My 2019 in Books
We're not too far into 2020 for a retrospective on the books I read in 2019, right? I don't know about you, but while everyone else is posting their favorite books of the year in early December, I'm still reading right up until January 1.
In 2019, I read 12,678 pages across 31 books. Phew! Six of those books were from James S.A. Corey's The Expanse series. I'm consistently awed by the breadth of imagination demonstrated in this series. True to its name, it just keeps expanding. Each book presents new problems for the crew of the Rocinante to overcome while introducing new character perspectives to the mix. The problems are never forced and always grow organically from the intersection of technology and human nature. I gobble these books down--and they're not short!
The Expanse has consumed much of my year, but there were other wonderful stories with memorable characters. Below are my top seven for the year. For my full reading list and links to the individual books, visit my GoodReads page.
1. The Expanse Series by James S.A. Corey
A sweeping saga of humanity's first brush with an alien artifact and the spiraling consequences. There's political intrigue, war, friendship, love, loyalty, murder, technology, and mysterious alien stuff. Humanity never stops fighting over resources and it's up to James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to make sure those fights don't end humanity altogether. Each book is completely satisfying, delivering on the genre, and keeping the reader hungry for more.
2. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
The story of a modern-day (1970's) African-American woman who is mysteriously, and repeatedly, sucked back in time against her will to save her white slave-owning ancestor as he grows from boy to man, this book will stay with you. It's a book about slavery, race, blood, and our intertwined destinies. It's also a book about our modern ideas of who we think we are, and who we'd like to be, clashing with the grim realities of the past and their legacy.
3. The Bells by Richard Harvell
When Moses is cast out of his village in the Swiss Alps, he is rescued by two traveling monks from the powerful Abbey of St. Gall. Soon, it is discovered that he has an incredible gift of singing and his fate falls into the hands of a choirmaster who goes to sinister lengths to preserve the boy's voice. A beautiful tale of protection and vulnerability set during a time when art and the Church were inextricably bound.
4. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
Don't be fooled by the supernatural natures of the main characters of this delicately spun tale. This story is deeply human. Part historical fiction, part fantasy, part fable, nineteenth-century New York City's Lower East Side immigrant communities come to life in this magical tale of otherness, community, and true love.
5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is one of the most delightful characters I've ever encountered in literature. Her astute observations of others and her curmudgeonly attitude will make you laugh, and as she confronts the horrors of her past, you will be filled with such a tender love for her, you'll want to climb inside the book and make her your friend.
6. Bone Horses by Lesley Poling-Kempes
The earthbound mysticism of the American Southwest rises up from the pages of this beautifully crafted tale of a practical and predictable woman who unearths the truth about her mother's chilling murder and finds love in the most unexpected of places.
7. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
Lisa See is one of my favorite authors. Her meticulous research and intimate knowledge of how the brutal political regimes of Asia shaped the individual lives of Asian (in this case Korean) women in the 20th Century are richly woven into this story of friendship and tragedy that deftly shows the price we pay for stubbornly clinging to our own points of view.