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Top 3 books of 2016

Ah reading. It’s one of those things we all say we wish we had more time to do, but like any good habit sometimes you just gotta stick at it while it’s boring until it becomes fun. Or, in the case of books, if you’re struggling to read it put it down. It’s probably not interesting you.

I challenged myself to read 10 new books last year. I wanted to find a way to fit reading into my daily schedule again, so I decided to commit to put my phone away on my commute and use the bus journey to read instead. I can’t read in bed because being in bed makes me tired, and I manage an average of about 2.5 pages before my eyelids begin to droop.

My general rule is if it’s time usually spent looking at my phone, I could be reading instead. At breakfast, instead of scrolling through Instagram, pick up a book. Read in the evenings instead of sticking the TV on and ignoring it (better still, turn the TV off). Stop pretending I’m going to tidy the house and curl up with a book and a cuppa. There’s no excuse.

Top 3 books I read in 2016:

3) Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola Estes

I got a book voucher from Tom’s family for Christmas and I told Tom that I’d know when to spend it. I looked in quite a few bookshops over the first few months of this year and although I saw books that looked interesting, it wasn’t the right time. We went away for a long weekend in Downhead, Somerset, and visited Wells on a drizzly Sunday. I was poking around a shelf in the back of a bookshop, not really concentrating, when I saw a book that looked completely out of place with everything around it. I picked it up and before I’d even read the back I knew it was what I was supposed to spend the voucher on.

Women Who Run With The Wolves is a book for women who have lost touch with their wild/creative/wise selves. It’s the sort of book you don’t have to read all at once; you can delve in wherever you need to, finding a short story followed by analysis.

Estes dissects the key elements of each story down to the bone. She draws complex emotions from imagery, setting and character traits, using her interpretation skills to translate stories into modern lessons. These lessons are still relevant today, no matter how "advanced" we may feel. WWRWTW focuses on connecting with your feminine psyche, listening to your instincts and reminding ourselves of these time-tested lessons.

I understand if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea. Self help books are surrounded by stigma and a lot of them are very cliché, but if you are similar to me you might find this book provides some direction and clarification for your inner voice.

2) The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas

Oh how I wish you could have the experience of reading a book for the first time more than once. Such was the case with The Seed Collectors. Tom bought it for me as a present so I was surprised by the casual use of the C word, BDSM and opium within the first 20 pages. It was not what I was expecting, and I was instantly hooked.

As a fan of books such as Trainspotting, The Bitch Goddess Notebook and The Girl On The Train, The Seed Collectors seemed to satiate a thirst that I’ve only recently identified; reluctant connection with every character, even the ones that make you grit your teeth. I genuinely enjoyed the tangential monologues through this book and it was easy to sit back and let this original story lead me through adult mystery and begin my botanical education.

1) A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

The size of this book may just about put you off ever picking it up, even if you didn’t have any idea what it was about. In truth, if I had known exactly what this book contained I may never have read it either; themes include abuse, rape, self harm and sexuality. I was enchanted by the four male characters from the very beginning and A Little Life leads you in and out of their relationships with partners, friends, families but above all each other, in a way unlike any other book I have read.

This story will never leave me. While I sobbed my way through some of the chapters, I never for one second thought of putting it down. I needed to know what happened next, find out who was healing from what, wait to see if success outweighed loss, if misery drowned happiness. As I turned the final page of this book more tears fell from the realisation that the story was really finishing, that the lives of these 4 men had ended in my very hands. I don’t know how long it will be until I read this book again but I am richer for having been privy to Hanya Yanagihara’s world on Lispenard Street.

So, these are my top 3 books of last year. I don’t think anything could top A Little Life; it is a harrowing, difficult read but Yanagihara’s style of writing allows you to live through each character completely, without any boundaries between their experience and your understanding. The Seed Collectors satisfied my yearning for novels about flawed yet ordinary people, where perfect souls become tainted through life experience. Women Who Run With The Wolves earns a place on the bookshelf I revisit annually, providing me with the comfort that although at times we can feel completely alone we are not the first to walk these steps and we will not be the last.

Join me over on Goodreads!

Do you have any reading goals for this year?

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