20 December 2019

10 best books of 2019

December is almost over and we're heading quickly to Christmas, family time, and the new beginnings that January offers. It's also the time when I share my top ten books of the year.

This year I was surprised by the variety of books that made my list: fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction. One book was published in 2013, but all the rest came out in 2019.

How did I pick my top ten? These are books I still remember and still think about. They are the books I connected with, I recommended to family and friends, and I've talked about in real life.

I present them here in what was supposed to be alphabetical order (but oops on the graphic). Links lead to my full reviews (all books provided by the publishers).

Top 10 books of 2019: Beth Fish Reads
  • Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips (Knopf, May 14): Set on Kamchatka peninsula, this genre-bending novel starts with the disappearance of two young girls and fans out to focus on how a number of other women and girls are affected by the event as well as on life in the remote northern regions of Russia. Audiobook: wonderfully read by Ilyana Kadushin (Random House Audio)
  • The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea (Harper, Sept. 3): Set in late-17th-century Iceland, this haunting novel—infused with a bleak landscape and focusing on the edge of change or maybe the edge of changing states—examines the choices a young woman makes after her father suddenly dies and her mother becomes sick. Audiobook: nicely read by HeiĆ°a Reed and Smari Gunn (Harper Audio).
  • The Last Whalers: Three Years in the Far Pacific with a Courageous Tribe and a Vanishing Way of Life by Doug Bock Clark (Little, Brown, Jan. 8): Written by an investigative journalist, this is a fascinating look into a vanishing culture and how the members of a small Indonesian whaling community balance their age-old traditions with the life in the 21st century. Audiobook: beautifully read by Jay Snyder (Hachette Audio).
  • This Much Country by Kristin Knight Pace (Grand Central, March 5): In this memoir, Pace, a photojournalist and one of the few women to complete both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod sled dog races, shares the beauty and harshness of Alaska, her incredible relationship with her dogs, and the emotional journey that has given her a life fully led. Audiobook: nicely read by the author (Hachette Audio).
  • Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens (Mulholland, Nov. 12): Set in a small town in the Ozarks, this novel is about the summer a teenage boy learns just how far white men will go to protect the status quo and is everything I love in a coming-of-age story. Audiobook: wonderfully read by Kevin Stillwell (Hachette Audio).
  • A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar (Riverhead; July 9): Haunting in its truths, this nonchronologically told novel, set in the Nevada desert, is presented through the eyes of a new adult who is determined to find her friend and fellow waitress, who disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Audiobook: expertly read by Sophie Amoss (Penguin Audio)
  • The River by Peter Heller (Knopf, March 5): Set on a river in Canada, this outdoorsy thriller about two college friends on a late-summer canoe trip demonstrates that Heller is a master at creating a creeping buildup of danger, holding it just out of sight so you never quite know where and when or if it will manifest.
  • Tin Heart by Shivaun Plozza (Flatiron, March 12). This sometimes rough but realistic novel explores a slice of contemporary life that we rarely read about—life after a heart transplant for teenage girl who tries to find a new normality after a year-long recovery from her major surgery.
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (Redhook; Sept. 10): This historical fantasy combines adventure, intrigue, and a strong female protagonist to create a memorable story of friendship, young and lasting love, coming of age, and betrayals. Audiobook: mind-blowingly read by January LaVoy (Hachette Audio). My top audiobook of the year.
  • The Thicket by Joe R. Landsdale (Mulholland, Sept. 2013): Set in turn-of-the-20th-century rural east Texas, this engrossing coming-of-age story shines a light on the dying days of the Old West and follows a teenager determined to rescue his younger sister who has been kidnapped by bank robbers. Audiobook: perfectly performed by Will Collyer (Hachette Audio). My top novel of the year.


Claire @ Book Lovers Pizza 12/20/19, 6:48 AM  

The Thicket and This Much Country were on my best of lists too! I split mine between new releases and older, back list titles. Have you read Lansdale’s The Bottoms? That one is also really good!

Molly 12/20/19, 7:05 AM  

Ten Thousand Doors of January is top on my list for 2020 ... I've heard nothing but rave reviews.

Several of your selections, I'm sorry to say, I've never heard of but I am intrigued. I will definitely check out Disappearing Earth and The Thicket.

Your concise summaries are always a pleasure to read ... just enough description to help me make an informed decision. That is a skill I need to hone :)

shelleyrae @ book'd out 12/20/19, 7:44 AM  

A thoughtful list Beth, thanks for sharing

Tina 12/20/19, 8:16 AM  

That’s a great list, I can’t believe I forgot about the Peter Heller book. Deginyon my list for 2020.

bermudaonion 12/20/19, 9:27 AM  

My wish list explodes this time of year. I haven't read a single one of these books. :(

Sue Jackson 12/20/19, 6:55 PM  

Wow, sounds like you had a great (and varied) reading year in 2019!

Amazingly, I haven't read - or even heard about - 9 of these, but The River has been on my list all year. I enjoyed Celine and meeting Heller at Booktopia one year.

I will wait to do my Best of 2019 list until January - I might just read another Best Book in the next 2 weeks!!

Hope you have another great reading year in 2020! Thanks for expanding my TBR list even more -


Book By Book

gluten Free A_Z Blog 12/21/19, 6:56 AM  

I discard my paper recipes after I make them- If I want to make them or something like it again, I post it on my blog.I can't tell you how many times I refer to my own blog for a previously made recipes. I also have drafts on my blog for me that I don't post. Good luck organizing!

JoAnn 12/22/19, 11:25 AM  

Like Kathy, my wish is totally out of control at this time of year. I haven't read any of these books, but have Disappearing Earth on my list. Just listened to the audio sample and may go that route. Thanks for the suggestion!

Les in Oregon 12/24/19, 7:49 PM  

I've added four of those titles to my 2020 TBR list (especially excited about the audio of The Ten Thousand Doors of January!). I would have added The River, but it's already on my nightstand. I loved The Dog Stars and am anxious to read this new one by Heller.

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