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2019 was such a solid and (mostly) enjoyable year of reading for me. After struggling with reading for some time, I’ve settled into a comfortable and manageable stride, gaining more and more in confidence each year. And as I’ve been concentrating on finding my feet again I’ve leaned very heavily on recommendations from people whose tastes I’ve come to trust, from hype on Twitter, or from podcasts – I’ve picked up many a ‘certified banger’ thanks to the What Page Are You On? podcast in particular.
After hitting my Goodreads reading target of 50 books by the skin of my teeth before heading out on New Years Eve, I scrolled back through the last 12 months and more than a handful of books jumped out at me as having been a pretty excellent reading experience. In the last week I’ve agonised over whittling them down into an easily digestible index, so read on for a quick spoiler free list of all the books I loved in 2019, maybe you’ll find something new here to read and love in 2020?
12.) A House Without Mirrors by Mårten Sandén [affiliate link]
Officially a children’s book, but there is plenty here for readers of any age. An atmospheric quick read with cute illustrations, it’s simply told but runs deep dealing with familial relationships and grief in a poignant and magical way.
11.) We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson [affiliate link]
After loving The Haunting of Hill House I felt a physical need to consume more of Shirley Jackson’s writing. Equally as unsettling as Hill House, but the characters – even the incidental ones – have stayed with me even more so.
10.) Little Eve by Catriona Ward [affiliate link]
Isolation, cults, control, mystery, weird wildlife and rituals. Beautifully written with creeping menace. Speaking of Shirley Jackson, if you like her work then I reckon you’ll like this.
9.) A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan [affiliate link]
I’m so nosey, and always find myself wanting to leave the (usually not that interesting) main characters behind and follow the stories of the bit players. This book let me do that very thing and I love it for that.
8.) Star Trek: Picard – Countdown by Kirsten Beyer et al. [affiliate link]
Since July of 2019 I have been rewatching every single Star Trek episode and film in preparation for the release of Star Trek: Picard at the end of this month. These short comics signalled the end of that very long road and I’m now so excited I could burst.
7.) The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair [affiliate link]
Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of colours but didn’t know to ask. This book is fascinating, for a taste of what it’s all about check out the podcast that made me aware of it on your next lunch break.
6.) Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh [affiliate link]
THIS BOOK though – whew – strap in for an absolutely incredible ride. I’m not a fan of ‘omg the twist!!’ spoilers so please don’t read this next point as that, but holy hell I had no idea where this book was going: it surprised me in the best possible way.
5.) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller [affiliate link]
Somehow last year I read two books about the same events in the Trojan War. Of the two (the other was the infinitely bleaker The Silence of The Girls [affiliate link] by Pat Barker), The Song of Achilles comes out on top. Although I tried not to feature an author more than once Madeline Miller features twice in this list, and has been my favourite find of 2019.
4.) The Corset by Laura Purcell [affiliate link]
One of my favourite books of all time and still the only book that has made me gasp out loud, The Silent Companions [affiliate link], is also by Laura Purcell. This, her follow up and a superb slice of Victorian gothic, has all the delicious psychological chill of the former. An excellent read.
3.) Attrib. and Other Stories by Eley Williams [affiliate link]
I don’t quite know exactly how to describe this book so let me tell you two things: firstly, I was not a fan of short story collections but this book made me fall in love with them. Secondly, this book produced real tears from my face a couple of times. I’ve never read anything like it. Okay, maybe that’s three things. Here’s four: read this book.
2.) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid [affiliate link]
I listened to the Audiobook of this and I can’t imagine taking it in any other way. Like another Taylor Jenkins Reid book I read and loved this year – Daisy Jones & The Six [affiliate link] – the experience was like listening to an intricate and well researched investigative podcast. A total and absolute treat.
1.) Circe by Madeline Miller [affiliate link]
Madeline Miller, please never stop writing books. I know I need to write more than this but the chances are you’ll have seen and heard people buzzing about this book already. A superb retelling of Greek myth, but it doesn’t feel like that, it feels wholly original. From the first few pages I was all in and I didn’t want it to end. My favourite read of the year hands down.
Distilling my best reads down to this list of twelve books I loved in 2019 was hard! I’ve managed to sneak some honourable mentions into the list above already, but I also want to mention I Am, I Am, I Am [affiliate link] by Maggie O’Farrell, No Big Deal [affiliate link] by Bethany Rutter, My Sister, the Serial Killer [affiliate link] by Oyinkan Braithwaite, and The Idiot [affiliate link] by Elif Batuman as they were also books I read, looked forward to, and/or loved in 2019.
In 2020, I want to read a much more diverse array of books, more short story collections, and even more historical fiction. I’ve also really enjoyed the couple of YA books I’ve read in the last 12 months so I’m going to stop shying away from those too. For everything I read last year and everything I’m currently reading as I work towards my 2020 challenge you can join me on Goodreads if you like.