After years of trying to read one book a week each week of the year, I FINALLY met my goal in 2019. Fifty-two books in 52 weeks was made slightly less difficult this year by reading a lot of ghost stories. Not exactly high-brow reading, but definitely the theme of the year, from Day 1. Click here the entire 2019 Reading List. Below is a brief synopsis of my favorite picks. Hope it helps you find something to read in 2020!
I started reading three series that I really liked this year:
- The Matchmaker Mysteries, by Elise Sax – part of the “cosy mysteries” genre, combining mystery, a touch of paranormal, and a healthy heap of sexual tension. I like the protagonist, Gladie Burger, a disaster-prone would-be matchmaker who comes from a line of women who have a natural psychic ability to find perfect love matches. She’s getting better at making matches, but it turns out her real talent is for stumbling across murders and sniffing out murderers. A believably imperfect-but-still-perfect love interest and a great cast of weird townspeople make for fun reads.
- Afterlife Adventures, by Jordaina Sydney Robinson – another “cosy mysteries” series, I very much gravitated towards Bridget Sway, the main character, and found the author’s take on what happens in the afterlife to be truly original and fun. These are also easy, entertaining mystery stories, involving a cast of characters that just can’t help but get tangled up in trouble. I particularly love Bridget’s growth into being a better (dead) person, and learning about friendship, loyalty, and love along the way.
- Echo, by Kent Wayne – holy shit have these messed with my mind. Definitely nothing like the above two series; these sci-fi books are heavy, dense, laden with references to various other sci-fi properties, historical characters, and religious/spiritual approaches. Descriptive fight scenes, deep introspection, and a Matrix-like time/space bending felt like they were rewiring my brain, in a way. I’m still finishing up Book IV right now, since it takes me a while to let the concepts melt in – this makes me love it even more. You can read Chapter 1 for free on the author’s website by clicking the link above.
I also read two stand-alone works of fiction that really did it for me:
- Hollow Kingdom, by Kira Jane Buxton – by far my favorite book of the year, for multiple reasons. I love animals much more than people, and have always contemplated how good it will be for nature to take itself back after humans go too far and kill ourselves off. This book runs with that concept, telling the story of the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, as experienced by a domesticated crow. It’s funny, insightful, poignant, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you enjoyed World War Z (book, not movie, which was absolute crap), or follow The Daily James on Instagram.
- Sourdough, by Robin Sloan – I love baking, but haven’t tried bread yet. It’s always intimidated me; bread is everywhere, easily found, cheaply made, and a stunning disappointment when done poorly. I’m picky as shit about bread, and I simply can’t stand the fact that I could mess up something I love so much. This book made me want to try it, anyway. It’s a fictional tale of a lonely, workaholic woman who struggles to make personal connections, and pours herself into her work to compensate. I can 100% relate. One day, she eats a REALLY good sandwich, and that begins a story that ultimately leads to a journey in baking, friendship, and an overall passion for living. I love that the author goes out of his way to describe the near-mystical properties of the sourdough starter the the protagonist is gifted; thinking of it as a live thing, to be cared for and cherished, made me more excited about making my own sourdough soon.
The best non-fiction book of the year was Coming Clean: A Memoir, by Kimberly Rae Miller. It’s the true story of growing up in a hoarder house, with two loving, but troubled, parents, and how it can affect life into adulthood. It really hit home for me, as a child of a hoarder. The author’s story was much more extreme than mine, but some of the psychological effects were very familiar, especially a drive towards perfectionism and an overwhelming urge to purge the entire house of belongings in times of stress and mental clutter. I particularly appreciated the fact that the author obviously loves and respects her parents, and accepts them as whole people, with their strengths and faults making a whole picture. It was a story of figuring out who you are, under all the layers of literal and metaphorical junk.
I also read a lot of things that I wouldn’t exactly consider “quality” but that I did enjoy thoroughly. As you can see from the above chart, the majority of the books that I read this year were about supernatural stuff, mostly about ghosts. A number of those books were from a series of non-fictional collections of ghost stories from around America, as told by the people who experienced them. You can find the same stories on the website Ghosts of America, but I find the site really unattractive and difficult to use. The books are poorly edited, mostly taken straight from the site, pasted into the document, then sold as an e-book, but that’s just fine by me. They’re on Kindle Unlimited (read: free with membership) and I much prefer to read them on my Kindle (and get to put another notch in my reading list once finished).
Every year I keep track of what I read, and every year is so wildly different. Who knows that next year will bring? I’m hoping to read more non-fiction, and to do some serious research into death doulas, end-of-life planning, and successful business/managerial concepts. Also looking forward to listening to more audio books, if I can find things on Audible that suit my mood. I’m sure I’ll read plenty of junk along the way, too. Fingers crossed, anyway 🙂