Our Favourite Books From the Last 30 Years

Our Favourite Books From the Last 30 Years

This year the Bookseller is celebrating 30 years of the British Book Awards by adding an extra category which will decide the best books of the last three decades.

The long list features 30 books, including colossal best-sellers, contemporary classics and stunning debuts that launched hugely successful careers. The Listening Books staff have picked their shortlist, do you agree with our choices or would you pick completely differently?

Claire G’s favourite – Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The audiobook cover of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I loved this book for the surprising way that it affected me; it is heart-warming, laugh out loud funny, terribly sad in parts and was very difficult to put down! Although Eleanor believes that she is ‘completely fine’, she is living a desperately lonely life and doesn’t find social situations as easy to navigate as others. I really enjoyed the way in which she starts trying new things and very slowly allows other people and kindness into her life, and the impact this has on her. I felt quite sad leaving Eleanor when I had finished the novel, she is definitely a unique character that will stay with me for a long time.

Members can stream or download Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine from our online collection, or borrow the MP3 CD – book/CD number  14612.

Louise’s favourite – Wild Swans by Jung Chang

The book cover of Wild Swans

There a lots of great books to choose from on this list. However, the book that stands out for me which I LOVED was Wild Swans.  I borrowed a beaten up copy from someone who worked at Listening Books, and I’d never even heard of it before I started to read it. And it’s a big old book, something like 230,000 words, but I remember being astonished by it, especially in the latter pages when the story moved into my lifetime. The book is about three generations of women in China, the author Jung Chang describes the extraordinary experiences and struggles and hardship that her family went through. It’s beautifully written and unputdownable! It also left me wanting to know more about China throughout the years, and her follow up book Mao was equally riveting.  

Members can borrow Wild Swans on MP3 CD, book/CD number 11583.

Jenny’s favourite – One Day by David Nicholls

The audiobook cover of One Day

I’ve never been a very enthusiastic romantic fiction reader/listener, so I think that fact that I really enjoyed this book proves how great it is. I was gripped to the story of relatable characters Emma and Dexter, and their wonderfully tormented friendship which is always on the verge of something more. I liked the format of the book, way the story picks up on the same day over a 20 year period felt like flicking through old photos, a bit of nostalgia!

Members can stream or download One Day from our online collection.

Amy’s favourite – How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

The audiobook cover of How To Be A Woman

Partly a memoir that recalls her unconventional upbringing and partly an accessible guide to modern feminism, journalist Caitlin Moran discusses numerous topics that are perplexing to many women (and men!) such as marriage, fashion, children, sex and body image. Informative, expertly researched and often hilariously tongue-in-cheek, this book was very much at the forefront of the recent explosion of feminist literature.  When I read it several years ago, I felt like Moran highlighted a lot of observations and frustrations I’d had but couldn’t fully articulate myself at the time. Reading this book was both an eye-opening and (despite the discussion of various ongoing injustices) a very funny, uplifting experience.

Members can stream or download How to be a Woman from our online collection.

Abbie’s Favourite – Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

The audiobook cover of Northern Lights

Northern Lights first came out when I was just about in primary school, so I didn’t get around to reading it until five years after its release and probably missed all the hype! The first book in the series was given to me by a school librarian and it was one of the first books I remember reading that I became totally obsessed with. I would sit at the breakfast table before school and try and get in a bit of reading before I went out. I devoured all three books and began working out what my family’s daemons would be. I’ve gone back to the series again and again since I first read it, bonded over our love of the books with new and old friends, and badgered people who haven’t read it to get round to it. If you haven’t read this book yet, you’re in for such a treat.

Members can stream or download Northern Lights from our online collection or borrow the MP3 CD – book/CD number 1490.

Claire B’s Favourite – The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The audiobook cover of The Da Vinci Code

Like everyone else, I loved the Da Vinci Code when it first came out. It was such a huge bestseller and everyone talked about it. I enjoyed the unravelling mystery story, and how it drew on historical facts to make you question what you knew. I particularly remember being blindsided by the part of the book where the characters discuss the painting of The Last Supper. I’d seen the picture so many times and never thought to question it, but that really made me look at how I enjoy art.

Members can borrow The Da Vinci Code on MP3 CD, book/CD number 9645.

Jess’s favourite – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

The audiobook cover of Wolf Hall

Reading Wolf Hall was like entering a painting and joining the hunt. The almost-completed trilogy remains, for me, the pinnacle of historical fiction. Imagine if we could all be studied and written about with such care and sympathy, for someone to try to see through our eyes, as Mantel has done with Thomas Cromwell! And on top of the meticulous history, the richness of character, we get observations like this, as sharp as Liz’s scissors, but casually brandished: ‘“Men say,” Liz reaches for her scissors, “‘I can’t endure it when women cry’–just as people say, ‘I can’t endure this wet weather.’ As if it were nothing to do with the men at all, the crying. Just one of those things that happen.”’

Members can stream or download Wolf Hall from our online collection, or borrow the MP3 CD – book/CD number 13571.

What books from the last 30 years are your favourites? Let us know in the comments!

This post was written by Amy Flinders.

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