Books, Comics & Zines I Read in 2019

I’ll be updating this page throughout the year, hoping to meet my reading challenge of 52 books (eligible books are numbered below). You can follow me on Goodreads too. Some links to buy are affiliate links.

books

July

31. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I spent much of this trying to decide if it was an earlier run at the more successful formula of Daisy and The Six or an attempt to recapture the magic (I was glad to find it’s the former). It’s a very similar book, but this time with a Hollywood legend telling all about her life and 7 husbands for a posthumous memoir. It’s a great story (and has a lovely surprising love story thread) but I guess I’m just less interested in Hollywood than rock stars and the memoir construct is a little forced considering all the perfectly quoted conversations. I also hated the constant prodding that ‘OMG there will be a big twist, what did she do?!?!?’, which did keep me reading but felt unnecessary. It even made me like D&T6 less as I realised she did a similar thing in that book. I would still recommend reading this though .

30. The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments by Meik Wiking ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I recently joined Netgalley for SCK book reviews so will be writing about this more later (it’s out in September). It’s a very positive happy guide to how we remember things and how you can help make your happiest memories stick. If you’re someone who tries to capture and record your past, this will really appeal to you.

29. Apollo 8: The Thrilling Story of the First Mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
My summer holiday treat and such a good long fascinating book. His biography of Jim Lovell & Apollo 13 was one of the first space books I read upon returning to mega space nerdery and this makes a great prequel since Lovell was part of Apollo 8 too. It’s part biography of commander Frank Borman and part thrilling travelogue of the first mission to orbit the Moon and includes a lot of details and stories I hadn’t previously heard. If you’re on an Apollo kick just now, this is a good one.

28. Good Company (Issue 3): The Money Issue by Grace Bonney 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Definitely the best issue yet and an excellent subject to focus on. Despite being US-based, most of the advice is universal and there’s some great tips and guides. There were more full profiles as well, which were much more engaging and informative than Q&As. I especially loved the illustrated guides to working with friends, money basics etc. Great stuff.

27. Good Company (Issue 2): The Fear(less) Issue by Grace Bonney ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I read the first issue on my iPad on holiday and tried to recreate this but instead it languished unread. Instead I ported it over to my Kindle to read the text and then went back to the iPad to look at all the lovely illustrations and photos. I didn’t enjoy this issue so much – I tried to think about how fear affects me and couldn’t come up with anything so it didn’t feel very relatable. There were also too many straight Q&As without context or commentary. I find these a bit tedious and confusing to read and much prefer a full profile.

26. Ad Astra: An Illustrated Guide to Leaving the Planet by Dallas Campbell 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I picked this up at the National Museum of Scotland last year when they had Tim Peake’s Soyuz capsule on display as it looked like a fun read. It’s organised as a travel guide to visiting space and some of the jokes wear a bit thin, though I imagine kids would love it. What I loved is how it covers so many different aspects of space, from history and future science to fun facts and illustrations. The best bits are the interviews with super interesting people like Apollo astronaut Al Worden, a mission control EECOM and a space lawyer. It would be a fun book to dip into and learn something new, though I read it cover to cover.

25. My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories by David Lebovitz ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My years of patience paid off as this finally got a big price drop. I don’t like paying full price for cookbooks because I rarely make anything from them but just read them like books. That only works with certain writers whose writing about food is just as interesting as the food they make. I enjoyed reading this a lot and might even try a couple of the simpler recipes. Most of the recipes sound amazing but turn out to be pretty complex.

June

24. The Girls by Emma Cline ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Another buzzy book that’s pretty much worth the hype. The writing style is a little pretentious but it does fit this dreamy, nightmarish story of obsession and a Manson-style cult. I didn’t quite love it, but I’m glad I read it.

23. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
This took me so long to read as it’s very dense with 3 separate storylines and very little in the way of hand-holding for a fantasy world that’s quite different to Earth. Usually that’s the sign of a good book and means there will be a point where it all becomes clearer and I love it. I really began to doubt it though, and it was only after reading a non-spoiler review that helped me separate out the 3 stories (and confirmed they would all come together somehow) that I was able to tackle it again. The ending was absolutely worth it and I’d even like to reread it now. If you’re looking for a powerful fantasy series that’s free of the usual wizards and white boy heroes, do try this.

22. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I wanted to like this more but found it a bit problematic. Like it was trying to go for ‘damaged person finds happiness through friendship’ but skirted far too close to ‘single older woman stops being weird and does normal things so can now be accepted by society and might even be lucky enough to find romance’. Also felt like a missed opportunity to set it in Glasgow but have zero references to anything particularly Glaswegian.

21. A Small Place in Italy by Eric Newby ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Travel writer (and his amazing wife Wanda) buy a half-ruined farmhouse in Italy. Where this differs from your usual expat memoir is how deeply they involve themselves in the community and local events so you get some very fun accounts of the annual wine and olive oil making parties. Eric Newby is also a hilarious writer who gets into innumerable odd situations with the neighbours so it’s always entertaining.

20. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I’ve been wary of hyped up books this year but finally gave this a go and the hype is totally deserved. I love oral histories and invented bands so this was already right up my alley and feels very real. Even though it’s obviously very inspired by various 1970s celebrities, it manages to feel fresh and I got quite invested in everyone’s stories.

19. The Interstellar Age: The Story of the NASA Men and Women Who Flew the Forty-Year Voyager Mission by Jim Bell 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
This has been sitting on my bedside table for ages and I finally picked it up. The timing couldn’t have been better as it was just before The Planets series on the BBC so I was able to enjoy that even more, remembering all the stories from this book. It’s still incredible to me that we didn’t know what the outer planets looked like, or really any of the moons, until the late 1970s/1980s. The author was lucky enough to be involved with, or an observer to, all the main planet/moon encounters so it’s a really unique personal story, wound around the discoveries made and interviews with some of the Voyager team. If you enjoyed The Planets, I really recommend this book.

May

18. Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I said I wasn’t bothered about reading this sequel but it was 99p so I gave it a go. The writing and plotting is great as always but I just wasn’t invested in any of the characters or their situation. If you like action and monsters, you should give it a go. [Buy]

17. oh no by Alex Norris ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
1. I am going to spend the afternoon enjoying this comic book!
2. (10 minutes later) *the last page*
3. oh no
[Buy]

16. All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Oral history of The Wire, which isn’t just interesting because of all the different showrunners/actors/crew anecdotes (which are universally great) but for the details of how they filmed it, right in the middle of the neighbourhoods and drug trade they were turning into TV. If you watched the TV show, this is worth picking up – though it will make you want to rewatch the whole series. [Buy]

15. Dead Men’s Trousers by Irvine Welsh ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This is also a bit unbelievable in how all the main characters have ended up but much more enjoyable to read. [Buy]

14. The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh ⭐️⭐️⭐️
I didn’t really enjoy this one – it was too unbelievable. The US plotline was boring and the Scotland stuff was just silly. [Buy]

13. Annually by Pet Shop Boys & Chris Heath ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I enjoy these so much – is there any other pop band releasing a beautifully designed, hardback book of original content every year? It always has some interesting behind the scenes stuff and I especially enjoyed the transcript of their first Smash Hits interview with current day comments. [Buy]

April

12. Skagboys by Irvine Welsh ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Bit of a return to form here – a prequel to Trainspotting that’s just as fresh and entertaining as when I read the original at university. It does suffer a little from prequel box-ticking and some of the things mentioned in Trainspotting turn out to be less interesting than previously imagined. I’m going to carry on through and read the last 2 books in these series – I don’t know why I never got around to these earlier. [Buy]

11. Help Me: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life by Marianne Power
Unrated because I hated this and was skim-reading the second half. I only finished it to see if she would turn it around. It starts off really well with a interesting and entertaining challenge of choosing a popular self help book each month and following the advice to see if it changes her life. I was a bit disappointed when she turned to money a few months in and was revealed to be a literal chick-lit romance cliche – the freelance journalist living in London who is unlucky in love, tens of thousands of pounds in debt and constantly making bad decisions about money, food and alcohol. I really felt like she was going to change here but instead she ditched all that advice and got further into debt trying out new age/woo/cult nonsense. At this point it was just silly for the sake of a good story and I totally lost interest. By the end, she hadn’t changed at all and anything she learned came from therapy and her extremely sensible mother. I just noticed they changed the subtitle to “How Self-Help Has Not Changed My Life” online – that title would likely have stopped me buying it. Everyone on Goodreads loves it though so maybe you will too. [Buy]

10. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I really related to this book about a woman who doesn’t fit into society. She’s happy still working part time in a convenience store but her family and workmates can’t understand why she hasn’t moved on to a career and family. When she tries to follow their lead it all goes horribly wrong. While I’m not quite as extreme as the protagonist, I often feel like no one believes I’m really happy living alone with no big ambitions. I’ve honestly never been happier since realising what I wanted out of life, even if it doesn’t match the norm. [Buy]

9. Watership Down by Richard Adams 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I’ve never been sure whether I’d read this or just seen the 70s animation a million times. The recent (not great) Netflix version made me decide to finally find out and I’m so glad as I definitely haven’t read it before and it’s so good. The writing is just incredible, creating a believable, slightly alien rabbit viewpoint of the world, and the plot is as heart-racing as the films. If you’ve never read it, please give it a go! [Buy]

March

8. Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I’ve been wanting to read this since The Last Jedi but it is frustratingly not available as an ebook. I eventually got it to bump an order up to free shipping. It’s a shame as this is a really good book about Leia’s younger years and the beginnings of the rebellion. Near the end I was thinking it would be a 5 star unless she messed up the ending and, well… I didn’t hate the ending but I didn’t love it. Sure, you have to get rid of any main characters that don’t show up later in the series but (vague spoilers) I would have liked more of a betrayal rather than a big hero situation. [Buy]

7. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
99p IWD bargain! Someone on Goodreads complained that this was too much like a blog, which made me realise that was exactly what I liked best about it. The range of topics is very random with personal essays and pop culture reviews but almost always interesting. I did skim a few of the book/film reviews that I wasn’t familiar with as they go into a lot of plot detail. My favourite was the piece about playing in competitive Scrabble tournaments – I would read a whole book about that. [Buy]

6. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
So good to be back in the Grishaverse and spend time with these characters again. I liked that we get both a Shadow and Bone style storyline with Nikolai and a Six of Crows storyline with Nina. It’s a much darker book but still excellent – that final twist is 😱😱😱and I’m very excited to see what happens next. Definitely don’t read this before the first books though! [Buy]

February

The Procrastination Paper #2 edited by Zabby Allen⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sadly, I have decided this is not for me and canceled my subscription. It’s just not holding my interest and I realised if it was a blog I wouldn’t click through on many of the articles. [Buy or Subscribe]

5. This is Portland: The City You’ve Heard You Should Like by Alexander Barrett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I grabbed one of the last copies on Amazon before Microcosm remove them (an admirable thing to do, but international shipping is expensive). It’s another quick fun read with great illustrations, though I liked the Shanghai book better. It didn’t make me want to move to Portland but it does sound like a great place to live. Looks like there’s an updated 2nd edition now with more content. [Buy]

January

The Procrastination Paper #1 edited by Zabby Allen
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Ironically, I took ages to get around to reading this despite subscribing straight away. I will always support a cool zine idea if it’s affordable and this is a fun and colourful collaboration to get people off their phones. There’s a nice mix of personal essays, quick tips, illustrations, puzzles etc. but I wasn’t totally into the Screen Time theme. Probably because I’m not a millennial but I don’t have these worries and anxieties about using my phone too much. It was still a good read and I am looking forward to future issues. [Buy or Subscribe]

4. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Despite having no interest in weddings, I enjoyed this a lot. It’s the story of Lucy’s engagement, wedding planning and wedding, plus some fun looks at weird wedding traditions and the modern wedding industry. It does come off as a bit privileged though – it’s not that ‘makeshift’ to have your mum build a barn on her land or to call in favours from all your creative and foodie friends. In fact, the scale, detail and effort of their wedding is probably more out of reach than the standard traditional wedding that Lucy is railing against. [Buy]

3. This is Shanghai: What it’s Like to Live in the World’s Most Populous City by Alexander Barrett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This was a fun quick read, full of observations from living in Shanghai. There’s nothing mindblowing in here, or much in the way of travel tips, but it’s well written and there are some cool illustrations too. I’ve just bought his book about Portland too. [Buy]

2. No Apocalypse: Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness by Al Burian 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
I was very excited about a new Al Burian book and only a little less so when I realised it was a collection of old columns. His Punk Planet columns were always the first thing I read in the magazine so I remembered most of them, but it was nice to reminisce since I sold on most of my collection. The other stuff was new to me with the usual mix of random experiences and adventures with touring, traveling, working dead end jobs, trying to avoid being a hardworking member of society and worrying about the future. If you’re new to Al Burian, I would recommend checking out his comic book first or one of the Burn Collector collections – all awesome. [Buy]

1. The GaMERCaT Volume 2: Insert Coin by Samantha Whitten 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Cats who play video games! I don’t usually manage to keep up with the weekly comics so I’m very grateful that these collections are becoming a regular thing. Even when some of the jokes go over my head (I only really play Nintendo games and some Japanese puzzle apps), it’s always cute and funny. You also get extra profiles and artwork of all the cats so well worth buying. [Buy – available to the public soon]