At the beginning of 2019 I set myself a reading challenge of 52 books. I wanted to push myself, to encourage myself to embrace a hobby that didn’t require a screen and I found that having that challenge in the back of my mind really helped to keep my motivated. (NB – Before people message me, I’ve called this the ‘best books of 2019’ although, as you’ll see, this list isn’t necessarily books that were published last year, just the ones that I read!)
If you want to see all of my 2019 reads in one place, you can have a look at my Amazon Storefront – you’ll also find all of the books I read in 2018 as well. The links in my Storefront and in this post are affiliate links which means I get a few pence in commission if you order, at no extra cost to you.
I ended up reading 61 books last year, some incredible ones that will stay with me for years, some… not so much! But here are my 10 best books of 2019. Some of these will be obvious to anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock, but hopefully you’ll find something here that piques your interest.
BIRDBOX by Josh Malerman
Even if you’ve already seen the Netflix movie adaptation, I really recommend the book. It is so creepy and tense and I actually prefer the vague, open-to-interpretation storyline of the book as opposed to the line the film went down. Watch the film trailer HERE to get the storyline gist (contains spoilers, obv).
THE IMMORTALISTS by Chloe Benjamin
4 siblings visit a local woman famed for her ability to tell the future. One at a time, each child is apparently told the date they will die. The book follows their lives and the decisions they make based on this information and whether they chose to believe it or not. This book was so engaging, and the individual strands so well written, that at times I forgot the premise and just enjoyed the story.
EDUCATED by Tara Westover
You must have heard people talking about this book, it’s been EVERYWHERE. Tara and her siblings were born in rural Idaho to survivalist parents who lived off the grid, with her dad running a scrapyard and her mum working as a herbalist/unofficial midwife. The children were not allowed to go to school and were both physically and psychologically abused (trigger warnings aplenty). I put off reading this for so long because I thought it was a misery memoir, but it’s actually incredibly inspiring, uplifting, and I could not stop thinking about it once I started reading.
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng
Mother-daughter relationships, racial tension, adoption, class, sexuality, privilege… if any of those call out to you then put this book in your basket straight away. I’m not sure if this is categorised as YA, but it felt like it would fit well in that area (no snobbery in that statement, I flipping love YA!)
THE LIDO by Libby Page
I read this in the summer and I’m so glad I did – I would actually recommend buying it now but saving it for the warmer months because that really added to my enjoyment. It’s based in South London and follows a lonely 20-something journalist who is unhappy with her life, and an 86-year-old woman dealing with grief and change. It’s warm, compassionate, and made me want to go to my local lido immediately.
DAISY JONES AND THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Another book that’s been everywhere but still bears repeating. Written as a memoir of a fictional band in the late 70s, referencing music, lyrics, events, and interviews that don’t actually exist but feel so real that I was genuinely upset that I couldn’t listen to their music while reading! It’s being made into a TV series, so I’d recommend reading it before that happens.
MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES by Frederick Backman (also called ‘My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry’ in some editions, which is a much weaker title IMO)
My little sister passed on this book and it sat on my shelf for far too long. What an idiot. This is such a beautiful and engrossing book. A young girl, her eccentric grandma, and the power of stories. There’s a strong fantasy element, with the Grandmother introducing Elsa to a magical world you can only reach when you’re asleep, but the way the fantasy world and the real world blur together is beautiful and, at times, heartbreaking.
THE SILENT COMPANIONS by Laura Purcell
Anything that’s described as gothic horror and I’m instantly sold. I found this book so unsettling – to the point where I couldn’t read it before bed! A pregnant, recently widowed moves to her husband’s spooky country house. She finds a wooden painted figure in the attic, known as a ‘silent companion’, and it looks just like her…
TRICK MIRROR by Jia Tolentino
I started this book without knowing what it was, based solely on the rave reviews from people I love and trust. And it turned me into one of those annoying people who keep reading out sections to their husband in delight to be met with blank stares because no one enjoys people doing that. It’s a collection of essays about a wide range of topics (religion, social media, reality TV, marriage, chopped salad…) and I loved every one.
AMAZON FORWARD COLLECTION (various authors)
Okay, this may seem like a cheat as it’s a collection of 6 books BUT added together the collection only makes up 277 pages, so the whole thing is the equivalent of one book…. right? Right. Here’s how the series is described:
“For some, it’s the end of the world. For others, it’s just the beginning. With brilliant imagination, today’s most visionary writers point to where the future is headed – whether plotting a high-tech casino heist, exploring the boundaries of a video game, or debating the very definition of identity. From the darkly comic to the chilling, they share common DNA. They all look forward.”
The authors involved are incredible and I really enjoyed each one. I rented them all on Kindle Unlimited (I got the free 3 month trial and I’m tempted to keep my subscription after that runs out… £7.99 a month to rent books – limited to 10 books at a time – is a pretty good deal I think? If you have it let me know what you think of it!)
Here is a summary of the collection, but I’d say if you like sci-fi, tech, Black Mirror, or apocalypse-y fiction these will all be up your street:
- Summer Frost by Blake Crouch (who also wrote Dark Matter which is fanTAStic book) – A video game developer becomes obsessed with a character. The amount of storyline and character development in such a short book is incredible;
- You Have Arrived At Your Destination by Amor Towles – I love sci-fi stories that are only a few steps away from our reality, jarring but familiar enough to seem possible. This story about a fertility lab fascinated and terrified me in equal parts;
- Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin – An explorer returns to a planet abandoned by his people centuries ago and learns what really happened. The storytelling style is unusual but I found it really compelling;
- The Last Conversation by Paul Tremblay – A person wakes up with no memories and no sense of identity. Dr Kuhn speaks to them remotely and helps them to regain their sense of self, or so she says…;
- Ark by Veronica Roth – With two weeks left before an asteroid destroys the earth, a botanist catalogues plants for the escaping survivors to take with them. Hope, human connection, and loss);
- Randomize by Andy Weir (author of The Martian) – My least favourite of the series but still a fun story. If you like heists and twists and clever tech details, you’ll find this entertaining but I’d recommend reading the others first.
So there are my 10 best books of 2019! A bit of a mixed bag but hopefully there’s something in there that speaks to you.
What we your favourite books in 2019? Have you read anything recently that you think I should add to my to-read list? If you’d like to keep up with this year’s challenge (I’m aiming for 75 books in 2020), you can follow me on GoodReads HERE.
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