There is one thing I always look forward to each December: receiving the email alerting me that My Year in Books is ready for viewing on Goodreads. Although I keep track of how many books I’ve read each year in the yearly reading challenge on the site, the year-end stats are always fun to read.
I read 114 books in 2019 (the same amount I read in 2018), surpassing my original goal of 70 books. I read 34, 178 pages this year. The shortest book I read had a mere 83 pages, and the longest had 866 pages. The longest book I read—Outlander—was also the most popular, with 843, 532 other readers. My average rating of the year was 4.1, which confirms a year spent reading mostly outstanding books.
Now that the final day of the year has arrived, I’m ready to share what I thought were the best (and worst) books I read in 2019. Most of the books listed below were published in 2019. Of the rest, three will be released in the first half of 2020, and three others were published in recent years.
Let’s get to it! Without further ado… here is my list of the best (and worst) books I read in 2019.
I loved Dead Inside, and highly recommended it to my followers. In my review, I said “The ending blew me away, knocked me off my feet, and now I’m dying to read book two of the series.” It was the very definition of unputdownable, and just spectacular all around. This book easily earns the honor of being the best debut I read this year. I’m hoping the new year will at last bring book two to my impatiently waiting TBR!
The Testaments is the long awaited sequel to Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale. Unlike other readers, I didn’t have to wait nearly 40 years to find out what happened to Gilead. It was Hulu’s award-winning television series that made me (finally) read the first book earlier this year, and I was able to read this one a few months later.
I was engrossed with this book from the start, and was pleased to see easily recognizable characters playing an important role in the hoped-for destruction of Gilead. This outstanding followup was by far the best of 2019’s dystopia offerings for me, because I was highly invested in the story before I’d even begun to read it.
Best Southern Fiction
In my review, I said Forgiveness Road was “a haunting tale about the measures someone is willing to take for the sake of the those they love”. It’s been nearly a year since I first read this book, one of the first in a long list of books I’ve read this year. Despite that, I have often found myself looking back on it, remembering young Cissy and her grandmother Janelle… and the road trip of healing they took together after a tragic event. The memory of the bond that grew between them still lingers in my heart, and I suspect it always will.
Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Best Crime Thriller
I’m ashamed to admit I still haven’t written my review for The Blossom Twins, despite having read it back in October. This book will be tagged as highly recommended, just like the other books of hers I’ve read. Wyer has a knack for writing books that are always fresh and equally unputdownable, despite being part of a series. I can never guess the identity of the killers or their motives, which is why I consistently rate them so highly. This book, particularly, brought twists that were as unexpected as they were devastating… making this book stand out above the other crime thrillers I’ve read this year.
Best Psychological Thriller
The Dilemma, had I not decided to read it over the weekend, would have missed the cut on this list, as it won’t be published in the U.S. until June 2020. Having read it, however, it demanded inclusion on this list. In my review, I noted that it had a “layered foundation of suspense” and “strong characters, both plot and sub-plots full of intrigue, and a well-executed finale”. With Paris’ ability to craft high quality storylines with high levels of intense suspense, I fully expect to find myself including future novels in this sort of list.
Best Historical Fiction
Cilka’s Journey is another book I have not yet reviewed. This heartrending novel is a followup to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and it was every bit as difficult to read as its predecessor. Based on a true story, it was impossible to read this novel without it leaving a lasting impression on me. Cilka’s story will haunt my memory for some time to come. Hopefully my review (once written) will be able to adequately impart my feelings about this novel.
Anna of Kleve, The Princess in the Portrait by Alison Weir
Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen: The Story of Elizabeth of York by Samantha Wilcoxson
Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein
I was dying to read Deathless Divide from the moment I read the last word in Dread Nation. Historical fiction and the zombie apocalypse are the perfect pairing of genres for me, and this book was every bit as good as the first. Filled with heart-stopping twists and shocking surprises, Deathless Divide was everything I’d hoped it to be, and then some. I’m left with breathless anticipation for book three, as well as an even greater admiration for Ireland’s talent in mixing such disparate genres in such a spectacular way.
Watch this space for my review of Deathless Divide in January 2020.
Best Literary Fiction
The Vanishing Half, scheduled for publication in June 2020, was another easy selection for the ‘best of’ portion of my list. It’s a novel unlike any I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, tackling a subject that—despite being something I cannot personally relate to—filled me with empathy and the desire for greater understanding. As I said in my review, “In my opinion, any book that can make you think is well worth the time spent reading it.” This may well be the most thought-provoking novel I’ve ever read.
Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction holds the honor of being one of the most fascinating history books I’ve ever read, much less read this year. The medieval period (spanning from the 5th to 15th century) is an era I enjoy reading about in both fiction and nonfiction, so it was a treat to discover how people really lived during that time. I learned a great deal from this book, and I have no doubt it will remain a treasured source of reference in the years to come.
Best True Crime
The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth by Josh Levin is an investigation into the life of Linda Taylor; the woman who spawned the myth of the “welfare queen” in America. In my review, I said “The Queen is well-researched and written in an easy-to-read style. Simultaneously intriguing and disturbing, the life and crimes of Linda Taylor will linger in your memory for quite some time.”
That wraps it up for the best books I read this year, now it’s time to talk about the worst.
The Extinction of All Children sounded like the start of an interesting dystopian series. Instead, it was cumbersome, repetitious, and often boring. In my review, I said “This story had a great concept that I was eager to read. Ultimately, it proved unable to meet its potential. I was left disappointed… but I still wanted to see what will happen next.” I would quickly come to regret it.
Reading Journey to Territory M was an exercise in futility, and mostly served to annoy me. Odd descriptions (wind ‘splashing’ and carpets ‘bending’), an inability for characters to do anything sensibly, and other things left me feeling irritated. In my review, I said “New characters were introduced, but little progress was made in moving the main plot forward.” Feeling as irritated as I did by the end of the book, I should have stopped reading the series right then and there.
In my review of Journey to Territory U, I said “The plot twists lacked the element of surprise, and the main action sequence involving Emma and a foe went down as I expected it would.” I concluded my review of the series by noting that “Having read the entire series, the feeling I’m left with is disappointment. The premise behind the trilogy has massive potential for an exciting set of books, but—for me—it failed to get there.”
Reading this series did serve a purpose, however. It taught me that no matter how interesting the summary sounds, I should never, ever, download an entire series from the read now section of Netgalley, lest I be stuck reading and reviewing books I have zero desire to read. I’ve always been one who had to learn things the hard way…
I never thought it would be possible to read a book about Henry VIII and his many wives, that I would both strongly dislike and refuse to finish… until I came across this tedious novel. Thorns in a Realm of Roses: The Henry Queens was rife with horrible dialogue, confusing storytelling, and—worst of all—historical inaccuracies. It will go down as the worst book I ever attempted to read about Henry VIII, and it was a relief to stop reading it.
I’ve been reading V.C. Andrews books since I was 14 years old. I agree with the opinion that the books written by Andrews herself are the best of them all, and the others pale in comparison. But I was actually excited to read about Corrine, the missing matriarch of the Foxworth family first introduced in Flowers in the Attic.
In my review, I said “Beneath the Attic is plagued with problems that left me feeling frustrated.” Problems, indeed. From a misleading summary, to historical inaccuracies, and a setting that feels like any era but the late 19th century, there was plenty to leave me feeling frustrated. The most maddening thing of all is Corrine thinking of herself as being as spoiled as Scarlett O’Hara… 46 years before Scarlett O’Hara even existed. And yes, I am still irritated by that. It was a stupid, careless mistake that never should have been made.
Out of the Attic kicked off with a sloppy beginning, more historical inaccuracies, and shallow characters that showed little change despite the passage of several years between books one and two. And the most frustrating thing of all about this book? The knowledge that I’m still going to read the next book in this series, no matter how bad I know it’s going to be… because I just can’t seem to stop reading them after all these years.
Are you still with me? We’ve made it to the end of my list of the best and worst books I read in 2019. I didn’t expect to have quite so much to say, but I think I’ve made my reasoning clear for why each book was chosen.
With the exception of a few stinkers, I can say I mostly chose my books wisely. I’ve spent countless hours reading this year, and every second was time well spent. These books swept me away to the distant past, the near future, and everywhere in-between. I’ve had one adventure after another, and traveled all over the world from the comfort of my home. I’ve learned new things, and been inspired to learn. And, as always, it is my hope that the reading I’ve done has helped me become a better, wiser person than I was before.
So goodbye, 2019… as far as books are concerned, it was one hell of a year!