Annual book post with added pointless lists

In 2018, 2017, 2016 & 2015 I did this with pointless graphs, but this year I am adding a new twist to the visual aids and going for the pub bore’s favourite weapon of mass irritation – the list.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am now almost entirely converted to audiobooks (blame Josie Fraser, she got me started). Don’t judge me, instead revel in just how many of those beasts I got through – currently 93 and I will add one or two more over the holiday period, although I expect I’ll fall short of reaching 100, like a massive loser. Here they are broken down by genre:

Crime was the biggest category with 29, followed by Non-Fiction (22) and Literary Fiction (21) then a smattering of Sci-Fi, Horror, and spy novels.

In terms of author gender, having been evenly balanced in previous years, this was a clear victory for women, 56:37:

I much prefer women writing crime than men and a lot of the non-fiction I read this year was by women as we are living through something of a golden age of feminist science writing. Which brings me onto my first list.

6 non-fiction books I’d press upon you until you felt obliged to read them to shut me up:

  • Inferior – Angela Saini. A look at the many, and inventive ways that science has got women wrong. Saini is an excellent writer who has a deep understanding of the various branches of science involved. She is also fair, and thorough. This is an exemplar for how to use science to refute bad science and to convey a powerful message.
  • Invisible Women – Caroline Criado-Perez. Everyone read this book this year. What Criado-Perez does so expertly is take something we all sort of knew, that women are under-represented in all sorts of data sets, and methodically, remorselessly exposes it across diverse examples. In one book she has settled the argument and given something for every tech bro to be gifted.
  • The Five – Hallie Rubenhold. This book explores the lives of the five victims of Jack the Ripper, but it is not about their murderer (or murders). It is a meticulously researched account of the social, economical and legal structures in Victorian England that put those five women in that position. By deliberating avoiding any account of their deaths, and instead detailing their lives with sympathy and reality, it powerfully reclaims these women from their misogynistic fate.
  • Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham. After watching that TV series, I read this. It deftly weaves together complex economic, social, political and scientific threads with a human perspective.
  • Superior – Angela Saini. Following up the laser dissection of sexism in Inferior, Saini turned her attention to race science. Again, her ability to combine different aspects of science, to explain the flaws and bring these together in a compelling argument should act as a full stop to any of this nonsense ever being spouted again (sadly it won’t though).
  • Empty Planet – Daniel Bricker, John Ibbitson. I blogged about this, a challenge to the convention that population crisis, I appreciated how it made me think about so many things from a different perspective once you change one underlying assumption.

4 fiction books that are reasonably new and you’d enjoy

  • A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles. I was a big fan of The Rules of Civility, and Towles new book did not disappoint. It tells the tale of Count Rostov, sentenced in the Russian Revolution to never leave the Hotel Metropol. In a depressing year for most of us when cruelty is the new political directive, this is a gentle book full of kindness and humanity.
  • My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite. This short novel focuses on Korede’s continued attempts to cover up for her Instagram inflencer sister, who has a habit of being forced to kill her boyfriends. It’s a refreshing, wickedly funny voice.
  • Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie. As with the previous entry, this novel centres around the relationship between two sisters, Isma and Aneeka. They are drawn into an international weave of terrorism, politics and family tensions. This might be heavy handed by another writer but Shamsie keeps the focus on the individual characters to create a powerful, moving story.
  • American Spy – Lauren Wilkinson. When so many spy novels are dominated by hard drinking men, this account of Marie Mitchell, a black woman caught between her country and her lover, Thomas Sankara the President of Burkina Faso provides a much richer, humane account of the consequences of espionage.

4 books I didn’t like as much as other people seemed to, but that’s okay.

Maybe not classics, but 6 books I just enjoyed

And finally, all 93 for you to be judgemental about

  • Master & Commander – Patrick O’Brien
  • The Adversary – Emmanuel Carrere
  • Dying Fall – Elly Griffiths
  • The Murder Room – P D James
  • My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
  • The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths
  • The Wood – John Lewis-Stempel
  • The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K Le Guin
  • Ivon – Michael Aylwin
  • The Happy Brain – dean Burnett
  • Our Mutual Friend – Dickens
  • A Distant Echo – Val McDiermid
  • Ordinary Thunderstorms – William Boyd
  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Dead Water – Ann Cleeves
  • Dune – Frank Herbert
  • Joe Strummer – Chris Salewicz
  • Inferior – Angela Saini
  • The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
  • Mabinogion – Sioned Davies
  • Notes on a Nervous Planet – Matt Haig
  • Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie
  • Nutshell – Ian McEwan
  • The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris
  • Invisible Women – Caroline Criado-Perez
  • Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
  • Take No Farewell – Robert Goddard
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
  • Heroes – Stephen Fry
  • In the Woods – Tana French
  • The Seasoning – Manon Steffan Ros
  • Milkman – Anna Burns
  • The Salt Path – Raynor Winn
  • The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths
  • The Story of a New Name – Elena Ferrante
  • The Gendered Brain – Gina Rippon
  • Redbreast – Jo Nesbo
  • The Owl Service – Alan Garner
  • Wild Fire – Ann Cleeves
  • Superior – Angela Saini
  • My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • The Elements of Eloquence – Mark Forsyth
  • One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard
  • The Life of Rebecca Jones – Angharad Price
  • The Leopard – Jo Nesbo
  • The Fog – James Herbert
  • A Murder of Quality – John Le Carre
  • Why be happy when you could be normal? – Jeanette Winterson
  • The Signature of All Things – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Melmoth – Sarah Perry
  • The Company of Liars – Karen Maitland
  • The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John Le Carre
  • Exposure – Helen Dunmore
  • Taxidermists daughter – Kate Mosse
  • The Woman in Blue – Elly Griffiths
  • Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood
  • An Honourable Schoolboy – John Le Carre
  • The Girl who fell from the sky – Simon Mawer
  • The Passage – Justin Cronin
  • In Her Wake – Amanda Jennings
  • Codename Villanelle – Luke Jennings
  • The Porpoise – Mark Hadden
  • Midnight in Chernobyl – Adam Higginbotham
  • The Wych Elm – Tana French
  • Empty Planet – Darrell Bricker, John Ibbitson
  • She Begat this – Joan Morgan
  • An American Spy – Lauren Wilkinson
  • Smoke Gets in your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty
  • The thirteenth tale – Diane Setterfield
  • White Nights – Ann Cleeves
  • The Noonday Demon – Andrew Solomon
  • The Five – Hallie Rubenhold
  • Gut – Giulia Enders
  • Oranges are Not the Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
  • The Zig Zag Girl – Elly Griffiths
  • The Bat – Jo Nesbo
  • The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
  • The Last Witness – Denzyl Merrick
  • The Thirteen Problems – Agatha Christie
  • The Lewis Man – Peter May
  • The Hoarder – Jess Kidd
  • The Beatles – Hunter Davies
  • The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths
  • A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie
  • Normal People – Sally Rooney
  • Call for the Dead – John Le Carre
  • Close to Home – Cara Hunter
  • A History of Britain in 21 women – Jenni Murray
  • Dead Beat – Val McDiermid
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker
  • Lost Dog – Kate Spicer
  • The Janus Stone – Elly Griffiths


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