Every year, I post a list of books that stood out from the crowd for me, that drew me in and kept me spellbound. This year, it was so difficult to narrow the list down to only ten books…so I cheated and there are eleven books on this year’s list. There were so many great reads in 2019. These are the ones that stood out for me. This year is particularly different for me because four of the books on my list are non-fiction. That’s never happened before as the list is usually full of novels. Without further ado, here are my Best Books of 2019.
The Starless Sky by Erin Morgenstern
I heart this book. You know that kind of book that you just sit back after finishing a book and you’re just so moved? You wonder if you’ll ever read something so good again? Yeah, that’s this book. The Starless Sea tells the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins. He is the son of a fortune teller and a grad student. He discovers a book called Sweet Sorrows that draws him deeper and deeper towards a mysterious world that is full of doors and wonders. A bee, a key and a sword lead him to meet his destiny, whether he knows it or not. It’s a book about books, about the power of stories, about the journey’s that we make within the pages of a book. I’ve read it once and listened to the audiobook and I can’t wait to read it again.
Daughter of Family G. by Ami McKay
I love Ami McKay’s novels, but I was held spellbound by her memoir. It’s told in three different narratives, as McKay puts it in history memory and being. She weaves stories from before she was born, in her past and during the time she was working on this book. The result is a patchwork quilt of strength, resilience and perseverance. Ultimately, this is a memoir about the cancer that runs in her family and the mutation that she carries in her blood, but it is also a book about love, about the choices that one makes and the power that comes from choosing to fight, choosing to live. This is a memoir about cancer, but it is also about love and fate and family. I heart this book so very much and have read it twice.
A Postcard from Italy by Alex Brown
I love all of Alex Brown’s books, but this one is my favourite. It’s just so damn lovely. Cora’s world has fallen apart and she has found herself the caregiver for her mother who is bedridden. She has become a shut in and is almost agoraphobic. She goes out only to go to work where she goes through storage lockers that have been abandoned. Within Unit 28, she finds a world of treasures: clothes and jewelry and diaries are among other treasures belonging to Constance de Donato. The stories contained in those diaries lead Cora on her own journey where she learns that her story is only beginning. There is so much warmth here in Brown’s words. She has truly brought Italy alive in this gorgeous and wonderful novel. Like every novel by Alex Brown, it goes beyond the genre of women’s fiction to create a genre all of her own. Cora’s journey is told with grace and I can’t wait to read it again.
Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
Van Ness writes his tale with aplomb. His memoir is about the rough and turbulent journey to finding himself and his purpose. I really identified with this book, with Jonathan Van Ness’ message. His honesty really brought me in, really showed me that, despite obstacles, it was and is still possible to shine. I love the fact that his voice is so clear on the page. After reading it, I listened to the audiobook and it was like sitting down with a friend to let them tell me their tale. Heartwarming, honest, brutal and beautiful, this book just touched something within me. I can’t wait to read it again and I heart Jonathan Van Ness. I can only wish to sparkle as brightly as he does.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
If I had to sum this book up in one word, it would be EPIC. This is a fantasy that gives us the mythology of Tracker, a man who has a good nose for finding things. They say that he is part wolf. He is asked to help track down a child that has gone missing and befriends the red leopard, a shape shifter. To find the boy, they must defeat moon witches, ogres, trolls and even the beasts within themselves. I loved how the story pulled from mythologies of Africa and was unapologetically gory and glorious. I also loved how the GLBT element of the novel and there was no need for one of the characters to say they were gay; they just were. It was a wonderful book filled with magic and mind candy. I read the hardcover and listened to the audiobook. I can hardly wait for the second book in the trilogy!
Love Lives Here by Amanda Jette Knox
I loved everything about this memoir. Knox tells her story of what happens when first her child comes out as trans and then her spouse coming out as trans as well. We follow Knox through the beginnings of her marriage up until present day. We are there with her for the ups and downs, through figuring out how to help first her child and then her partner. I was held spellbound by this memoir and finished it in two days. I have lots of trans friends, but up until now, I didn’t get what they go through to become who they really are. Knox gives us a true life tale of how one family first survives and then thrives and how they choose love over everything. Such a glorious book and one I read and then listened to on audiobook. I can’t wait to read it again.
The Stealth Lovers by Cait Gordon
I love me so me some Xax and Viv. They were my favourite characters from Life in the ‘Cosm so I was thrilled when Gordon announced that she had written a prequel! A whole book with Xax and Viv? Yes please! I heart this novel. Filled with military action, humour and so much sass, I laughed out loud reading this book. I was also incredibly moved. Gordon writes about the difficulties for GLBT people in the military but does it with class. You learn how Xax and Viv met, how they earned their nickname and throughout, you get to experience Gordon’s wonderful world building and her characters are so lovely that by the end of the novel I felt like I knew all of them. If you want a book filled with dangerous missions, fabulous characters and so much sass, get this book!
Murder at the Worlds Fair M.J. Lyons
M. J. Lyons has penned a fantastic treat of a novel. It takes place in 1893 and is filled with so full of steampunk goodness. The New World Exhibition has come to Toronto with all kinds of technologies to thrill the patrons: automatons, clockwork contraptions and things that will fill visitors with excitement. Norwood Quigley is a young journalist who is sent to photograph the exhibition. There is only one problem: He witnesses a murder! Time is short but thrills are high to find the killer. I love the world that Lyons has created. It is done so skillfully that I wanted to travel back in time to live in this world. Lyons has so much skill at telling a tall tale. I couldn’t help but be pulled into Norwood’s story and pulled along on an adventure that I won’t soon forget. This is an incredible book! I can’t wait to read the sequel!
Tarot for Troubled Times by Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed
If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I love all things tarot. There’s just something about how the cards can see so far and so wide, how they can give me the tools I need to take on what life has to offer. Theresa Reed and Shaheen Miro are two tarot readers and mystics whom I love. They have written a book that is different than any other book on tarot I’ve read. It looks at the shadow side of life and how we can use the cards to thrive. They go in depth about how you can use the cards to befriend your shadow side, how you can really empower yourself if/when you find yourself in darkness. The book is full of affirmations, advice, tarot spreads and so much heart. It has all the tools you need to make yourself a shining beacon of light, no matter what might be dark around you. I’ve read this book three times already and am reading it again. I adore this book.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
I was worried about a sequel to The Handmaids Tale so long after the original book was published. Would The Testaments live up to The Handmaids Tale? In my opinion, it does. In fact, it surpasses it. We are given three storylines this time and they alternate throughout the book. Lydia, Hannah and Emily share the stage for the story and we are given a thrilling treat. Though the novel isn’t a horror novel, it is tense enough to feel like one. We are shown the events that brought Gilead to power and it’s chillingly close to real life. I love the fact that Atwood can weave the present day into a novel that is so far into our future. That being said, the novel was necessary and felt very very real. I have loved a lot of Atwood’s fiction, but I can’t wait to read this book again. I also listened to the audiobook and loved every moment of it.
Faux Ho Ho by ‘Nathan Burgoine
Can I just say how much I love Burgoine’s writing? He always writes such wonderful characters and by the end of the book, I feel I have lived right alongside them. Silas is unlucky in love and even more unlucky with his family. Being big C conservative, they don’t much care for Silas. In comes his roommate Dino who steps in to save the day. We are given a narrative that jumps back and forth over a period of months and I watched with glee as Silas began to fall for Dino. But would Dino feel the same way? Would Silas’ family get in the way? This whole novella had enough emotion in the book and enough storylines to feel like a fully fledged novel. I laughed, I cheered and even shed a tear on the bus. This novel is so full of awesomeness that it had to be on my list. I heart Silas and Dino and I heard Burgoine for giving me such a wonderful holiday tale.
Well, that’s it for another year! I can’t believe how great 2019 was for books! Here’s looking forward to 2020!