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!
It’s that time of year, again-the time when we reflect on our year of reading (mostly murder) and make a favorites list (so much murder). I have given up all pretense of creating a Top Ten List and have abandoned descriptions (follow the links for book details), which has helped ease some of my anxiety around this task. If you like mysteries, suspense, and thrillers there are quite a few here!
- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
- The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
- The Lovely and the Lost by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
- The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson
- Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
- With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
- In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
- Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber
- The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
- The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
- Recursion by Blake Crouch
- No Exit by Taylor Adams
- Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark
- Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
- Toil and Trouble by Augusten Burroughs
- Crisis in the Red Zone by Richard Preston
- The Killer Across the Table by John Douglas
- Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
- New Kid by Jerry Craft
- Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
A great read for any practitioner or follower of any path. Gives some very practical tips for spellwork and working with spirits.
A practical guide that is based in chaos magic but has some great tips for all. Looking about how one can use your individual spiritual/occult practice to deal with the practical concerns of life.
by Grant Morrison
Though this comic has been out for decades, it was only this year that I got to it. An absorbing graphic novel that explores themes of oppression, control, and the various prices of bucking the status quo.
The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor D. LaValle
A great example of not only building on top of but expanding the source material. This book starts with the framework of Lovecraft and addresses historical and contemporary issues.
Sheila Hicks : Lifelines
edited by Michel Gauthier
A wonderful visual retrospective of the artist’s work, this volume explores every stage of the artist’s career. Hick’s is a master of color and form and her work is carefully reproduced here.
by Alan Moore
Again another graphic novel that had been on my radar but I hadn’t gotten to. Promethea is a story that not only explores mythology and the the last 100 years of occultism but seem to reflect many of the author’s own beliefs.
by Naomi Alderman
Alderman’s work explores the dynamics of power and gender and how old patterns can reemerge when the world is made new again.
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
A collection of stories about stories, archetypes, and culturally created gender. These tales are filled with horror or uncanniness as Ortberg picks apart the very idea of a fairy tale and our own “norms”.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Book one, The Crucible
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Read the graphic novel that the Netflix show is based on. There are many differences from the show and this source material and it guaranteed to help tide fans over as they wait for season two.
Clive Barker’s next testament. Volume On
by Clive Barker
A truly terrifying look at what it would be like if our creator came back. An engrossing story, but Barker definitely maintains his horror aesthetic throughout.
Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time by Gary Saul Morson
I‘ve been reading two books by a literary critic that I like a lot named Gary Saul Morson. He wrote a great book about Anna Karenina called Anna Karenina in Our Time: Seeing More Wisely, so I was curious to learn about his other work. One book, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, is about how certain novelists, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, create stories that convey a sense of time as open, even if the novelist knows what is going to happen. It also talks about how novelists represent free will in their characters, and fight against an interpretation of the world as deterministic. The second book, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics, co-authored with Caryl Emerson, is about the work of a Russian literary critic and philosopher named Mikhail Bakhtin, who came up with some very innovative and exciting ways of thinking about the novel as a genre. Morson is a wonderful, lucid, and deep thinker, and I’m enjoying these books very much. Andrew
The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchison
Sixteen-year-old Elena is the product of a virgin birth (it’s a real thing with a scientific explanation). She also hears voices and can perform miracles (there is no scientific explanation for this). Elena is just trying to navigate normal high school crushes and family drama, and she really doesn’t have time to save the world. Also, she’s not really sure she should be saving it. This is a truly bizarre and thought-provoking novel for fans of A.S. Kind and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Megan
This book is really all about the importance of being a good role model as a parent and letting your child be who she wants to be. The book dives into the history of the Disney princess culture and how it has evolved over the years and has affected our culture, specifically our young daughters. I found the book to be somewhat lacking in concrete insight for navigating the logistics of fostering my child’s authentic self while she is very drawn to the imagery and excitement of princess culture. Beth
I Hate Fairyland by Scottie Young
Do you love/hate fairy tales? Hero journeys? Landscapes made of candy? Have you ever wondered what would happen if Dorothy hadn’t found her way back to Kansas? Then you will enjoy this graphic novel. I hate Fairyland (Volume 1) follows the story of Gert, a green haired, ax wielding, foul mouthed, middle aged 6 year old (In Fairyland, time goes by but you don’t age). Gert hasn’t really taken the conventional path to finding her way back home and after a few decades of failed riddles and violent vendettas she may have worn out her welcome. A hilarious, graphic-graphic novel. Greg
March. Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
This autobiographical graphic novel relates the early life of Senator John Lewis from his rural upbringing on an Alabama farm through his early involvement in the Nashville Civil Rights Movement. March does a very nice job of providing the larger context of the movement and what is happening outside of Nashville and Lewis’s immediate world. However, the authors manage to keep the story from losing focus of Lewis personal experience and the impact that creates. This is done in part by having the story told from Senator Lewis’ own voice as he provides an impromptu tour of his office on Inauguration Day, just before President Obama is about to be sworn into office for the first time. A fascinating and powerful read. Trent
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
When Johanna Langley’s father Sir Hugo suddenly dies, Johanna wants to understand what happened to him during WWII. He was a British bomber pilot who was shot down over German-occupied Tuscany near the town of San Salvatore. Local resident Sofia Bartoli tended to his needs at severe risk to herself, family and village. When Johanna visits San Salvatore 30 years later, no one remembers her father or wants to talk about Sophia. A treat for fans of historical fiction. Emma
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
This book has been on my radar for several years, and being the chosen book for One Community Reads, I finally dove into it, and I am so very happy I did. This is a grim read but a necessary read. Author, Matthew Desmond does an excellent job of engaging the reader in a piece of non fiction. He introduces the reader to eight families in Milwaukee living in poverty and struggling with eviction. Readers learn about the business and culture of evictions, while getting a glimpse of what it’s like to live in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee. Many residents are spending more than half of their meager income on housing. For most, what money is left after paying rent simply isn’t enough to get by, hence, starts a downward spiral leading to evictions. The fates of the eight families in this book are in the hands of two landlords. I couldn’t help but feel that there is blood on the hands of everyone. Desmond spent years living in these neighborhoods, painstakingly taking notes and recording events. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Mary
Monkey Mind by Daniel Smith
Having several friends and family members who suffer from anxiety, I wanted to read a book to help me understand and empathize with them. Monkey Mind, so far, has done the trick. It is an extremely eye-opening memoir about the onset and treatment of Daniel Smith’s anxiety disorder. He intersperses stories about his own life with research and writings about anxiety from scientists and philosophers like Kirkegaard and Freud. When the audiobook starts to feel overwhelming (because Daniel Smith’s rehearsals of his absurd, painful, and self-destructive thought patterns can be just that), I remind myself that this is how it is to live with anxiety, and that I am one of the lucky ones who can turn off the audiobook and walk away. The book is not 100% heavy and dramatic, though — Daniel Smith’s dry humor about the situations he finds himself in is one of the strengths of the book. Trigger warning: the author does not shy away from sharing a story about how he was raped at 16, and while he documents what happened (in my opinion) tactfully, it is still distressing. Lindsey
Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood
Eight years after many failed fertility treatments and a tragic adoption, Tess is still grieving and bitter as she visits her childhood friend in her hometown in rural Vermont. Torn between her great love for her best friend’s two daughters and her jealousy of the life they lead, as well as the growing rift in her marriage, Tess’ visit is fraught with emotion. While driving home from a late night liquor store run, Tess sees a small, wounded half-naked little girl in her headlights on the dark country road. When she stops to help, the girls disappears into the woods. As Tess calls together the community to search for her, she finally finds a sense of purpose until those around her begin to suspect she was drunk, broken-hearted and imagined the whole thing. This book is a great look into grief, relationships, healing and what matters in life. Sara
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
In the 1970s, the Amazing Telemachus family toured the U.S. as psychic performers, led by patriarch/con-man Teddy and the genuinely talented Maureen. Debunked on national television, they lost their notoriety. Twenty years later, they’re all struggling with real world problems, albeit with a psychic dimension. Irene, a human lie detector test, can’t maintain a relationship and has brought her son Matty home to live with her father. Raconteur Frankie, who practices telekinesis, can’t get his business off the ground and is in hock to a local mobster. Buddy, the youngest, sees the future, and is steadily working to prevent it, even if it means building holes in the backyard. Told in alternating chapters from each character’s point of view, this quirky tale of family, mobsters, the CIA and first love, is a hoot – funny, crazy and tender. I listened to it on audiobook and it was a treat! Dori
- Lady Killer by Joelle Jones. By day she’s the perfect housewife and mother, but at night Josie is a ruthless killer for hire.
2. Giant Days by John Allison. On their own at university for the first time, Esther, Susan and Daisy become fast friends.
3. Rat Queens vol. 3: Demons by Curtis J. Wiebe. The Rat Queens are a gang of hard-drinking, death-dealing, killers for hire.
4. Lumberjanes vol. 3: A Terrible Plan and Lumberjanes vol. 4 : Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson. The gang of campers have more adventures at Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types!
5. Descender, vol. 2: Machine Moon by Jeff Lemire. In a universe where androids have been outlawed, a young robot and his companion struggle to survive.
6. Hot Dog Taste Test by Lisa Hanawalt. As awesomely weird as My Dirty Dumb Eyes.
7. Saga, volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan. The story of star-crossed lovers and their daughter continues in this bizarre sci-fi/fantasy blended saga.
8. Heart and Brain: Gut Instincts by The Awkward Yeti. These comic, starring analytical Brain and optimistic Heart perfectly illustrate the constant battle between heart and head.
9. Prez, vol.1: Corndog-in-Chief by Mark Russell. This a frighteningly timely political satire.
10. Mooncop by Tom Gauld. A simple, lovely, and melancholy story about human colonization of the moon.
Normally I love making lists of books, but I agonize over these end of the year favorites lists. After reviewing all the books that I read this year I discovered that this is the first time in many years that I read more adult (non-YA) books that YA books. Does this mean I am a real grown-up now? I hope not! I also noted that this was a year dominated by science fiction, fantasy, and amazing graphic novels. Ok, let’s get started!
- The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.
2. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.
3. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.
4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik.
5. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. (This is a bit of a tease as it isn’t due out until March 2016)
6. Bingo’s Run by James Levine.
7. Lock In by John Scalzi.
8. The Martian by Andy Weir.
9. Descender, vol.1: Tin Stars by Jeff Trillium.
10. Rat Queens, vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery and vol. 2: The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygot by Kurtis Wiebe.
Of course, I can’t finish this list without mentioning some of my favorite YA books.