Reading lets us imagine anything, and yet I can’t imagine surviving without books. I go everywhere with a book, preferably physical but always with a book on my phone as back-up. (Actually, that’s a new development for this year’s reading. It’s worked out well.)
This was a very busy year, but I still read 62 books to date, with maybe one more to squeeze in by the end. Still, my to-be-read shelves continue to groan with beautiful books that I can’t wait to get to. The richness of living in a world with so many books to anticipate is one of the great joys of my life.
Having immersed myself in so many worlds was pretty amazing, and this year was a remarkably good crop. The books came to me via various roads: books I bought because they appealed, books for a wonderful book club I joined, books whose authors I knew. The last category was large and fun, especially since my own novel debuted this November. I had the joy of reading many fellow debuts. There are a good handful more from my Authors18 group sitting on that glorious TBR shelf. I can’t wait.
What were my favorites this year? It’s so hard to pick! Here are the top contenders:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Happiness by Aminatta Forna
The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker
The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
All fiction, all written by women. Three are historical fiction. Hey, that probably doesn’t surprise you.
But with sixty two books in my belly, so to speak, I have to rave about a few more!
Classic favorite: My friend Dorothy writes a wonderful column about reading classics from the (mostly) Western canon, and I’ve enjoyed reading along with her. She got me to re-read Jane Eyre, which was an utter delight. It turns out my high-school-based memory wasn’t all that reliable. (I knew there was an attic involved? Ha.)
Fantasy favorites: The first book of the year was one of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and I would love to finish the series. (The commitment involved in a series usually scares me off, though.)
A book by a friend: I read so many good books by people I adore this year. In addition to two listed above, Jenni L. Walsh’s books on Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) deserve special mention. They were captivating, insightful, and heartbreaking. What more could you ask for in a novel?
Best book to upend your expectations: Alice Stephens’s novel Famous Adopted People is a page-turning, surprising look at one woman’s forced encounter with her shocking birth mother.
Best book from a small press: Sarah Madsen’s Weaver’s Folly urban fantasy was captivating. Elf and professional thief Alyssa gets in deep trouble when she falls for a mysterious business partner. I can’t wait for the next one.
Favorite book written by a guy: Less than fifteen percent of the books I read this year were by men. I didn’t intend for it to happen that way, but hey, kinda cool. So the dudes need a little bit of extra love here. I will mention two: Planetside by Michael Mammay was an excellent psychological mystery (that happens to be set in space), and Rules of Civility by Amor Towles was a masterpiece of class observation.
Weirdest book I read: Hadriana in All My Dreams by Rene Depestre. This new translation of a Haitian classic about a young bride poisoned in a (failed) attempt to turn her into a zombie was the most mind-bending, bizarrely sexualized book I read all year.
There are so many more good ones! Especially in historical fiction. (You know, if you ever want a histfic recommendation, tell me on Twitter what you’re looking for, and I’ll be happy to make a suggestion) If I keep going I’d end up listing them all ….
I hope you had a wonderful year of reading, and I wish you an even more entertaining and challenging year in 2019.
Oh, and hey, I’ll have a book out next year too! More on that later. :)