Friday, December 27, 2019

Some favorite books of 2019

A list of some books I loved in 2019. No particular order within sections, and doesn't include work reading or books I read in paper.


Yiyun Li, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life (and Where Reasons End, though I think the former will be more universally compelling)
Emily Bernard, Black is the Body
Ellis Avery, The Family Tooth: A Memoir in Essays
Annie Ernaux, Happening
Esmé Weijun Wang, The Collected Schizophrenias
Asne Seirstad, Two Sisters
Anna Funder, Stasiland
Rachel Louise Snyder, No Visible Bruises
Ann Marlow, How to Stop Time: Heroin from A to Z
Lawrence Weschsler, And How Are you, Dr. Sacks? (falls apart towards the end, but there’s a lot of new material)
Emilie Pine, Notes to Self
Imani Perry, Breathe
Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives

Top general fiction:

Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys
Minae Mizumura, A True Novel
Maurice Ruffin, We Cast a Shadow
Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Heads of the Colored People: Stories (possibly the very best book I read this year)
Susn Choi, Trust Exercise
Johannes Lichtman, Such Good Work (standout first novel)
Deborah Levy, The Man Who Saw Everything
Chia-Chia Lin, The Unpassing (a great rec from Garth Greenwell)

Top general fiction, SFF subcategory:

Tade Thompson, The Rosewater Insurrection (sequel)
Sarah Pinsker, A Song for a New Day
Chuck Wendig, The Wanderers
Fonda Lee, Jade War (sequel to the unmissably good Jade City)
Annalee Newitz, The Future of Another Timeline
Aliya Whiteley, The Loosening Skin (exceptional, must get and read her other books)

Two excellent novels in a genre that is not mine:

Jami Attenberg, All This Could Be Yours
Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, The Nest

I would recommend Neal Stephenson, Fall; or, Dodge in Hell with certain reservations– I actually really enjoyed this while also finding it periodically maddening; basically, NS’s retelling of, as it were, a mashup of Paradise Lost and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Interesting to see a gifted storyteller write a novel that essentially refuses all the pleasures of fiction....


Jane Harper, The Lost Man
Ron Corbett, Cape Diamond (Frank Yakabuski installment 2)
Attica Locke, Heaven, My Home
Dervla McTiernan, The Scholar
Denise Mina, Conviction
Kate Atkinson, Big Sky
Adrian McKinty, The Chain
Robert Crais, A Dangerous Man
Karin Slaughter, The Last Widow
S. L. Huang, Null State
Alex North, The Whisper Man
Laura Lippman, Lady in the Lake (her best yet IMO)
Rene Denfield, The Butterfly Girl (sequel)
Soren Sveistrup, The Chestnut Man
Lee Child, Blue Moon
Robert Bryndza, Nine Elms
John Sandford, Bloody Genius
Ausma Zehanat Khan, The Unquiet Dead, The Language of Secrets (very solemn, but the writing is extremely good)
Alison Bruce, The Silence
Sophie Hénaff, The Awkward Squad


Nalo Hopkinson, Brown Girl in the Ring
Katherine Arden, Winternight (conclusion of trilogy)
S. A. Chakraborty, The City of Brass and The City of Copper (love these books so so much!)
Tom Sweterlitsch, The Gone World
Alex White, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe and sequel
Zen Cho, The True Queen (#2 in series)
K. Chess, Famous Men Who Never Lived
Emma Newman, Atlas Alone (Planetfall)
Rebecca Roanhorse, Storm of Locusts (Sixth World #2)
Joan He, Descendant of the Crane
Leo Carew, The Wolf and sequel (Under the Northern Sky series)
Ben Aaronovitch, The October Man
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, Vita Nostra (very good, unusual)
Sarah Painter – a happy discovery, first two Crow Investigations book very enjoyable, then I devoured her whole backlist, then Crow #3 came out at the end of the year
Paul Cornell, A Long Day in Lychford
Emily Tesh, Silver in the Wood
Laurie Marks, Air Logic (final installment of Elemental Logic series)
Kali Wallace, Salvation Day
Claire O’Dell, The Hound of Justice (Janet Watson #2, flaws perhaps a bit clearer here than in the first one but still very appealing)
Ada Hoffman, The Outside
Craig L. Gidney, A Spectral Hue
Garth Nix, Angel Mage
Christelle Dabos, the Mirror Visitor books (these are new favorites, really good)
Waubgeshig Rice, Moon of the Crusted Snow (haunting, has stayed with me)
Kai Ashante Wilson, The Sorceror of the Wildeeps
Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys and sequels (obtained after I read
Stephen King, The Institute
Paul Cornell, The Lights Go Out in Lychford
James S. A. Corey, Auberon (Expanse novella, not as good as The Churn which is my favorite, a bit cookie-cutter and politically schematic, but still of course highly readable
Karen Tei Yamashita, Tropic of Orange

Urban fantasy/paranormal romance:

Melissa Olson, Boundary Broken (#4 in series)
Anne Bishop, Wild Country
Patricia Briggs, Storm Cursed
Deborah Blake, Wickedly Unraveled
Nalini Singh, Wolf Rain, Archangel’s War
Ilona Andrews, Sweep of the Blade, Sapphire Flames


Hoang, The Kiss Quotient (a recommendation from Roxane Gay)
Charlotte Greene, Legacy

Good rereads:

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
Naomi Novik, Uprooted
Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books, in preparation for new installment
Deborah Coates’s Hallie Michaels series

Others I enjoyed and would recommend to those to whom subject matter or genre appeals:

Richard Kadrey, The Grand Dark
Jean Kwok, Searching for Sylvie Lee
Angie Kim, Miracle Creek (not my genre but very good)
Liz Emens, Life Admin
Lewis Shiner, Outside the Gates of Eden (long novel exploring aftermath of the 60s, too unstructured and could have used one more serious female character but it has stayed with me)
Olivia Kiernan, Too Close to Breathe, The Killer in Me (decent police procedurals, Irish setting)
Claire McGowan, What You Did
Helen Phillips, The Need
Alan Russell, LA Woman (Gideon and Sirius book, they’re not especially well-written but I really enjoy them)
M. T. Edvardsson, A Nearly Normal Family
Catherine Kirwan, Darkest Truth
Joshilyn Jackson, Never Have I Ever
Jo Nesbo, Knife
T. Kingfisher, Minor Mage
Ben Winters, Golden State
Becky Chambers, To Be Taught, If Fortunate
Seanan McGuire, The Unkindest Tide
Michael Connelly, The Night Fire
Leah Bobet, An Inheritance of Ashes

Biggest disappointment of the year: The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth! The book just felt like a sustained assault against Lyra, and the uncritical use of Great Game-style politics is insufferable.