(NOT) The Ten Best Books of 2019

That time of year has rolled around again when all the “Best Of” lists begin to appear, those tempting listicles claiming to reveal the best books of the year, decade, and century. We all click on them: they’re irresistible.

I’m kind of over these “best of” lists. The premise that something so magnificently multivariate as books can fall into a neat qualitative queue just seems silly to me. As I watch fellow readers agonizing over what will make their own ten best cut, and taking serious issue with others’ rankings, I’m thinking no: I don’t need to add to the hubbub. So here is my own list of ten from 2019 that are definitely not the best books of the year. Just a fairly arbitrary sampling of some things this reader found interesting and worthwhile.

Mars: Stories, by Asja Bakic. With wry prose and skewed humor, Bosnian writer Asja Baki explores 21st century promises of knowledge, freedom, and power. “Bakic takes an off-kilter look at sexuality, death, and the power of literature … bizarre and often inscrutable…” – Kirkus.

Night Boat to Tangier, by Kevin Barry. Two Irish drug-smuggling partners reevaluate a career marked by violence and betrayal during a vigil in a sketchy ferry terminal. “Barry adds an exceptional chapter to the literary history of a country that inspires cruelty and comedy and uncommon writing.” – Kirkus.

Diary of a Dead Man on Leave, by David Downing. Stumbling across the hidden diary of a boarder who had been a father figure to him, Walter discovers the man’s undercover work as an anti-Nazi Moscow spy. “Downing has never been better than in this moving and elegiac thriller framed as a diary…” – Publisher’s Weekly.

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder, by Brian Doyle. A playful, evocative book of spiritual essays for both religious and secular readers explores small everyday miracles and love in all its forms. “Doyle imparts a sense of breathless curiosity and joy in this blend of spirituality and philosophy ; probing readers will find surprises and solace.” – Library Journal.

Initiated: Memoir of a Witch, by Amanda Yates Garcia. A writer, artist, and professional witch presents this haunting, lyrical memoir in which she describes her journey to harness her power and create the magical world she longed for through witchcraft. “Thoughtful, engaging, and fresh: a welcome addition to the annals of women’s spirituality.” – Kirkus.

Wyoming, by J.P. Gritton. A newly divorced former construction worker reluctantly accepts a drug delivery job to make ends meet. “Pitch perfect cadences sing from the mouths of Gritton’s characters …both violently tragic and a twisted sort of redemption.” – Publisher’s Weekly.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey, by Robert MacFarlane. An exploration of the Earth’s underworlds as they exist in myth, literature, memory, and geography, with unsettling perspectives into the Earth’s future. “A treasure all its own. Anyone who cares to ponder the world beneath our feet will find this to be an essential text.” – Kirkus.

The Story of a Goat, by Perumal Murugan. Offered a goat by a stranger, an Indian farmer and his wife struggle to protect the vulnerable animal. “A goat’s life serves as an allegory for the human condition … An affecting modern fable reflecting Murugan’s enchanting capacity to make a simple story resonate on many levels.” – Kirkus

Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid. A story about race and privilege is centered around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. “Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.” – Kirkus.

Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout. A sequel to Olive Kitteridge finds Olive struggling to understand herself. “Beautifully written and alive with compassion, at times almost unbearably poignant.” – Kirkus.

     ~ Posted by David W.

Top 10 Noteworthy 2019 Speculative Fiction Books Part 2

A continuation of our favorite speculative fiction works this year! So far…

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz. Annalee Newitz just won a Hugo Award for the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast with their partner Charlie Jane Anders and is a writer of both science and science fiction. TFOAT is a fiercely feminist queer punk rock time travel novel that follows Tess, a time traveling geologist and her cohort of time travelers who are orchestrating a fine-tuned fight against a group of men hell-bent on stopping women’s rights from ever advancing. It’s the kind of science fiction that reminds us about how the future is happening right now and it’s up to us to collectively work towards better futures. Continue reading “Top 10 Noteworthy 2019 Speculative Fiction Books Part 2”

Top 10 Noteworthy 2019 Speculative Fiction Books Part 1

Even though it’s only October and there are still two more months left for publishing and reading in 2019 we are already assembling our “best lists”.

Here are some of our favorite speculative fiction works this year (so far):

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. This is a science fiction novel steeped in the politics and prose of relationships. Humanity has arrived on a cold, tidally-locked planet, January, with searing sun rays on one side and constructed societies of survival in different pockets on the dark side of the planet with different rules and regulations. Sophie and Bianca, and the itinerant Mouth narrate the novel. Sophie is spellbound by Bianca, a beautiful girl from the ruling class with bold ideas about how to change the society they are in, intoxicating with out-sized personality and revolutionary dreams. This is a story of ecological consequences, humanity’s push and pull for control and freedom, our need to have someone to believe in, how our idea of the person we love may be quite different from the person they truly are, and how it is so hard to admit when we have been betrayed by a person we thought worthy of our trust. Continue reading “Top 10 Noteworthy 2019 Speculative Fiction Books Part 1”

New Music Mixtape

This year is giving me life when it comes to new albums coming my way by some old favorites and new loves. Brooks and Dunn from my childhood; the Hotel Cafe alumni, Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, who were the soundtrack of my twenties; and the band Joseph is a gem my husband shared with me a few years back that I can’t get enough of…now if Fiona Apple were to come back on the scene my life would be complete! Sprinkled throughout is music others have sent or shared that has added to this incredible year. Hope you enjoy this mix as much as I have. Happy listening!!

Continue reading “New Music Mixtape”