Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Favorite Reads of 2019

It's my favorite time of year for bookish content. I can never get enough of the best-of-the-year posts.

In 2019, I continued my trend of consuming ever more audiobooks. For the second year in a row I listened to more books than I read. Actually, I listened to more than 2x as many audiobooks as I read, with the audiobook count coming in at 115 and the read count coming in at 49.

I gave 21 books a 5-star rating this year, which is about the same as last year. I read and listened to some fantastic books, some of these will probably become all-time favorites.

In 2019 I had two big reading goals. I wanted to read more adult fiction, and I wanted to read at least one non-fiction book a month. Considering how little tracking I did with this goal, I did pretty well. I read at least two non-fiction books every month, except October, in which I read none, and I read 25 adult fiction books this year. The result is that this favorites list has a mix of YA and Adult titles, with six books from each age category.

I decided for my Favorites Of the Year post this year to only pick from the 2019 releases (with the exception of my favorite book club book because I only had 12 to chose from for that category). So, without further ado, here are my favorite reads of the year in a variety of categories.

(Favorites from other years here.)

Favorite Fantasy: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Sorcery of Thorns has an old-school fantasy feel to it that I really loved. I definitely got Howl's Moving Castle vibes, though this book is heavier and more action-packed than that classic. The world has an early 19th-century feel to it, so the book reminded me of several historical fantasies I've read as well. Also, how could I resist a magic library? 

Favorite Debut: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
This book is a historical fantasy set in the United States of the early 1900s and a portal fantasy. It has a dual timelines and narratives and deals with identity, the magic of words, and familial love. It does a lot. And it does it all so, so well. One of the best books I read this year. 

Favorite First Book in a New Series: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
I'll admit I was a little wary about returning to such beloved characters as these, but I needn't have been. Maggie Stiefvater's Lynch brothers series is shaping up to be absolutely fantastic. I loved everything about this book, but best of all it brought back that Raven's Boys tone that I love so much. 

Favorite World War II Book: Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
I decided it was about time I have a World War II category, I do host World War II Wednesday after all, which means I read quite a few World War II books every year (both fiction and nonfiction). This year my favorite of the bunch was Resistance Women which tells the stories of Mildred Fish Harnack, Greta Kuckoff, and Martha Dodd, real women who were involved in resistance efforts in Germany during the Nazi regime.

Favorite YA Contemporary: Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum
This summer I read several fictional 9/11 stories in preparation for a post centered on that theme. They were all excellent, but this one was my favorite. Hope and Other Punchlines is a beautiful, sad, poignant, funny, and hopeful read. I absolutely loved the relationship between Abbi and Noah. Their banter was so endearing. Julie Buxbaum's books always perfectly balance serious subjects with a bit of lightheartedness and a whole lot of humanity. (featured here)

Favorite Sequel: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
I didn't think The Handmaid's Tale needed or even should necessarily get a sequel, so I went into The Testaments with a lot of trepidation, and then was completely swayed. I was so into this book. I found it compelling and captivating, and I could not put it down. I also really liked the audiobook. It has multiple narrators and the format of this book works really well on audio.

Favorite Book Club Book: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson's book was our book club pick for August. It made for a great discussion. This book is fantastic, eye-opening, and hard to read. I listened to it very quickly so that I could just feel all the rage at once. The systemic racism in the criminal justice system is horrifying. We all need to be educating ourselves about these problems and supporting people like Stevenson who are fighting for change.

Favorite Series Finale: Supernova by Marissa Meyer
Marissa Meyer's superhero series got better with every book. Honestly, I was a bit unimpressed by the first book in the series, but then I rocketed through the second book. The third book in the series is best of all. It was a thrilling and exciting conclusion that really made me love the series as a whole even more. 

Favorite Historical Fiction: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
This book is the story of Danny and his older sister Maeve, whose lives revolve around a large and somewhat quirky house that everyone calls The Dutch House. The book is really just the story of a life and a family, and, yet, it is also so much more. This might be my favorite of Ann Patchett's novels. She's such a master. 

Favorite Nonfiction Book: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez
We all know that we live in a world designed by men for men. Invisible Women makes it clear that the situation is so much worse than we even realize. While listening to this book, I rage texted with a friend who had also read it. I highly recommend this strategy for your own sanity. I just hope that some men actually read this book, but, after reading the book, I feel like that might be too much to ask. 

Favorite Retelling: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly
I didn't think I needed another Cinderella retelling, but this book is so good. I love Jennifer Donnelly's writing, so I was expecting it to be good, but it blew me away. The book stars Isabelle, one of Cinderella's stepsisters, who is really not all that wicked. She's cut away pieces of herself to try to fit the mold of the perfect girl, and now she must reassemble those pieces and heal her heart.

Favorite Audiobook: Lovely War by Julie Berry
This is one of my favorite books of the year and the book that I've probably recommended the most. It's set during World War I and revolves around the love stories of two couples. This is a book about love, music, ambition, and fear. It tackles race issues and women's contributions to the war effort. It's so deftly crafted and involves a really interesting framing device: The Greek gods take turns recounting the story. With a full cast, the audiobook is a work of art as well. (featured here)

P.S. Backlist titles I gave 5 stars to this year: Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, and Circe by Madeline Miller

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