I will always remember 2019 as the year of Angie Thomas and her young adult novels. I started the year reading THE HATE U GIVE and scooped up ON THE COME UP late in the summer. I cherished the strong teen-aged voices of Star and Bri. My heart broke for Star when her friend was gunned down during a traffic stop. And it sang for the family who loved her. Bri’s determination to become a great rapper leads her into trouble—for speaking her mind when she’s angry. Both spoke volumes to this gray-haired suburbanite. Maybe they weren’t written for me but both spoke volumes to this gray-haired suburbanite.
I’d have called them the best books I read this year if it weren’t for Ta-Nehisi Coates‘ THE WATER DANCER. And I’m not even done it yet. But so far it’s magical. The story of Hiram Walker, born into bondage and the son of the plantation owner, it brings the horror of slavery into sharp focus, a story of the Quality and the Tasked. Hiram is a good man, filled with hope, love and optimism. One of the most interesting characters I’ve ever met in a book.
Not everything I read was as serious as these books. It’s been a year of terrific reading. Here are the rest of my top ten for 2019.
THE FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE by Ruta Sepetys. A gripping story of Spain in 1957, Generalissimo Franco has silenced his citizens and yet opened his country to tourism and business. This story relates the meeting of a young Texas tourist and a hotel maid.
THE SECRETS WE KEPT by Lara Prescott. I love DOCTOR ZHIVAGO but never knew how Boris Pasternak’s book came to be published. This historical novel relates how a love story became a weapon during the Cold War.
A VIRTUOUS RUBY by Piper Huguley. A healing woman must come to grips with the town that shames her for her illegitimate child—and the new doctor in town who brushes her and her knowledge aside.
BECOMING by Michelle Obama. What can I say? I loved the parts of the story I had never heard before.
THE GREAT ALONE by Kristin Hannah. Alaska was never so cold.
EXIT WEST by Mohsin Hamid. I heard him speak at Loyola University Maryland in March and ran out to get his book. I was rewarded with a fantastical story of strange black doors that enable people to travel around the world. So good.
ARTEMIS by Andy Weir. I loved THE MARTIAN so I couldn’t resist this heist story set on the moon. I was cheering for Jazz from beginning to end.
That’s my top ten–a crazy variety in no particular order….but I have to include a few others–
BALM by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. An African American woman escapes to the big city of Chicago where she meets up with a man looking for his family now that the Civil War is over. Balm for my soul.
THE SCRIBE OF SIENA by Melodie Winawer. An Italian Outlander, someone called it. That’s about right. Start in twenty-first century Italy and plunge into life in the 1300s.
SONG OF BLOOD AND STONE by L. Penelope. Dive into the magical word of Jasminda and enjoy the ride. I’ve got L. Penelope’s next story in the series, WHISPERS OF SHADOW AND FLAME on my TBR pile. Looking forward to returning to these fantastical places.
MEET ME IN MONACO, co-written by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor. The south of France. Grace Kelly. A young perfumer and a troubled photojournalist. Delicious.
THE PALE BLUE EYE, a detective story by Louis Bayard. A murder takes place at West Point and the detective recruits a young cadet to help him. He is Edgar Allan Poe.
HIDDEN FIGURES by Margot Lee Shetterly. Better than the movie! One of the few non-fiction books I read this year and as gripping as the best novels.
HOMECOMING by Beverly Jenkins. A Christmas second chance love story. Warmed my heart on a cold day.
THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING. Never read a book by James Patterson before but this one had an extra byline–former president Bill Clinton. Fun to read on an airplane.
That’s some of what I read this year. So many good books (and I haven’t included them all). What did you read in 2019? Anything I should get my hands on in 2020?