Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Top Five Books of 2019


Every year we make a list of the top five books every LT staff member read this year. You can see past year’s lists here.

We’re always interested in what you are reading and loving, so we invite you to add your favorite books read in 2019 to our list. Again, not necessarily published in 2019, just ones that you read.

>> List: Top Five Books of 2019

Without much further ado, here’s our staff faves of the year!

 

 


Abby

Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir. This is the lesbian necromancer space opera you never knew you were waiting for. Gideon the Ninth is one of the sharpest books I’ve read in a long time.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson. A smart, political, nicely paced spy story, featuring a young black woman working for the FBI in the 80s.

Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab. Feisty pirates, brooding royals, magic, multiple Londons, strong women, queer characters–this series literally has it all.

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. This short, queer epistolary story of two time traveling spies who fall in love across time and space has prose so deliciously lyrical that I just want to eat it.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey. Magic for Liars is a queer noir detective story set in boarding school for mages. It’s smart literary fantasy, and I absolutely loved it..

Honorable mentions: Both Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (featuring love notes with attached bibliographies, because what could be better?) and Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner would have made my top 5 if they weren’t already included in a coworker’s list (thanks Kate and KJ). And I just read too many good books this year, so also let me also note The Dutch House (give me a messed up family saga any day, but written by Ann Patchett, and I will devour it), and Mostly Dead Things by Kirsten Arnett which has the most fantastic sense of place (taxidermy in swampy hot Florida!).


Tim

Tangata Whenua: an Illustrated History by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris. I’m currently in New Zealand, taking in as much history and culture as I can. As far as I can tell, this is the best general overview of Maori history. It’s a wonderful text—scholarly in tone, but general enough to cover a lot of ground. It has one serious drawback as a touring text—it’s HEAVY!

Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust by Gary MarcusExcellent review of what’s wrong with AI. Less convincing on the future.

Mac Bundle! Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything by Steven Levy and Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process by Ken Kocienda. Inspiring comfort reads.

V(ery) S(hort) I(ntroduction) Bundle! The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by William Doyle and World War II: A Very Short Introduction by Gerhard L. Weinberg  I’m a huge fan of the Oxford UP series “A Very Short Introduction“. Lately I’ve taken to getting into a topic, such as World War II or the French Revolution starting with the VSI, and then taking up a longer text. This year, for example, I read the French Revolution VSI alongside Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution.

Aliens: The World’s Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life by Jim Al-Khalili I’ll never be a scientist, but this is one emerging and creative subfield I’m eager to peek into whenever I can.

Dishonorable mention: Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio García Martínez. The topic is very much at the center of my interests, but the personality of the author was so odious, I had to stop reading.


Kate

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I would read a detailed ingredient list of any product were Taffy the writer. I’m fully and unhealthily obsessed with her writing. I had high hopes for her debut and I was NOT disappointed. Taffy’s character development is up there with the greats—and I’m a harsh judge.

Normal People by Sally Rooney.Speaking of character development, WHEW. Everyone has been talking about Rooney this year and this is the one to read. I devoured it, I want more.

Nothing Good Can Come from This: Essays by Kristi Coulter. This book knocked my socks off. As someone who identifies as sober curious, I read A LOT of sober memoirs, and Nothing Good Can Come from This is on a whole different level. Coulter has managed to pick apart her relationship with alcohol from the standpoint of being an ambitious woman, a young woman, a naive woman, a married woman, etc. This is so much more than a book about quitting the drink — it’s a book about becoming a person. I recommend this one to folks who aren’t sober curious — that’s how good it is.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. A YA love/coming of age story set in my hometown of Austin, TX? I never stood a chance. Mary H.K. Choi seems like the raddest of people and I’m here to say I’m a fan of her writing.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. This book made me equal parts angry and uncomfortable and sad. Three Women was not what I expected it to be, and I find myself reluctant to recommend it, but I think there’s something so important about this deep dive into women and their desires.

Honorable Mention: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Everything you’ve heard is true! This book was a damned delight!


KJ

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I have bullied at least seven people into reading this charming romance between a First Son of the USA and a Prince of England and now it’s your turn. Lovable characters, social media written the way it’s actually used, a dash of Star Wars, and two disastrous boys falling in love against a high-stakes presidential election.

Saga Series by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Takes the tropes of space opera—bounty hunters, animal/robot companions, star-crossed romance, glitchy ships, weird drugs—and spins them in a big blender. You probably don’t want to read this comic series in public because, uh, nsfw. I adored every issue.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Raza Aslan. This helped me contextualize all the biblical places I was able to visit earlier this year on a trip. A look at the historical man: Jesus of Nazareth, and his surrounding land and century. Not St. Paul friendly. Fascinating, illuminating, ultimately deepened my faith.

When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History by Hugh Ryan. Written to fill in a lacuna in the historical record, Ryan investigates queer history in the borough of Brooklyn. Loosely bookended by Walt Whitman and the Stonewall Riots, this book chronicles everything from early drag on Coney Island to the infamous Sands Street. Come for a grounding in the borough’s history, stay for Whitman’s extensive little black book.

Severance by Ling Ma. The world ends in a flu, but first it’s an uncomfortably accurate meditation on (book industry) office work in the 2010s. Also a nuanced story of a first-generation Chinese-American woman and an ode to NYC. For fans of The Stand and Station Eleven.

Honorable mentions: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood because it is a good sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I devoured it in one sitting. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones, because we should just let poets write all the memoirs, if this is what they do with them.


Chris C.

The Book of Why by Judea Pearl.

The Art of Statistics by David Speigelhalter.

Rebooting AI by Gary Marcus.

Strings Attached: The Life and Music of John Williams by William Starling.

The Grapes of Math by Alex Bellos.


Kristi

My List this year is the “I Had A Baby!” edition!

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.My absolute favorite book in my son’s collection! Pretty illustrations, great lessons on kindness within the story, fun to read and a sweet, sing-song rhythm for my son to follow along. Reminiscent of The Little Engine That Could.

The Monster At The End of This Book by John Stone. It’s a Little Golden Book featuring a Sesame Street character (Grover), so how could it not be lovely? This book is so fun to read with my son.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. Perfect for exploring colors, shapes, and a good book to grow into with advanced plant words like “rhizome” and “Delphinium”.

Ocean Meets Sky by Terry and Eric Fan. Gorgeous illustrations, and a sweet story. The lead character shares my son’s name, too, so of course I love it that much more. It’s a little more advanced for my son, but will be a great book for him as he grows!

The Baby Book by William Sears. Recommended to me by fellow staffer Kate (to whom Abby recommended), this book has it all. The entire team of Sears doctors worked to put together this in-depth reference for virtually any questions you might have about your child’s development for the first couple of years. Something I return to quite often! A worthy resource.


Pedro

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow by Matthew Skelton.
Dune by Frank Herbert.

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2019 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: top five, Uncategorized

5 Comments:

  1. linda newman says:

    my top 5 are
    The Overstory, R. Powers
    There, There, T Orange
    Eleanor Oliphant Is Fine
    An American Marriage, T. Jones
    Becoming, Michelle Obama

  2. Penny Marshall says:

    My top five for 2019 are:

    1. The Library Book, Susan Orlean
    3. All the Things We Lost, Liz Trenow
    3. Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover
    4. Ticket to Timbuktu, Joe Lindsay
    5. The Red Address Book, Sofia Lundberg

  3. BookDoc16 says:

    The Library Book by Susan Orlean
    Twelve Fair Kingdoms by Suzette Haden Elgin
    The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
    The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
    Chasing the Sun by Paula McLain

  4. George Scott says:

    Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
    Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith
    House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
    An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
    A Shooting Star by Wallace Stegner

  5. Ghostwriting says:

    This book “American Spy” was unlike any I’ve ever read. A quick and unpredictable storyline, superb writing and characters I actually cared about. I truly did not want it to end! In fact, I started getting depressed as I approached the end and paused to find other books like it by Black woman authors (to no avail). I absolutely loved her writing (and thinking) and loved getting a completely different take on Africa. I’ll definitely be looking for her next one! Bravo!

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