Another year, another ‘favourites’ post.
I’m actually going to be doing a series of these posts. I started with my Worst Reads of 2019 post, there’s a scheduled Favourite Graphic Reads post, and there are several more coming up that branch into my interests outside of books, too.
It was a pretty good reading year for me. I read 306 things overall, and while I can’t give any stats, I am for sure going to keep up to date with more stats in 2020. I read considerably more horror and non-fiction than any previous year of reading, which makes sense, and I’ve also started straying from a lot of YA into Adult fiction, like literary fiction. It’s been a gradual change, but I’m a lot happier for it!
A Study in Charlotte
by Brittany Cavallaro
2019 was a definite Holmes year for me. Not only did I start reading the original books, I also started the TV show Elementary, and started this series. I think it was A Study in Charlotte that started this year of Holmes.
I think it’s a fascinating take on the original Holmes ‘lore’, for lack of a better term. Jamie and Charlotte are great main characters and have actual chemistry that’s built up and changes over the course of the series, and I love the idea of the descendants of Sherlock, Watson and Moriarty still being tied together.
The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried
by Shaun David Hutchinson
This was a definite surprise for me! I’ve read nearly all of Shaun David Hutchinson’s books, and I love how he uses elements of Science and the paranormal in his works.
As someone who has family working in funeral directing, reading this was like an insight into their lives and the handling of the dead. I think the scenes of resurrection and conversation surrounding accepting death and being willing to move on are so incredible, and I also love the complicated reconciliation of the two main characters.
The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson
I read this shortly after I finished watching the Netflix show with my sister, and honestly…. it slaps.
Haunting follows four different characters, but focuses predominantly on Eleanor, whom I loved. I have a newfound love for unreliable narrators, and also implied lesbians, which Eleanor definitely is and I’m willing to write an essay about it. Shirley Jackson relies on terror, and the breakdown of the psyche of characters, in the place of straight up ‘horror’, and I think it’s a wonderful haunted house story that isn’t, actually, about the house.
Shame Is An Ocean I Swim Across
by Mary Lambert
When I was younger, Mary Lambert had one of my favourite voices of any singer, and I think her beautiful lyricism translates so well into her poetry.
Shame Is An Ocean I Swim Across is a collection I hold very close to my heart because of how much I could see myself in the words. The look into body image and self worth, the trauma we experience that impacts our lives. Mary Lambert is incredible.
by Emma Jane Unsworth
I describe this novel as being world adjacent to my own, and I’ll stick by that. Animals focuses on identity and the, at times, toxic friendships between women, and how a lot of the younger generation can encourage friends to be the worst versions of themselves. Emma Jane Unsworth has written a main character I found myself relating to in spite of some glaring differences, and I really appreciated what she did with this book. Highly recommend the audiobook.
The Rattled Bones
by S.M. Parker
Reading this was very personal for me. I read it just after my dad passed away, and Rilla’s grief was so similar to my own that I couldn’t help but feel attached to her. It’s also about white privilege, and addressing the atrocities we are complicit in. Standing by and allowing horror to happen is as damaging as committing those acts yourself, and I think S.M. Parker comes from a place of addressing her on white privilege in writing this novel.
by Marisha Pessl
I’m noticing that a lot of the books on this list are ones I picked up on a whim. I read 100 pages of this in the January, put it down for 2 months, and then went back and listened to it all as an audiobook and loved it. I love Beatrice, our main character, and the complexities of morality and a person’s limit before breaking. It’s a suitably dark take on the groundhog day scenario, with multifaceted characters and an amazing mystery to boot!
In Other Lands
by Sarah Rees Brennan
Best portal fantasy of all time? Hell yes it is! In Other Lands has the most snarky main character, Elliot, a bisexual Jewish boy who finds himself whisked away to a magical camp. One of my updates as I was reading this was ‘Elliot is such a little bastard I adore him’, because you really do. He’s nuanced and complicated, and Brennan spends so much time subverting tropes of the genre. It’s fast paced and fascinating, breaking down the realities of so many fantasy books with child soldiers through the point of view of a pacifist who questions the morality of his world, all in the space of 450 pages. It feels fully fleshed out regardless of page count, and I desperately want to re-read this.
The Monster of Elendhaven
by Jennifer Giesbrecht
Never have I loved characters this unlikable. Johann, a supernatural human-like serial killer, pursues Herr Leikenbloom, a disturbed aristocrat attempting to create the plague. It’s bizarre, and the relationship between the two is fully consensual in how toxic it is. It’s a fantasy world I can get behind because it’s disgusting and gritty, full of death, disease and murder, and everyone has an ulterior motive. Not only that, but it’s funny, even when the terrible things are happening, and I love that. Certainly not a very well liked book, but I love it, and I’ll be re-reading it for sure.
by Michael McDowell
This wasn’t a hard decision for me. The Elementals is my favourite horror novel, now, and I am happy to say that. Written in the 80s, it follows three generations of two different families who travel to their Victorian summer houses at Beldame after the death of one of the matriarchs, only to be haunted by the third house, filling with sand, and home to a horror that they’ve spent too long avoiding.
The Elementals is claustrophobic and chilling, in spite of the ever present stifling heat, with a villain that feels dangerous. McDowell doesn’t take the easy routes in plot, and emphasises the significance of family and trust, of tradition in the face of adversity, and he doesn’t employ cheap twists for the sake of drama. It feels consistent, in terms of writing and the characters standing together as a family unit.
Every time I think about this book, I feel incredibly fond, especially of India and Luker, who have an unconventional father-daughter relationship that reminds me of my relationship with my mum.
What were your favourite reads of 2019? Any similarities with mine? I’d love to know!
Happy new year!
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