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My Best Books of 2019

Well 2019 is over and I wanted to look back on my year’s reading and pick out my favorites. Since some of these were parts of series, I’m going to limit my picks to no more than one per author. If any of these interest you, use my links to help support this blog (at no additional cost to you).

I’m going to list these in no particular order and reviews are still forthcoming on some of them.

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton was the final volume in a multi-volume science fiction saga that I listened to as an audiobook. If you like very long and complicated plots stretched across the galaxy, this is a great series. You can find by review here. Start with his earlier book, Pandora’s Star.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was an amazing surprise of a story inspired by the fairy tales of eastern Europe. This is a stand-alone fantasy novel that I listened to as an audiobook. While I had a little trouble adjusting to the narrator’s accent, it ended up fitting the book perfectly. This may have been my absolute favorite for the year. It looks like there is a chance that it will be adapted into a movie as well. You can find my review here.

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders was another surprise audiobook pick for me that I chose as part of an Audible sale. I had heard the author speak at New York Comic Con in 2018 and had been interested in her work. This stand-alone novel relates the story of a witch and a mad scientist as they work to save the world. You can find my review here.

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in the Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch. I also read the sequel, but I enjoyed the plot better in this one, with plenty of swords and female pirates. If you want to start this series, pick up The Lies of Locke Lamora.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was one of the non-fiction books that I read in 2019 and was a great choice. This book relates the author’s efforts to discover more about Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who unknowingly contributed her cervical cancer cells to science, leading to numerous discoveries in biology and medicine. While the book does discuss the scientific side of the subject, its main focus is upon Henrietta the person and her life and family. I haven’t written up my review on this one yet.

I became aware of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo sometime after the Netflix series inspired by the book spurred articles criticizing the approach in regards to discarding books. Given that I am not the best housekeeper, I thought I’d take a look at this one. I’m glad I did, as her approach to organization has helped me learn to make better choices about what to keep and what to give up (yes, even books). It’s part of the reason why I can sit at a clean (well, half-way) desk and get more writing done now. I have a long ways to go in the process, but I fell better about getting my messes under control. You can read my full review here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was one of two classics that I was determined to read in 2019. I hadn’t been aware of what this book was about and just delved right in. I listened to the audiobook version of this one, narrated by Sissy Spacek. While I was confused at first, once the main plot expanded past the daily life of the children, I quickly realized that this book was about racism and prejudice. I plan to put more of my thoughts into a review soon.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and was published thirty-five years after that first look at her frightening dystopian future. I found The Testaments to be a more enjoyable read than the first book, mainly because it was a bit more hopeful. The scope of the story is greater, with the narration split between three characters rather than just Offred from the first book. If you’re unfamiliar with these novels, The Handmaid’s Tale has been on sale for no free lately.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes was my second pick for a classic book to read in 2019. I lucked out this year in choosing classics that I actually liked, which is not always the case. This novel tells about Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled man who receives a treatment to make him smarter. But this change comes with unanticipated consequences and the ending of this book is heartbreaking.

So I guess that The Giver by Lois Lowry is also considered a classic now, so that’s three for me for the year. This was a quick read that I picked up with no real idea of what it was about. I think I read it in a day and a half, and with the upsurge in dystopian fiction, this book isn’t as shocking as it may have been when first published. However, the story was well-done and I liked how it challenged the superficial utopia of the society in the book.

Anyone by Charles Soule was a pick that I obtained from Net Galley and I had never read anything by this author before. I just reviewed it here. This book was exciting and easy to read, despite the complicated implications of being able to slot your consciousness into another person’s body. I need to read more of this type of action-science fiction because I really like it.

That’s it, my favorites for the year! I’m planning to catch up on my reviews for some of these in the next few months. For now, I’m going to plan my 2020 reading and look at my most anticipated reads ahead.

Find all of my reviews here.

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How I Organize My Books to Read

We are well into 2019 and as the end of January approaches, hopefully you have started turning resolutions into habits. I’ve been blogging here consistently for the past few months, but I haven’t quite finished reading a book to review for this week, so I wanted to write a bit about how I pick which books to read for the year ahead.

Last year I realized that I am easily distracted by a new author, new release, or new series. I often enjoy the first book in a series, but then never go back to finish the rest.

One example of a shiny new series that I plan to read this year.

In an attempt to get to some of those books that I keep telling myself I want to read, I built a Google doc To-Be-Read (TBR) list. At the same time, I decided to alternate between a physical book and an e-book, with an audiobook going at the same time (a long-standing habit).

At first this was straight-forward, but then 2019 began and I decided join the Goodreads Reading Challenge where each member picks a number goal for books read for the year. I had failed at 50 books in the past. How many books did I truly think I could read?

I thought this through and settled on 36 for the year – one book every two weeks and an additional audiobook every month. That gives me three books a month x 12 months = 36 books! Simple, right?

Next I decided to lay out which books those would be. I used Goodreads and created a new shelf for the purpose. From there, it was easy to place my chosen books on the shelf. I couldn’t help myself and a few new series snuck in there. But for the most part, this plan would have me finishing several series this year, as well as keeping up on some of my favorite authors’ new releases.

I discovered that Goodreads also gives me the option to view my shelf by showing just the book covers. This made a nice graphic and let me see my goals all in one place.

My initial TBR shelf for 2019, using Goodreads.

After a few days, I realized that my list lacked any classics and was light on non-fiction, both genres that I do try to read. It was also heavily slanted toward fantasy, but I do enjoy science fiction also – anything from space opera to hard SF. I have added to this list since its creation and it’s at 45 books now.

Some of the books I’ve chosen will be quick reads, but I expect those to be balanced out by longer ones (notably GRRM’s Fire and Blood and Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon).

I already own several of these books, and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stick to my alternating physical book and e-book regimen. Only two of the authors on this list (and three of the books) are ones where I typically read the audiobook versions for their books. I may have to adjust my picks because I’m not going to get the audiobook version for any of these if I already own it in another format.

By doing book reviews, I’ll sometimes get specific requests to review a book, and my list also takes that into account. I may also pick up books unexpectedly that will need to be added.

Who knows? Maybe I will hit 50 books for the year! What are your reading goals? Do you use Goodreads? Let me know in the comments section.

See my book reviews here.

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