Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019: My Year in Books

Each year for the past few years, I've set a goal of reading 52 books, or one per week. I use Goodreads to track my reading and as of this writing, I've read 50 books. There are still a few days left in 2019, and I know I'll finish at least the novel I'm on (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë) and I'll probably pick up a graphic novel for that number 52 at the last minute.

It was quite the variety again. Look: 

Through my local library, I run a book club with fellow author, James Maxey: The First Monday Classics Book Club. As you might guess, we discuss a work of classic literature on the first Monday of each month. We're in our fourth year as a book club, with many members participating the whole time, and we work to find books that are classic in the sense of having a lasting impact, while still avoiding reading only "dead white guys." It amounts to 11 books a year most years, since Labor Day falls on a first Monday and the library is closed. 

This year's list included (in the order I read them): 
  1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  2. Roots by Alex Haley
  3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  4. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
  5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  6. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  7. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain
  8. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  9. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  10. Les Liasions Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
  11. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Of these, The Sun Also Rises, The Haunting of Hill House, Les Liasions Dangereuses, and The Call of the Wild were re-reads for me. I can't really stomach Hemingway anymore, but the other three held up quite well, especially Shirley Jackson! 

The jewel of the collection was The Heart is a Lonely Hunter which is a heartbreaker if I've ever read one, the most disappointing was Fahrenheit 451 which is definitely NOT the best thing Mr. Bradbury wrote, and the most painful to read was Tristram Shandy which far too long considering it's really just a shaggy dog story

Several of my other reads were books by friends, colleagues, and members of professional organizations I'm in or that I support. 

Some I promised to read to help another author garner some reviews. 

A few I read because I was judging a contest. 

Others, I just wanted to read because I'd heard so much about the work from spending time on panels and at author events with these talented people. 

This list includes (in the order I read them): 
  1. Kristen Brand's Hero Status
  2. A Pocket Watch, Spray Paint & Morphine: How Viv the Librarian Weathers the Boom by Kimberly Lynne
  3. Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck
  4. Just Cause by Ian Thomas Healy
  5. Bedside Manners by Heather Frimmer
  6. Storm Forged (The Darkest Storm #1) by Patrick Dugan
  7. The Ghost and Dr. Watson: A Shadow Council Archives Novella by Alexandra Christian
  8. Cinched: Imagination Unbound (various authors)
  9. My Dad is a Mad Scientist (The Adventures of Ubergirl #1) by Matthew S. Cox
  10. A Nighttime of Forever (Vampire Innocent #1) by Matthew S. Cox
  11. A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams
  12. Sisters of the Wild Sage: A Weird Western Collection by Nicole Givens Kurtz
  13. Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
The shining star in this collection was Michael G. Williams's A Fall in Autumn. Gorgeous prose, fascinating world, and amazing characters. Far future noir. Lovely. 

A close second was Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which was very creative in narrative structure and genre bending in that it was a locked room mystery in space. 

I also really loved Cinched and Sisters of the Wild Sage, two collections of short stories that startled me in the best ways. 

The Ghost and Dr. Watson was beautifully realized, and I loved this interpretation of Dr. Watson!

My main writing project since summer has been a gothic romance, so I read quite a few things to feed that project: classics in the genre, works set in a similar era, and a bit of nonfiction for historical detail and inspiration.

This list includes (in the order I read them): 
  1. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening (Monstress #1) by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (Illustrator)
  2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  3. Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel
  4. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by  Charlotte Gordon
  5. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
  6. The Cater Street Hangman (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt #1) by  Anne Perry
  7. Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons, and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era by Autumn Stephens
  8. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  9. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (finishing in the next couple of days)
The standout among these was Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, especially when compared to The Mysteries of Udolpho and The Monk, two of the other classic gothic novels on the list. While the latter two novels suffer from the passage of time and feel clunky or outright offensive in sections, Lady Audley is still quite a page turner, and much in the vein of what I'm attempting to write myself, so quite an inspiration. 

Romantic Outlaws and Pride and Prometheus are wonderful for their insights into work I already love, the first by filling in details of Mary Shelley's life and work and the second by melding two work of fiction I already love and admire. 

The last category was books that I'd heard a lot of buzz about and wanted to read based on that--a bit of keeping up with what's going on in my chosen industry. 

This list includes (in the order I read them): 
  1. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  2. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
  3. The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  4. The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal
  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  6. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse
  7. The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
  8. Sass & Sorcery: Rat Queens #1 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
  9. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  10. The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin
  11. The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O'Meara
  12. The Power by Naomi Alderman
Rebecca Roanhorse, Mary Robinette Kowal, and NK Jemisin all blew me away in different ways. I don't think I can choose a favorite among their books (five of which are on this list). Most of the list held up to the hype and I'm glad I read all of them. 

There's only a few others on the list I didn't mention. My semi-regular neighborhood book club was responsible for some choices, and others I don't rightly remember why I picked that one in that moment. Looking back, though, I had an excellent reading year! I only wish I could have fit in even more books. 

How was yours? Did we read anything in common? What did you love reading this year?

Update 31 December: I made it!


  1. I've never made reading goals but like to check on Goodreads how much I've read. According to Goodreads I've 49 books, compared to the 165 books I read last year, but I know it had to be more than that.
    Good luck reaching your goal of 52 books!

    1. Thanks! I did make it in the end. It was close, though.