Some of our favourite books of 2019

Ever wondered what library staff choose to read? We asked some of our colleagues to recommend a book they’d particularly enjoyed reading this past year. Here’s what they said:

Carol at Stockbridge Library recommends The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood.
“I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood, both her books and her politics. This novel has a humour to it although very dark in parts as it relates to this dystopian society, where the main characters Charmaine and Stan start off by living their lives in a car. Desperate to have a better live they embark on a ‘social experiment’ which splits their lives between suburban living one month, swopping it with a prison cell the next. All is not as it seems as both characters stray in their relationship with their alternative others. This is where things start to unfold in a very sinister way. And by the way Elvis makes an appearance, but not as you know him! This book was great fun to read and difficult to put down.”
Available as an ebook

Susan in the Digital Team tells us about The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel.
“It’s fair to say I wasn’t really looking forward to reading “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel when it was chosen by my book group. I couldn’t see me enjoying a book about a man who spent almost 30 years of his life with no human interaction hiding out in the woods of Maine – the thought seemed horrifying.  That’s the good thing about book groups though, they throw books and ideas at you that you’d never think of reading and you discover gems like this. Christopher Knight was just 20 years old when he walked into the woods and created a home for himself hidden from the world, whilst living just minutes from other people.  Food and supplies were scavenged and stolen from the rural community around him without anyone ever seeing him, leading him to become known as the North Pond Hermit.  His story is unlike anything you have read and challenges all sorts of beliefs you might have had, bringing up more questions than answers really. Like why did Knight choose the life of a hermit and could you do the same? Why do we feel its wrong to live like this and was it right to try to make him conform to society’s values?  Would you steal to survive and did his thievery make Knight a bad person?  Want a short, fascinating non-fiction read – then this is the one for you.
Available as an ebook

Douglas from the Music Library recommends Sleeping Giants, (The Themis Files) by Sylvain Neuvel.
“I was in a well-known bookshop one day, browsing titles, when my daughter picked up a copy of Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. She was at that point almost set upon by a staff member who began to tell how good this book was and so on and so forth.  This kind of intrusion by staff in any shop is unwanted and unwelcome, so she put the book down and we made to move away. At that moment, an older gentleman leaned over the book table and said quietly, it really is a very good read and not at all how it was just described to you, completely different from anything he had read before, and a page turner.
All of which I have to agree with wholeheartedly, I am not a Sci-Fi reader but this has many more elements than just Sci-Fi. It is very readable, it moves with pace and is over all too quickly.
Sleeping Giants is the first part of a trilogy, the Themis files which I would also recommend.”

Clare in the Digital Team really liked The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.
“I loved The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. It’s a book unlike any I’ve ever read before. It was like being stuck in a sinister video game set in a stately home who-dunnit story. The narration changes every day as the protagonist slips into a different character in a race against time to solve the crime before he’s destined to start the story loop all over again – never knowing who he can trust, including himself.
It was complicated and clever and confusing but well worth the effort. I read this book back in January but it’s by far the most memorable book I read all year.”
Available as an ebook

Bronwen from the Art and Design and Music Libraries recommends two books. Her favourite fiction book of 2019 is Georgina Harding’s Land of the Living.
“Set in Norfolk and Nagaland in North East India, the narratives centres around Charlie, a young British Officer recently returned from service in India and Burma during the Second World War as he tries to reconnect with his childhood landscape of Norfolk, settling back into home and married life working a farm. Switching between the internal dialogue of Charlie’s memories and day to day conversations with his wife in Norfolk we learn more of Charlie’s harrowing experiences during the war and his time spent living with the Naga tribe. Charlie can’t bring himself to tell his young wife all he has experienced and this disparity between his experiences and what he reveals to even those close to him creates a powerful drama in the book. I found the book particularly interesting as I’d never heard of the Naga tribe and the book goes into quite some detail about their way of living and customs which I followed up with my own research. There’s also a dog in the story who lives on the farm with Charlie and his wife in Norfolk who to me seemed to symbolise home and family but when I asked the author this at a book festival signing she said, no, it’s just a dog, dogs are part of farm life.”

Bronwen’s favourite non-fiction book of 2019 is Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail.
“Based on Day’s series of podcasts in which interviewees explore what their failures have taught them, the book is divided into themes we can all relate to, such as family, work, relationships. It’s a powerfully honest book and Day reveals much of her own emotional and other personal struggles, but at the same time I found the book funny and uplifting. This is a book everyone can relate to – we’ve all failed at things at various times in our lives and we’re probably all still failing, and sometimes we learn to do things better the next time and sometimes not. The book made me want to write my own chapter on how to fail at being a library manager…”
Available as an ebook

Nicola from Kirkliston and South Queensferry Libraries picks Me by Elton John as her highlight of the year.
“This official autobiography by the Rocket Man (Elton John) did not disappoint. His early childhood and influence of his mother, whom he had a strained relationship with due to her moods and volatility, were contrasted to the nurturing role taken on by is grandmother. The absence of encouragement to be himself, and a burning ambition and desire to carve his own path lead to him undertaking to study at the Royal Academy of Music ultimately throwing out convention and turning to rock and roll.
There are so many times in his life where he reflects on the turning points which defined his career, often brought about by chance or twists of fate – the most career defining being his being given the contact for Bernie Taupin – his long standing lyricist and song writing partner.
There are so many anecdotes, which reveal an honesty and openness about a not perfect, but a life which has been lived to the fullest. I loved the anecdote about Sylvester Stalone, Richard Gere and Princess Diana coming to his home for a dinner party.
A page turning read, which had me hooked in its openness – a real roller coaster ride if ever there was one – fasten your seat belts!! 😉”

Janette from the Digital Team chooses The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay

A twenty – nine year old man lives alone in his Glasgow flat. The telephone rings, a casual conversation, but behind this a job offer. The clues are there if you know where to find them.

“Meet Calum Maclean, a free lance hit man for the Glasgow underworld, who is hired to bring about the demise of small-time drug dealer Lewis Winter.
It’s an easy job, in and out. It’s what happens next that creates problems. Calum finds himself embroiled in a turf war between an up and coming crime boss Shug Francis and the man who’s hired him, Jamieson, the long-standing boss in that part of town. Winter was one of Francis’s men and Jamieson put the hit out to send a message to Francis, who shall we say is none too pleased. He may have to do something, like go after Calum.
Written entirely in the present tense, it could well be described as a criminal procedural book. The chapters are short, and I found myself saying ‘just one more chapter’ before long half the book had been read……one more chapter?
This is the first book in what has become a trilogy, the next two are on my list to read over the holidays.”

Nikki from South Queensferry Library recommends To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

Virginia Woolf is one of those authors I’ve always meant to dip into, but I picked this book up on a bit of a whim. The book is centred around the Ramsay family and their holiday home on the Isle of Skye. Knowing very little about her style of writing and nothing at all about the plot of the book helped me enjoy both the characters and story for what they are. There’s dense poetic description in places, but rather than putting me off it made me want to slow my pace and take in as much as possible. Time is distorted in the story and changing character perspectives on top of this can make it a little hard to follow at times, but Woolf’s focus on the everyday tensions of family life and the affects of grief are very moving. I really enjoyed To the Lighthouse, and I think it’s a book I could come back to again and again and still find a new layer to the story.

Cecylia from Edinburgh and Scottish Collection recommends Things that Fall from the Sky by Selja Ahava.

“Things that Fall from the Sky was one of this year’s reads in our Found in Translation book group. We read it alongside the Finnish book group at our sister library, Iisalmi  and exchanged our thoughts on the book. I found it wonderfully weird and enchanting, also tragic and humorous at the same time. It’s a story or a fairy tale of three characters whose lives are changed forever by random events. A mother dies when hit by a block of ice which falls from the sky. A woman wins the lottery twice and a man is struck by the lightning four times. How they cope with the unexpected events? How they try to explain them? How they love and grieve?
Most highly recommended.”

What have you been reading this year?
Fancy joining a book group in 2020? Get in touch with your local library to find out how you can join their group or drop into the Central Library BookCafe

Read another about another great book recommendation from our Art and Design Library. 


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