Despite reading less books than years past, I would qualify 2019 as my best reading year. It was certainly better than 2018, when I only managed to read about 70 books. I read more books in 2019 by simply reading for quality over quantity. How? Well, good books are easier to finish.
And so, I’ve wound up with more books on my best list than ever before. Only three of the books on my list are YA, which tells me I’ve for the most part grown beyond that genre. It’s honestly fascinating to look back and see how I’ve grown as a reader.
Some of these books surprised me with how much I love them, while others I expected to adore. All of them have become pieces of who I am. Without any further ado, I present you the best books of 2019 (in the order I read them)!
Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
You know those books that latch right onto your soul and feel like they’re a part of you? Yeah, that’s this book. I’m so in love with it. It’s beautifully-written, an exquisite tapestry of metaphor and introspection. The world-building is phenomenal. The characters are wonderful. Everything about this book is fantastic.
Gaiman’s humor shines through his writing. Sometimes it’s the narration that gets you, others it’s a character (usually Richard). But it never overtakes the heart of the story. Gaiman finds a perfect balance between humor and raw human emotion.
I could genuinely go on and on about how much I love this book. I adore it with everything in me.
In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined. Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic— the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves. Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?
I can’t believe there was a time I didn’t want to read this series. I would die for our lord and savior Mia Corvere. I couldn’t even decide which of the trilogy I wanted on my best list, so I used the whole thing. Check out my review of Darkdawn!
You go through life thinking there’s so much you need… Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
What a beautiful and poignant story of grief, heartbreak, depression, and anxiety. It a been a long time since I’ve been this moved by a book, and this one managed to do it in less than 300 pages. I genuinely cried. I love this book so much.
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius— his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White, & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.
This book was so cute and funny, but also honest, real, and hopeful. This is the kind of story I want from a contemporary romance. There’s so much depth here in both the story and the characters. Check out my review!
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story. Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realize it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet. Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own. Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
How can you explain a book that is so inexplicable, but in the best way? Everything about this book— from the plot to the characters to the writing— worked for me. I am so glad I gave Seanan McGuire a second chance. Check out my review!
All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery— magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power. Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them. As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught— about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
I love everything about this novel. Cover to cover, this book is a masterpiece. Sorcery of Thorns improves on everything that was wrong with An Enchantment of Ravens. The characters are well-rounded and lovable, the romance is well built up, the plot is tight and exciting, and the world-building is glorious. Rogerson really stepped up her game with her sophomore novel. Check out my review!
The Emperor needs necromancers. The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman. Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit. Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy. Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won't set her free without a service. Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon's sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die. Of course, some things are better left dead.
When I started this book, I thought it was too weird for me. Gideon speaks with such modern language and it felt out of place.
But the next thing I knew, I was thoroughly enjoying this book because it’s so weird. Muir is able to mix the old and the new, science fiction and fantasy, into a wonderfully weird concoction.
Moreover, I just really love the gothic vibe this story has. And the character development? Beautiful.
This book is nothing like I thought it’d be and everything I didn’t know I needed. I am so excited for the sequel. Check out my review!
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her? Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
Ninth House isn’t anything like I thought it would be, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love these characters, this world, this plot. Everything about this novel is fantastic. It deserves every bit of hype it’s gotten.
Ninth House is a marvelous adult debut. Leigh Bardugo has truly outdone herself and in a very new way. This isn’t Six of Crows or Shadow and Bone. Instead, it’s a fast-paced thriller with just enough fantasy to appeal to my sensibilities (there’s a magical library and a pseudo-living house, guys). This book is just what I needed it to be. Check out my review!
In the aftermath of the Third Poppy War, shaman and warrior Rin is on the run: haunted by the atrocity she committed to end the war, addicted to opium, and hiding from the murderous commands of her vengeful god, the fiery Phoenix. Her only reason for living is to get revenge on the traitorous Empress who sold out Nikan to their enemies. With no other options, Rin joins forces with the powerful Dragon Warlord, who has a plan to conquer Nikan, unseat the Empress, and create a new Republic. Rin throws herself into his war. After all, making war is all she knows how to do. But the Empress is a more powerful foe than she appears, and the Dragon Warlord’s motivations are not as democratic as they seem. The more Rin learns, the more she fears her love for Nikan will drive her away from every ally and lead her to rely more and more on the Phoenix’s deadly power. Because there is nothing she won’t sacrifice for her country and her vengeance.
This was so good! It gave me everything I wanted from The Poppy War. I love Rin so much. And Kitay. And even Venka. This is such a gritty and inventive series. I can’t wait for the finale!
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?
Do you know how many times I had to set this book down because I was so overcome with how in love Blue and Red are? This world is super cool, but it’s their relationship and letters that really sold it for me. This is the lesbian love story I’ve been waiting for. I only wish it went on longer. I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel.
Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them. Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is. A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.
What a wonderful, magical book! I don’t even know how to explain my love for this story. It’s like it’s a part of my soul that has always been there, but I’ve only just discovered. The writing is lyrical and beautiful. These characters are unique and lovable. With her sophomore novel, Morgenstern has cemented one thing: I love portal fantasies. Absolutely phenomenal! Check out my review!
The Larkin family isn't just lucky— they persevere. At least that's what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn't drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer. But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can't stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life. Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family's missing piece - the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lain hidden in a watery grave for over a century. She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes-and the bridges she builds along the way-may be the start of something like survival.
I recently saw someone describe this book as a warm hug and nothing could be more apt. This is a lovely, heart-warming story. Drake manages to tackle family, love, and mental illness. And the F/F relationship? Adorable! I’m so glad the last book I read this year was this good.
What were your best books of 2019? Have you read any of these books? Let’s discuss in the comments!