My Best Books for 2019

An even spread of excellent books and some truly memorable author events has made 2019 a terrific reading year.

As I’ve done in previous years, I’ll focus on the books that have continued to resonate with me (as opposed to those I gave five stars to as soon as I’d finished reading).

I read a lot of memoirs and 2019 was no exception. My standouts were all quite different (perhaps I am breaking away from my favourite memoir sub-category, the ‘misery memoir’?) – Kate Rossmanith’s account of how society manages remorse combined with her reflections on inter-generational trauma in Small Wrongs was fascinating; Vicki Hastrich’s quiet reflections on fishing and writing in Night Fishing, was a rich and tranquil reading experience; and Lori Gottleib’s account of therapy, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, was insightful and engrossing.

Of course, I can’t ignore misery-memoirs entirely and this year, The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs had me sobbing – it’s exquisitely written and almost unbearably heartbreaking.

Child characters, when done well, always strike a chord with me and this year, four Australian women writers delivered – Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany; The Choke by Sofie Laguna; Little Gods by Jenny Ackland; and There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett.

Two outstanding books focused on teen characters – Sofka Zinovieff’s challenging Putney, and Sally Rooney’s Normal People. I know many readers didn’t see what the fuss was about regarding Normal People but I absolutely love these types of ‘relationship stories’, and one that has pathos and humour will always win me over.

I enjoyed four different perspectives on Germany and the Holoaust in The Aftermath, Heimat, Lifelines, and Denial and it was a great privilege to hear Deborah Lipstadt speak earlier in the year.

Other books of note include Chloe Hooper’s The Arsonist, Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women, and Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of Fugitives.

My absolute standouts this year were two very different books – Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe, which I was absolutely dazzled by. Any book that makes me laugh and cry will always win my heart.  Lastly, Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend – a deceptively simple story about a group of friends but one that was also richly layered.

Thanks for your readership and I look forward to sharing more books in 2020.

23 responses

    • Yes, Putney was so well written – I think it could have very easily strayed into difficult territory given the topic but instead it was appropriately restrained and sensitive. Got very little attention in Australia (I think I only read it because I had an ARC).

    • Normal People as one of those books that I enjoyed IMMENSLEY while reading it – I pretty much always enjoy what I’m reading but I was finding time during the day to pick up Normal People.

    • Yes, many of the Australian books don’t reach your shores (or if they do, it’s much later). A couple of the child narrators I picked out are pretty harrowing but beautifully written.

  1. I do have a copy of Normal People but haven’t been that convinced I want to read it having seen so many reviews asking what all the fuss is about. But if you picked it as one of your fav reads then it has to be better than those other reviews indicate.
    Boy Swallows Universe is also on my reading list – I had planned to get to it in the summer but somehow time just evaporated…
    Question for you re Denial – how close is the film to the book??

  2. I haven’t read most of these, but I did love Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. I liked Normal People quite a bit – I like a good complicated relationship story as well. It just didn’t rise to one of my favorites. Wishing you a happy new year!

    • Despite my enthusiasm for MYSTTS, I’ve had a hard time convincing friend to read it – I think they class it too much in the self-help genre, which really, it’s not!

  3. I enjoyed your write-up Kate. I’ve read a few of these books, am reading one right now, and will be reading one soon. I gave Night fishing to a friend for her birthday in October, and I think she liked it. It looked really interesting to me.

  4. Little Gods is one I hope makes it over here at some point, it sounded like something I would enjoy (I found The Choke to be excellent). The Choke is the only one we have in common this year! Though Boy Swallows Universe is on my list.

  5. Seems like quite a variety of books. I do not recognise any of them, but that is just the pleasure of reading other book bloggers choices. My best book list is still to come, but the best book I read was Amor Towles A Gentleman in Moscow. Even, I would say, the best book I ever read.

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