My year in reading: 2019
Reaching the close of 2019 (and the decade), I’m revisiting some of my best reads of the year. I’ve got a lot of book recommendations in this somewhat mammoth post, and some stats out the back, for those that care. I’ve read some 92 books so far, and regret I can’t list more of them here, as I could realistically find something to recommend in most of them. But at least I’ve compiled some.
My Favourite Fantasy Reads of 2019
My most dominant reading area this year was, unsurprisingly, in fantasy and its sub-genres. I even read a few complete series, whereas I usually space them out. To start with, my favourite new releases have hands down been Josiah Bancroft’s The Hod King and Jonathan French’s True Bastards. Conveniently, both have excellent world-building, plots and characters and all the right notes of humour!
I’ve stalled a bit on my stack of Abercrombies this year but can at least recommend the fantastic Best Served Cold. Through the machinations of a certain cabbage, I was drawn into reading Robin Hobb and enjoyed The Farseer Trilogy more-or-less back-to-back. I also swept through a whole heap of Glen Cook’s Black Company books – I came for the deaf character and found a style that really resonated with me.
I’ve made a more earnest attempt to surmount my Terry Pratchett back-catalogue, and the Tiffany Achings books, starting with The Wee Free Men, are amongst the books I’ve enjoyed the most this year, bar none.
A chunk of my fantasy reading was taken up by contemporary fantasy, but I mostly covered these in a post mid-Summer –curiously, all indie reads! Check those out here. A late additional recommendation is Jade City, by Fonda Lee, which I’m reading as I write this.
My Happiest Horror Reads of 2019
It’s been a good year for horror for me – mostly consumed in a binge in October. Of only a dozen or so horror reads, I wanted to list almost all of them here. I’ve been pretty obsessed with Shirley Jackson’s books, which is hardly a ground-breaking reveal, so will move swiftly on to my major recommendation – Laura Purcell. The Silent Companions and The Corset were right up my street, as I’m sure Bone China will be (perhaps still to be read this year). She nails the Gothic horror vibe (and honourable mention Catriona Ward’s Little Eve for striking something similar).
I also thoroughly enjoyed Peadar O’Guilin’s The Call, and quickly followed it with The Invasion, for some delightfully wicked fairy cruelty. Victor Lavelle’s The Ballad of Black Tom deserves a mention, too, for a new take on Lovecraft.
And a special mention goes to A Night in Lonesome October, my first experience of Roger Zelazny, who I will surely revisit. Hard to believe anyone could cram so much goodness in such a short book.
My Superlative Sci-fi Reads of 2019
I’ve had quite a quiet year on the sci-fi front, but an early standout was Tade Thompson’s alien-invasion-in-Africa, Rosewater – I am eager to continue this series. A couple of enjoyable classics I discovered were John Wyndham’s Chocky and Walter Tevis’ Mockingbird.
I picked up a stack of classics from a vintage bookshop a few days ago, which I might delve into over Christmas. They’re inclusion here would hardly be surprising though.
My Coolest Crime and Thriller Reads of 2019
Thanks to the audiobooks from my library, I really got into some Agatha Christie this year – they’re short, marvellously constructed, and good fun. A standout book here was definitely The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. The other notable entry in this genre was discovering Jim Thompson, with Pop. 1280 – a superbly realised little book. I look forward to reading more of his work.
An honourable mention here, as always, to Sue Grafton, as I keep plodding my way through the Alphabet series. I’m almost halfway through now!
My Loveliest Literary Reads of 2019
My little forays into the literary field let me down a little this year (encountering a few rather weak entries) but I was very impressed by Olga Togarczuk’s Primeval. And at a push I could re-include Shirley Jackson under this heading, with work such as The Lottery, because she deserves more praise.
My Noteworthy Non-fiction Reads of 2019
Some exceptional books to recommend in this area – each rather different. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris is a great all round compendium of tips, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey I found really stood up to its reputation, and a curious number I enjoyed was London Under London, which randomly turned up on my doorstep (courtesy of my brother).
The standout in this field, though, has to be Quiet by Susan Cain, a study of what it really means to be introvert or extrovert. I want to write a dedicated post for this one, as it’s a book that drives home a message of societal interaction that makes it okay to be yourself. (And if there’s one book on this list I’d suggest everyone should know, it’s this one!)
My Greatest Graphic Novel Reads of 2019
Finally, I’ve got back into graphic novels this year and am pleased to say all three collections I’ve read are definitely worth checking out: delve into Monstress, Saga and Locke and Key and you won’t be disappointed. Unless you hate richly told, fantastical stories.
Totals, stats and formats…
So, I’ve read a whopping 92 books so far for 2019. The increase from my average over the past few years has been thanks to audiobooks (mostly consumed while cooking) and a couple of graphic novels.
I’m still predominantly in the camp of physical books, making up 64% of my reading, while eBooks are hovering around 20% – which is sad because I’ve got a lot of great-looking books on eBook that I’m failing to get to.
Genrewise, fantasy made up 44% of my reading (with a third of that being contemporary/urban). Probably more if you included some of the literary or horror fiction that cross over. There was then a fairly even split across sci-fi, horror, literary fiction, crime and thriller and non-fiction, each at about 10%. And 3 historical fiction books (actually, now I recall, Cold Mountain was really good!).
I’ve kept track of gender, too, to try and keep balanced – which was heavily male-biased for the first half of the year (78%) but reached a more even split in the second half (52%). Curiously, I read multiple books from more women than men.
In the past, I’ve tended to stick to one or two books from a single author in a year, but I read multiple books from 8 different authors this year – my top read author was a late entry with Agatha Christie (who I only started reading about 4 months ago). In second place was Terry Pratchett, whose collection I’ve been trying to complete.
That’s all from me for this year – hope some of this is interesting to someone, somewhere! If you’ve got any recommendations yourself, post them in the comments, and if you came expecting some kind of update on my writing, you probably want this post.