It was such fun to look back on what I’ve read this past year and pick my favorites! Below you’ll find mostly adult fiction titles, including some standout graphic novels, as well as a stellar young adult novel (Wilder Girls!). 2019 was also the year I dabbled in reading outside my comfort zone of generally weird and spooky, venturing into the land of romantic fiction and true crime. Much to my surprise, I was so utterly charmed by a romance novel that it ended up on this list (I’m looking at you Chloe Brown). I hope that if you haven’t read one of these titles you will be inspired to stop by and check it out this winter. Maybe you will also find yourself pleasantly surprised by broadening your reading horizons *wink*. Wishing you a joyful holiday season and happy reading!
I always enjoy making this year-end list as it provides me an opportunity to reflect on another year of reading, and reflection quickly turns into contemplating future reading. I highly recommend it. It is highly satisfying to revisit titles you have enjoyed and to consider your plans for reading in the new year, be it more broadly, more deeply, or another goal.
Like many of my colleagues, I have struggled to keep my list to ten titles and included additional notables at the end.
10. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – Olga Tokarczuk
Janina is, to be kind, a bit of an odd duck. She lives alone in rural Poland, and when one of her very few neighbors is found dead, Janina instinctively knows why. The animals, obviously, have sought revenge on the neighbor for his cruel hunting activities. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead makes the reader listen to someone we might be guilty of otherwise ignoring or marginalizing. Olga Tokarcruk was belatedly awarded the Noble Prize in Literature for 2018 in November 2019, and I am excited to read more of her translated work.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vol 1: High School is Hell – Jordie Bellaire
This is Buffy rebooted, and, much to my surprise, it starts off with a lot of promise. The last few seasons have been either lackluster with brief respites or terrible. So, I was interested but skeptical that rebooting the series by a new creative team back to Buffy’s first days at Sunnydale High would succeed. The comic does a nice job reinventing all the main characters but keeping them recognizable to fans that have continued to follow the series. Here’s hoping the good work continues.
8. Normal People – Sally Rooney
Though I posted a review of Normal People on “What We’re Reading Now…” in May, I still find myself occasionally thinking back to this book. It has made me, on occasion, consider things from a different perspective. While Normal People was generally rife with upsettingly poor decision making by everyone – it was at the same time believable and relatable. And, if I am still thinking about the book seven months later, then it’s bound to be on a top ten list.
7. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
I picked this up off an inn’s bookshelf six years ago when in Vermont for a wedding. By the time I had to go join the wedding festivities I had read a good third of the book and was really enjoying it. Though every few months I would remember that I had wanted to check out a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God and read it in its entirety, it took far too long to return to. Beautifully written and a work I should have been introduced to in high school.
6. The Raven Tower – Ann Leckie
I included The Raven Tower in March’s “What We’re Reading Now…” Leckie creates a fascinating world shown from an unexpected perspective. I really enjoy how the author plays with language and perception.
5. The Real Cool Killers – Chester Himes
The Real Cool Killers is a classic 1950s hardboiled detective novel. Though instead of L.A., Marlowe, and femme fatales, it is Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed and in Harlem where the cynicism isn’t shrouded in glitz.
I did include the excellent A Rage in Harlem by Himes, which introduces Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed, in an earlier “What We’re Reading Now…”
4. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: The Complete Series – Hayao Miyazaki
Set many years after biological warfare has destroyed most of the planet, opposing forces are set mustering for a war that may destroy what remains. Nausicaä, called to serve in her father’s place, has the unique ability to communicate with the fearsome creatures that inhabit the changed world. Using her abilities, Nausicaä must fight to preserve what is left of the world around her. Miyazaki will leave you thinking deeply about how we interact with the world around us, environmentalism, war, and more. Not to mention the art is sublime.
3. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
I kept putting off reading A Gentleman in Moscow even though a coworker kept insisting I go read it immediately, because, honestly, how worth it could be to slog through 500 pages of some guy being sequestered in a hotel for decades? I saw no reason to suffer right along with Count Rostov. She was right, it is a wonderful book, and if you have not read it, you should go do so right now. You will not suffer, instead, you will find unexpected joy right alongside the Count.
2. Beware, Beware – Step Cha
Juniper Song is a devotee of Phillip Marlowe, and in her first appearance in Steph Cha’s excellent Follow Her Home Juniper’s only experience as a P.I. is from what she has learned in Chandler novels. Juniper, now employed with a investigate firm as an understudy working towards becoming a licensed investigator, has some real-life experience under her belt when a case she’s asked to work quickly turns into a Hollywood murder scandal. Juniper Song is the modern-day Marlowe we deserve.
1. Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
I read this a week or two after posting last year’s Top 10, and I have been eagerly waiting to put it on this list since. Keiko has a hard time relating to societal expectations and is uninterested in love and advancing her career. She struggles to hide her real interest in and dedication to her current role as a convenience store clerk, as she knows she won’t be understood and accept otherwise. A funny, quirky, and occasionally, heartbreaking novella. However, to be fair, I may be biased in part due to my love of Japanese 7-11 and Lawson convenience stores.
Tales From the Inner City – Shaun Tan
Lazarus: The First Collection – Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
The Long-Legged Fly – James Sallis
Silent City – Alex Segura
As a librarian it’s so nice to spend my days inside the library fully immersed in pleasure reading all day. I sit by the window and listen to the birds sing as I read the most delightful literary pros while sipping my coffee, and hearing the soft brushing of books being…wait a minute! That’s not what I do at work all day. No, no. Rest assured, I spend my work hours doing practically no pleasure reading. I save all of my leisure reading for my abundance of free time that comes with being a mom and working full-time outside the home.
This year, last year, and probably at least another year before my youngster is reading on her own, the majority of my leisure reading takes place during the bedtime routine. The good news is we have access to thousands of amazing picture books through the library so everyone involved in reading the juvenile literature can truly enjoy the experience.
Admittedly, the majority of my personal reading time these days is via audio-book and takes place commuting from one obligation to the next. I spent a lot of time listening and reading to the titles in high demand by patrons this year. Some of them were lovely, and others I just didn’t care for as much. The titles I find myself recommending over and over again range from memoirs to children’s picture books.
Here are the titles with links to our catalog so you can easily request them for yourself:
Every year I bemoan the fact that I didn’t read enough, etc, etc., but this year it seems truer than ever! I still, though, found quite a few books to sink into and enjoy; I listened to many through the Libby app. Below is my list, in no particular order.
The Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Inland by Tea Obrecht
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
Circe by Madeline Miller
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
If you check out some of my previous Top Ten lists -you might notice I like to go for bonus titles.. heh! This year I split my list into ten fiction and a bonus nine nonfiction… double heh! I’ll also mention, this year I was part of the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction & Nonfiction Committee -and the entire list is worth a look! You’ll also notice some of the titles on that list are also on mine, so maybe that counts as a double Top Ten suggestion?
This list is *not* in order of preference but does follow the Librarian Tradition of Alphabetical Order:
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
No one in this story is perfect, and that’s what makes it such a fun book to read!
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
Time travel is a key feature, but it’s really about family and finding a place you belong.
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
A magical, emotional, thoroughly engaging story!
The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner
You don’t have to love Jane Austen to love this book.
The Swallows by Lisa Lutz
A mystery set in a boarding school with plenty of surprises.
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Like The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin -for adults.
Normal People by Salley Rooney
Teens growing into young adults -set in Ireland.
Save Me From Dangerous Men by Eli Saslow
Gritty and graphic, and all kinds of grrl power.
The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
If you’re a word nerd -this one’s for you!
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Ah -all the feels.
Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson
We should all rethink how we think about aging.
Catch and Kill by Rowan Farrow
Fascinating and well-researched look at decades of misconduct by men in power.
Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones
Theodore Geissel was more than the creator of children’s books, and this book will tell you that story.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
While telling the story of one woman’s disappearance (and likely murder), readers will also get a clear background on The Troubles in Ireland.
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
A beautifully written look at the natural world and how it’s changed, and continues to change.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Not just a book about libraries, but also a great “true crime” mystery!
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
Ladies, be ready to be annoyed and then -let’s change the world!
An Elegant Defense by Matt Ritchel
Do you know how your immune system works (or doesn’t work)? You will after you read this!
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
How do we not talk more about some of the topics in this book?!
I hope you find something you enjoy -and- that you have a happy, wonderful Holiday Season!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year–the part where we all tell each other our favorite recent books! My top ten are on many ‘best of’ lists already this year, but you may find one or two that you haven’t devoured…yet. If so, enjoy. And, if you’ve read them all already, then you know what I’m talking about!
So, without further ado, here’s my list, alphabetical by author:
- The New Me by Halle Butler
- The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Akin by Emma Donoghue
- This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
- Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell
- The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
- Mrs. Everything Jennifer Weiner
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Enjoy and have the happiest of holidays! ~Carol