Monday, December 30, 2019

Top Ten Fiction Reads of 2019

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Last week I listed my favorite nonfiction reads of 2019. This week I'm sharing my favorite fiction I read the year!

1. The Arrival by Shaun Tan
This is a lovely wordless graphic novel that reads like watching a short animated film. Tan puts the reader in the shoes of an immigrant through the fantastical world that he has designed; just like the protagonist, the language on papers and signs is unfamiliar to us, as are the strange animals, foods, and methods of transportation. Definitely recommend picking this one up.

2. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
This book is great at both a plot level (action-packed, unpredictable, with a satisfying plot arc) and a metaphorical level, about the pointlessness of long-standing enmities, the challenges of being an outsider, and the difficulties of doing something without a role model to lead the way. I greatly enjoyed the second book in the trilogy as well, but the third one was disappointing.

3. Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings
I had always thought King of the Murgos was my favorite book of the Malloreon, but on this read-through I liked this third book of the series better. We get hilarious banter, overcoming prejudice, and a developing relationship between my two favorite characters.

4. The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart
Although this prequel tells the story of The Mysterious Benedict Society's founder, it is essentially a standalone story, but either way it gave me the same enjoyment as the original series. Nicholas Benedict, 9-year-old orphan, must outsmart bullies and incompetent adults while following the clues of a treasure hunt.

5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
This was a reread, but I found this just as delightful the second time, possibly more because of the excellent audiobook production with five different narrators. It's the perfect blend of solemnity and humor, talking honestly about the German occupation of Guernsey while also providing a post-war setting that allows for some lightness.

6. Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
Although this is a novel, it was clear from reading it that I fundamentally misunderstood that those who sequestered indigenous children in boarding schools were not just misguided but horrifically abusive. Given that background as source material, this book could have been very dark and brutal, but Wagamese's prose is so spare that you are able to absorb the experiences of each stage of Saul Indian Horse's life without gratuitous descriptions of suffering.

7. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
This is my favorite of the Narnia books. There were many parts I enjoyed that were funny or sweet or just satisfying. And as always, Lewis shows that he is an excellent study of human nature. This book, to me, was the best plotted and least problematic of the series.

8. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
It's hard to follow up something as stellar as The Hate U Give, but Thomas managed to pull it off. Set in the same neighborhood, this book follows a new character, Bri, as she tries to make it as a rapper. When it seems like she's finally getting a chance to have her voice heard, she has to decide what she's willing to do, and who she's willing to lose, to make that happen.

9. The Trespasser by Tana French
Tana French finally did it — wrote a Dublin Murder Squad mystery that didn't make me want to throw the book across the room when I was done. Her writing is just so good and I did not want to put the book down, and this time the main narrator isn't a horrible person and justice is, more or less, served. Hooray!

10. The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
This is less like a short story collection and more like a novel with each chapter told from a different character's perspective, during which we get to learn about their individual backstory. I appreciated that each story/chapter had its own complete story arc; each woman's story serves up consequences for the choices she makes early on in the story. And the writing is just excellent. It's not a happy collection, but it does end with a note of hope and empowerment.

What were your favorite fiction reads this year?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Cutting for Stone, If You Come Softly, and Pachinko
Five years ago I was reading: Yes Please and The Canterbury Tales
Ten years ago I was reading: The Red Pony

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