous anecdotes from the cooking trade but also sheds light at Bourdain’s disposition and mental struggles.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

After reading this book, I embarked on a Nora Ephron pilgrimage; I’m currently trying to get my hands on everything she’s ever written. As a New York Times’ book critic once wrote, “Nora Ephron can write about anything better than anybody else can write about anything.” This novel is loosely based on her second marriage, i.e. what happens when a food writer and cook discovers that her husband is cheating on her while she’s expecting their child. Interspersed with Ephron’s own recipes, it is written in a heart-warming (no pun intended) manner that will make you beg for your morning commute to be longer.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

A vivid, wry and witty memoir that came as a suggestion by an instructor from a writing workshop I attended earlier this year. Twenty years and counting after her first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson recounts her abusive upbringing in the English North by an adoptive mother and her journey to self-discovery and finding her real family.

Killing Eve by Luke Jennings

Now a major BBC hit series, the two novels follow Eve, a desk-bound, smart but somewhat insecure MI5 security officer who decides to hunt down Villanelle, a professionally trained, psychopathic assassin. Just like his heroines, Jenning’s writing is not bullet-proof – my book club practically dissected the novels pointing out inconsistencies and loopholes plot-wise – but this does not make them any less enjoyable; the fast-paced mouse and cat chase is full of adrenaline and surprises, making this series an absolute page-turner.

Classics that everyone should read (even if they won’t make your top ten favourite books: The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, The Woman Destroyed by Simon de Beauvoir, Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith, Collected Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

If you feel like you’d like to get more reading done, check my tips here. Another practical idea is to join a book club or – even better – start your own, which is what I’m currently trying to do with a couple of friends. If you’re interested and you live in London, hit me up!

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