Time to look at my Top Ten Books of 2019!
This year I have read 89 books. I’m trying hard not to be disappointed by this, because I read 145 last year and I was hoping to reach at least 100 this year. Still, it’s not really surprising. I knew I was having a bit of a slumpy year – work has been manic, I’ve developed additional hobbies (because I definitely needed more) and I’ve been struggling with the odd health issue here and there.
Still 87 books is still nothing to be sniffed at. My issue when it comes to making this list, however, is that not many of them have been amazing. I’m not sure if that’s just because of bad luck, or whether my mood has affected by enjoyment, or whether I’ve been ‘saving’ the high potential books for when I’m feeling better.
Anyway, whilst normally I split these into two categories – Gold for the ones I definitely had to have on this list and Silver for those that didn’t immediately spring to mind and I had to go looking for – this year, I’m going to have to add a Bronze section as well. That will be for those that were still slightly better than others I had read… but only just.
Oh, I will also add that not many of these will actually have been reviewed. My reviewing slipped along with my reading. Hey ho. Some links will take you to my reviews; others to Goodreads.
Find my previous ‘Best of… Lists’ below.
1) Senlin Ascends, The Arm of the Sphinx and The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft
These books together comprise The Tower of Babel series, which is easily one of the best things I’ve read all year. It says a great deal that I managed to read three books from the same series within about two months! It revolves around the wonderfully unique journey of Thomas Senlin, as he moves up through the Tower to locate his wife. Each ‘floor’ is essentially a different world of its own, with themes and characters and dark machinations… it’s wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Essentially, as Senlin works his way up the Tower, he manages to anger an awful lot of important people and becomes drawn in to all sorts of shady deals. I’ve genuinely never read anything like this series. The tone is relatively formal but still accessible, and the pages just fly by. It’s sort of like a half-steam punk, half-sci-fi voyage… with a smidge of romance.
Red Sister, the first book in the Book of the Ancestor trilogy, made it onto my Best Books of 2018 list, so perhaps it’s so surprise that the second and third books were one of my highlights of 2019. As above, it’s very telling that I actually read all three books so close together.
Essentially this series revolves around a school for badass assassin nuns, an epic battle and secret, shady background plots. There’s a bit of subtle LGBTQ romance that’s wonderfully done (and I don’t usually like romance in books of any sexuality) and a whole cast of characters with quirks, flaws and objectives.
Both of these books continue the story in a way that never feels forced or pointless, and there are some wonderful plot twists to really keep you guessing. Honestly, this has to be one of my favourite fantasy series of all time.
3) Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I’ve thought long and hard about whether I only thought so highly of this because of how much I loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (click for review). I mean, I really did adore it… but I don’t think that has affected my thoughts of Daisy Jones. I think it’s an excellent novel in its own right.
It’s told via a series of interviews with the different members of a band and their management team, several years after the group has disbanded. All their dramas, love affairs, subtance misuse, rivalries, etc are uncovered, but in a very real, very gritty way. I think that’s what made this stand out for me – every character felt so real. They were all flawed, and I can’t say I liked any of them – but they honestly felt like living, breathing people.
I don’t think it needed the twist at the end. I think that bit was a hangover from Evelyn Hugo… but it didn’t spoil the book for me.
4) Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
I have a bit of a mixed relationship with Leigh Bardugo. I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, but really couldn’t get on board with the Grisha trilogy, which I read first. I’ve heard that people tend to like one or the other, and maybe that’s true.
Ninth House is completely different to either of those, however, and I ended up really loving it. It’s definitely an adult book, which helps, and the world building is incredible. Essentially, Alex is drafted into a secret society at Yale, whose role is to monitor and police the ritualistic, supernatural activities of the other secret societies. The author has created a whole set of rules and policies for this world and I love the detail, especially with regard to the secret library.
I’m really looking forward to the next one.
5) The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins! by Griffin, Clint, Travis and Justin McElroy
This is a bit of a strange one, because it’s not really just a graphic novel. Bear with me…
So The Adventure Zone is a podcast of group of three brothers, and their Dad, playing Dungeons and Dragons. Except it’s hilarious. They don’t really know what they’re doing, and nor do their characters, and they sort of just mess about whilst (in theory) having a vague aim towards completing their in-game objectives. Go listen to it – it will be on your podcast app of choice. I’ve honestly cried with laughter whilst on a train.
Anyway. The podcast was wonderful, but then they started bring out the graphic novel version… and it’s also brilliant. It probably doesn’t work quite as well if you haven’t already listened to the podcast, but I definitely recommend you do both anyway.
6) To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
My favourite genre ever (if it’s not too specific to be considered a genre) is institutionalised time travel. Think The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., The Chronicles of St Mary’s, The Psychology of Time Travel, etc. Essentially anything with a plot that involves organisations using time travel for research, education, preservation, whatever. The more detail into said organisation the better.
Enter Connie Willis, who writes in-depth and detailed novels about this very thing. Her first novel, Doomsday Book, deals with a historian going back to the Black Death and getting stuck there. I liked that one, but preferred To Say Nothing of the Dog. It’s more every day, and has more discussion of paradoxes, and altering the timeline, and other time-travel-junkie tidbits.
7) The Kingdom of Copper (City of Brass 2) by S.A. Chakraborty
I suspect that The Kingdom of Copper may have made this list almost purely because of how much I loved the first book in the series, The City of Brass. That book made it into the Gold level of Best Books last year. I love the world-building and the story, and everything about it. Still, there’s no getting around the fact that I already can’t really remember what happened in this installment…
I’m justifying its inclusion on this list, however, by pointing out that I read the whole damn thing in a day and it is not a short book. And we’re talking about a year where I wasn’t really feeling the reading vibe and had to make a conscious effort to sit down and pick up a book, generally. If that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is.
8) Recursion by Blake Crouch
This one is a very new addition – purchased on Christmas Eve and started on Boxing Day! The blurb discusses an epidemic known as False Memory Syndrome – where individuals are waking up with vivid memories of a life they’ve never actually lived. Sounds interesting enough already, but it ended up also being about time travel and altering history… and as already discussed, I love that !@#$.
It takes a dark, surprising (yet realistic) turn towards the end, which I really appreciated.
I’ve just noticed it was apparently a Goodreads Choice Award winner as well.
9) Darkdawn (Nevernight 3) by Jay Kristoff
Urrrgghhhhh (always a promising way to start discussing a book on your Top Ten List…) Darkdawn was so close to not making it on here, which is something that would have surprised me to hear after how much I loved Nevernight and Godsgrave.
Part of the plot involves a sort of breaking of the fourth wall; it goes down a slightly meta path. I LOVED THAT. It was genuinely my favourite thing of the whole book as it was just so clever… Suffice it to say that you find out the reason for the footnotes and the slightly sarcastic tone, and it’s wonderful.
So I did enjoy reading it; very much so. Well. Until the last few chapters and the epilogue which I hate hate hated. Read my review for a full (but still non-spoilery) explanation, but I came very close to not including it here just to make A Point. Which is why it’s in Bronze. But still, Darkdawn is still a really great book until that point.
Alright, so that’s only nine books. But adding anything else here would be forced, so you’ll survive. What books were your favourites in 2019? Recommend me something interesting in the comments! 🙂