This year has been one of the worst I have had the displeasure of living through for my mental health and my personal life, but it was one of the best for my reading. I have read more books in one year than I ever have before, and I really figured out my exact taste in the literature I choose to consume. So, without further ado, let me tell you about my top 5 books of the year (plus some honorable mentions because I can’t help myself).
A Certain Hunger
By Chelsea G. Summers
This is one of the most wild and feral women I have ever had the pleasure of reading from the perspective of, and I loved every second of it. In Summers’ debut novel we follow serial killer, Dorothy Daniels, a famous food writer who happens to eat the men that she kills. If that one sentence did not get you interested I have no idea what will. Dorothy is cold, calculating, and utterly fascinating. If you love reading about unhinged women, please pick this novel up, it is to die for.
The Secret History
By Donna Tartt
Yes, I did read The Secret History for the first time exactly 30 years after it was released, and yes I did also read it because TikTok would not stop pushing videos recommending it onto me. I will be thanking TikTok forever by the way, the book is absolutely a modern classic. It follows the main character Richard as he recounts his time in the intensive Greek program at Hampden College, a time that ended in the murder of one of the 6 students in the program. This twisted tale is a beautifully written critique of academia and starts the reader off with a gut punch by telling you which of the students will meet a grim end on the first line of the first page, and the twists and turns never stop. If you need something to read by a fire, or in dreary weather, this is the perfect novel. I have not stopped thinking about it since I finished the final page and I do not suspect I will any time soon.
I’m Glad My Mom Died
By Jennette McCurdy
Alright, I know this one everyone’s favorites lists, but that is because this book is just that good. This is the memoir Jennette McCurdy (Sam from iCarly) released detailing the tumultuous relationship she had with her mother. It is a deeply dark and unsettling mother/daughter relationship and honestly hits almost any trigger warning you might need, but jennette has this beautiful way of being so blunt and honest in the delivery of everything she has to say, that she had me hooked. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Jennette herself, and not only do I urge you to pick up the book, if you can please listen to the audiobook. Hearing Jennette tell her story with her own voice makes the whole experience immersive and I really felt like I fully understood and comprehended everything she was trying to say, just as she meant to say it.
My Dark Vanessa
By Kate Elizabeth Russel
I read this book at the start of this year, and there is not a single day that goes by where I do not think about it. I honestly do not know if that is a good or a bad thing, but I do know that this book is so incredibly special. We follow the main character Vanessa in two timelines, the first is in the year 2000 when she is 15 years old and when an inappropriate relationship with her professor first starts. The second timeline is in 2017, right after a wave of allegations about the same professor have come out and Vanessa has a huge decision to make. She is stuck between staying silent, and continuing to believe that her relationship while she was a teenager with the professor was entirely consensual or to redefine herself and the relationship she spent her entire life believing was love. So often when this type of subject is discussed, we do not get the perspective of a victim who is not yet ready or willing to admit that they are in fact a victim. This book gives us a cripplingly painful look into it, and it absolutely changed who I am as a person and how I view grooming and the victims of grooming. I think that this is a very controversial story but a story that absolutely deserves to be shared and understood. I will carry what I read in these pages with me for the rest of my life and I urge you to take it in as well.
On Sun Swallowing
By Dakota Warren
This absolutely stunning debut poetry collection by YouTuber Dakota Warren has absolutely captured my heart and I don’t think I will ever get it back. These poems hit hard and deep while being so stunningly gorgeous you don’t really feel the pain of the words, instead you just see the beauty. She delicately and intricately sews her words together into prose that are all simply perfection. She discusses childhood, innocence, femininity, girlhood, sexuality, and the loss of that innocence so beautifully that I have read this collection at least 8 times since its release. I have read it to my mother, my friends, and even my lovers. If you are a woman, or love a woman- please take the time to swallow Dakota’s words.
I’m the Girl by Courtney Summers
I have written a full review here on Gatecrashers already, but this book absolutely swallowed me whole and spit me right back out directly into the face of the truth that power and money can hide. In this novel, we follow a young 16-year-old named Georgia, as she attempts to team up with Nora James to solve the gruesome murder of her very young sister Ashley James. It is a heart wrenching and difficult story to digest but if you feel like you are strong enough to take in the subject matter, I would highly recommend giving this one a chance.
Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The next spinoff in Taylor’s connected universe, Carrie Soto is Back, follows the story of fictional tennis star Carrie Soto through her entire career, but most importantly, her comeback to the sport after she had previously retired. This novel was such a powerfully fun look at the hard world, adversity, and dedication many women have to go through to be not only seen but respected in any field they master. I loved Carrie, her personality, and the way she viewed the world. This is probably the least dark novel I will be recommending so if you aren’t into dark and twisty- this is the one for you.