Top 10 Favorite Books of 2019
Two weeks ago, my Page Turners column featured my favorite books published in 2019 by genre with eight or nine books listed in each genre. This week, I am highlighting the best of the best: my favorite books of the year – those that resonated the most with me and have stayed with me long after I finished them. After much deliberation, I managed to narrow down my list to 10 titles (they are listed alphabetically because I love them all equally):
- The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont by Shawn Levy - Levy’s dishy, gossip-filled story of the Chateau Marmont and its storied existence captivated me from the start. Originally opened as an apartment building but eventually converted to an exclusive hotel, the Chateau has remained a fixture overlooking the Sunset Strip for nearly 90 years. From John Belushi’s fatal overdose to Lindsey Lohan’s removal from the property for failing to pay her bill, the Chateau Marmont has seen more than its fair share of scandal, and Levy chronicles it all in a highly readable and entertaining fashion.
- City of Windows by Robert Pobi – This book is a fresh, fast-paced thriller with a unique and intelligent protagonist. It is one of the best thrillers that I have read in a while, and I raced through this book as fast as I could. I loved everything about the book – the characters, the mystery, and Pobi’s writing style. City of Windows is the start of a new series, and I am already eagerly awaiting the next installment.
- Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Daisy Jones & the Six is a fictional band that made it big in the 1970s who dealt with everything fame brings – drugs, worshipping fans, no privacy and competing egos. Years later, an interviewer (whose identity is unknown to the reader) compiles an oral history of the band and its rise to fame. After completing interviews with the band and other involved individuals, the interviewer combines the band’s tale into one long chronology which hilariously and, at times, heartbreakingly tells the band members’ stories from different perspectives.
- Dragonfly by Leila Meacham – Leila Meacham’s incredible World War II saga chronicles a fictional team of young Americans recruited as OSS agents to infiltrate German-occupied Paris. The genius of Dragonfly is Meacham’s ability to vividly portray occupied Paris and the treachery that constantly existed for those working to remove Hitler and the Nazis from power. Clever, suspenseful and character-driven, Dragonfly is a tour-de-force, and the fact that Leila Meacham is a fellow Texan is a bonus!
- A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan – Part ghost story, part historical fiction, A House of Ghosts takes place towards the end of World War 1 at Blackwater Abbey, off the coast of Devon, England. Arms manufacturer Lord Highmount lost both of his sons at the front and seeks to communicate with them through a spiritualist he summons to the Abbey. Naturally, things do not goes as planned. A House of Ghosts contains everything that I love best in a good book - a fabulous setting, history, crime, family secrets, and a few ghosts tossed in for good measure. It is a gem from start to finish.
- Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman – Set in 1960s Baltimore amid the social turmoil and strife of that era, Lippman’s tale unfolds through the perspectives of numerous characters. Each new chapter is tied to some small portion of the last chapter. I absolutely loved this one, and the ending is spectacular. This is my first Laura Lippman book to read, but it will certainly not be my last.
- The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin – Conklin traces the lives of four siblings across the decades alternating between a far-future year, 2079, and earlier moments in their lives and relationships. I enjoyed the futuristic time period, which only plays a small part in the story, but what I loved the most was the perfectly paced development of the family’s story and dynamics. Their unusual upbringing left an indelible mark on each of them that plays out differently with each sibling. Conklin’s lyrical and poetic prose is captivating, and I frequently reread certain passages because they were so well written. The Last Romantics will stay with me for a very long time.
- The Lost Man by Jane Harper – Set in the dry, sparsely-occupied Australian Outback, The Lost Man opens with the discovery of a local man’s body miles from the nearest house. As the story unfolds with alternating flashbacks and present-day narratives, one of the two remaining brothers, Nathan, works to solve the mystery of who killed his brother and realizes that there is more to Cameron’s death than meets the eye as family secrets slowly come to light. Harper’s pacing is perfection – she can write a mystery novel like no other, and her stunning ending will catch readers by surprise.
- The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali – Roya and Bahman meet and fall in love in a neighborhood book and stationery shop in 1953 Tehran. The night before their wedding, the pair agree to meet at the town square, but violence breaks out related to the Iranian Revolution, and Bahman disappears. Decades later, a twist of fate reunites the pair and offers Roya the opportunity to question Bahman about his whereabouts over the years and his seemingly easy ability to disregard their relationship. The Stationery Shop focuses on the power of love and its ability to endure both distance and time.
- This Is Home by Lisa Duffy – This Is Home tells the tale of a lonely teenage girl, a military wife who moves into the apartment downstairs, and their quest to define the true meaning of family and home. It is a beautiful story of redemption, family, community and friendship, and Duffy’s prose is lyrical. Her ability to tell a story is outstanding, and the book is a spectacular read from start to finish.
I rarely read YA (young adult) so I asked my daughter Emily (age 16) about her 2019 favorites in that genre. These are her three top reads for the year:
- Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater
- The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black
- Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell
And last I decided to gather book intel from my friends. I love to talk books with my reader friends and thought it would be fun to poll them about their top 1 or 2 titles of the year. Most chose books published in 2019. A few chose books from prior years that resonated more than anything they read from 2019. For those books, I listed the publication year beside the book. Here are the results:
- Adrienne Vanderbloemmen: I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott and The Gown by Jennifer Robson
- Amanda McGee: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
- Amy Doolittle: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Christina Coward: Dragonfly by Leila Meacham and The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
- Cristina Smith: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (2018) and Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (2013)
- Dale Waller: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2018) and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (2017)
- Jen Cannon (operator of In Literary Love): Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
- Jamie Rosenblit (a bookstagrammer friend): The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer and The Friend Zone by Abby Jiminez
- Kathleen Holt: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason (2018)
- Krista Hensel: This Is Home by Lisa Duffy and The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- Kristen Flores: Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens (2018)
- Lori Fisher: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes
- Susan Wissink: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (2018) and The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory
After collecting these titles, I now have more books that I need to read! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone else’s selections.
I would love to hear your favorites from 2019. Please drop them in the comments below. I wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and happy reading!
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