My Best Reads of 2019

I love reading. I’m a creative writing major for crying out loud! Recently, I haven’t had as much time as I would like to read for pleasure, but with the end of the year coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about some of my favorite books I’ve read this year. So, instead of sitting down and starting Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenidies like I’ve wanted to for weeks, I’ve decided to make a list of the best and worst books of my 2019 reading list.

  1. 1. "Less" by Andrew Sean Greer

    My partner, Aidan, got me this book for my birthday, and I fell in love with the story. In summary, Arthur Less, a failing writer about to turn 50, decides to travel the world in order to avoid going to his ex-lover’s wedding. Less rediscovers himself, what it means to be a writer, and what it means to be a gay man today. One of my favorite scenes is Less sitting in his bathtub on the night of his 50th birthday remembering living through and surviving the AIDS crisis. Less is honest and funny and emotional, and it’s perfect for those of us transitioning from young adult to adult literature. I would say it falls into adult fiction, but with themes of rediscovering oneself, I think young adults can relate to it, too.

  2. 2. "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

    I’ll be honest, I never thought I would read this book. My cousin got it for me for Christmas and while I sat at an airport waiting for my layover to end, I finished the book I was reading before this and decided to start Becoming. By the end of the book, I was referring to the Obama family by first name because Michelle’s writing made me feel like I was a friend of the family. In Becoming, she’s brutally honest about her dislike of Barack running for… well, anything. She gives us an incredibly intimate look into the entirety of her life, and I was genuinely surprised by how much I related to her. During her formative years and even into college, she suffered through all the anxiety and imposter syndrome the rest of us do. It was amazing to see that The Michelle Obama went through exactly what I am going through, and it helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel that is college stress. I loved that this book was about Michelle Robinson, the woman who has her own life that Barack Obama became a part of, rather than Michelle Obama, Barack Obama’s wife.

  3. 3. "Woman on the Edge of Time" by Marge Piercy

    I always thought dystopian novels were supposed to show scary, horrible places to live, but this one is so, so different. In this novel, the real world is the dystopia and the world Connie visits in 2137 is the more desirable place to live. This is the first dystopian novel where the “dystopia” (the place in 2137) is actually a utopia, and a place I would really want to live. Woman on the Edge of Time is considered a classic speculative science fiction novel as well as a feminist classic. I had to read this book for class and it still made it to my list of the best reads of the year.

  4. 4. "Watchmen" by Alan Moore & David Gibbons

    This was another book I had to read for class and the very first graphic novel I’ve ever read. I. Loved. It. I found myself having to physically restrain from reading ahead in order to keep up with all the readings for my other classes. The storyline was art, the pictures were art, and the characters were… *chef’s kiss.* It challenges how we view superheroes in the modern age, what good they really do for us.

  5. 5. "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin

    I super love Kate Chopin. I read The Awakening in senior year of high school and I was really excited to read it again with a new set of eyes. Chopin was way ahead of her time and a total feminist badass who wrote female characters who didn’t fit the norm of their era—at all. The Awakening tells the story of Edna, a sexually active woman who decides to move out of her house, leaving behind her kids and husband in order to pursue a life she would actually enjoy. She takes up painting, spending time on the beach with her friends, and even takes a few lovers, which was very taboo during Edna’s time. I love reading Chopin and knowing how people would have reacted to her work (fun fact: she was basically blacklisted by all her friends and family because of her writing). I would hope she’s somehow seeing how she is celebrated now and smiling, maybe even sticking up a middle finger (or two) at people from the 1800s.

  6. 6. "Stone Butch Blues" by Leslie Feinberg

    Oh. My. God. This book is everything one could hope for in a book. It’s queer, it’s emotional, it’s (brutally) honest and thought provoking. As a young queer woman in 2019, it made me appreciate the valiant efforts of the queer predecessors in the 1900s. I fell in love with nearly every character I met. I cried when they cried, I mourned when they mourned, I loved when they loved. I highly recommend this book to everyone, queer or not, because despite the book being fiction, it teaches a lot of real history. (Trigger warning for, uh, pretty much everything.)

  7. 7. "The Hazelwood" by Melissa Albert

    This book sat on my desk for months, and after reading two really horrible books, I wanted to leave the realm of reality. This novel follows Alice and her mother as they run away from all the horrible, seemingly magical, events that plague them. After Alice’s mother is kidnapped, Alice knows she has to stop running away and face whatever this force is that’s following her, and she learns some seriously twisted things about her and her family’s past. This was one of those books that I thought about every second I wasn’t reading it. It’s definitely a teen book (and the writing reflects that) but the story is unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

  8. 8. "The Two Princesses of Bamarre" by Gail Carson Levine

    Please, please, if you take anything away from this list, read this book. I got the book when I was a kid and stumbled upon it again over the summer. It’s definitely a children’s novel but it’s also one of my favorite books. It tells the story of two sisters, Princess Addie, who is afraid of everything, and Princess Meryl, who dreams of being a knight. When Meryl becomes deathly ill, Addie must face all her fears (literally every single one) in order to find a cure to save her sister. This book is so sweet and such a great story for kids to read, as it teaches about being true to yourself and facing your fears. The characters are amazing and I even fell in love with one (Rhys, I miss him) which honestly isn’t a huge surprise because I fall in love with everyone, but I digress.

I honestly didn’t read as much as I would have liked to this year, but oh well, c’est la vie. I’m fortunate to have read way more good (amazing) books than bad ones. If you, like me, are looking for some good reads for over winter break and to start off the new year, here’s a list of books that I highly recommend. There are a wide range of genres represented here, so hopefully you can find something you like or something that inspires you to read.