As 2019 drew to a close, I found myself mulling over the decade just gone. It’s quite likely to be the most significant decade of change I’ll ever have in my life: I sat my GCSEs and A-Levels, got a Masters degree in Physics, met my boyfriend, moved to London to start my first graduate scheme, then realised I didn’t enjoy said graduate scheme and quit to start another job in a completely different field.
In such a period filled with big life changes, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how my reading tastes have evolved throughout the decade. This blog post is therefore a journey through the last ten years of my life by way of the books that were most important to me at the time.
April 2010: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
I read this in after visiting Anne Frank House on a holiday to Amsterdam, and reading it at the age of 15 (the same age Anne was when she was captured and arrested) had a profound impact on me.
It was saddening to witness how quickly Anne was forced to grow up, but fascinating to see the mature and passionate person she became. Reading this diary inspired me to begin a journal of my own which I kept regularly throughout my teenage years – and I’m glad I did, because it’s so interesting to look back on now.
July 2010: Noughts and Crosses (Noughts and Crosses #1) by Malorie Blackman
This was my first ‘proper’ YA novel, which I read on recommendation of a friend at school. It made me intensely uncomfortable in exactly the way Malorie Blackman intended – I kept finding my mind’s eye automatically picturing the powerful Crosses as white and the persecuted noughts as black, which made me really question the assumptions that had been drilled into me by society.
It’s also an incredibly gripping story, and I vividly remember sobbing my heart out on a sun lounger in Turkey as I reached its emotional conclusion.
July 2011: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Ah, Sarah Dessen – quite possibly my favourite author during my late teenage years. Her books are just the sort I wanted to write myself at the time: the perfect blend of romance, family drama and important issues.
Just Listen remains my favourite novel of hers – it deals with a number of heavy topics whilst maintaining an overall sense of hopefulness. I also adored the romance in this story (Owen is the best Dessen love interest, okay?), and the focus on music which runs throughout the plot.
August 2013: A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2) by George R.R. Martin
This book marks a definite shift in my reading tastes, and it coincided with one of the most significant periods of change in my life: my first year at university.
No longer scared of being bullied for my nerdiness, I was free to enjoy my first taste of the adult fantasy genre – and wow, what a ride! Unfortunately I had the first book accidentally spoiled by a friend, so the second book was my first true experience of the trademark George R.R. Martin rollercoaster of shocks (and I’ve actually still only read up to book 3, so no spoilers pleaseee).
March 2014: Emma by Jane Austen
It’s crazy to think that at the beginning of this decade, I had never read a Jane Austen novel. Thankfully this has now been set right; through my second and third years of university, I made my way through all six of her completed novels.
While I adore each of them, Emma was an instant favourite. Despite Austen commenting that she had created “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like”, I (and many others) love Emma as a character precisely because she is so flawed.
July 2014: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins
It seems I do a pretty good job of choosing holiday reads that I will enjoy! I’d heard a few people say that this was a good series to binge, so both my mum and I decided to read it – and I think we both frustrated my brother by being pretty much glued to our Kindles the entire week.
There’s nothing like that feeling of being utterly consumed by a book, which is why I remember this one so fondly. It’s also one of only two books I’ve ever managed to convince my boyfriend to read (the other being Scythe by Neal Shusterman).
February 2017: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
This book is special because it was the first recommendation I got from a magical place on the internet I’d just discovered called Booktube, which did wonders for rekindling my love for reading after a difficult couple of years.
It was one of those cases of a book coming into my life at just the right moment – I’d been diagnosed with anxiety and depression only a few months previously, and seeing such raw and honest anxiety representation in a book really helped me work through my feelings surrounding it.
October 2017: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights was the first novel I ever read as part of Victober (the annual October Victorian reading challenge), and it sailed straight onto my all-time favourites shelf.
At the time of reading it, I was studying for stupidly stressful exams in a job I wasn’t enjoying, and flicking it open during study breaks to read about the exploits of all these awful people was exactly the distraction I needed!
July 2018: Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce
You’re all probably sick of hearing me talk about this novel by now – but in compiling my list of books for this blog post, I remembered exactly why Dear Mrs Bird holds such a dear place in my heart.
I read this in July 2018, six months after my Nana passed away from dementia. When she was alive, I loved listening to her talk about her wartime experiences – so to have the feel of the period brought vividly to life in this novel evoked the comfortable memories of that special time spent with her.
September 2019: Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy #3) by Ken Follett
Yup, I did it – I finished the Century trilogy before the end of the decade! Although I initially didn’t think this final instalment was as good as the previous two, I’ve found myself unable to stop thinking about it even months after I read it.
I learnt so much from this series, and it’s made me realise how much I love reading historical fiction covering multiple perspectives, especially when done so masterfully. I was moved to tears by the book’s ending, and I’m confident that I’ll never stop recommending this series to anyone who’s remotely interested in modern history.