Occasionally there is so much hype surrounding certain books that, instead of being confident that I will enjoy them, I become afraid of reading them. Books that attract a lot of attention, either after being heavily promoted by publishers or loved by many people in the bookish community, can, thus, remain on my shelves or wish list for a long time before I finally decide to pick them up. Some books I end up not understanding why they were so hyped, while others I fully recognise their merits.
Below are some of the books that, in my opinion, are worth all the previous hype around them. They were all written by contemporary authors, seeing that these are the ones that tend to be more publicised and that classics have already passed the test of time. I didn’t love all of them, but I definitely enjoyed them enough to recommend you reading them in case they sound like something you would like.
I became aware of Jessie Burton’s debut novel when it was released, seeing that it kept appearing on various book hauls on BookTube. I didn’t pay much attention to what it was about to be honest. But I knew that I wanted it on my shelves, because I had fallen in love with the gorgeous cover. This is obviously not the best reason to buy a book. Nonetheless, it ended up being a good acquisition, since I adored it when I finally read it.
Set in 1686, The Miniaturist follows Petronella Oortman, who married the wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt. He offers her a cabinet-sized replica of their home as a wedding gift. So, she employs an elusive miniaturist to furnish it. She realises afterwards that the family she has just joined has many secrets, which make this book both extremely enthralling and heart-breaking.
The second novel by Jessie Burton, The Muse, is as superb and engrossing as her first one, but I don’t think it was as hyped as The Miniaturist. I can’t wait to read her next novel for adults, whenever it’s published.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Until the release of Station Eleven, I had never heard of Emily St. John Mandel, although she already had various books published. It was nominated for various prizes and praised by various authors. It tells the story of five connected characters: an actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend and a young actress who is part of the Traveling Symphony. The plot moves back and forth in time, before and after the spread of a deadly virus, allowing us to witness its negative effects in society and how some cultural activities subsisted nevertheless.
Although it was originally published in 2011, it was only a couple of years ago that I started seeing My Brilliant Friend mentioned everywhere – blogs, YouTube, newspapers, and it was even recommended by the current Portuguese President to the Prime Minister. It focuses on the friendship between Elena Greco and Raffaella Cerullo. Set in Naples, it portrays the harshness of the life there when they were young. The characters feel so real that I truly became immersed in their lives. It also features significant reflections on class, social mobility and the importance of education. I can’t wait to read the other three books in the series.
The Glorious Heresies was the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016, and I had been meaning to read it since then. I finally did so this year, having chosen it to represent Ireland on my ‘EU still 28’ reading project. It centres around the life of five characters (Ryan, Maureen, Jimmy, Tony and Georgie), whose paths cross after Maureen unintentionally kills a man. But the murder is just used as a pretext to delve into dysfunctional families, Ireland’s religiosity and the darkest sides of Cork, such as drug dealing and prostitution. Almost all of the characters feel genuine, and the narration is at times effortlessly funny.
Have you read any of these books? Are there any books that you think are worth the hype? Tell me in the comments!