My Top 10 Books of 2019

Okay, here it is! My favorite books of 2019. I'm a fiction junkie, so no surprise that my top 10 includes all fiction titles - though I did read more nonfiction this year than I ever have in previous years.

As of this post, I've read 80 books this year (that's kind of unbelievable?!) and I likely may only be able to sneak one or two more over the holidays. I feel so lucky to have continued to connect with people on #bookstagram and discover so many good books to read. I'm thinking hard about what I want my reading life to look like in 2020 - simplicity is a word that's coming to mind for a lot of areas in my life for the new year - and I'm excited to see how that takes shape.


So, here's what I read and loved this year, in order of the date I read them. I love seeing these as a log alongside all the events and memories of the year. Also, it's fun to see the visual difference in the photos throughout the year!

THE DREAMERS by Karen Thompson Walker. This was my first read of the year and I had been eagerly awaiting the release of this book. I read Walker's first book, The Age of Miracles, back in 2012 and was so excited to read her new one. My husband, Dean, was away on a two-week-long reporting trip at the beginning of the year so I was happy to have this 5 star read to keep me company while he was gone. This book had just the right amount of sci-fi/dystopian for me (I love just a sprinkle) and Walker also has a way of infusing her stories with a little bit of a magical feel too.


THE WATER CURE by Sophie Mackintosh. I guess I was on a bit of a dystopian kick at the beginning of the year, because The Water Cure falls into this category as well. I picked this one up during a Saturday morning brunch/bookstore date with Sara (@thereadingnixon), which marked the first time I met a #bookstagram friend IRL. Since then, I've met many more this year and it's been such a pleasure to meet people. Anyway, I devoured The Water Cure and it definitely gave me dystopian The Virgin Suicides vibes.

QUEENIE by Candice Carty-Williams. In February, I went to Joshua Tree with one of my best friends and I threw Queenie in my bag at the last minute. Well, fast forward one 5-hour plane ride and I had read the whole thing. I fell hard for Queenie as a character, with all her flaws and wrong decisions, and loved the badass lady vibes this one had. ⁠If you're looking for a rom-com-esque book that has staying power and depth, this one is for you.

ASK AGAIN, YES by Mary Beth Keane. I was counting down the days until I could get my hands on a copy of this one and once I finally did, it did not disappoint. I read this in April during a particularly busy time at work and a period of transition. I was stressed but this book made it possible to come home and forget about real life and let me immerse myself in it. I felt so invested in these characters and mourned the passage of time for them. It was genuinely sad to watch them get older and grow and make mistakes, and go on with their lives.

ORANGE WORLD by Karen Russell. For those who know my reading tastes, you'll know that I'm not much of a short story reader. I picked this up and it took me by surprise in June. It pulled me out of a long reading slump and helped me welcome the glorious, long days of summer reading. It was my first Russell and I'm eager to read more by her. ⁠I loved the dark, fairy tale feeling that these stories had and her writing was wonderful.

THE SUMMER DEMANDS by Deborah Shapiro. This one was definitely in my top three books of the year. It felt like reading my own thoughts at moments. It follows a thirty-something couple as they move to an abandoned summer camp they inherit and grapple with ambition, aging, and struggling with parenthood. I read it while drinking cold white wine on a porch at dusk during our summer vacation upstate on the hottest weekend of the year and it was absolute perfection.⁠


SWEETBITTER by Stephanie Danler. I passed this one up back in 2016 when it came out because I tended to pass over stories that featured New York City. I tended to think they were all the same and didn't have much interest. Fast forward a few years, now I'm living here and they are of much more interest to me! I found a gorgeous hardback copy of this one tucked in the back of a shelf at a used bookstore upstate and decided to give it a go. Well, I read it over the course of the hottest week in NYC when I was really hating the city and this story reminded me of why NYC can be magical for certain reasons. I loved this coming of age story and it's grittiness and all the food/wine talk.


FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I was number 800 on the library hold list for this one for approximately three weeks before I gave up and acquired my own copy. Everyone was raving about this one: bookstagram, trusted book sites, and even some of my coworkers and I'll hop on that rave bandwagon. I loved this one for its juxtaposition of humor and honest commentary on the woes of being married, getting divorced, and aging. I'm a big fan of Jonathan Franzen and this one felt like a nod in his direction but, you know, better because it was written by a lady.


THE DUTCH HOUSE by Ann Patchett. What else can I say about this wonderful novel? This was definitely my favorite of the whole year and I didn't stop telling EVERYONE I know about it. I mostly listened to this one on audio -- it was narrated by Tom Hanks -- and fell in love with Danny and Maeve and fantasized about moving into the Dutch House. I also enjoyed that a large part of this took place in NYC in the Columbia area so it was fun to be able to visualize the setting for a lot of the book. This one was the perfect transition into fall and reminded me why I love long, sweeping family novels.


ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS by Ocean Vuong. I snuck this one in at the end of the fall and was blown away by its beautiful writing. Vuong's story takes place in Hartford, Connecticut which is just two towns away from where I grew up and where I spent half my high school career. Reading about his descriptions and seeing how his experience there influenced this novel was really eye-opening to me and the privilege that I had of growing up just 10 miles away and having such a vastly different experience. I passed this recommendation on to many people because, again, the writing in this one was just so beautiful.


So, that's all! There were alot of honorable mentions that almost made it on the top 10 but ultimately these won out. In thinking about them, I've realized that setting plays an important role in a book for me and I think that's a slight shift from previous years. It's so interesting to look back on your reading life and see how you've grown and changed as a reader!


Any of these your favorites too? Or what were some of your top reads?


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© 2019 by Michelle Martin