My Favorite Books from 2019

Jan 1, 2020

According to my Goodreads account, I read 37 books last year! I didn't hit my goal of 50, but 37 is still pretty great. And those 37 include some books that I really enjoyed, even a couple that I would consider all-time favorites. As I was going through them, I wanted to put together a list, my top 5 of 2019, and explain a little bit about each that I loved. Not really a review, but more of an appreciation.

5. Monstress: Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda I'm grouping these two together because Volume 1 was technically a re-read, but both are gorgeous and worth recommending. The story is fantastic, intriguing and captivating, but I absolutely cannot get over the art of these books. Takeda's work is breathtaking, I find myself just staring at the pages.

4. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates I've been waiting for this book for years and it did not disappoint. I originally found Coates's writing because at the time that he was first starting to look into the Civil War with the goal of writing a novel about it, I was also starting to look into the Civil War with the goal of writing a novel about it. I read his blogs about his research and commented, finding new resources and new ideas there to explore on my own. In the meantime, I fell in love with his other non-fiction and comic-book writing and, for a while, thought that maybe he wouldn't ever publish this book. But he did and it's masterful. Of course it's well-written, we have come to expect that from him, but the story itself is deeply affecting. I loved it.

3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston We read this book for my book club this year and I couldn't believe I had not read it before. I'd read some of Hurston's non-fiction back in my anthropology days, but I'd never gotten around to her fiction and I'm glad I finally did. There were so many exquisite sentences and beautifully-worded truths in this book. I'll be re-reading it, probably sooner rather than later.

2. How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran I have been a fan of Caitlin Moran ever since reading her book How to Be a Woman a few years ago. She pulls off this incredible combination of snark and heart and I have no idea how she does it. How to be Famous is one of those books that I wish had existed when I was a teenager. I keep finding myself thinking about it and coming back to it, especially Dolly's essay towards the end about the Beatles. It's magnificent and makes me cry every time I read it.

1. The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver I grouped these two because it's really not fair to any other books in a year when I re-read two of my favorite books of all time by potentially my absolute favorite author of all time. Plus Pigs in Heaven is the sequel to The Bean Trees, so they go together. I re-read both of these this year because I needed to read something that felt like home. And I don't know why these books fit that bill for me, but they do. They're smart and human and both of them pull off the magic trick of having antagonists who aren't necessarily "bad" people. All of the people in the books (with the exception of one, who isn't portrayed, just mentioned) are good people trying to find a way to do the right thing.