Okay, so I read 89 books this year. 89 (and very likely to be 90 by the stroke of midnight)! That has made it much harder to pick favourites than it normally is. Also, I’ve read a lot of books that I would describe as simultaneously very good fun and definitely rubbish, which makes this harder. In the end, though, I think I have come up with a list that reflects the best of my reading year.
- Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
It might be too soon to say, but I think I have found a true kindred spirit kind of author in Pym. I loved Jane and Prudence as well. In the end, I picked Excellent Women because it felt so remarkably real to me, and Mildred was so painfully plausible. I can’t wait to explore more of Pym’s work over the next few years. The rest of this list isn’t in any kind of order, but Excellent Women really was the standout for me this year.
- Endless Night by Agatha Christie
I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christie on my annual favourites list before, but this weird, somewhat creepy novel, which builds tension incredibly effectively and where I never knew what was going to happen next, is one of the best things I’ve read by her. It really is as bleak as the title would suggest, and a great counter-argument to anyone who says Christie is “cosy”. Bonus points for the excellent audiobook narration by Hugh Fraser.
- Lila by Marilynne Robinson
I loved this lonely, kind book about love and God and nature, and the vulnerability inherent to any kind of human connection. It was an incredibly fitting companion to Gilead – which, given how very much I love it, is quite the compliment.
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean
This book about the LA Public Library (and many other tangentially related topics) was just a delight. I can’t recommend this highly enough to pretty much anyone reading this blog – if you’ve decided to make reading, discussing, and writing about books a key part of your leisure time, you probably love books enough in general to really love this one specifically.
- The Painted Veil by W Somerset Maugham
When I was looking over my reading year, I upped my Goodreads rating for this from four to five stars. I think it suffered initially in my ratings because I read it in conjunction with The Ghost Map (both about cholera outbreaks), which I ended up not liking at all. However, I have continued to think about it all year, even though it was pretty much the first book I finished in 2019. I never reviewed it here because I was too busy in January and couldn’t seem to give it the review it deserved, but it was nonetheless an excellent book.
And one honorary sixth favourite: I read The Psychology of Time Travel at the tail end of 2018, just as I finished my Five Favourites lists – I think it would have been on there if I’d been done in time, though I can’t think what I would have bumped for it, and it seems mean not to mention it here.
Although I never include rereads on these lists, I nearly broke my rule for Anne of the Island, which is one of my very favourite books of all time, and which I still love as passionately as I did when I was twelve or thirteen. I reread several books this year, which is unusual for me – other than the first few Anne books holding up so well, I was surprised to find that I no longer love Wuthering Heights the way I did as a teenager (they are just all so awful), and that Persuasion has perhaps taken the place of Mansfield Park as my favourite Austen. Between several excellent rereads and the books on this list, I’ve had a completely delightful year of reading, and look forward to more of the same in 2020.