It’s the beginning of 2020, so that means it time to look back at the best, the worst and the sometimes weird of my 2019 reading. I always enjoy looking back and invariably discovering I read more really good books than I think. January books seem very, very long ago, and I like the reminder.
1) Best of…
I’ve been splitting my “Best of” books for the past several years, so that I can highlight the ones that were best in very specific ways.
1A) Best Premise: Every Day by David Levithan – I was so intrigued by the concept of a lead character who enters a new body every day, and I really enjoyed how it was explored in this first book. The rest of the trilogy was more mixed, but I still found that premise so fascinating.
1B) Best World Building: Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery – It might be odd to give this one to a book that isn’t sci fi or fantasy; it’s also the only re-read on the list, but I just loved the way Montgomery described the world of Lantern Hill and the people there.
1C) Best Romance: I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn – This was an adorable, delightful romance with a young adult couple who used words and were honest about their feelings. Also, I never particularly liked mochi, the Japanese dessert, until I read this book and she made it sound so good!
1D) Best Hero(ines): Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship by Sarah Kuhn – Sarah Kuhn is clearly my new star author, because I also thoroughly enjoyed her superheroine series. Besides Evie and Aveda as awesome lead characters, they’re surrounded by a whole lot of other cool women doing interesting things. I loved that.
1E) Best Series: NPCs by Drew Hayes – This D&D-inspired series was awesome, and might have taken best premise. Non-player characters in a role-playing game world have to take on the mantle of adventurers. The first book is funny, while the others settle into more serious adventuring, with very cool interplay between the game world and the “real” world.
1F) Best Nonfiction: Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman – I like a good psychology book and this was fascinating. This was probably the book I talked about most to other people this year, and I still apply its wisdom sometimes in analyzing whether a thought or a conversation is optimistic or pessimistic.
1G) Best Audiobook: Heartburn by Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep – This was a kind of anti-romance, the story of a relationship falling apart, but it was witty and clever and of course Meryl Streep read it wonderfully. I don’t recommend the movie, which was far more depressing, though if you hang in until the end you get to watch Meryl Streep hit Jack Nicholson in the face with a pie.
2) Worst Book: What Was I Thinking? 58 Bad Boyfriend Stories edited by Barbara Davilman and Liz Dubelman – I guess the question is, what was I thinking with this book? Mostly that I read a very good advice column blog and find stories of troubled relationships interesting there, and hoped this book would be either insightful or, depending on how they took it, funny. It turned out to be far less insightful without a brilliant blogger to unpack things and give advice, and the cumulative effect was more depressing than entertaining.
3) Most Disappointing: The Coincidence-Makers by Yoav Blum – This started so well, and was so good about 80% of the way through, a story of slightly magical coincidence-makers who orchestrate apparent chance to bring couples together or inspire great art or otherwise alter the world. Then there was a twist that made it all rather sad, some totally unnecessary trauma was thrown in for the heroine in a super creepy way, and the ending was…well, having both characters die and reincarnate to meet again and finally get together was not a very satisfying romantic ending. At least for me!
4) Most Surprising (in a Good Way): The Sherlockian by Graham Moore – I somehow stumbled on this book while searching for something completely different in the library database, and then I really enjoyed it. It also sent me off to read a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle and watch a miniseries about his life, and I recommended the book to my mom, who recommended it to her book club and I believe they’re reading it this month. All from accidental stumbling in the library system!
5) Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2019 To Read It: I don’t seem to have a candidate for this category this year…but I’m eyeing my backlist, so I’ll probably have something next year!
6) Most Hilarious Read: The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse and Pyramids by Terry Pratchett – I’m giving this a tie, between a particularly funny Wodehouse and a slightly less funny than usual Pratchett. Which is, of course, a compliment to Pratchett, that his not quite so funny books are still very funny.
7) Most Satisfying Read: London by Edward Rutherford – This was an absolute behemoth of a book, 1,000 pages and covering almost 2,000 years. London is my favorite city and I loved this exploration into its history through the people living there. The Amazon page calls it a “breathtaking tour de force” and that about says it. It was an undertaking to read, but immensely satisfying too.
I think that rounds things up! So what have you been reading? What were some of your best and worst of 2019?