I read a lot of books last year, but these are the 10 Best Books of 2019! A good mix of fiction and non-fiction this year.
In 2019 I read 158 books! It was an excellent year of reading. The downside to such a good reading year, however, is that it is very difficult to narrow my favorites down to just 10!
But I did it! I picked the 10 best books of 2019 (and a few honorable mentions).
First, here’s a quick reading recap:
In 2018 I read 131 books, but I felt like I hadn’t met my real reading goals for the year – more classics and more smart non-fiction. This year, I read the 5 Classic Books I set out to read, plus a few more. The standout classic of 2019 was East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House, which surprised me!
However, I still came up short on the non-fiction front, with only 16 non-fiction books, and most of those were memoir/biography. My plan for 2020 is to read at least 2 non-fiction books a month, and only one of them can be memoir/biography.
Once again, I read a lot of fantastic Middle Grade books – 61 to be exact. It’s such a wonderful genre, tackling difficult topics but with so much hope. I’m not including my favorite middle grade books of 2019 here because they deserve a list of their own.
I did quit several books this year, some of them I was even more than halfway through. They were books I wanted to like, or books that were getting a lot of buzz, but in the end they just weren’t for me. Two that I wanted to like but really did not were Trust Exercises by Susan Choi and Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
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The Best Books of 2019
Circe by Madeline Miller | While I struggled putting this list together, I knew right away that this was my favorite book of the year. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book. Greek mythology, a complex heroine, and masterful storytelling. I couldn’t love it more.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett | I’m a huge Ann Patchett fan! And this was just as good as I had hoped it would be. It’s about a house and a family over the course of five decades. The book opens with a lot of heartbreaking loss and destruction, but the real power comes from watching the characters work through their grief and make their way to the other side. Absolutely wonderful. (And listening to Tom Hanks read it on audio was the best!)
The Arc of a Scythe Trilogy by Neal Shusterman | This YA series blew my mind. Reading this series made me miss college so much. I kept wishing I was reading it for a college class so I could go sit down and discuss/analyze the books with some smart thinkers.
Set in a post mortal world, humanity has conquered death, hunger, disease, and war. In order to keep the population size under control, Scythes must systematically cull the population. There’s so much to say about this series, so maybe it deserves a post of its own?
East of Eden by John Steinbeck | This was a reread for me, but I hadn’t read it since I was 18, so it felt like a first read to me. What a powerful book! It’s a family saga and an epic retelling of the Cain and Abel story from the bible, but also just a fantastic historical tale as well. Steinbeck is so good at delivering complex characters and a masterful depiction of human nature. I also enjoyed the straightforward approach – no hidden symbolism here, the philosophy is laid bare.
Becoming by Michelle Obama | I listened to this one on audio, read by the author herself, and I loved every minute of it. This one deserves all the hype! I highly recommend this book.
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro | This memoir was my pick for book club this year and it was a great book to discuss. I loved it! On a whim, Dani Shapiro takes a DNA test, not realizing that it will rock her world. She discovers that her father was not actually her biological father, but both of her parents are deceased so she’s left with a million questions. Her search for answers calls into question her Jewish faith, her sense of self, and the definition of family. It was absolutely fascinating.
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson | 20 years ago, Anderson wrote Speak, a fiction book for teens about a girl who was sexually assaulted and didn’t know how to speak up about it. This year she released this intense poetic memoir about her own experience with sexual assault, about Speak‘s legacy, and about how our society continues to fail victims. It’s one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve ever read and it brought me to tears more than once.
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan | This book opens with Washington Black, an eleven-year-old field slave, on a Barbados sugar plantation. But by the time it ends Black has made his way around the world on a Jules Verne-like adventure. I loved the science/naturalist elements of this book as well as the fantastic writing. Edugyan tackles a lot of big themes in this book, but she does it so well!
The Valedictorian of Being Dead by Heather Armstrong | This book meant so much to me personally that I don’t feel like I can really talk about it yet. I will say that I sobbed through most of this book.
Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout | Strout is one of my favorite authors so I grabbed this one as soon as it came out. I loved it! I really, really loved it – almost more than Olive Kitteridge (but if you haven’t already, you should read that one first).
Share your Best Books of 2019 in the comments below. I’d love to see what you’ve been reading!