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Scarlett Curtis Recommends Her Top 5 Reads of 2019

Posted on 12th November 2019 by Mark Skinner
In 2018, Scarlett Curtis's Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and Other Lies) broke new ground for Young Adult non-fiction with its collection of essays on feminism and gender by those in the public eye. This year, It's Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies) has blazed a similar trail for the subject of mental health, featuring candid and powerful pieces from Adam Kay, Charlie Mackesy and Charly Cox amongst many others. Here, Scarlett shares her favourite reads of 2019.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

In my mind, 2019 will always be the year that Candice released Queenie and changed the book world forever!  Queenie is a stunning, funny, beautiful novel that had me in tears (both happy and sad). It’s as unputdownable as it is culturally important. Queenie is a character I will never forget and the lessons I learnt from the book on race, PTSD and womanhood will stick with me forever.

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Caught between the Jamaican British family who don’t seem to understand her, a job that’s not all it promised and a man she just can’t get over, Queenie Jenkins’ life seems to be steadily spiralling out of control in Candice Carty-Williams luminous debut. By turns hilariously funny, dramatic and tender, with a heroine to root for, Queenie is undoubtedly one of the year’s most exciting debuts.
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The Truants by Kate Weinberg

I read an early copy of this over Christmas and did not leave the sofa for three whole days until I’d finished it! It is quite literally my perfect kind of book; an intelligent page turner that will keep your brain spinning until the last page. The characters have stayed with me all year and I still miss them! I’ve been describing it as ‘a secret history set in Norfolk’ but really it’s better than that. Kate is a genius at suspense, romance, friendship and character. A perfect winter thriller!

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A compelling, character driven thriller set on a breezeblock university campus, The Truants is a very modern coming-of-age tale. Incorporating issues of belonging and toxic friendships within a fast-moving, wire-taut narrative, Weinberg’s impressive debut carries echoes of The Secret History whilst very much retaining its own identity.
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Spring by Ali Smith

I once met Ali Smith at a book festival and burst into tears all over her. She is my favourite living author and her Seasonal Quartet series has been one of my literary highlights of the past few years. Read together they are a complex, stunning depiction of modern life and read alone, Spring is a delicate novel that will stand the test of time. Smith has a literary ability that rivals Virginia Woolf and this book somehow manages to touch on refugees, climate, Brexit and teen activism while still retaining a mysterious imaginative beauty. It’s more than wonderful.

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Having captured the dying embers and slumbering promise of Autumn and Winter in 2017 and 2018, Ali Smith turns to new beginnings for the third novel in her peerless seasonal quartet. Interweaving mythical, ancient and primal ideas about the years’ changing faces with a startling immediacy that is fresh, funny and poignant Spring captures - wholly and ineffably – the moment we are in.
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Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

I say this a lot but I do think this book changed my life! When I was 18-years-old I became OBSESSED by reading books about middle aged men who couldn’t ‘get it up’ (think Roth, Updike, Franzen etc). Fleishman is in Trouble finally revealed to me just how toxic these kind of books might have been to a teenage girl! It is the perfect piece of American, male, literary fiction - written by a woman! It’s hilarious, fascinating, painfully observant, I have recommended it to every single person I know. I won’t give anything away but the narrator's observations on why women choose to write men's stories is quite literally mind blowing. 

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A devastating critique of gender politics and female subjugation smuggled within the body of a grandstanding comic novel, Fleishman is in Trouble ripples with sharp wit and punchy prose. Far too accomplished to be mere polemic, Brodesser-Akner’s electric debut is bound for numerous Book of the Year lists.
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The Farm by Joanne Ramos

The Farm is a wickedly powerful dystopian novel that I’m surprised hasn’t been talked about more this year! It sits somewhere between Big Little Lies and The Handmaid's Tale. Joanne Ramos manages to achieve the near-impossible feat of blending a captivating plot with an incredibly culturally significant message. The story hooked me in and Ramos’s commentary on wealth, privilege, motherhood and technology has seriously stuck with me. The perfect book if you’re looking to get lost in it and learn something at the same time!

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This unnerving dystopian thriller - ideal for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale - asks big questions about how much of ourselves we are prepared to trade for a comfortable life. Luxury clinic Golden Oaks houses women carrying babies for the rich and powerful but the women soon come to realise that their surrogacies have a chilling cost. A prescient page turner with much to say about the human condition.
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