My completely subjective list of my favorite books I read this decade and a few sentences to describe them.
5. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell & In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brenan
I put these two titles in a tie because they are so similar in concept and different in execution, and I love them both a lot. These two titles are send-ups/twists/subversions/homages to YA fantasy fiction of the last decades, with Carry On specific to Harry Potter and In Other Lands pulling from several sources. They both question who the real heroes and villains are, tell epic series-length plots in one book, have a character grow wings near the end (the strangest of the likenesses), and add in queer representation that this genre has been lacking.
Despite those similarities, they are very much both their own separate books in terms of style, theme, and characters, and both are deliciously fun reads with a strong heart pumping at the center.
4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I know Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy has been the butt of a lot of jokes when reduced to soundbites, but if you haven’t read it and tried it, then you’re all just a pack of big meanies who don’t understand. :P. I used Kondo’s method to clean out my childhood bedroom post-college (which ended up being very useful to both me and my parents when I moved out a few years later) where I had pack-ratted up a lifetime of stuff.
While I rolled my eyes when reading the corny sounding suggestions of Kondo, like thanking the items you were getting rid of, in practice it really helped the emotional processes – whether sentimental attachment or guilt – of getting rid of stuff. I still use her methods of joy-bringing to cull my stuff every so often and the way she teaches you to fold laundry to fit in your bureau drawers ended up being a game-changer. Of all the books I read this decade, this one affected my day-to-day life the most.
3. Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
This middle volume of the Captive Prince trilogy has a little bit of everything that makes this series such an engrossing read: political intrigue, sword fights, hidden identities, enemies to friends to lovers trope, one of those scenes were they do a game of chase on the roof tops of a town at night, and layers and layers of themes. It’s the payoff to the slow build of the first book, leaves you with cliffhangers for the third book, and is overall a tightly written story that maintains both plot and character tension, and always reveals more details and nuances through rereads.
(But as much as I love it, don’t jump into reading this series without talking to someone whose read it first because the first book can be pretty off putting if you’re not prepared for the heaviness of the content.)
2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
It’s hard to explain what makes this book so good. It’s a post-apocalyptic story, but like a literary one? Crickets. No, I swear it’s great. Because it’s not a story about warfare and chaos, it’s about the fight to survive after the initial chaos where survival is more the act of living but found in art and music and the tangle of human bonds.
Post-apocalyptic stories are usually depressing, about societies falling apart, but this one is about hope and societies rebuilding.
1. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
I’m letting the first book in this four-part stand in for the rest of this contemporary, character-driven fantasy series, because otherwise this list might’ve ended up just all four books of The Raven Cycle. If you like stories about ghosts, psychics, and/or dead Welsh kings written by an author who knows how to turn a clever and powerful phrase, check this beautiful series out. The amount of magic and character-depth Stiefvater can pack into these books is astounding.
Ever since I read it for the first time in 2016, I have been obsessed.
Interested in seeing more of my opinions about books? Check me out on goodreads.
My completely subjective list of favorite books I read for the first time in 2019, plus one sentence to describe them.
10. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
This investigative journalist account of the escalating fraud and artifice of startup Theranos and its CEO Elizabeth Holmes is a mutant child of a train wreck and a soap opera that you just can’t look away from.
9. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart
This near 800-page tome about grief, antiques, and lying to yourself is either brilliant or vastly overrated – I can’t decide which – but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.
8. Crush by Richard Silken
The ‘you’ve probably seen quotes from this on a tumblr gifset’ book of visceral poetry that I know I’m going to had to reread to let properly sink in.
7. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Found the story from this translated novella about a young woman who must stand up to the pressures of conformity to live the type of life that makes her happy even if it seems too simple or unsatisfactory to others a personally relatable tale.
6. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
The most prestige novel on this list, this story that flips between two timelines -- during the 80s AIDS epidemic and a survivor decades later -- was like a punch to the soul and has deserved all the credit it's gotten.
5. Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh
A folkloric-esque fantasy novella about a magical woods, its caretaker, and the spirit that haunts feels like it was written to fit my exact interests and aesthetics and is making me eagerly await Tesh’s next publication.
4. Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Steifvater
The much anticipated follow up to The Raven Cycle, Steifvater delivers on the Lynch family backstory, the world of the Dreamers, and the magical black market that had been suggested and brewing unexplored on the edges of her previous contemporary fantasy series.
3. In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
Technically cheating because I listened to the audio in 2018 but read for print for first time in 2019, this fantasy book has everything: a magic warrior school, battles, a school drama production, a matriarchal elf society, a bunch of last names that are only funny if you know too much about YA lit, a boy who grows wings all the sudden, and a caustic nerd who just wants to be loved.
2. The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird
Screenwriter Matt Bird shares some writing tips that changed the way I write, with the major takeaway being the importance of creative contradictions in character and plot development.
1.The Prince and Dressmaker by Jen Wang
A teen graphic novel that is a beautiful story in a beautiful color palette about friendship, fashion, and gender representation with an ending that will make you go, ‘I’m not crying, you’re crying.’
Insights from the life of an aspiring, struggling writer; a passionate reader, and a working librarian.
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