It’s that time again. The one where I somehow pick 10 books out of the piles I’ve read over the past year to crown my favourite reads. Choosing favourites of anything has always been a tough ask for me, but I’m going to do my best anyway. This year I’ve read 73 books. While it’s not as many as last year, it’s still a sizable amount to narrow down from. To ensure variety I’ve excluded re-reads from eligibility. Now, in order from 10 to 1, here are the books I enjoyed the most this year.
10. The Boy Who Steals Houses – C. G. Drews | ★★★★.5 | Review
I read several young adult contemporaries during 2019 and this little, Aussie gem was easily one of the best. I’ve found that, most of the time, the best books in this genre are the ones that are somehow able to bring you both joy and heartbreak and TBWSH does this perfectly. The book definitely has some sad and dark moments but it’s also a story about found families, brotherly love, and plenty of waffles. The characters are loveable, the autism and anxiety rep wonderfully done, and (despite some loose ends and minor problems with the writing style) it’s just generally a lovely read.
9. Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson | ★★★★.5
After a so-so reaction to An Enchantment of Ravens, I went into Sorcery of Thorns with low expectations. Next thing I know, I’m having a great time! While I loved the characters – librarian, Elisabeth, sorcerer, Nathaniel, and his demon companion, Silas – it was the world that really hooked me. Monster books, library magical hot spots, deals of demonic servitude, historical battles won through the use of necromancy, I’d gladly read another book set in this universe. My only real gripe was some pacing issues, mostly around the middle. However, bonus points for a well-developed romance, sword fights, decent magic system, Nathaniel’s banter, and Silas shape-shifting into a cat.
8. Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee | ★★★★.5
2019 was a year for broadening my reading horizons. In the search for something different I tried a couple of non-fiction reads. Eggshell Skull was one of them and I was shocked by how engaging it was. From the moment I picked it up, I had trouble putting it down. Learning about the Queensland court system’s approach to sexual assault cases from someone who has experienced it on two different sides – judge’s associate & complainant – was both fascinating and horrifying. It was extremely informative and I wish I could smush it in the faces of everyone who asks why women don’t report assault. The writing style may not always be smooth but the content is spot on.
7. Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating – Christina Lauren | ★★★★.5 | Review
Sometimes all you need is a sweet, romantic contemporary to brighten up your week, and Josh & Hazel were the ticket for exactly that. This is the perfect read for those who gravitate towards a good friends to lovers story with a solid dose of humour and adorableness. I loved Josh and Hazel as characters and their opposites attract friendship, which eventually evolved into something more, was immensely enjoyable. Unfortunately, I had to deduct half a star for a not so great ending but it wasn’t enough to severely damage my overall positive feelings. This book is definitely the gateway drug to reading the rest of Christina & Lauren’s adult romances.
6. Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer | ★★★★.5 | Review
LTTL feels like it came out of nowhere and stole my heart. I read a few YA contemporaries these days and most of them are enjoyable but not as many are really memorable. This book dealt with some heavy themes and it did so with such heart and honesty. The characters are wonderfully written, even the smaller ones, and the relationship between the two leads, Juliet and Declan, was beautifully done. I don’t often get emotional reading books but LTTL was very close to getting me there. The sense of catharsis I felt upon reaching the end of it is hard to put into words. The story may be a little melodramatic for some people but if you can get on board with it, it’s an enjoyable (if sad) read.
5. The Wicked King – Holly Black | ★★★★ .5 | Review
In 2019, I can say that I binge-read this book not only once, but twice! And I loved it just as much the second time as the first. While The Queen of Nothing may have been disappointing, The Wicked King certainly wasn’t. This book was full of twists, devious characters, addictive romantic tension and political machinations. It expanded on the world building of the series somewhat, made me fall more in love with Jude & Cardan, and just generally had me glued to the page from start to finish. The book hangover was strong with this one!
4. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss | ★★★★★
Say hello to the largest book I tackled in 2019. It may have taken me months to get there but the adventure & effort were worth it in the end. Sure, the writing can be a little wordy at times and there’s some issues with the story (e.g. female characters), there’s just something about this book! I’m not sure if it’s the witty, talented protagonist, the phenomenal world building (magic, currency, history, lore!) or just the general journey that the story takes you on from start to finish. Regardless, I really enjoyed this brick and I understand why it’s considered a fantasy masterpiece. I’ll surely read book two, The Wise Man’s Fear. Well, maybe when I know that book 3 is actually in sight.
3. The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang | ★★★★★
On first glance, I was intimidated by the size of The Poppy War but in keeping with my resolution to read some bigger books in 2019, I gave it a go. I’m so glad that I did because it was absolutely fantastic. This was an emotionally intense ride full of violence, death and pain, and every time I thought I knew how things would progress, I was completely wrong. It’s beautifully written (drawing from Chinese history to shape it’s narrative), has a strong, well developed protagonist, great world building, and engrossing action. It also happens to include a few of my favourite fantasy tropes like training academies and mentorship. The fact that this is a debut novel is crazy to me and I’m looking forward to getting around to reading the sequel, The Dragon Republic.
2. Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston | ★★★★★ | Review
I knew the moment I started reading RW&RB that it’d be on this list. I’m somewhat stingy with my five star ratings (I should work on that!) but had no trouble handing one out here. Much like Simon or TATBILB in 2018, this was a breath of fresh air- fun, romantic, great characters, diverse, and laugh out loud funny. The US first son falls in love with the Prince of Wales. That set up alone is pure gold. Throw in some potentially murderous turkeys, a bit of polo, a few Star Wars references, and some major queer positivity, and you have a winner! There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll re-read this down the line.
And here we are, at my number one read for 2019. If you’ve read through a few of my blog posts this year, you’re not likely to be surprised by this particular choice. It’s not only a great book but written by a fantastic author.
1. Skyward – Brandon Sanderson | ★★★★★ | Review
The first half of 2019 was full of great books but looking back, Skyward was my favourite. I totally get the Sanderson magic now. This book had me completely gripped and made it so difficult to put it down (getting off my morning train was a sad moment). As someone who doesn’t usually visualise books as I read them, I was surprised at just how fantastically this novel played out in my head, much like an action packed movie. I fell in love with the characters, especially Spensa and her sassy talking ship, M-Bot, laughed at the dialogue, absorbed every bit of detail about the world, and overall just had an amazing time. If you enjoy science fiction with heart, this is the perfect read for you. I cannot wait to dig into Starsight!
What do you think of my 2019 top 10? And which book came out on top for you this year?
** Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl but which originated on the now retired blog The Broke and the Bookish. **