I’m going to confess what’s missing from my list right from the outset – there are no Australian authors on my list of favourite reads of 2019. I don’t know how that happened and it probably means I missed some good ones somehow. I read plenty of Australian fiction but the ones I read this year just didn’t rise to the top. So let me know in the comments what else I need to add to my to-read pile – especially from Aussie authors! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my list of favourite books of 2019.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
While this list is in no particular order, this was my hands-down favourite for 2019. I adored Towles’s previous book, Rules of Civility, and this one is so very different, but also so very incredible. I initially put off reading it because the title just didn’t appeal to me but I’m so glad I relented and picked it up. You MUST read it too! Historical fiction, incredible characters and an utterly absorbing story.
Educated by Tara Westover
This is a book about sheer incredible resilience and bravery. It’s a memoir of Tara’s childhood – she was raised by a fundamentalist Mormon family, without education and amidst much violence and horror – and her journey into adulthood as a woman who essentially teaches herself enough to get into college and eventually Cambridge. Both heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
This is my kind of historical fiction – multiple narrative strands, strong female characters, incredible period detail, and a dash of romance. I raced through The Huntress in just a few days, desperate to know what was going to happen. Nazi hunters, female pilots, aspiring photographers and lots of drama.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I both listened to the audio and read the book because I loved it so much! Almost the perfect unrequited love story, set against the backdrop of seventies rock and roll. It’s a study in incredible character development – a multicast of people, all of whom you care for and root for – even though winning for one means losing for another – right to the end.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I knew very little about Michelle Obama’s life beyond what she did while in the White House – and I realised as I read this that I hadn’t known a lot about that either. She comes across as incredibly down to earth, smart, hardworking; a woman who gets things done and who is fiercely protective of her family. I found her story very inspiring and loved the way it journeyed from childhood to the weeks immediately following the end of her life at the White House.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This is just a beautifully written coming of age story about a girl who, despite all odds, manages to create a kind of life for herself after being abandoned by her family. There’s a murder-mystery thrown in, as well as a love story, and the kind of prose that you want to wallow in.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Miller’s Circe was one of my favourite books of last year so this one had a lot to live up to. While Circe is probably my favourite of the two, I loved this one also. It’s kind of a hard sell – a retelling of the Battle of Troy, focussing on Achilles and his friendship with Patroclus – but Miller is both an amazing writer and so gifted at character development. I can’t wait for whatever she has coming next.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
This was probably the first novel I’ve ever read set in Cuba and it made me want to visit! Luscious scenery, gorgeous romance, a mystery entwined in a dual narrative, as well as lots fascinating information about the history of Cuba made this book an addictive read for me. I sped through it in just a couple of days.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
I am one of a very few people in the world who didn’t love Tartt’s blockbuster The Secret History, which is why it took me so long to pick up The Goldfinch and why I tried it on audiobook first – audio is my zone of experimentation. It is long, digressive and meandering but it’s also completely compelling and I loved both the Dickensian feel, the abrupt narrative swerves, and the themes of art and loss. Absolutely brilliant.