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Top 5: Books that shaped my year

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I didn’t just read this once this year, I read it three times. If nothing else sways you to take a look, it should be this, I’ve read fifty books so far this year and this one won the top spot. This tragicomic (or graphic novel) is an autobiographical account of Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father. The story spans three different timelines, as a young girl, her time at college and as an adult the same age her father was when he died. The graphic novel is funny and poignant and one of the most honest portrayals of family relations I’ve ever read, and this is from the woman most known for her infamous Bechdel Test to see if a film is worth seeing. I’ll be honest, this book really was a bit of a miracle, it echoed so many of my own life experiences and so many of Bechdel’s thoughts comforted me and empowered me in a time of personal upheaval. Just read it. There is also a broadway musical of Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic with an amazing soundtrack.

Pansy by Andrea Gibson

In 2015 I saw Andrea Gibson perform at The Deaf Institute, I was just starting out on my own performance poetry and it inspired me to continue. When I got this book for Christmas, it was like a pocket-full of joy, so much of what inspires me as an artist is in this book, but the openness and vulnerability they show through their poetry amazes me. This book is the kind of book you need on your bedside table when you wake up in the middle of the night petrified.

The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth

This book surprised me a little, it was another Christmas present that was given to me based on a Radio 4 suggestion. I didn’t really know what to expect, the whole novel— and it’s a novel— is written in verse. It is intricate and funny and not what you would expect from what is essentially an epic poem for a contemporary audience. Following one man’s life over a series of years it forges astounding characters and relationships all without breaking form. It is a feat of poetry that inspires me to just keep on going.

Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

Three poetry books in a row, I guess you’re sensing a pattern, but I thought I’d still add this one. If anyone is aware of Kate Tempest’s poetry she generally performs live, or on albums, and her work generally creates narratives of characters often in London. This book is completely different, there is so much of her in it, you forget how often she takes herself out of the narratives she weaves. Each of these poems recounts a side of her life we don’t get to see very often; from her tragic and often violent relationship with her partner for many years, through to her early years being bullied. It is always wonderful to get a true insight into another side of a person and something about this book felt so personal that I can’t help but get that warm feeling when someone trusts you with a secret.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Randy Nelson

This is the odd one of bunch, I picked it up after a long library shift over the summer, it was on the Young Adult section but the cover was interesting and I was looking for a lighter read. I went through this book in one sitting, despite it being over 400 pages. It tracks the story of two twins from ten to sixteen as their relationship falls apart in the wake of their mother’s death. I’ve never read a Young Adult novel that engages so intimately with the effects of trauma and with such an imaginative beautiful use of language. It also just made me really really glad that I’m not a teenager any more.

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