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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Woodruff

I'm Back! Recapping the Top Reads Since I Disappeared.

Hello all! I just re-read my last blog post and I started with a similar monologue about how rusty my writing probably has gotten, but I just need to put the disclaimer here as well. It has been over TWO YEARS since I last let the writing juices flow from my brain onto this blog. I have journaled a bit, but for the most part, I have just been wrapped in motherhood. Hard to believe that last time I sat down to chit chat to you all, I had a half-baked baby boy in my tum and now he is out and about experiencing the world with zest and a relatively unstable range of emotions. It turns out that blogging is actually a very intense and time consuming activity and it also requires the use of my full attention, and most importantly, two hands to type with. That's the clincher! I have, luckily, been able to continue to read a lot more than I initially thought I would be able to (and therefore have some wonderful books to rave about to you all), but it is almost all done one-handed during nap time or hidden under the covers once little man has gone to bed. A bit harder to squeeze blogging into the packed schedule of naps, snacks, play time, etc. This all being said, I am here now and can't wait to update you on some of my favourite reads from 2022 and 2023. I missed you all! Hope that you are still finding the time to curl up with fantastic literature and stories.


2022


2022 was such a life-changing year for me. My little boy was born in May and I had a big list of books that I wanted to get to before he was born. These included series that I didn't think i'd be able to get to for years if I didn't read them then (Harry Potter (re-read) and Lord of the Rings (first time)) and also a lot of pregnancy and birthing books. I was actually giggling as I looked back at my list of what I read as I could tell when I was getting close to birth and reading 'endorphin inducing' books. I had planned to get 'The Count of Monte Cristo' under my belt as well, but only managed to get 100 or so pages in before ditching it for the much less taxing new 'Book Lovers' by Emily Henry and a frantic read of all of the Heartstopper graphic novels in order to distract me from my ever-looming labor. After he was born, it took me a few months to pick up a book again, and reading was slow and random. I do have two reads that I want to rave about, though, from 2022.


'Born a Crime' by Trevor Noah

I did not have a clue who Trevor Noah was before I picked this up and I also had a very limited idea of what was happening under apartheid in South Africa only a few decades ago. By the end of this memoir, I was looking him up and reading articles about apartheid to further my education. This book was truly a work of art and I am grateful that it fell into my lap. Not only is it full of humour and wit (as expected when the author is a comedian), but it's a look at a life that seems like it's from a different place and a different time. I had to triple check that Noah was not much older than me as the laws he grew up with seemed like something deep from the pages of a history book. Full of harsh reality and joy, this is one of those books that I would genuinely recommend to literally everyone.


'The Marriage Portrait' by Maggie O'Farrell

This was not my first O'Farrell and it will certainly not be my last, either. Her historical fiction is the epitome of genius. She manages to find these women in history, who were probably beloved or well-known at the time, but who have slipped through the cracks a bit. She takes them from the darkness of forgotten time and gives them voice and gumption and makes me want to be their best friend. She also writes what I can only describe as an incredibly beautiful (her word choice is unreal) and compelling story using the information that she can find on them. This (re-telling) story follows Lucrezia during the Renaissance in Florence, Italy as she is thrust into a marriage to a man who is desperate for an heir and into a court who trembles at his name. Also... look at that cover.



2023


I was certainly able to get more books under my belt in 2023 as I settled into more of a routine. I am very grateful to e-books for being able to be read one-handed on my phone during a contact nap and also for the noble audiobook to be consumed during our daily pram walk. Here are some of the ones that I am still thinking about a year later... (Just a note, yes, these are all female authors, and I love that for me!)


'Migrations' by Charlotte McConaghy

There is something about this little book that buried itself under my skin. I remember the excitement I felt when I started it because I was having a hard time putting it down and was seeking pockets of time when I could delve back into the story- something that doesn't happen nearly as often as it used to! And also a feeling that I chase every time I hunt for a new book. The story follows Franny Stone as she arrives in Greenland to follow the last of the Arctic Terns on their final migration. While this is the forefront of the plot, we get flashbacks to her life, her history, and her secrets to give us the backdrop as to why she decided she needed to brave the Arctic to follow these birds. From someone who has studied it, this is environmental literature at its absolute best.


'Crying in H Mart' by Michelle Zauner

This book made me cry, and if you know me at all, that is high praise. I will be the first to admit that I had no idea who Michelle Zauner was (funny, that seems to be a theme with my favourite memoirs) and picked this up more because it seemed to be garnering high praise from the people I look to for book advice. Turns out they were right. This little gem is the most wonderfully interwoven memoir. The main theme, and arguably the most difficult theme to write well, was grief. And wow, did Zauner deliver. I wanted to reach through the pages and hug her as she looks at the emotional impact of losing a parent. Zauner's look into her relationship with her mom brings out a study of immigration, split cultures, what it means to be a mother, and what it means to be a daughter. All things i'm very passionate about.


'As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow' by Zoulfa Katouh

As with 'Born a Crime', I knew very vaguely the situation in Syria. I will obviously watch the news and see updates from Syria periodically, but as any good book will do, I realised very quickly after starting this particular one, that I was woefully under-educated on what was happening over there. This book, while YA, does not shy away from the trauma and upset and I think it is very important that it doesn't do that, as what is happening in Syria is indeed traumatic and upsetting. While I find it important to note that there are very deeply disturbing scenes that happen in this book, it is first and foremost a love letter to the people of Syria and all they have had to endure and it also holds one of the most beautiful and healing love stories I have read in a long time.


'Foster' by Claire Keegan

This novella isn't even 100 pages long, and I still think about it weekly. It's the epitome of the found family trope at its best and most complex. It follows a young girl who is placed with a foster family in rural Ireland and the genuine feeling of love and belonging that starts to blossom while she is there. The entire time, I felt so much kindness and joy coming from the pages while also experiencing the anxiety of wondering whether this kindness and joy would last. I have read most of Keegan's backlist after finding 'Foster' and I still think this showcases her writing at its absolute best. Would recommend for people who grew up loving Anne of Green Gables (or found her later in life, like myself) and want to experience the feelings on a more intense and literary level.



'I Who Have Never Known Men' by Jacqueline Harpman

This little gem of a book has started to emerge into mainstream media and I am here for it. Written in 1995 (originally in French), this follows a group of women who are kept underground during some sort of apocalyptic event. Our main character was born in these circumstances, and because she is only surrounded by women and has never experienced life as we know it, her outlook on the world is very different and fascinating to think about. And think it made me do. While the actual atmosphere and plot of the book is fantastic in its own right, it is the deep thoughts on how society has shaped everything that I know about the world that made me rate this book as high as I did. Similar to Keegan, I really recommend picking this up if you once enjoyed dystopian novels, but have matured in reading taste.



'Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow' by Gabrielle Zevin

This book is everywhere at the minute and it is for good reason. When I first heard that the plot revolved around video game development, I steered hard left. While I would very much like to be a cool gamer girl, I am barely able to hold my own at Tetris, so I didn't think I would be able to connect with the story. After watching and reading MULTIPLE rave reviews, I decided to go against my better judgement and give it a go. And thank goodness I did! Can confirm, 100%, that you do not need to be a gamer to enjoy the masterful crafting of this story. We follow Sam and Sadie as they grow up playing and developing video games. But it's so much more than that. Truly one of the most raw and beautiful portrayals of a complex friendship that I have ever found in the pages of a book.



'The Seven Year Slip' by Ashley Poston

This was my last read of 2023, and without a shadow of a doubt, the most light-hearted read on my list of favourites. I tend to be a heavy-hitter kind of reader. I like to feel weepy and have my heart hurt when I am reading, but sometimes I need a little breather from the constant brutalisation of my book picks and I thought the storyline for this romance sounded quirky and fun. Two people meet in a magical apartment. An apartment in which time has pinched and there is a 7 year gap between each of their present days outside of the apartment. And of course those two people start to fall in love, and of course it's gonna be a little bit messy, because of the aforementioned time gap, and of course there's also a really interesting look at grief as well, because I like my romances to also be a tiny bit heartbreaking, thank you very much.



And just like that, I have managed to update you on some of my favourite reads over the past couple of years. You have to applaud my thought process of 'better late than never' and also my very varied reading taste! I miss you all and hope to hop on a bit more frequently to talk about books and maybe even a bit about motherhood, but for now, I am just so glad I am finally getting this out into the world. Please do pop me a note if you pick up any of these books because of me, and especially if you end up loving any of them as much as I did.


Oh P.S. if our reading tastes align at all, do feel free to click over to Goodreads and follow me on there because I do keep very up-to-date with all of my reading over there. Would love to see you there!


Happy Reading,


A.C. Woodruff

xx

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