It’s that time of year when best of / worst of lists come up, and obviously I’m hopping on that train and I’ve been working on this list all year to make sure I don’t forget any!
I try to choose maximum 3 books per category, but it’s always super hard to choose only three, especially in categories where I’ve read literally dozens and dozens of books (thrillers and fantasy, for example).
New Favorite Authors
Best Contemporary Fiction
Sourdough by Robin Sloan / Review
This is lovely and will definitely make you hungry, which is one of the best kinds of book in my opinion! Bonus points because the main character is a STEM girl!
Normal People by Sally Rooney / Review
This was a very touching read, so intense and I’m still processing it. It’s gotten super popular this year and I think it’s for a good reason!
The Pisces by Melissa Broder / Review
Weird. I love it.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe / Review to come / Goodreads
This account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland is a brilliantly written book that kept me turning pages well into the night. Fascinating and eye-opening, it does not require a whole lot of knowledge about the conflicts
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou / Review
Absolutely addictive, this tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and how she fooled everyone into thinking she’d invented something revolutionary that would save lives. It’s a huge scam story with lots of drama and even more interesting because it’s real.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado / Review
Carmen tells the story of her abusive relationship in such a stunning way – every chapter is told with a different style, from love story to horror. It’s really masterful work.
Best Historical Fiction
Transcription by Kate Atkinson / Review
A lovely story about a woman who works with espionage in the 40s in the UK. She’s such a strong-willed and funny character, I really enjoyed this!
The Iron King by Maurice Druon / Review
This is the first of a 7-book series that I hope to continue in 2020, telling the story of Spanish kings starting with Philip the Fair. This is a dramatic, gossip-y book that is a very entertaining read and inspired GoT!
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid / Review
Story-wise this is a good book, but where it shines is on the characters – they’re absolutely amazing, and the audiobook turns this into a 10/10 experience! I think in print it would’ve been a 4-star read, but in audio with full cast, I gave this 5 stars. It tells the story of a band the becomes very famous in the 70s and then breaks up mysteriously.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James / Review
A man with an extraordinary sense of smell is in jail. Everyone knows his story, but they don’t know the full truth, and he tells his side of the story, of how he ended up in jail, of how the child he sent out to search for turned up dead. This fantasy tale is dark and gritty and I really enjoyed it!
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon / Review
This is an epic book, with dragons and powerful women, and a fascinating world of history and myth and forbidden magic. I loved this so, so much, and to me it’s a classic already.
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir / Review
This book had me laughing out loud – I loved Gideon as a character and had an amazing time with this murder mystery with necromancers. So good!!
Best Science Fiction
Vicious by V. E. Schwab / Goodreads
This was such an addictive read! So dark and delicious. Two roommates and best friends become sworn enemies after something goes wrong as they write a thesis together about super heroes. Now one has just escaped jail and is ready to take revenge.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone / Review
Oh this was beautiful! I loved the poetic prose, although it does take a bit of time to get into it – the love story was so sweet, the world so interesting (Atlantis! Futuristic wars! Love letters sent in the form of berries!). So lovely.
Sphere by Michael Crichton / Goodreads
A bit of a controversial choice, considering how many complaints I had about this book! But in the end I enjoyed it a lot and it was highly readable. I don’t excuse the author “because of the time it was written” for his stereotypical characters with some cringe-y moments, but I did enjoy the science of this book and its imagination!
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang / Review
This was so lovely! I loved how the main character was smart and determined, but also so kind – and the love interest was so CLUELESS but adorable.
Proper English KJ Charles / Review
This was SO cute I can’t even. The murder mystery itself wasn’t the main part of the story, but a nice addition to the love story between a soft, girly young woman who discovers she’s stronger than she believes, and a no-nonsense woman who realizes she has feelings for her brother’s fiancée.
Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston / Mini-Review
This was an amazing, adorable romance with lots of steam and political discussions. Really a timely novel, I laughed out loud listening to it!
Best Mystery & Thrillers
The Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing / Review
Oh this was GREAT. I have no patience to listen to audiobooks for longer than a couple hours, but I listened to this for several hours straight and simply had to finish it in one go! And murder couple, girls disappearing, and maybe one is framing the other for all of the murders? Really amazing.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim / Review
This is a court mystery, which gets a bit thriller-like sometimes! I was fascinated by the turns of events and so nervous about what would happen to everyone. It was also impressive how many important topics this novel touched in without ever feeling like it was too much – autism, treating children with autism, what it’s like being a parent, sexual assault, immigration etc.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager / Review
This book gave me outright CHILLS. A building with a creepy history, full of death, and a job offer too good to be true: if the apartment sitters live in the luxury apartments for three weeks, they’ll receive a lot of money – but no visitors allowed, ever, and you must always sleep in the apartment.
Best Literary Fiction
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson / Review
I read this earlier this year and it was amazing – a daughter who hasn’t seen her mother in many years, secrets hidden in the water and something not quite of this world following you.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong / Review
This beautiful story follows Little Dog as he writes a letter to his mother, with whom he had a complicated relationship, and unravels the story of his family leaving Vietnam and going to the US, the violence, trauma and acts of love that led him to where he is now.
The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy / Review
A brilliant novel about a narcissistic man who goes to East Berlin for his research and ends up falling in love with his host. The plot does not tell you about how excellent this book is, and how engrossing, but if you love an unreliable narrator, this is IT.
Dig by A. S. King / Review
Five teenagers’ lives are connected in ways they don’t know yet, including a missing girl and a potato farm. This was a surprisingly beautiful read!
The Wicked King by Holly Black / Review
I think of the three novels, this one had the most twists, and was the most exciting!
Wilder Girls by Rory Power / Review
I was really engrossed in this story, it was so interesting to see the girls become ruthless survivors and their strange mutations, and trying to figure out how to find a cure for the disease that is taking them, one by one.
Best Classic Fiction
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Guilman / Goodreads
Oh my gosh, this was amazing! I’m highly suspicious because I love a good Gothic novel and stories where madness and the supernatural entwine themselves. This was so good I started over again the moment it ended.
Antigone by Sophocles / Goodreads
A classic I really disliked in my youth, but now loved! Antigone is a great character and I absolutely must read the rest of the Oedipus plays.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson / Review
Another amazing Gothic classic. Two sisters, and a family murdered and a cousin who wants to take all he can get from them. What a story.
Lock Every Door, by Riley Sager / Review
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid / Review
Red, White & Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston / Mini-Review
What were your favorite reads of this year?