What I read in 2019
Back in the last century, I used to wander the pavements reading as I went, falling into potholes and risking my life crossing London streets. Then I moved out of town, had kids and for some time read very little. This year as I’m researching for my book on menopause, I have made up for the years of mothering by gobbling up books like the starving bookworm I am. Don’t be put off if menopause isn’t your thing, there’s also memoir, magical tales, classics, spirituality, menstruality, marriage, relationships, literature, reassuring charmers, rock and roll, family, grief and re-birth… something for everyone.
Inspired by Rachael Crow, in no particular order, here’s what I’ve read this year. The ones with pictures are my favourites and clicking the image will take you either to the authors’ sites or interesting reviews.
Wild Feminine – Finding Power, Spirit & Joy in the Female Body
Tami Lynn Kent
This was my second reading of this life-changing book, which I delved into with Sophie And Edveeje’s Wild Feminine book club over the summer. Does exactly what it says on the tin and I hope to re-read it every year.
Vivid retelling of Greek myth. Wonderful feminist stuff.
Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace With Marriage
I am slightly in love with Liz Gilbert. I am not alone. She didn’t convince me to get married though.
The Silence of the Girls
The visceral herstory of a captured queen during the Trojan war, gripping stuff.
A surprisingly uplifting memoir considering her troubled upbringing. Tara deserved the many awards she won for it. (And she’s 33! A babe in arms!)
To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface
Combining river wandering with natural and cultural history. I’m slightly ashamed I gave up on this for something more racy.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Loved this window into cultures I know practically nothing about. Engaging and beautifully written.
Moon Wise: How to find peace and power with the cycle of the moon
Awen Clement, Caitlin Noble
Awen introduced me to the concept of how the natal moon creates its own cycle independent to the moon cycle. Revolutionary information for me.
Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment
Deeply soulful memoir about menopause as an awakening, so real and subtle, I wish she was my friend.
The Secret Commonwealth
This is the second volume of the Book of Dust, it was so exciting that it kept me awake at night if I read it in the evening. Philip Pullman should be president, now that Davis Attenborough is getting on a bit, really, he is the kindest, most acute observer of our times with prose to die for. I’m willing to bring him broccoli and mackerel every day to sharpen his brain and make him write faster.
Red hot rage, gathers scientific, cultural and anthropological research to build an argument for the joys of ageing. Her wonky opinions about gender identity aside, it’s almost unreadable but brilliant and an inspiration.
Convenience Store Woman
Interesting story about masking and hiding and trying to pass for normal. Ahem.
Come as You Are: the surprising new science that will transform your sex life
The most helpful book about sex I’ve ever read. Practical and real-life stuff.
You Gotta Have Girlfriends: A Post-Fifty Posse Is Good for Your Health
Suzanne Braun Levine
The premise is blindingly obvious, but weaving through her research and interviews, it made me call up my mates and lean in to benefit from their brilliance.
The Woman’s Guide to Second Adulthood: Inventing the Rest of Our Lives
Suzanne Braun Levine
Readable wonder through menopause from the former editor of Ms magazine
Don’t Hold My Head Down
No More Page 3 campaigner Lucy-Ann shares her story of how she rebooted her sex life and explored her own pleasure. Human, real, brilliant.
Urban Tantra, Second Edition: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century
Barbara Carrellas, Annie Sprinkle
Annoying. Reading it did not bring me to an ‘expanded orgasmic state’, not at all.
Grow your own HRT
Sally j Duffell
My kind of medicine; she’s done all the science so I can eat the sprouts. Essential menopause reading.
Majesteria: Spiritual Guidance Through the Menopausal Gateway
Memoir tracking Melanie’s journey from priest to Second Spring. Excellent.
My only graphic novel this year. Dear partner says she’s too smug & middle class but I love her artistry and wry humour.
Flash Count Diary: A New Story About the Menopause
Brilliant memoir mixing natural history, literature, research. It perfectly expresses her sense of loss and isolation in menopause. And she’s Liz Gilbert’s mate.
The Cost of Living
North London + literature + pondering + family = my home ground
Tried and failed to finish. Very annoying heroine.
I tried and failed to finish this, just too grim.
Writing Menopause: An Anthology of Fiction, Poetry and Creative Non-Fiction
The best and most diverse collection of writing about menopause I’ve found. Wonderful. It was so good, when I thought I’d lost it, I had to buy another copy. So now I have two.
Sex, Meaning and the Menopause
Great all round book on menopause covering manifestations, physiology of hormones, sex and spirituality.
The Middlepause: on life after youth
Collects material from wellbeing and literary writers to explore how it is to be catapulted into menopause and what it is to age. Expect grief and an acute, critical mind.
I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman
Hilarious. I long to live in New York.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Another clever bugger. Weaving literature, history, culture, memoir and magic.
The Salt Path
Brilliant memoir of loss, courage and wondering
The Keeper of Lost Things
Charming and soulful. Medicine for a glum day.
The Cleaner of Chartres
Uplifting and sweet, with a soulful spirit. Love Sally Vickers, she’s like Sunday night telly in a book.
Feel Free: Essays
Clever bugger. I have a massive crush on Zadie Smith.
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Revisited this classic and was once again opened to the brutality of discrimination and the joy of Maya Angelou’s spirit.
Mr Golightly’s Holiday
Sweet, uplifting parable from one of my long term favourite, reliable authors.
Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia
Writes even better than she sings; clever, soulful, truthful and awesome.
To Throw Away Unopened
I bloody love Viv Albertine. Searing, straight from the heart, ballsy, brilliant memoir. If you haven’t already, read her first book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys. Fabulous opening paragraph about why she doesn’t masturbate.
The Glass Castle
Beautifully written memoir of the complexity surviving and becoming ‘ordinary’
True Refuge: Finding Peace And Freedom In Your Own Awakened Heart
Brach PhD, Tara
This is the book we’re studying in our meditation class, I resisted for ages but now it’s my bible. No clue why she still feels to put Tara Brach PHD on the cover though, she has nothing to prove.
Conversations with Friends
I tried another go at millennial fiction… tiresome.
Great Granny Webster
Dark, funny, semi-autobiographical story about a monster granny
A Little Life
Emotionally exhausting, went on forever. Could have done with a stricter editor.
The Dalai Lama’s Cat
Written from the viewpoint of the cat, painful analogies, but it saw me through a UTI
I keep trying to get my head around millennial fiction. It was tough making it to the end of this one.
A story about rehab and sobriety, slightly cheesy.
The Night Circus
Possibly the best I’ve read this year (equal with Philip Pullman anyway) once I’d finished it, I read it again straight away. Magical.
Eve in Hollywood
Beautifully written and deeply stylish novel, tracking the effect Eve has on the people whose lives she touches in 1930’s Hollywood, sequel to the excellent ‘Rules of Civility’.
City of Girls
Cracking story tracing the arc of one woman’s life, her conquests and compromises.
Pride and Prejudice
Call me pretentious if you like but the woman’s a genius and reading this gets more rewarding every time.
What books have you enjoyed this year? I’d love to hear what books you can recommend for 2020, let me know in the comments.