Tuesday 31 December 2019

My Best Books of 2019

Photo by LAUREN GRAY on Unsplash
It's that time of year again. The time to reflect on my reading year gone by. However, the 31st December, 2019 is not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade as well. A decade in which I started blogging and exploded my reading habit.

Below, you will therefore find my favourite and best reads for 2019 as well as my most memorable reads of the last decade, in no particular order.

I confess that I found it hard to get excited about this post.

Our summer has been a ghastly one as the bushfires around the country continue unabated. The ones causing great concern before Christmas have been mostly brought under a semblance of control thanks to the calmer conditions. But after a couple of days of high temps and extreme winds. fires have now flared up along the south coast of NSW into Victoria.

Smoke and poor air quality control continue to plague most areas. There's a sense of living on edge, waiting for the next alert.

I cannot wait to be done with the summer of 2019, yet the summer months of 2020 do not promise to be any better.

However, tonight, we are gathering with good friends, who have a fabulous view of the harbour and the New Years Eve fireworks. Despite the winds and dust and smoke, we will come together to celebrate our friendship and good fortune. We will gather in hope and trust for a better future. We will dance for fire-drenching, drought-breaking rains, followed by blue skies and clean air. Because on NYE anything is possible!

My Best 19 of 2019:

The Yield | Tara June Winch
Olive, Again | Elizabeth Strout
Girl, Woman Other | Bernadine Evaristo
The Far Field | Madhuri VijayCount of Monte Cristo | Alexandre Dumas
The Overstory | Richard Powers
Bel Canto | Ann Patchett
Putney | Sofka Zinovieff
Circe | Madeleine Miller
Flames | Robbie Arnott
Song of Achilles | Madeleine Miller
Three Women | Lisa Taddeo
The Death of Noah Glass | Gail Jones
My Sister the Serial Killer | Oyinkan Braithwaite
In the Garden of Fugitives | Ceridwen Dovey
Confession With Blue Horses | Sophie Hardach
The German House | Annette Hess
Red at the Bone | Jacqueline Woodson
Blakwork | Alison Whitaker

If I had to pick a #1 from this magnificent list of books, it would be The Yield.
A multi-generational story about grief and loss in an Indigenous family, would have been a very fine read, but what lifted it above all the rest was Poppy's magnificent Indigenous language dictionary that Winch wove into the story. Using this dictionary to fill in the back story and solve some of the mysteries was a magic way to tell a story.

My Most Memorable Contemporary Fiction and Non-Fiction Titles from 2010-2019:

These are the books that have haunted me and crept into my dreams over the past decade. They are the books that I still think about fondly or obsessively. These are the books I still talk about and recommend and hug to my chest before handing them over to new readers.

I hope my championing of these books, here, today, might make you think twice about reading them (if you haven't already) or think about them more fondly (if they didn't already move you as much as they did me).

Wolf Hall | Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies | Hilary Mantel
The Childhood of Jesus | J. M. Coetzee
A Gentleman in Moscow | Amor Towles
Hot Milk | Deborah Levy
Olive Kitteridge | Elizabeth Strout
Olive, Again | Elizabeth Strout
The Yield | Tara June Winch
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree | Shokoofeh Azar1Q84 | Haruki Murakami
The Luminaries | Eleanor CattonMothering Sunday | Graham Swift
The Buried Giant | Kazuo Ishiguro
Lincoln in the Bardo | George Saunders

Boy, Lost | Katrina Olsson
Hare With the Amber Eyes | Edmund de Waal
The Invention of Nature | Andrea Wulf
The Brain that Changes Itself | Doidge
I'm Supposed to Protect You From All This | Nadja Spiegelman
Dark Emu Black Seed | Bruce Pascoe

My Most Memorable Classic or Older Books Read Between 2010-2019:

The Children's Book | A.S. Byatt
Angle of Repose | Wallace Stegner
Perfume | Patrick Suskind
The Bloody Chamber | Angela Carter

Testament of Youth | Vera Brittain
The Complete Maus | Art Spiegelman
Their Eyes Were Watching God | Zora Neale Hurston
The Fortunes of Richard Mahony | Henry Handel Richardson
Germinal | Emile Zola
Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man | Seigfried Sassoon

My Most Memorable Children's Books 2010-2019:

Wonder | R.J. Palacio
Lenny's Book of Everything | Karen Foxlee

It was also the decade I discovered Phryne Fisher, Maisie Dobbs, Rowland Sinclair and Maigret, for which I will be forever grateful!

If I have time tomorrow (i.e. not too hungover) I will return and add the links to this post. But for now, let me wish you all a Happy and Safe New Year.


  1. It's a lot of decades since I discovered Maigret, and I'm still finding 'new' ones. It's probably more than a decade since I discovered Phryne Fisher who is a staple (on Bolinda Audio) amongst truck drivers. I've read the first couple of Maisie Dobbs and I think Phryne's better. Interesting that uou put Blakwork in your top 19, I'm certainly glad you persuaded me to take it from where I'd left it and actually read it. Lincoln in the Bardo on the other hand was a book I really disliked. Finally, in the old books category, I would recommend to your readers your review of a year ago of Ethel Turner's In the Mist of the Mountains.

    1. It gives me a great deal of pleasure to know that truckies all around Australia are listening to Phyrne Fisher, Bill. The first few Maisie's are more about the psychological impact of WWI on returning soldiers and nurses than about crimes, the Phyrne's are also a lot more fun.

      Lincoln in the Bardo certainly divides readers, but I'm one of the ones that found the story incredibly moving. Mr Books is in your camp.

      I almost added my three 2019 Turner's to my list, as they were such lovely experiences. And certainly every time we drive up to the mountains now, I recall certain images and scenes from In the Mist of the Mountains.

    2. Sorry about the 'unknown'. For reasons known only to Blogspot, I'm different people on each of my phone, laptop and desktop (as I'm home I guess I'm also Unknown on your NYD post).

  2. I hope the summer gives way to a better fall.

    Thanks for the post. I always like these recaps for inspiration on books I never read otherwise.

  3. I second Testament of Youth, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Germinal.

    P.S. Living in California, I understand your angst about those stupid fires. I hope you guys get some rain soon.

    1. Amazingly, we had about 20 spots of rain as we were watching the NYE fireworks from our friends verandah, & for a minute we were hopeful. But no, a cool change is all that stuck around.

  4. What a great collection of reading. There's a lot of overlap in the stories we enjoy, so the few that aren't immediately recognizable to me definitely pique my interest! Here's to another yummy reading year ahead.

  5. Happy New Year! May it be a good one!

    Wasn't Bel Canto good? I read it recently as well, though I didn't blog about it.

    1. Thank you Reese and yes, Bel Canto was magnificent. I really must fir The Dutch House into my reading schedule soon.

  6. Great lists - and hooray for Girl, Woman, Other, my best book of 2019. My first and last books of the year made it onto my best-of list this time around. Happy reading and hoping for rains for you.

  7. Happy New Year! There's a few here on your list I must make time to read.

  8. I am happy you had so many interesting best books for 2019. I am only familiar with Elizabeth Strout, Alexandre Dumas, Madeleine Arnott and Madeleine Miller. I am preparing myself for Circe and Achilles.

    Of the other Hilary Mantel stands out. Loved these two books and am looking forward reading the last one, which seems to be out now. I have Olive Kitteridge, not yet read. So something to look forward tow. 1984 I read many years ago. Maybe I should re-read it? Loved the Luminaries, but could not say I understood the structure of the book. Meaning, the connection she makes to the stars and all that. It sounds all amazing that she could stick to such a scheme when writing. I am not sure I would like Lincoln in the Bardo, although it is hanging over my shoulder, so maybe have to try it out. Hare With the Amber Eyes definitely one of my favourite books all time. Wonderful family saga.
    I am behind with my posting, so will post a few more reviews before sorting out my favourites from last year. All time favourite and best book ever is of course A Gentleman in Moscow!
    Good luck with your reading for 2020.


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