book review, reading lists

2019 in Books

Another year, another book list…

Best new author discovered: N. K. Jemisin. My mind was totally blown by her  adult fantasy trilogy, which begins with The Fifth Season. I plan on reading much more of her in 2020.

I did better working in nonfiction books this year! Every one of them was worth reading, but Dr. Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person was personally revelatory, and overshadows them all for the ways it’s allowed me to think differently about myself and my life.

There are far more books on this year’s list that are re-reads. I never used to be able to stand reading the same book twice. I wanted always something new, a fresh story, an unknown vista, a strange cast of characters to observe. But these days, I’m feeling more drawn to books I know I have loved. Maybe it’s the preferable alternative to risking reading something insipid or lifeless. In several cases, I deliberately re-read to examine how the writer put the book together. Part of my going-to-bed routine involves reading, and I tend to do better at that time of the day with a story I already know, so it doesn’t take quite as much effort to follow (and so I don’t stay up until 2am to find out what happens next).


Bold books are recommendations/favorites I would read again. Italicized books are re-reads, and also recommendations (I only re-read books I really love).

(F = fiction, SFF = sci-fi/fantasy, YA = young adult/children’sNF = nonfiction)

  1. Someone Like Me, M. R. Carey (SFF)
  2. The Highly Sensitive Person, Dr. Elaine Aron (NF)
  3. The Telling, Ursula K. Le Guin (SFF)
  4. Warlight, Michael Ondaatje (F)
  5. Italian Fairytales, Italo Calvino (SFF)
  6. Spark Joy, Marie Kondo (NF)
  7. Head Games, John Scalzi (SFF)
  8. A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L’Engle (YA/SFF)
  9. A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle (YA/SFF)
  10. Semiosis, Sue Burke (SFF)
  11. The Passage, Justin Cronin (SFF)
  12. The Water Cure, Sophie Mackintosh (SFF)
  13. Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino (SFF)
  14. Camino Island, John Grisham (F)
  15. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (SFF)
  16. Cosmicomics, Italo Calvino (SFF)
  17. My Real Children, Jo Walton (SFF)
  18. the empty mirror, Janwillem Van de Wetering (NF)
  19. Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World, Mary Pipher (NF)
  20. Vigilance, Robert Jackson Bennett (SFF)
  21. An Acceptable Time, Madeleine L’Engle (SFF)
  22. The Fifth Season, N. K. Jemisin (SFF)
  23. The Book of M, Peng Shepherd (SFF)
  24. THIS, Michael Gungor (NF)
  25. The Monks & Me: How 40 Days at Thich Nhat Hanh’s French Monastery Guided Me Home, Mary Paterson (NF)
  26. Mem, Bethany C. Morrow (SFF)
  27. The Fellowship of the Ring, J. R. R. Tolkien (SFF)
  28. The Obelisk Gate, N. K. Jemisin (SFF)
  29. The Stone Sky, N. K. Jemisin (SFF)
  30. The Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien (SFF)
  31. It Happened One Doomsday, Laurence MacNaughton (SFF)
  32. The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien (SFF)
  33. Tooth & Claw, Jo Walton (SFF) 
  34. The Angelic Avengers, Isak Dinesen (F)
  35. Steering the Craft: A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (NF)
  36. Tehanu, Ursula K. Le Guin (SFF)
  37. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (SFF)
  38. The Heroine’s Journey, Maureen Murdock (NF)
  39. M Train, Patti Smith (NF)
  40. Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, trans. Sam Hamill (NF)
  41. Colorless Tsukuru Tasaki & His Years of Pilgrimage, Haruki Murakami (F)
  42. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett (YA)
  43. Ghosts of You, Cathy Ulrich (F)
  44. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (SFF)
  45. The Bible: A Biography, Karen Armstrong (NF)
  46. Relief by Execution: A Visit to Mauthausen, Gint Aras (NF)
  47. Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami (SFF)
  48. Un Lun Dun, China Mieville (YA/SFF)
  49. The Martian, Andy Weir (SFF)
  50. The Case for God, Karen Armstrong (NF)
  51. Interference, Sue Burke (SFF)
  52. Perdido Street Station, China Mieville (SFF)
  53. The Way of Chuang Tzu, Thomas Merton (NF)
  54. Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake (SFF)
  55. The Outside, Ada Hoffmann (SFF)
  56. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood (SFF)
  57. Children of Virtue and Vengeance, Tomi Adeyemi (YA/SFF)

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