2017: Books

Where musically 2017 was full of ups and downs, my 2017 in books was happily much more straightforward. Numbers-wise, I read 115 books over the course of the year; 95 according to my goodreads challenge, and another 20 of work-related reading and rereads that I didn’t add. I also read significantly more non-fiction – probably the most I’ve read since my university days! Unsurprisingly given the year that 2017 was, this largely involved essay collections on feminism, race and class. I’ve listed my top 10 fiction and top 5 non-fiction below.


Moxie (Jennifer Matthieu): Read just after November’s Brand New bombshell, this was exactly what I needed. Feminsm, punk, zines, and real, rounded characters; this book left me feeling energised and ready to try out new music.

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Becky Chambers): If Star Trek: Voyager and Firefly had a book child together, this would be the result. Brilliantly-written sci-fi, with feminist sensibilities and a brilliant ensemble cast. I didn’t want to leave the world Chambers created, and am looking forward to the other books in this series.

Troublemakers (Catherine Barter): The first of two Andersen Press titles to make my top 10, I was introduced to Troublemakers when Catherine Barter took part in a panel discussion at Queens Park Books. Set in an accurately-depicted London of today, Troublemakers is an excellent look at identity and politics,

Orangeboy (Patrice Lawrence): It was difficult to choose between this and Indigo Donut; both of Patrice Lawrence’s releases so far have included much of what I like best in YA; a realistically- depicted contemporary setting, real/flawed and engaging characters and big emotional punch at the end. This was a really pacy read that I devoured in a couple of sittings, with the bonus of an unprompted reply to my ‘#amreading’ photo tweet from the legend that is Malorie Blackman!

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas): As good as everyone says it is, Angie Thomas’ debut The Hate U Give was a genuinely unputdownable character-driven novel that provided a brilliant insight into the types of experiences that inform the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It’s currently being made into a film, and I urge everyone to give time to this story in both formats.

The Book of Dust: I. La Belle Sauvage (Philip Pullman) : The much awaited and anticipated return to the world of His Dark Materials, it was an absolute joy to be reunited with this particular cast of favourites. Pullman is a truly brilliant writer, and I can’t wait for the next two installments.

Things a Bright Girl Can Do (Sally Nicholls): The second of the two Andersen Press titles, like Troublemakers this also featured a London setting, engaging characters, and more than a does of politics and feminism. The intertwining stories of three young women in the city during the suffrage movement, this was both enjoyable and educational, and stayed with me long after reading.

Piglettes (Clementine Beauvais): Yet another feminist YA novel, Clementine Beauvais debut for Pushkin Children’s was a genuinely uplifting story of three girls reclaiming the term used in derogatory fashion against them. An unlikely tale of bicycles, sausages, and French politics, this book made me laugh, cry, and want to give it all of my young relatives.

Release (Patrick Ness): The latest from Patrick Ness, Release was described by the author as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway meets Judy Blume’s Forever. Whilst I struggled somewhat to connect with the supernatural storyline that intersected this book, the main narrative was more than enough to pitch this into my top 10. Patrick Ness writes beautifully and with real insight into the human condition, and as ever I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Unconventional (Maggie Harcourt): An unexpected surprise, this was the perfect read for my April holiday in the sun. A really sweet romance with characters I found myself rooting for – a real hug in book form.


Eat Sweat Play (Anna Kessel): Not just my non-fiction book of the year, but my overall book of the year. Quite often when reading I’ll fold over the corner of pages with lines that particularly resonate (shocking, I know) – I just wasn’t able to do that with this book, as there was something on every page that connected with me. It’s absolutely brilliant, and I’m sure that I’ll be buying copies of it for everyone I love over the next year!

Know Your Place (Various): A brilliant intersectional collection of experiences across the working class spectrum. Particularly important in the current climate where class schisms seem wider than ever.

The Importance of Music to Girls (Lavinia Greenlaw): That most joyous of book purchases; the unexpected discovery . More poetic memoir than standard biography, there are lots of dog-eared pages adorning my copy, but I think this line best sums up why I connected with this book, ‘ because the music was charged, and we were no more singular than iron fillings, no less easily moved as the music attracted and repelled, organised and disturbed and then let us into the night, clusters of emotion ready to dissolve into sleep.’

Girls Will Be Girls (Emer O’Toole): A feminist primer that looks at the performative nature of gender in a misogynist world. Lots of thoroughly insightful arguments that have stayed with me.

Nasty Women (Various): 404 Ink’s brilliantly successful crowdfunded collection of essays on what it means to be a woman today. Featuring essays from both widely known and now newly-known commentators, this book was a great insight into the experiences of other women, and another I’d recommend to everyone I know.


2017: Music

I thought I’d begin with some 2017 round-ups. 2017 was a curious year for me, musically. Objectively I got much of what I’d wished for at the beginning of the year in terms of live shows, the highlights of which are below. I discovered some new artists that now make up much of my everyday listening, and have a number of shows booked in for the early part of the new year. Unfortunately, in the year in which sexual assault allegations came to light about powerful men in politics and Hollywood, they also hit the music industry, including allegations against Jesse Lacey, singer and songwriter with Brand New, the band I’ve called mine since 2003.

Explaining Brand New to the uninitiated isn’t easy – you either get/got them or you don’t/didn’t and when you were in, you were all in. To go from the high of the release of their first LP in 8 years to the low of the allegations was and still is a difficult adjustment. For the first time in my adult life, I’m not listening to their music, and I won’t ever see them play again. A recent thinkpiece on Track Record sums it all up in the tagline ‘my connection to Brand New has everything to do with the memories I made while listening to their music, and the friends I made because of their records’.

Some live music highlights:

The Hotelier (23.01.17): Coming just after the US Presidential inauguration, this was a brilliant way to start the 2017 gig year. There really isn’t anything like being in a room and feeling the togetherness of a group of people singing together, and the mass singalong to An Introduction to the Album from 2014’s Home, Like No Place is There was just perfect. This show really opened up their 2016 album Goodness for me, and I can’t wait to hear those songs sometime soon (I hope!)

Kevin Devine (03.02.17): An evening where I got to take in both ends of the Kevin Devine live show spectrum; a tiny acoustic show at Big Scary Monsters’ Hackney pop-up venue, followed very quickly by his biggest full band show at Tufnell Park Dome. Seeing Kevin play is always a joy, and it’s been a particular pleasure to see his career take a steady upwards trajectory.

American Football, Into It Over It (11.02.17): A second trip across town to Shepherd’s Bush in a week to see Mike Kinsella and Evan Weiss in their various musical incarnations, featuring a wonderfully varied Into It. Over It set, and the performance of each of American Football’s self-titled records. Just lovely.

Thrice (27/04/17): One of those shows so good that you find yourself shaking afterwards. A career-spanning set that mixed things up from their show the previous August, which included personal favourites Deadbolt, Stare at the Sun, Red Sky and Beggars amongst tracks from To Be Everywhere is to be Nowhere. Dustin’s vocals were at their gravelly best, and the sound was perfect. The evening that crystallised Camden’s Koko as one of my favourite venues in the city.

Julien Baker (05/06/17): Picked over her show at Union Chapel this November, this was the first time I saw Julien Baker. An absolutely stunning performance, with the crowd so silent for the duration that you could hear the sound of guitar pedals being changed. I’ve been to brilliantly respectful shows before, but this was on another level. Closing with my favourite ‘Go Home,’ this was an incredibly emotional evening. I really can’t wait to see her play again in 2018.

Manchester Orchestra (06/06/17): After losing my way with Manchester Orchestra during the Cope/Hope era, I got back on track following a stripped-down set by Andy and Robert at The Lexington. I also loved the more bombastic nature of their full band headline show at Shepherd’s Bush later in the year, but it was a real highlight to see some of my favourite songs in a much more intimate setting.

Tellison (23-24/09/17): A weekend double header at the glitter-bedecked Thousand Island in Highbury to celebrate the 10th(!) anniversary of Contact! Contact! Having seen them play so many shows since 2007, it was lovely to be able to sing and dance to old favourites again with some of my great friends. A genuinely joyful two evenings, here’s to 10 more years.

The Xcerts (10/10/17): My move to London coincided with really falling for The Xcerts’ music, and there’s been very few support or headline shows in the capital that I’ve missed over the last four years. Having seen them play some very small rooms, it’s been brilliant to watch the size of their audience grow, rounded out by headlining a very busy Scala (their biggest headline show outside of Scotland) on their most recent tour. Their new album is due early next year and I cannot wait.

2017 Albums:

  1. Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights
  2. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
  3. ONSIND – We Wilt, We Bloom
  4. Slaughter Beach, Dog – Birdie
  5. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface