The Books of 2019

Goodreads Challenge: 20
Books Finished: 20
Books DNF: 5

I lowered my challenge from 50 books to 20 in 2019, and I think this was a good idea.  I’m keeping that same energy in 2020, plus it goes with the number.  I still have book reviews from 2018 to write, so the lower number theoretically helps bring that down, too (not…really).

Because I only read 20 books, I’m going to list them all here in no particular order at first then the Top 10 after.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Classic)

You really have to keep your present sensibilities in check in order to garner what Fitzgerald was after.  It’s not a bad message about how we treat the very young vs. the very old, but it comes with a whole bunch of yikes.

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare (Classic)

The question of Cleopatra’s betrayal is still up in the air, and the ruminations on the concept are far more fascinating than the answer.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (Classic)

Oh my fucking god, this was almost laughably bad in so many ways.  I’m glad I read it, but it was dry and plodding for so many chapters.  The most interesting parts involved the Persian who doesn’t even get a name.  Raoul’s character as well as Eric’s were greatly improved by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, which greatly improved upon many aspects of Leroux’s work.

Ubik by Philip K. Dick (Classic)

Reading my notes on this makes me like it better than I did while reading it.  It’s one of those “What’s reality?  What’s real?  What’s really happening stories?” which are my favorites, but it became more enjoyable after I finished it.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H. P. Lovecraft (Classic)

Lovecraftian body switching or convincing/tricking a descendant into letting you use their body is the flavor of this tale, and it takes until almost the end to realize the titular character isn’t the MC.

Calling All Angels (Shadow Council Case Files #1) by John C. Harkness (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

The MC, a Black woman boxer, is written by a white guy who manages to not be stereotypical,  We shouldn’t be giving out cookies for the bare minimum, but the novel is also really good.  It shows positive examples of parenting and female friendships/women looking out for one another, too.  Yet another series I need to continue.

Coal (Everleaf #1) by Constance Burris (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

I loved one main character and hated the other.  Coal is awesome and his so-called friend Chalcedony in an immature bitch who needs to understand that actions have consequences.  I’m thinking the author understands that (I hope she does), but she annoyed me so goddamn much I held off on reading the next book lol.

The Noise Effect by Stevie Turner (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

This book almost made it into the Top 10, but while I liked the overall message/idea about how you can’t know someone entirely and people can be capable of things you wouldn’t dream, there seemed to be some classist ideas I may or may not have really been picking up on.  I’m wondering if we were supposed to have liked Evelyn’s first husband because I sure as hell didn’t.

The Nutcracker Curse (Cursed Fairy Tale #1) by Margo Ryerkerk (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

This book had some dubious cliches and the writing could stand some polishing, but it was still so interesting.  I couldn’t help but keep reading even though I knew what was going to happen.  I honestly don’t know how to explain how that kind of thing works lol.  Maybe by the time I review it I’ll have figured it out.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (Research/Reference)

I didn’t include this in my top 10 but it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  The seminal text on comparative mythology and the source of The Hero’s Journey/Monomyth.  For anyone interesting in narrative studies, it is a necessary read.

10.  The Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose by Moses Norton (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of The Last Stitch Goes Through the Nose by Moses NortonWritten by a friend and fellow blogger, this is a heartbreaking look at how we treat the castoffs of our society.  Review and analysis can be found here.

9.  Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse) by James S. A. Corey (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. CoreyI’m glad I stuck with this.  I had issues in the beginning finding someone to like, but eventually they all grew on me.  I understood what the author was trying to do and it was brilliant.  I haven’t seen the show yet because I don’t want the book series spoiled, and I heard the first season encompasses some of the second novel.

8.  Sins of the Father by Anthony Vicino (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover for Sins of the Father by Anthony VicinoMemory is a tricky thing, and the author brilliantly shows how we’ll go through literal mental gymnastics to make it fit a narrative we can accept.

7.  Age of Doom Part One (Black Hammer) by Jeff Lemire (Graphic Novel)

Cover of Black Hammer, Vol. 3: Age of Doom Part OneThere’s something wholesome and old school about this comic even as it’s currently written.  It both speaks to and deconstructs the comic heroes of bygone eras, and I need to pick up the next installment that just came out.

Update: I have picked up the next installment.  Now I just need to read it.

6.  Snow White Learns Witchcraft: Stories and Poems by Theodora Goss (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Snow White Learns Witchcraft: Stories and Poems by Theodora GossEvery time I thought I’d found my favorite story of the set, I’d read another one that blew me away.  I follow Dr. Goss’ blog as well and have her Heroine’s Journey essay saved to read for my own research and essays.

5. Traitor’s Blades (Greatcoats) by Sebastien de Castell (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Traitor's Blades (Greatcoats) by Sebastien de Castell

I honestly did not expect to love this book as much as I did, but there was something about it..the mirth in the face of despair; the very definition of gallows humor; the standing up for something when you know you’ve lost it all, and you’re only doing so for memory of pain.  I understood the main character Falcio in ways very few other protagonists have ever matched.  How you can be so terrified of that thing that lives deep inside of you, that darkness you’re afraid to even touch for fear of what it might reveal about your truest self, because once it gets out, there’s no hiding it ever again.  It’ll destroy everything, including what, if any good, people see in you.  Besides my personal love for it, the villainous twist at the end is absolutely fucking brutal.

4.  Kushiel’s Dart (Phèdre’s Trilogy) by Jacqueline Carey (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyI am so glad I decided to give this another attempt after so many years.  I don’t even quite remember what part I DNFed it at initially, but it does have a long denouement, though it’s perfectly valid for all the things that happen.  The author’s prose is beautiful, and I love that the MC is a sex worker, because the skills she’s picked up from doing that (being around people/knowing how to read them aka diplomacy) are what help her survive all of her trials and griefs.  I’ll be reading the second book in the series soon.  I need to know what happens with her and Jocelyn.

3.  Vita Nostra (Metamorphoses) by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey DyachenkoThis book almost defies any attempt to categorize it, and to say too much about it would do a grave disservice to future readers.  It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before, but now that I’ve seen Twin Peaks, I think it has similar vibes.

2.  Winterglass (Her Pitiless Command) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Winterglass by Benjanun SriduangkaewI fell in love with this darkly poetic story of two women claimed by winter and drawn to each other.  I have never before wanted a couple to have a happy ending more.

1.  Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay (Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Fiction)

Cover of Tigana by Guy Gavriel KayThis book took me the majority of the year to read, and I actually started in in 2018.  It was first published in 1990, and it holds up far better than some published afterwards (looking at you The Dragonbone Chair).  I remember falling in love with its prologue and tearing up as I read it.  Within just a few pages, Kay weaves a tale of beauty and tragedy, and the prologue lays this shroud over the entirety of the novel.  “So much done in the name of the dead.”

I want to continue more series and stop having such a rigid “read next” plan.  I constantly do that in the name of reading the books I’ve had on my list the longest when there are other books I’d much rather read.  I  need to re-read some of the ones I need for research/reference purposes, because past me either took shit notes or none at all (thanks past TSN!) e.g. The Mystical Qabalah, which I’ve marked up, but I’d rather have cohesive notes in one place instead of ones crowded into the margins of random pages.  Also The Poetic Edda.  I have no clue why I didn’t take better notes on that.  I think I honed my note taking with my re-read of Campbell’s Hero, and I want to use that method not only going forward but going back with integral texts.

What were your top books of 2019?  Have your read any on my list?  What’s your goal for 2020?  Name at least one book you’d recommend to me 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Books of 2019

  1. Pingback: The State of the Writer: 1/26/20 | The Shameful Narcissist Speaks

  2. Awesome post! I always love these year round-up type posts. 🙂 Especially the book ones.
    I’m definitely sticking with a smaller reading number this year as well. My goal is quality over quantity. I’m also trying to read stuff I already own for the most part unless it’s book club books or I somehow land my hands on a freebie/gift or something.
    I think my top reads for 2019 were Howl’s Moving Castle, The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery, a novella called River of Teeth that C&M recommended, and my fave graphic novel I read last year was Bitter Root, vol. 1: Family Business. I would definitely recommend any of those. 🙂 Happy Reading to you in 2020! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A good year in reading!
    I only increased my reading challenge by 5 books this year (total of 30) because I blew past 25 without hardly trying. I still don’t want to push myself to a crazy number though as I want to actually start my new hobby that I barely started last year.
    I think I recommended Traitor’s Blade to you? I’m not positive about that.

    Liked by 1 person

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