Let’s be honest, 2019 went way too quickly, and regretfully, I didn’t manage to get as far through my TBR list as I’d hoped. Whereas in 2018, I read a ton of YA fantasy, 2019 saw me branching out more, turning back towards more literary new releases, and even dipping my toes into a few thrillers and other new (for me) genres.
I also made some late-to-the game discoveries, including finally reading Lincoln in the Bardo (which immediately made it onto my list of favorite books of all time), and The Name of the Wind (which I sped through in about three evenings, before immediately diving into The Wise Man’s Fear, just so I could be in the same place as everyone else who is still waiting for the conclusion to Rothfuss’s trilogy).
Suffice to say, 2019’s been intense.
Without further ado, here are my top five reads from 2019—my favorites out of the books I read that were published this year.
5 | Lanny by Max Porter
I must admit, when I read Grief is the Thing with Feathers, I came out of Porter’s debut feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Perhaps that’s why I delayed so long in picking up Lanny, but I’m glad I finally did. Following the trials of an English village when one of its children goes missing, Lanny cements Porter’s status as a master of voice, combining folklore, family tensions, and the gossip of modern suburbia to create a novel that is as thought-provoking as it is heart-wrenching.
4 | The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
Okay, being honest, Philip Pullman could publish his shopping list and I would probably still not only read it from start to finish, I would likely savour every word. But The Secret Commonwealth is something else altogether. Part epic quest, part reflection on the trials currently shaping our own cultural landscape, Commonwealth continues where The Amber Spyglass left off, following an adult Lyra Silvertongue as she’s pulled fully into the intrigues set up in La Belle Sauvage. Evocative, expansive, and an absolute must-read.
3 | Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
Can you tell that I’ve been totally absorbed by the literary and experimental this year? I’m just glad that Winterson, as one of my favourite authors of all time, had a new book out, and doubly delighted that it tackled not only the story of Frankenstein, but of Mary Shelley herself. Written in Winterson’s distinct multifaceted, mixed-format style, Frankissstein juxtaposes the story of Ry, a transgender doctor falling in love with AI expert Dr. Stein, with that of Mary Shelley and her doomed romance with Percy Bysshe. A dazzling mixture of tragedy and comedy, romanticism and theoretical science, modernism, post-modernism, and historical reinvention.
2 | The Binding by Bridget Collins
This one might be a bit of a cheat, as Collins’ debut crossover fable was originally published December of last year, but as it was the last day of December, I’m going to go ahead and add it to this list anyway. The Binding weaves a gentle sort of magic into its story of regret and forgetting, drawing us inextricably into its world—just a few angles different to our own recent past. Emmitt’s struggle to come to terms with his own identity—and his own decisions—is beautifully and richly drawn. If you haven’t read it yet, I strongly urge you to go out and buy a copy. Not only will you fall in love, the physical book is an absolutely gorgeous artifact in and of itself.
1 | The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
I was lucky enough to hear Sara Collins speak about her debut at PRH’s Write Now Workshop in Liverpool last year. The breakout debut of 2019 for me, The Confessions of Frannie Langton hits absolutely all the spots. Part gothic thriller, part period drama and brimming with richly-drawn characters who are all too relatable despite their flaws, Frannie’s journey from the slave plantations of 1800s Jamaica to the high society of London becomes a dark foray into the depths of human love and cruelty. Absolutely gut-wrenching at times, the dramatic tension of the story is only matched by Collin’s deft handling of historical research and detail. Read it. Read it now.