The best books I’ve read in 2019

Oh heeeeyyyyy! I still have this blog. For anyone out there still reading – thanks!

I’m almost a year away from Printz but I still feel like I’m in recovery from that amazing book hangover. I’ve still read a lot this year but I’ve also done a lot of sewing and baking and moving and playing Stardew Valley. Writing is something I’m hoping to do more of in 2020, but we shall see.

In the meantime, let’s talk about some great books I’ve read this year. I’m breaking these up into some broad categories mostly to make it easier for people who want to avoid the sad books. I know you exist and I’m sorry that every book I recommend is extremely sad. It’s just who I am.

Best books of 2019 that were kind of a bummer but also amazing:

  • Dead Girls: Essays in Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin: I read both this and Savage Appetites on recommendation from my coworker Renata and they are similar in some ways but different in others. While this does touch on true crime, Bolin also talks about literature and Britney Spears with wit and insight.
  • The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui: A graphic memoir about a family escaping Vietnam and trying to reckon with that leaving.
  • gods with a little g by Tupelo Hassman: If you haven’t read girlchild by Hassman yet are we even friends? This is darker, with less of Rory’s optimism in the face of awfulness but just as true.
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe: I want everyone to read this book. EVERYONE! Not interested in Northern Ireland?! I don’t care, read it! It’s a remarkable story about the Troubles yes, but also how we as a society try to live with violence and trauma. It’s honestly incredible.
  • Know My Name by Chanel Miller: Once known only as “Emily Doe” or the victim of rapist Brock Turner, Miller takes her chance to tell her own story. She’s a wonderful writer and it’s an important read for us all to see the true toll of sexual assault and the legal system.
  • Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe: Another book I want everyone – especially those interested in true crime – to read. Monroe both challenges and acknowledges many people’s love of true crime. This gave me a lot of think about!

Best speculative fiction of 2019

  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: I was so glad that this lived up to the hype. It’s like if The Magicians by Lev Grossman and The Secret History by Donna Tartt had a baby and it’s glorious!
  • The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black: This trilogy finale brought it all home in the best possible way. So much scheming in such a great payoff.
  • This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: This has it all – time travel! love letters! lesbians! secret agents! This one sticks with me; I think about it often.
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: This is another thinky one. It’s a world where supposedly all the bad things and bad people have been eliminated. But there are still monsters and not in the way you think.
  • Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater: Ronan Lynch is my favorite Raven Boy and I was so glad to be back in his head. A great series starter that builds on the first series in a really interesting way.
  • The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson: A beautiful book about love and stories and faith. This is worth reading slowly.

Best fun reads of 2019

  • Giant Days by John Allison, Max Sarin, and Julia Madrigal (specifically I read volumes 8, 9, and 10 but they are all amazing): Always hilarious. If you’re feeling down, the answer is almost always Giant Days.
  • A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole: I read a lot of romance this year – a lot for me, so like 6ish books – and this has a great meet cute (or not so cute as it were) and a cool Wakanda-esque country.
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert: I love Chloe! She’s prickly and cute and safe. Watching her find a hot ginger to love was really lovely. I laughed a LOT reading this one.
  • The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee: I will always love Stacey Lee’s historical fiction. This one has a plucky Chinese American girl serving as an advice columnist in 1890s Atlanta with bonus millinery and horse racing!!
  • Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: Though this did make me really sad about the 2016 election – in this book a divorced (!) woman (!) Democrat from Texas (!) wins the presidency – I recovered with the help of her son’s royal romance with the Prince of Wales. Really funny.
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson: A great middle grade mystery that ticks all the boxes: great characters, clues, and treasure.

Best other books that don’t fit in those categories

  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo: Acevedo’s follow up to my beloved Poet X is of course, also amazing. Written in prose, not poetry, it’s the story of Emoni a teen chef and teen mom. This will make you cry and also hungry.
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters, Vol 1. by Emil Ferris: Incredible pencil art and a riveting story. I cannot wait for the next volume to come out this year!
  • There There by Tommy Orange: Lovely writing with multiple POVs that reflect many facets of the human condition.
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell: This so realistically portrays the experience of being in love with someone who isn’t right for you. Plus beautiful art!

Those are my favorites but I read more great books this year. What did you read that I’m missing out on?

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