This was a great year of reading for both of us, and as always, narrowing down our list was not easy. We both read a wide variety of books from authors of different backgrounds, and for the first time, we picked up an eReader and read a few eBooks.
This is also a Top Ten Tuesday pick for this week. Since it was too difficult for us to only pick pick each as we normally would for the Top Ten Tuesday feature, we decided to just fire off both of our top ten favorite books of 2019. Thanks to That Artsy Reader Girl for another great weekly topic.
Pete’s Ten Best Reads of 2019
I fell a bit short of my reading goals this year though I read fairly diligently—I think I read a lot of longer books that shortened my overall list, and I put down an unusual number of books (maybe 12 or 15). I have some reading goals for next year, but we’ll be talking about that in another post!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Indiana suggested this to me after reading it for the first time, and I can’t believe I didn’t read it sooner. We also saw Greta Gerwig’s adaptation the other day and absolutely loved it.
Educated by Tara Westover
While I can’t say I enjoyed this book, its brutal intensity made it my most unforgettable read of the year.
The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
The third book in the Wax and Wayne series is also the strongest, in my opinion. From its pacing to its character arcs, I was completely hooked by the story from start to finish.
Station Zero by Philip Reeve
The final book in Reeve’s Railhead trilogy wraps everything up in a stunning finale, in the same tradition as the Mortal Engines quartet.
The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft
This book made me wish that The Books of Babel had been published as a single, 1,200-page epic. The twists in this book really help to bring several character arcs into focus, and they actually make me like the first two books more. Can’t wait for the fourth installment.
Spring by Ali Smith
Using her brilliant characters to look at recent events (Brexit and the resurgence of xenophobia), Smith manages to tell a hopeful story amidst gloomy times. This is my favorite entry yet in the Seasonal quartet.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
This was a pick for our book club, and I absolutely adored the collection of quirky, often stubborn characters. It may be my favorite romance book.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I have a soft spot for books with complex family trees. Gyasi tells the story of a family in two halves — one shattered by slavery, while the other maintains its history and traditions. This was one of the most powerful books I read this year, and Gyasi’s ability to weave a story across several generations is incredible.
The Accidental by Ali Smith
At any given moment, the most recent Ali Smith book I’ve read is usually my favorite of hers, and this is no exception. What stands out about this one is its more continuous story, which varies from Smith’s usual collections of vignettes.
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
It is rare that a book is able to change my mind in its final 50 pages, but Tigana really blew my mind in the finale—to the point where I will need to revisit this one someday just to see the story in a different context.
Indiana’s Ten Best Reads of 2019
This has probably been my busiest year of reading I’ve ever had. I was able to go well beyond my goal of reading 100 books and hit 152. I also started to use OverDrive for reading electronic books. I also got really into audiobooks because of the app and found that I thoroughly enjoy them, even though in previous years I would often lose track of the storyline. Needless to say, narrowing it down to my top ten was difficult.
Educated by Tara Westover
This was my first read of the year and it was such an intense book that I still vividly remember where I was when I read each scene. I also had the privilege of reading it along with my dad and it generated many in-depth conversations.
Chemistry by Weike Wang
This novel had one of the oddest protagonists I’d ever read. Even though the plot was melancholy and poignant, the protagonist managed to make me laugh until I cried. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
This memoir, written in poetry, was striking on so many levels. Anderson and I are from the same area and I was able to spend a day with her when she came to visit my school. I look up to her as an author and as a person and Shout made me appreciate her even more.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Just looking at this book, I knew I was going to like it. And luckily, I wasn’t wrong. Orlean takes readers on an in-depth journey of libraries in the United States and just how much they’ve changed. The book was sparked by the LA library fire, which took place in 1986 and throughout the book Orlean returns to the question of “who started it?”
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Part thriller, part fairy tale, this novel made my hair stand on end and question the sanity of just about everyone in the book.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
It seemed like this book was one of the most hyped-up books of the year and I felt like I saw it on the “Bestseller” shelves every week for months. While I agree with some of the expected criticisms of the novel, I was completely convinced by Rooney’s main characters, Connell and Marianne.
The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos
The follow-up to Dabos’ A Winter’s Promise was even better than the first. The translation is still a bit clunky at times but Dabos’ well plotted (and twist-filled) storyline had me hooked from the first page to the last. I’m counting down the days until the English translation for the third book comes out.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
I had to read this one for work and was just blown away by it. Mbue is a gifted storyteller who thrusts readers into the minds (and shoes) of each of her convincing and complicated characters.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
For some reason, I resisted reading this trilogy for a while. What a waste of time. Arden wraps readers in a fairy tale world that’s difficult to turn away from, especially once they meet the Vasya, a protagonist who finds herself stuck in between two worlds, that of the dying spiritual realm and the new forces that are attempting to snuff the old ways out.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
I listened to this historical novel on audiobook and had many “driveway moments,” where I would wait to get out of the car until I had just finished one more letter. At once a heartwarming and heart wrenching read, told in an epistolary format that immerses readers (or listeners) in the time period and into the lives of the Guernsey islanders.