Top 10 Books I Read in 2019

Best Books I Read in 2019

29 December 2019

One of the things I like to do at the end of the year is to reflect on all the books I read. I challenged myself on Goodreads to read 40 books this past year. I ended up reading 52 (see my full list here)—one for each week of the year—so it was a really good year in reading for me. My top 10 personal favorite books that I read this year (if I had to choose):

  1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (I read this book in one afternoon it was so well-written, funny, and tragic all at the same time)
  2. The Overstory by Richard Powers (where do I even begin with this novel?! this novel about trees brought me to my knees)
  3. The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds by Caroline Van Hemert (about a scientist who studies chickadees in the vast wilderness of northwest reaches of North America, an incredible narrative of going to extremes to do science!)
  4. Beartown by Frederik Backman (I read 3 Backman books this year, but this one sticks with me the most; I might try to read more of Backman’s oeuvre in the future)
  5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (an incredibly impressive story about slavery that is told across generations)
  6. The Great Halifax Explosion by John U. Bacon (I wanted to remedy my knowledge gap about the era of the First World War, and this book blew my mind *pun intended, but not sure if it’s appropriate (it’s not)*)
  7. The Alienist by Caleb Carr (a grisly forensic mystery that takes place in late 1800s NYC where Teddy Roosevelt is a [minor] character, sign me up! Nothing earth-shattering about this for me, but I thought it was just a really well-done mystery novel)
  8. Dune by Frank Herbert (finally got to it, and it was definitely as good as it was always hyped to be; now I feel prepared for the movie re-make with Timothée Chalamet)
  9. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak (I’ve read everything by Zusak and conclude that I just like anything he writes; it’s slow-paced but I feel like he always hits an inner nerve with me)
  10. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller (I’ve read a few Alexandra Fuller books now, and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite memoirists; she can make any story riveting, and her parents are endlessly fascinating)

This year I tried to read complete series or finish series that I had been working on, including Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea, Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, and Robert Galbraith’s (J.K. Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike. Or, if it wasn’t a series, I tried to read multiple books by the same author, like E. Nesbit, Frederik Backman, Rebecca Stead, C.S. Lewis, and Cormac McCarthy. As much as I like reading someone new each time, there is something comfortable about settling in with familiar authors.

  • The most challenging: A toss-up between The Silmarillion (the sheer number of names alone!) and Blood Meridian (incredibly gory and nihilistic, not an easy one to get through)
  • The worst (would-not-pick-up-again): I rarely start a book I don’t think I’ll like to some degree (who does?), but if I had to pick it would be First Light (while I liked the other Rebecca Stead books I read, this one just didn’t cut it for me, but I believe it was her debut novel, so she only got better from there)
  • The funniest: Born a Crime (Trevor Noah knows how to tell a story and see the comedy in tragedy) and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Alexandra Fuller’s parents are a hoot to read about)
  • The weirdest (in a good way): Toss-up between George MacDonald’s Lilith (yay! for books about a demi-god that steals children?!) and Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish (I’ve read some of the Wrinkle in Time series by L’Engle, but this was just odd, but I sort of still enjoyed it despite its strange allegorical melodrama; it was one of those so-bad-it’s-actually-good books.)

What were some of your favorite books that you read this year? What should I read in 2020? (I already have the new David Mitchell novel, Utopia Avenue, on the docket for June!)