The end of the year approaches! As we come to the last week of 2019 it’s a great time to look back and reflect… on the books we read this year. I feel like I could have read more (don’t we all?) but I also read some absolutely stunning books this year, and I wanted to take a moment to revisit some of the stories that left the most lasting impression.
This is kind of two categories, so I’m kind of going to cheat by kind of listing two books. Except one of them is a trilogy. Look, they’re worth it, okay?
For fairytale-fantasy I have to acknowledge The Bear and The Nightingale, by Katherine Arden. A slow-burning, beautifully crafted novel weaving together folklore elements with compelling family drama and a main character who I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. I also might have a soft spot for this book in part because it was the first one that I reviewed on my blog—an exciting milestone!
For the more science-fiction end of fantasy, I’m sure nobody will be surprised to hear me once again sing the praises of N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. Shortly after starting on the first book—The Fifth Season—I could tell I was reading something unlike anything I’d read before. The series is complex, intricate and more than a little confusing at moments, but when I stopped trying to catch hold of individual explanations and concepts and let myself get swept up by the characters and their stories, I found myself completely enthralled.
I actually didn’t review my pick for best crime book on my blog, but I have written a little about it on my Goodreads page. For this one I’m going for A Confusion of Crows, by Susan Handley. A well-paced story which treads that fine line between too much information—so you’re not given the chance to try and figure anything out for yourself—and too little—so the ending comes out of nowhere. I thought the main character was great too, intelligent and capable with realistic flaws. My only real gripe with this novel is that the title has absolutely nothing to do with the story, as far as I can remember at least. Cool phrase, zero relevance. But that’s a small price to pay for such a solid read.
Best Young Adult/New Adult
For young adult, I’m going to go with A Danger to Herself and Others, by Alyssa Sheinmel. Still probably the best example of the unreliable narrator that I’ve come across this year, and a thoughtful, nuanced picture of mental illness in young people. I loved the depiction of the manipulative protagonist, and the central mystery unfolded in a way that kept me absolutely riveted to the page.
When it comes to a book aimed at slightly older readers, my favourite this year was Sculpt Yourself, by Savy Leiser. I love a book that doesn’t shy away from its message, and while I feel like there were ways the book could have gone further in exploring the central questions it raised it was nevertheless a story with a strong point of view. It was also great fun, with a pretty strong central cast of characters and lots of genuine humour throughout.
Best Short Story Collection
This one goes to Saints and Curses, Alexis Lantgen’s collection of stories on magic in a variety of settings. Looking back, I’m surprised at how short my review was; this was a collection with a great range of stories, most of which had a lot going on in them despite being (as the subheading would suggest) on the short side. I particularly loved the stories with a setting that veered towards fantasy and folklore, but I think all fans of magic will find something to love in this collection.
This was a tough one, but ultimately I think I’m going to have to go with City of Thorns, by former researcher Ben Rawlens. An uncompromising look at the world’s largest refugee camp, this book wasn’t exactly an easy read, but it provides a rarely-seen perspective on the human cost of the refugee crisis. I’m not sure I’d say it was the best written non-fiction book I read this year, but I think it might be the most important.
So those were some of my favourite books this year!
What did you read and love in 2019? What are you looking forward to reading in 2020? Share your recommendations in the comments!