Muddy’s 10 best books of 2019
So many rip-roaring reads, so little time. But Muddy's books editor Kerry Potter has made it easy for you - here's her definitive list of the year's best books. Get stuck in!
Don’t make me choose, don’t make me choo…. oh, OK, you made me choose. I’ve read so many brilliant books this year but, after much pondering, ta-da! – my top 10 tomes of 2019. It’s a very personal selection – for example, I haven’t included big-hitters from Margaret Atwood or Lisa Taddeo, despite those two appearing on everyone else’s best of lists.
Hopefully you’ll find my edit useful for Christmas present planning but also as a prompt to catch up on the wonderful writing you may have missed during the year. I really hope you can carve out a sliver of time over the festive period to escape your family, turn off your phone, hunker down on the sofa and get lost in another world. After a frazzlingly busy year, it really is quite the tonic.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Eat Pray Love author hits the jackpot again with this epic novel set in 1940s New York. They may be constrained by societal norms of the day but Gilbert’s girls just wanna have fun, especially our heroine Vivienne who escapes her stuffy family to work as a seamstress in hedonistic theatreland. Think bright lights, big city – and lots of sex. Oh yes!
The Glossy Years by Nicholas Coleridge
A deep dive into the world where the devil really does wear Prada, this gloriously gossipy memoir by the veteran Conde Nast publisher, responsible for Vogue, Tatler, Vanity Fair and Glamour, is irresistible. He’s one of those people who has been at the centre of everything for decades – every party, scandal and celebrity headline. Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne (his god daughter) and Prince Andrew (revealed here as a dimwit – who knew?!) all crop up. I’d recommend starting with the index – which reads like an A-list party guestlist – and plunging in from there.
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
The novel everyone was talking about over the summer, this dissection of a divorce by the acclaimed New York Times writer is a witty, razor-sharp character study. Toby Fleishman is Manhattan doctor whose selfish, career-obsessed estranged wife, Rachel, does a runner and leaves him holding the babies. But things aren’t quite as they seem.
How Was It For You? by Virginia Nicholson
I’ve read every book going on ’60s pop culture and they tend to be focussed on The Beatles, The Stones and photographers such as David Bailey. Blokes, basically. But this impeccably researched and detailed social history tells the stories of the women who came of age in the grooviest of decades and paved the way for modern feminism.
Flex by Annie Auerbach
This book didn’t merely speak to me, it charmed the pants off me, swiftly moved into my brain and we’re getting married in the morning. Auerbach argues that in a world characterised by relentless change, we should be flexible in the way we think and behave in order to create the best possible life, both at work and at home. She has a young family and a big job so is at that familiar Peak Busy life stage – and thus totally gets that the idea of having it all just ain’t working. I loved her fresh thinking – plus it’s just 187 pages so I actually had time to read it.
Cape May by Chip Creek
Fellow Great Gatsby geeks will find lots to love in this ridiculously assured debut novel. The story follows the nocturnal adventures of a group of young party animals, including naive honeymooners Henry and Effie, in a 1950s New Jersey seaside resort. It teems with gin cocktails, sex and bad decisions – my kinda novel.
Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn by Brett Anderson
Like all the best memoirs, this is peppered with both glamour and grit. The Suede singer’s debut book, Coal Black Mornings, captured his suburban childhood, from which an embryonic rock star emerged, but this sequel is the money shot, charting his band’s purple patch in the ’90s, taking in addiction, fall-outs and brain-frying fame. Evocative and insightful – you definitely don’t need to be a die-hard Britpop fan to get stuck in.
Expectation by Anna Hope
If Sally Rooney’s mega-hit Normal People was a generation-defining account of twentysomething relationships, this thoughtful novel, tracing the lives of three friends, Hannah, Cate and Lissa, is about what happens next. You know, when all the youthful navel-gazing and “Who am I?” stuff transmutes into “Er, is this it?” in your thirties and beyond.
Supreme Glamour by Mary Wilson
Let’s have a sleek and shiny coffee table book in the mix. Having nabbed gold dust-like tickets to Diana Ross’s London dates next year, I adored poring over this fashion archive-meets-memoir by her bandmate, Mary Wilson. The Supremes’ fabulously theatrical ’60s and ’70s outfits are detailed in full, with glorious close-ups of embellishments. Boy, did those girls love a sequin or two.
Brave Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani
This kickass New Yorker, TED Talker and founder of non-profit Girls Who Code is on a mission to get women to stop chasing perfectionism and be bold in their decision making. Saujani knows all about bouncing back from failure – the first Indian-American woman to run for Congress, she was touted as a new political Messiah but on election day got a piffling 19 percent of the vote. Cue a big life rethink. An engaging mix of compelling memoir and straight-talking advice, this is ideal reading on the cusp of a new year.