Reflecting back on the 60 books I read in 2019 I tried to decide on my top ten favourites. It was tough, but here they are, in no particular order.
- A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Fowles) This may go down as one of my favourite books ever, up there with A Fine Balance and A Prayer For Owen Meanie. This is not a story to read quickly to see what happens next, but one to savour slowly, enjoying the character development, the atmosphere, the understated humour.
- Baggage (Wendy Phillips) This book for young readers is written in verse, and deals with child trafficking and social justice. Phillips is a master at this genre, capturing numerous young voices with so few words.
- The Heart’s Invisible Furies (John Boyne) Another one of my top ten books, ever. It’s a saga. Its scope is vast. It’s brilliant, hilarious and heartbreaking, all at once. Set in Ireland it covers the entire lifespan of one ordinary man who has extraordinary trials and tribulations.
- The Agony of Bun O’keefe (Heather Smith) Brilliant, funny and endearing. It’s for younger teens or older children but will appeal to anyone who enjoys a poignant story featuring quirky, lovable characters who, in this case, come together to form a truly unconventional but loving family. Bun o’Keefe will live in my heart for a long time. Heather Smith is one of my favourite Canadian authors.
- Sweep, The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (Jonathan Auxier) I read this book last year but read it again this year to prepare for a bookclub discussion. I enjoyed it equally as much on the second reading. Again, it’s a book for young people but has enormous adult appeal. It deals with the horrific practise of using very young children as chimney sweeps in Victorian England, but in Auxier’s hands it becomes a tender story of friendship and courage.
- Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng) A multi-layered family story that shows the complexities of human relationships. I’m now reading Ng’s earlier book, Everything I Never Told You which shows equal promise. (I need to study Ng’s amazing ability to weave past events with current ones without losing the reader.)
- Educated (Tara Westover) Like The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls this is a compelling, almost hard-to-believe memoir of one young American girl living a most unconventional life.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) I’m always impressed when an author can combine serious, troubling themes with delightful humour. I won’t forget quirky Eleanor any time soon.
- Elizabeth Is Missing (Emma Healey) That such a young author (early 20’s) can write so authentically about memory loss and dementia is astonishing.
- The Sun is Also a Star (Nicola Yoon). This book is a love story for teens that takes place over one day. The characters are smart and the writing is engaging. I found it unputdownable. The movie version is good too.
Two books that almost made the list were An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow, both by Tayari Jones. They were thoughtful stories that once again explore the complexities of human relationships.
What were your outstanding reads of the year?