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I alway love this time of year, seeing what books others considered to be best, and what the bigwigs at places like the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and Book Riot chose as their best. My own list rarely lines up with those, but I don’t expect it too. Their list pulls from almost everything, whereas mine pulls from the 110 books I’ve read so far this year. That made it difficult enough!
Putting together my Best Books of 2019 proved to be almost painful. 2019 was truly one of my very best reading years ever, with 20 different books that I gave a grade of A. It’s so difficult kicking any books out of that “better than the rest” club, but it had to be done! Even as I type, I’m still feeling badly for those books that almost made it. Never-the-less, I’ve done it and am thrilled to share my twelve personal Best Books of 2019.
Best Book/In Print AND Audio
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My Reasons: I first fell under the spell of Daisy Jones when I read an e-galley back in February. From there alone this book would be very likely to be in this top position, but six months later, I decided I had to listen to this book, too. I’d heard over and over how great the audiobook was and needed to hear for myself. Listening and hearing the story for a second time made it even better. If somehow you’ve missed Daisy Jones & The Six, it’s past time to fix that! (my review)
Best Nonfiction/Book I Want to Make Required Reading
The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff
My Reasons: For anyone old enough to remember September 11, 2001, that day will forever be etched in our souls. For those younger, they’ve heard stories, but it may not feel as real. For everyone, The Only Plane in the Sky takes its readers back to that day, though not in big historical ways. Instead, Graff delivers personal stories of victims, families, first-responders, and others, who personally watched the day unfold while most of us watched on TV. Yes, you’ll cry, but you’ll be glad you read it. (my review)
Best Debut/Best Family Story
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
My Reasons: I love a story about a complicated family and 2019 gave us many, making me a happy reader.The Sorenson family was unique in that the parents truly loved each other and always maintained a passionate relationship, much to the chagrin of their four daughters. Those daughters were often a hot mess, and one particularly put the dysfunction into the Sorenson family. Violet was a character some disliked, and I can see why, but I grew to love her, just as I did this amazing debut. (my review)
Best Book About the Paths We Choose
After the End by Clare Mackintosh
My Reasons: I always enjoy a brilliantly conceived premise that is also well executed. That’s exactly what Mackintosh delivered in this deeply moving novel. In life we all face choices and often wonder how things might have turned out if we’d opted for a different path. This is what she explores with parents Pip and Max as their treatment wishes for their terminally ill son diverge. Mackintosh takes her readers down both paths, each one fraught with different versions of grief and joy. It was a beautiful journey. (my review)
Best Historical Fiction/A Woman Coming Into Her Own
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
My Reasons: The Beautiful American had already made me a fan of model/photographer Lee Miller, so when I first heard that Scharer’s debut was about her relationship with photographer Man Ray, I was very excited. Scharer definitely delivered everything I was hoping for and then some. Sometimes steamy, always compelling The Age of Light shown a light on Miller, photography’s birth as an art form, and Paris in those wild pre-WWII days of Hemingway, Picasso, Fitzgerald and so many more. (my review)
Best Book About Faith in Unexpected Ways
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
My Reasons: I was drawn to this debut long before it published, but I was also worried that a story of two minister’s sharing the pastorship of a NYC church might be a little too “religious” for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead of religion, Wall focused on faith and the many different ways that can manifest. Her four main characters were all rich in personality and her treatments of them ran deep and felt completely real. Plus, the NYC setting in the 1970’s added another wonderful layer to her book. (my review)
Best Literary Fiction/You KNEW It Would Be On This List
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
My Reasons: First of all, I’m a loyal fan of Ann Patchett. It’s hard to imagine any book she writes not making this sort of list, but there was no favoritism here. I truly loved The Dutch House. Who else but Patchett could turn a house into almost a character? Top that off with a remarkable story of the lifelong bond between a brother and sister who lost access to the house they both loved, and you have a beautiful, uplifting family story. I’ll always be eager for the next book from Ann Patchett. (my review)
Best Memoir/A Victim No More
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
My Reasons: If I had a daughter, I’d want her to read this memoir from a woman once known only as Emily Doe. Raped on the Stanford campus while heavily intoxicated, “Emily” didn’t want her story made public fodder. She hid, but in doing so felt all the more a victim, her fear growing. I loved hearing how Chanel slowly grew stronger, began to believe in herself, and her own voice. I admire that she’s now using that voice to speak out for other women, to advocate for stronger laws and sentencing standards. (my review)
FIRST of the Best Great Family Stories
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
My Reasons: I mentioned earlier that this was THE year for amazing family stories and The Last Romantics kicked it all off. It holds a unique spot in that it’s a family story that spans the entire lives of four siblings and how their bonds grew from a childhood where they literally lost their father and for all practical purposes also lost their mother for a few years. This unique story of different sorts of sibling bonds still stands nearly a year after first reading it. (my review)
Best Book that MORE People Should Read
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
My Reasons: I wasn’t sure about this book when I first picked it up, but quickly fell in love with the story and Layla Lalami’s gorgeous writing. Hers is a story of a daughter’s grief after her father is killed in a hit and run accident. She beautifully pealed back the layers of grief while also introducing the many people who held clues to a piece of what had happened. The way she wove her story together worked beautifully and had me flying through this book. (my review)
Best Book that Requires You Pay Close Attention
A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar
My Reasons: For many reasons, this debut was truly brilliant. First, Tomar’s writing was gorgeous, getting to the heart of emotions. Next, she knew her Nevada setting well, taking the reader there, letting them feel the pervasive hopelessness and longing for escape. Then, she bravely told her story in non-linear order, using actual chapter numbers, but mixing them up. This was where attention came into play, but it also was a wise choice, making her story both powerful and uniquely memorable. (my review)
Best Book by a New Favorite Author
The River by Peter Heller – I listened to this book and absolutely loved it both for the adventurous mystery and for the deep development of Heller’s characters. His descriptive writing brought the setting to life and placed me on the river with Wynn and Jack. Sprinkled with mystery, he juxtaposed his story with enough emotion to bring me to tears. I liked The River so much that I went on to listen to two other Heller books, The Dog Stars and The Painter. I loved both, making Peter Heller my author of the year. I’ll be first in line for whatever her writes next. (my review)
What were your favorite books of 2019?
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Photo Credit: © Laimdota Grivane | Dreamstime.com – Chanpagne
Great list. I got to 5 of these books and enjoyed them. I still would like to read the 9/11 history and the Other Americans so I have those on my TBR list. I’ll be posting my favorites of 2019 in early January. Enjoy your Christmas!
Can’t wait to see your favorites form 2019. Hope your Christmas was great and wishing you an even better New Year.
Daisy Jones and Only Plane are also making my “best of” list this year, too!
Always happy to hear our tastes remain similar.
Allison | Mind Joggle says
Such a great list! I didn’t get to three of yours, but I’m hoping to squeeze in Know My Name and possibly The Other Americans. I DNFed The Age of Light, but I tried it on audio. I’m thinking that’s one that would have worked better in print.
I’d love to hear what you think of The Other Americans. I feel like so few people read it, so would value your opinion even more than usual.
Beth F says
We overlap on two titles! Yay. You name a couple I haven’t gotten to yet.
Deb Nance at Readerbuzz says
You’ve talked me into Daisy Jones, though I suspect I will probably have to wait to read this one until later in the year. I also loved Only Plane in the Sky.
You read so many books in 2019 that it’s hard to believe there were any you missed! Hope you enjoy Daisy when you get to it.
I loved so many of these! We have very similar reading tastes 🙂
Yes, we really do!
I have heard so many good things about Daisy and the Six (esp the audio). I really need to get on that.
Loved Daisy in print and audio, so either way you go will be a winner.
Nikki @The Night is Dark and Full of Books says
Daisy Jones and the Six also made my top 2019 list for being the best audiobook. I think I would read any book by Taylor Jenkins Reid in this Historical Fiction interview style. I hope 2020 will be another year full of great reads 🙂
Daisy was one amazing audiobook! I’d also love to see more like that and can’t wait to see what TJR does next.
You’ve got a lot of great books on this list! I really liked Daisy Jones and The Other Americans, and I loved The Dutch House. I really want to read Know My Name and Only Plane in the Sky. I’ll be checking out some of your other recommendations too. Happy New Year!
It’s nice to hear from someone else who really liked The Other Americans. I feel like so few people have read it. Happy New Year to you, too.
Daisy Jones & The Six has been on tons of lists this week. It must have been great!
It is great. I highly recommend it in print or audio.
I agreed with so many of your favourites that I put a number of them I hadn’t read on hold. Here’s to discovering more great books!
Great! I hope some more of my favorites work for you. Please, let me know.
Jade @ Reading with Jade says
Interesting list you’ve compiled – I love the header of inclusions for each book. I have After The End on my TBR currently… I may just have to bump it up the list a tad! Happy reading in 2020!
Same to you, Jade. I thought After the End was a really special book. Sad, but with a fantastic premise.
The Only Plane in the Sky is on my wish list, and I’m so curious about Know My Name too – she sounds like such a strong woman! I finally have a copy of Daisy Jones, so that’s one I hope to read very soon.
Here’s to getting to the 2019 books we’ve missed and to more great reading in 2020.
Aj @ Read All The Things! says
I read The Dog Stars years ago because it’s set near where I live. I haven’t read any of the author’s other books, though. I’ve seen The Only Plane on a lot of “best” lists recently, so I added it to my TBR.
If you liked The Dog Stars, I think you would also like The River. It has that same sort of “guys adventure” vibe to it, minus the dystopian elements.
Dedra @ A Book Wanderer says
The Most Fun We Ever Had made it on to my fave reads of the decade list! Such a great book! And I loved The Only Plane in the Sky too. I just picked up Daisy Jones on audiobook. I can’t wait to listen!
I’m just putting together my favorite books of the decade, and it just might include The Most Fun We Ev er Had, too. You’re in for a treat with Daisy on audio.