2019 was an interesting year for me in terms of books and reading. I completely smashed my Goodreads Challenge goal in 2018, reading 31 books over my goal and 55 books more than I did in 2017. Although on the surface that looks fantastic (which it was!) it was also a little misleading as 2018 was the only year where I wasn’t in education, with the exception of the last few months of the year when I started my Masters in September, which meant I had a lot more time for reading! At the beginning of 2019, I naively set my Goodreads Challenge goal at 75 books and managed to read 51 books due to a combination of academia, depression and reading slumps. Not too bad overall but I’ve definitely learned my lesson about setting unrealistic goals haha.
Although I didn’t read as many books as I had wanted to, I did read a lot of great books – books that I thoroughly enjoyed and books that I fell in love with. Ultimately that is more important to me than how many books I ended up reading – I would rather enjoy my books than reading loads of books I end up not liking. Whilst I enjoyed almost all of the books I read in 2019, I’ve picked out 10 books that really stand out to me as the ones I loved the most which have made my best books of 2019 list.
Best Books of 2019
The Poppy War by R.F Kuang
The Poppy War was the first book I read in 2019 and it stuck with me all year long. I loved the militaristic elements of the book and all of the time spent with Rin at Sinegard; the richness and detail of Kuang’s writing is exquisite, truly bringing the world to life before my eyes. I never managed to write a review for The Poppy War, I simply didn’t know where to begin or how to capture the magic within these pages, but simply wrote on Goodreads that it was “one of the most incredible things I’d ever read”. A year later, I still stand by that and can’t wait to read its sequel, The Dragon Republic, which I own in beautiful hardcopy.
Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
Vengeance Road was a complete and pleasant surprise to me. I don’t know what I was expecting from this YA historical western but I know I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it so much? I flew through it in only 2-3 days (very fast for me!) because I couldn’t put it down. It was a tonne of fun whilst also being gritty, weighty and full of heart where it needed to be. You can read my review of Vengeance Road on the following link: Goodreads review. I’ve been eager to get my hands on its standalone companion, Vengeance Rails, as well as Bowman’s SF Contagion series as I think I will love the rest of her writing. Vengeance Road, alongside Sarah Gailey’s American Hippo series, has also inspired me to explore more western/western-inspired books this year (something I definitely hadn’t expected).
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
I cannot believe I let this one sit on my shelf for so goddamn long. You all know how much I adore Becky Chambers and her writing, and yet I let Record of a Spaceborn Few sit on my shelf for a year before I read it. I even met Becky Chambers (twice!) before I started on Record… and it turned out to be my favorite book in the Wayfarers. This is very much a snapshot into the lives of a community type book (something which I love in fiction) and I fell in love with the characters, the story, the setting, the writing… everything. Not only did Record… have an excellent alien anthropologist who had arrived to do fieldwork on the Exodan humans but it also had a character who worked as a mortician and celebrant. Truly a book after my own heart.
Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
Akemi Dawn Bowman is another of my favorite authors and I was thrilled to be accepted to be part of the Summer Bird Blue blog tour for the UK release of the book for which I made a Summer Bird Blue inspired playlist. I loved Starfish, and Summer Bird Blue touched all the right chords for me. Once again, it demonstrates Akemi Dawn Bowman’s ability to capture the heart of her characters and envelope us into their journeys with her words. Although she deals with some really tough subjects like abuse, death, grief, and identity Akemi’s books have this beautiful, calm gentleness to them which brings a light touch to these deep issues. I cannot wait to see what Akemi has in store with her next book, Harley in the Sky, which I am fortunate enough to have an ARC for ❤
You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
You Asked for Perfect is another wonderful YA contemporary that I read in 2019 that I fell in love with. I happened upon it by complete chance on Twitter and was fortunate enough to get an ARC from the publishers. You Asked for Perfect was *drumroll* perfect in so many ways. It dealt with themes like academic anxiety, stress, sexuality and religion in a sensitive, impactful, and enjoyable way. I adored the MC’s, Ariel and Amir, who set my heart aflutter with their overwhelming adorableness, and it was so refreshing to read a book with such diverse representation across many of its characters. You can read my full review of You Asked for Perfect at the following link: Goodreads review.
Speaking of adorable gays who set my heart aflutter, 2019 was the year I discovered the Heartstopper series and I don’t think I’ve been the same since. I love this series with all of my little heart for so many reasons it’s almost impossible to count them all. I have so much time for Nick (best boy) and I loved how his story starts to develop in Volume 2, as well as the journey he starts on with Charlie (and Nellie!) I was also lucky to meet Alice Oseman at YALC last year to get my books signed but basically just blathered at her before running away – what I had attempted to say was not only how much I loved this series but how important it’s been for me to see UK gay rep at a secondary school, something which I sadly had none of when I was at school. Thank you Heartstopper for being so perfect.
The Tea Dragon Society and Festival are other examples of diverse graphic novels/books which owned my heart in 2019. These books are so needed right now because I honestly just need soft, squishy things to warm me and keep me resilient to the outside world. If you’ve yet to read The Tea Dragon Society, it is honestly the book you need for this year. It’s got wonderfully diverse characters, adorable little tea dragons and a story that will keep you warm all year long. I’m a huge fan also of Katie’s illustrations and the books themselves are absolutely gorgeous as well as of excellent quality. I can’t wait to read more of her work, next up is hopefully Aquicorn Cove!
Tone of Voice by Kaia Sønderby
The Xandri Corelel series by Kaia Sønderby are really special to me and I don’t think I will ever stop shouting about them (honestly, please check them out and support Kaia’s work!) I read Failure to Communicate in 2018 and Tone of Voice, its sequel, in 2019 – both of them made my “best of… lists” for the year’s I read them in. Tone of Voice took everything that I adored and gave me another book full of it and made it water-themed. What more could I ask for?! The entire series just makes my heart so full and it’s another of example of why representation is so important – it’s been such an incredible experience to have a science fiction book with an autistic female as the MC, especially one who works in a Xeno liaisons job! I can’t wait to see what Kaia brings to the table with the next book ❤
As I mentioned in my #StartOnYourShelfathon post, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for leisurely reading this year given that it’s the first year of my PhD and my year of fieldwork, so I’m likely going to need a lot of time for academic reading and research. However, one of the main lessons I’ve really learned is that it doesn’t matter how many books you manage to read in a year – what’s important is that you love the things you read and make time for them where you can. There are a lot of books I would like to read in 2020, either new releases or pre-2020 releases, that I know I will adore, whenever I get round to them! Next week I’ll be sharing with you my 2020 anticipated releases and the week after I’ll tell you more about the books I’m hoping to read in 2020.
As always, please drop me a comment below or on Twitter letting me know what your favorite books of 2019 were. I’d love to hear if we have any of the same books on our lists or if you have favourites that I haven’t read yet ❤