Robin Camille Davis
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Books I read in 2019

January 01, 2020
Tags: books

I read 59 books for pleasure in 2019, tying my record set in 2009. I thought I had myself beat but I suffered a double-counting error! Oh, well. I read more books by women than by men; in years past this was intentional, and this time it happened organically (due to my romance novel spree).

Bold = faves (doesn’t include rereads)
* = rereads

Retellings of Greek myths

The best theme I read on this year was retellings of Greek myths, mostly written by women. This was a wonderful selection of books that ran the gamut between faithful translation (Wilson’s excellent, readable, and refreshing edition) to joyfully sad (Carson, Miller) to tense tragedy (Barker). I was lucky enough to see both Emily Wilson and Madeline Miller in conversation with Alberto Manguel at the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival. They were fantastic panelists.

  • Autobiography of Red* (Anne Carson)
  • Circe (Madeline Miller)
  • House of Names (Colm Toíbín)
  • Odyssey, The (trans. Emily Wilson)
  • Penelopiad, The (Margaret Atwood)
  • Silence of the Girls, The (Pat Barker)
  • Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

Sci-fi / speculative fiction

My other (accidental) theme was science fiction. The Three-Body Problem was hard sci-fi, a slog at times to get through but rewarding and mind-expanding by the end. The other three are probably better described as speculative fiction, wonderfully imaginative. I had a great experience with The Power — I read it in Washington, D.C., right before I happened to go to the Hirshhorn Museum’s exhibition of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Pulse. The book imagines that women have a deadly electrical power, so being able to control all the lights on the floor of the museum with the pulse in my hands made me feel like I had The Power, too. (I did enjoy that book, but the ending disappointed me.)

  • City & the City, The (China Miéville)
  • Three-Body Problem, The (Liu Cixin)
  • Power, The (Naomi Alderman)
  • Infinite Detail (Tim Maughan)

Series

I was looking for lightweight material this year, so I turned to some fun serial books that others have recommended. I enjoyed the epistolary Griffin & Sabine books very much (and was all the more amazed that these heavily-used library books had every piece of paper in its right envelope!). The Prydain Chronicles is a children’s series I somehow did not read in my youth, even though I loved other Lloyd Alexander books. And I expected to love Discworld but really did not. Maybe I should have read them as a teenager.

  • Griffin & Sabine series (Nick Bantock)
    • Griffin & Sabine
    • Sabine’s Notebook
    • Golden Mean
  • Prydain Chronicles series (Lloyd Alexander)
    • Book of Three, The
    • Black Cauldron, The
    • Castle of Llyr, The
    • Taran Wanderer
    • High King, The
  • Discworld novels (Terry Pratchett)
    • Color of Magic, The
    • Wee Free Men, The

Books I found myself reading

This year, I tried to read more broadly and let myself pick up books almost by accident. The Accident Ward Mystery caught my eye as I wandered the stacks at NC State. I opened The Rings of Saturn after having put it down ten years ago. My parents sent me a bunch of my childhood favorites, hence picking up Sherlock Holmes and the Helen Oxenbury Nursery Rhyme collection. And as usual, I was open to recommendations from my friends, including the memoir Educated and both Sally Rooney novels.

  • Accident Ward Mystery, The (Rhoda Truax)
  • Art of Gathering, The (Priya Parker)
  • Clash of Kings, A (George R.R. Martin)
  • Conversations with Friends (Sally Rooney)
  • Educated (Tara Westover)
  • Fleishman is in Trouble (Taffy Brodesser-Akner)
  • Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman)
  • Helen Oxenbury Nursery Rhyme Book, The* (ed. Brian Anderson)
  • Great Adventures of Sherlock Holmes* (Arthur Conan Doyle)
  • Normal People (Sally Rooney)
  • Rings of Saturn, The (W.G. Sebald)
  • Rule of Four, The (Dustin Thomason and Ian Caldwell)
  • Sabrina (Nick Drnaso)
  • There There (Tommy Orange)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  • Topeka School, The (Ben Lerner)
  • Vicious (V.E. Schwab)
  • Washington Black (Esi Edugyan)

Romance novels

I got married this year! I was in the mood for romantic books during the wedding planning process and on our honeymoon. In recent years, too, I’ve felt the need to explore genres. However, it took me a while to find my flavor of romance novels. Aside from the bolded ones and the books by Jasmine Guillory, the others were forgettable, tiresome, or downright odd to me. Still, I’ll always defend readers of romance novels against those who would pooh-pooh their choice of reading material.

  • Bride Test, The (Helen Hoang)
  • Dear Aaron (Mariana Zapata)
  • Fight or Flight (Samantha Young)
  • Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, The (Mackenzi Lee)
  • Hating Game, The (Sally Thorne)
  • Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating (Christina Lauren)
  • Kiss Quotient, The (Helen Hoang)
  • Meet Cute (Helena Hunting)
  • My Favorite Half-Night Stand (Christina Lauren)
  • My Oxford Year (Julia Whelan)
  • Not the Girl You Marry (Andie J. Christopher)
  • Overdue Life of Amy Byler, The (Kelly Harms)
  • Prince on Paper, A (Alyssa Cole)
  • Proposal, The (Jasmine Guillory)
  • Red, White, and Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston)
  • Roomies (Christina Lauren)
  • Royal Holiday (Jasmine Guillory)
  • Unhoneymooners, The (Christina Lauren)
  • Wedding Date, The* (Jasmine Guillory)
  • Wedding Party, The (Jasmine Guillory)

I read about half of these books on my Kindle Paperwhite. I do a lot of reading late at night after we turn out the lights and my husband falls asleep, so the gently lit screen is perfect for me. Of the print books, probably half were from a library. You’d think I’d read more library books, being a librarian!

Previously: Books I read in 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.