10 Books That Defined My Decade

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 hated 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

The Diary of a Young Girl

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

Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses, #1)

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

Just Listen

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

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)

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

Emma

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

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)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

A Quiet Kind of Thunder

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

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 hated, 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

Dear Mrs Bird

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

Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy #3) 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.

 

Wow, so that turned into a bit of a mammoth post – congratulations if you made it all the way to the end!

I hope you enjoyed this little look into my evolving reading tastes. I certainly enjoyed thinking back over the books that impacted me over the last 10 years, and I’m excited to discover even more beloved books throughout the next decade.

Walter Scott Prize 2019 Longlist Predictions

It’s officially March, which means that any day now we could see the announcement of the 2019 Walter Scott Prize longlist!

The Walter Scott Prize is awarded for the best work of historical fiction published in the UK in the previous year. Its namesake, Sir Walter Scott, is known as the founding father of historical fiction, with the publication of his novel Waverley in 1814 regarded as the birth of the historical novel. Waverley‘s subtitle, ‘Sixty Years Since’, forms a key part of the entry criteria for the prize – to be marked as eligible, at least 50% of the novel must be set at least 60 years in the past.

With the longlist announcement fairly imminent, I thought it would be quite fun to share my predictions for some of the novels that might feature on it! So without further ado, let’s get into the books:

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This novel whipped up quite the literary storm when it was published back in January 2018. A sumptuous period novel set in Georgian London, it tells the story of merchant Jonah Hancock and prostitute Angelica Neal as their lives intertwine. It definitely wasn’t my favourite historical fiction of 2018, and I did have some issues with it – but the writing style and historical detail must be praised.

 

Dear Mrs Bird
Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce

If I’m being completely honest, this is probably my number one pick. Dear Mrs Bird is a warm, humorous WWII novel that completely encapsulates the spirit of 1940s London. Everything from the period slang to the food described was spot on, and I found myself utterly transported into the book’s setting.

 

 

In addition to the two novels above which I read in 2018, there are also a couple of books currently on my TBR which I think could be contenders, judging by what I’ve been hearing about them:

The Corset


The Corset 
by Laura Purcell

This novel is a dark tale of two women who meet in a prison in Victorian London – one of whom is there on a charitable visit, while the other is locked up for murder. Gothic mystery is definitely a trend in historical fiction right now, and this one has received high praise, so I think it could be a contender.

 

 

After the Party
After the Party by Cressida Connolly

My final pick is set in 1930s England, and deals with the rise of Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Facists during this period. I remember learning about this briefly during A-Level History, but it’s really an aspect of British history that isn’t covered enough. It was chosen as the Waterstones Fiction book of the month for September 2018, which could bode well for its inclusion on the longlist.

 

So there we have my predictions for the Walter Scott Prize 2019 longlist! Let me know which books you think might make the list with a comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

For more information about the Walter Scott Prize, visit www.walterscottprize.co.uk.