I read over 500 books last year from various genres, many of them children’s picture books. When I tried to cut them down to my top 10 reads for the year, it was basically impossible. So I’ve split them up into multiple posts.
This post is dedicated to my favorite fiction reads of 2019.
#10: The Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry
This was my first Anne Perry book. I loved the characters, the snappy dialogue, the interesting storyline, and the careful way that Perry held to the genre of cozy mystery while not force-feeding you every stereotype in the genre. That plus a beautiful victorian period setting made for a perfect murder mystery. I’m planning to read more of this series in 2020.
#9: The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
The funny thing about this book, I read so many nonfiction books about slavery this year, that when I picked this up part of me forgot it was a novel. So when the escaped slaves went underground and got a ride on a literal underground railroad, I found myself googling things I’m ashamed of. This book was a reimagining of history and turned dystopian at points. It wasn’t just about slavery, it was about oppression in general. It was a beautifully written and gripping story, everything you’d hope to find in a Pulitzer Prize Winner.
#8: Grendel by John Gardner
This book was a dark retelling of Beowolf, trying to explain the monster’s side of the story. As a retelling, it didn’t do much for me. The reason it made the list is because the prose was so poetic and the themes discussed were so deep and interesting.
#7: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
This was the story of a middle-aged widow and a 12-year-old girl who become unlikely friends. It’s about beauty, art, and finding purpose in living. This book was charming, witty, and just lovely. The characters were phenomenal and I may have cried a little at the end. You can tell it was written by a philosophy teacher because the inner dialogue of the characters gets very involved, but it makes the story so much deeper.
#6: Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
This book is built around the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son. When the boy’s spirit goes to rest in the local graveyard, a cast of eccentric dearly departed gather round to introduce the boy to the afterlife. It opens with much dark humor which quickly turns into a witty and poignant story about life, death, and letting go.
#5: What Ho, Automaton! by Chris Dolley
This. Series. Is. Everything. I love P.G. Wodehouse. So, Chris Dolley’s reimagining of a steam-powered robotic Jeeves and a kooky Bertie Wooster who plays private detective is just too much. These books are quirky and laugh out loud hilarious. I haven’t felt this sad to finish a series since the Old Kingdom Trilogy. #serieshangover It wouldn’t surprise me if I feel inclined to read them all again in 2020.
#4: The Dinner by Herman Koch
This book takes place during a tense family dinner where everyone is avoiding talking about what they all came to discuss. It’s a dark thriller that talks about mental illness, prejudice, and the things we’ll do to protect the ones we love. The story’s narrator was absolutely fascinating and I blasted through the story on tenterhooks.
#3: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This book tells the story of a young girl’s mental breakdown. Sylvia Plath’s poetic prose and personal struggle with mental illness made this book a dark yet lovely read. It was interesting to read it this year after my own mental collapse. I resonated with the heroine’s emotional journey and some of her dark moods.
#2: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I adored this book. I always heard about it as the story of a woman’s adulterous affair, but it was so much more than that. It was about family and God and finding meaning amidst the pain of life. It wove two storylines together to depict the struggle of families searching for the thing that will hold them together. It talked about the vapidity of material pleasures and the hope and peace to be found in personal sacrifice and helping others. It was about lust, forgiveness, family, and true lasting love.
#1: The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
This book moved me deeply. It’s about two friends growing up on a small island in Korea. It was a beautiful story about family, love, loss, friendship, and forgiveness. I learned so much about another culture and about the history of Korea in the years before and after WWII. The most life-changing lesson I brought from it was how little we need to be truly happy. It made me yearn for a simpler life and time.