I read A LOT of amazing books this year, so many good ones that narrowing it down to a Top 10 was downright impossible. I struggled even to keep it at 15! 2019 will definitely go down as a great year for Fiction reading.
Here are my 15, as I’m not one to stick to any particular genre we have samplings from a bunch. We have Chick Lit, Psychological Thrillers, Mystery, lots of Historical Fiction, Young Adult and even a play. These aren’t in any particular order.
1. Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
This is a prequel to the book Lilac Girls, one of my favourite books of 2017 and continues in the Historical Fiction genre. In Lilac Girls we hear about the horrors of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp and the work of Caroline Ferriday. In Lost Roses, we follow Caroline’s mother Eliza Ferriday during the years leading up to WW1, specifically the impact of the Russian Revolution.
I’m ashamed to say that except for the story of Anastasia Romanov, I was very ignorant about the Russian Revolution and this book illuminated me on this fascinating part of history. Kelly is a captivating author and I’m looking forward to her next book which is another prequel featuring Caroline’s grandmother (Eliza’s mother).
2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Last year Hannah’s book, The Great Alone was one of my top reads (I recommend it all the time) and so I was really looking forward to her other books, two of which make the list this year! The first is The Nightingale, an historical fiction novel that focuses on France during WW2 and highlights the “women left behind”, meaning the women who have to deal with the war at home while their husbands/fathers are fighting on the front lines. It follows the stories of 2 sisters, one who fights by joining the resistance and one who fights by raising her child among Nazi and German soldiers.
My husband’s Nonna was a “woman left behind” in France. Her husband was a solider and she was left in her small French village as one of the few Italian women. Throughout reading this book, I couldn’t help thinking about her life during the war and grew a greater appreciation for the challenges she went through. This book celebrates resiliency and durability of women, and Nonna is certainly one of the most resilient and durable women I know (she is about to celebrate 98!).
3. Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
A funny thing led me to this play. I was reading Gayle Forman’s book, “I Have Lost My Way,” and there was a line in there about Emily Dickinson’s famous poem “hope” is the thing with feathers. That it wasn’t hope but in fact grief that is the thing with feathers. I loved that line so googled it and found this play which was written before Forman's. I still don't know where it originated though (or if Porter did in fact came up with it?)
This play is about a father and two sons who are dealing with the loss of the mother. It is disjointed, uncomfortable and hazy in a way that pulls you into their grief and how they are experiencing the world. It is a beautiful story, one where the feathers start out as grief but by the end morph into hope.
4. Lost and Wanted by Nell Freudenberger
This book is about a Physicist who begins hearing from her best friend who had recently passed away. I loved the references of what was happening in the real world of Physics that were intertwined with this book. I also loved watching Nell’s journey on the opening of her eyes to “pseudo-sciences”. And at the end of the day, I loved the message about the power of our own life forces and the reverberations it has on the lives around us.
5. Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah
The next Hannah book on my list is Magic Hour. What I love most about Hannah is the fact that she isn’t a novelist of a specific genre, instead she is a writer of human resiliency. Things pique her interest and she writes books from them.
This book takes place in the Olympic National and a quiet town on the outskirts when a “wolf girl”, a feral/wild child, who walks into town one day. A discredited psychiatrist has come home to live with her police officer sister, and they work together to figure out the mute girl’s story.
6. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
On my Nonfiction list last year was the book, Meet Me in the Bathroom, my top book of last year and Daisy Jones is of a very similar style.
It is a fictionalized set of interviews about a famous seventies band and their break up. It chronicles the rise of both Daisy Jones and The Six, led by Billy Dunne. It is a quick read but done so well and effectively that I kept forgetting that these people weren’t real! For anyone who loves music and the behind the scenes looks at bands and the music industry that this book is for you. I’m so looking forward to the movie.
7. The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan
I love Jenny Colgan. Her books follow a similar formula, but one I can completely stand behind. This one is about a single mother who loses her dead-end job and apartment and can’t afford to stay in her city so she ups and moves to shores of Loch Ness to work in a travelling bookshop (this is a follow up book to a favourite from last year, The Bookshop on the Corner). The moral of these stories is reinventing yourself and finding true career happiness (and some love along the way), perfect types of reads for a sentimental career coach like myself!
8. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
I read a lot of thrillers last year but only a couple this year. This book is about someone who has agoraphobia and who sees something in the window of the family across the street. Told in the manner of the unreliable narrator which always adds another layer of suspense! Runner Up in the genre was “Someone Knows” by Lisa Scottoline.
9. I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
Everyone knows about Kinsella’s Shopaholic series and while those books are funny, it is typically these other ones that I love the most. This one is about Fixie, a woman who puts everyone else first including the memory of her father and his business. Until one day she saves the laptop of a stranger and things begin to change.
What I loved about it (and how it relates to me) is that she put her own career on the backburner just like everything else. This is so relatable, especially to mothers, as we tend to do the same. We tend to think of it as “all or nothing” and this book helps reminds us that it doesn’t have to be that way.
10. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Probably one of my top reads of 2019, this is a story about “Marsh Girl” who lives in the swamps just outside of town in the South. The story is really about her life molded around the investigation of the death of the town’s golden boy. Even though there is the murder plot, this isn’t a thriller or mystery. It is a coming of age story of a girl who lived on her own in a shack in the middle of the marshlands and it such a beautiful novel.
11. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
This book was pure magic, a story about a bookseller (a bookshop on a boat!) who “prescribes” books to his customers to heal their “ailments” in his Literary Apothecary. This book will show you a different way to view and love books while taking you on a journey down the Rhone.
12. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
One thing you may not know about me is that I read a lot of YA (Young Adult) books, at least a third of what I read would fall under this category. Sarah Dessen is one of my favourite authors in this arena and this book is her latest.
The story follows Emma as she heads back to the lake town her mother grew up in. Her mother passed away when she was 10 and she doesn’t remember a lot about her and this summer opens her eyes to her own story plus that of her mom’s.
Other YA books I really enjoyed this year were, The Ember is the Ashes series, Every Day and Field Notes on Love
13. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
By now, most everyone knows about Liane Moriarty because of Big Little Lies. I’ve read all of her books and highly recommend them all. This one didn’t disappoint, it was a different premise – a rural health resort which the purpose of changing people’s lives in 10 days. The cast of characters are interesting and compelling and the suspicious resort and its owner are just as curious. There is a lot of psychology in this book which I think draws me in, but Moriarty’s engaging writing style helps as well!
14. The Stranger by Harlan Coben
My husband and I watched the Netflix series, “Safe” which introduced me to Coben. This book sucks you in right away and keeps you hooked right until the end. The Stranger is a person who whispers something in your ear and shatters your world and this story follows a husband who learns a devastating secret about his wife that leads him on this crazy path to the truth. I thought the concept was original and the plot gripping. This one is being adapted into a series and I’m looking forward to watching it!
15. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
This was the last fiction book I read in 2019 (I’ve moved onto Christmas Chick Lit books for the month of December) and what a way to finish the year off in fiction reading. Another historical fiction (can you tell I love this genre?) which is a fictionalized re-telling of a true story.
This story follows Lale Sokolov (a real person that Heather interviewed for years) who is an early prisoner within Auschwitz who is assigned the role of Tatowierer (tattooist) who tattoos each prisoner’s number. It is a love story between Lale and Gita and documents their time in the concentration camp and beyond. This book (and those similar) can be really hard to read at times, but I feel so necessary as it opens our eyes to the pain and suffering others have gone through while also showing us that even during horrific times that love and hope still live on.
Okay, my 2020 book list is already long but I always love to add to it - what book that you read in 2019 that I should read in 2020?
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