Wow, what a year! 2019 was an exciting journey for me as a writer and a reader: I found some new favorite authors through the RWW creative writing masters program, discovered new books by favorite authors I haven’t read in a while, and even learned how to do an in-depth analysis of what works in a book and how I can use the techniques that I see in the works of my favorite authors.
Before we dive into 2020 and the goldmine of new reads to be found in the new year, I want to take this chance to look back and create a list of the top 10 books I read this year. Maybe you can put them on your 2020 reading list!
And so, in no particular order…
1. Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
Those of you who frequent my blog know that I’m a huge Marissa Meyer fan. And Renegades is a darn good series, even if you don’t follow Meyer. This second installment of the Renegades trilogy had me on the edge of my seat, geeking out over all the fun superhero powers and tense situations, and loving every single character (except a select few; but that was intentional). I read most of this book in one sitting, and I could not get enough.
The tension stays high, the characters are amazing, and the twists and turns are so good that I audibly gasped at some parts. Descriptions are beautiful as well, especially with Adrian and Callum as characters. Beautifully done!
2. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Sarah J. Maas is such a stellar storyteller. This book is the culmination of years upon years of character growth, worldbuilding, and emotional buildup. I’ve been following this series and Aelin’s journey for years, and I can’t believe it’s over. The ending of this epic series is satisfying and emotional (everyone was crying, and I came close).
There were big loud moments and small quiet moments, and they all worked perfectly. With the exception of how a certain villain went out (I’m careful of spoilers here), everything came together nicely. I love these characters so much, and it makes my heart swell to know what the rest of their lives will look like.
3. Three Nights in Faral-Khazal by David Samuels
David Samuels is a new author, at least to me, but I’m so glad I found his work last year. Everything he writes is vivid, raw, and meaningful. This collection of three stories is no different.
Each story is well-crafted and keeps up an exciting amount of tension. The first has an intriguing sense of mystery, the second has twists and turns, and the third (my favorite) features fun characters! I thoroughly enjoyed this read, and all three stories fit together perfectly.
4. City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Andrew Shvarts is back to break my heart yet again! The second book of the Royal Bastards trilogy hits the feels in a different way (though it hurts no less than the first book). I especially loved how he progressed Zell’s storyline and the relationship between him and the protagonist. This story is everything I wanted from the sequel to Royal Bastards, and it even gave me things I didn’t even know I wanted: mystery, intrigue, political backstabbing…I loved every moment. Dark, emotional, plenty of twists. Sign me up for a third!
5. Chord by Rick Barot
Because I post a lot of poetry here on the ole blog, it might interest you to know that I actually don’t read that much of it. But I wanted to read Chord because Rick Barot is my advisor for the RWW master’s program, and I’ve been meaning to read his poetry. Boy, am I glad that I did! This is a beautiful collection of poetry filled with vivid imagery and imbued with a sense of importance! I enjoyed every single page. And, coming from someone who doesn’t read much poetry at all, that’s saying something. Read it, read it, read it!
6. On Writing and Worldbuilding, Vol. 1 by Timothy Hickson
I love watching analysis and writing videos on YouTube. If you’re familiar with the channel HelloFutureMe, then this book is for you! This volume is an interesting and informative book that reads very quickly because of its fun content. With plenty of examples of effective and ineffective worldbuilding from multiple sources, Vol. I explores niche concepts that are just as compelling and helpful as they are in YouTube video form. I highly recommend this for those who love learning about the ins and outs of storytelling.
7. Supernova by Marissa Meyer
Yes, yes, yes: Another Marissa Meyer book. I do not regret putting this on the same list as Archenemies, though. This is the emotional and explosive ending to the Renegades trilogy, and it would be a shame to leave it out.
This book is filled to the brim with fun, colorful settings, thrilling fight scenes, heroic villains, and villains heroes; it gripped me from start to end. I ended up stealing what little time I could during my work breaks to get my Supernova fix.
Everything is tied together nicely, the conflicts that seemed impossible to resolve are every bit as satisfying and dramatic as I could have hoped for, and this world that Marissa Meyer created is so immersive that I didn’t even realize I’d sat there for literally hours completely enamored with the story.
8. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Anything with Leigh Bardugo’s name on it…amazing. Once again, I’ve found a stellar read from Bardugo! There are some amazing moments, wonderful characters, and breathtaking character arcs within these pages.
It’s fantastic to revisit all our old Grishaverse buddies like Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina. The story world is so full of life and beauty. There were a few times when I found myself thinking that I’d like to have a tighter plot, but the substantial moments from these characters more than make up for the moments where I felt like that. This book got me excited about reading after a reading slump, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone, fan of the Grishaverse or otherwise!
9. Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt
I’d never heard of A.S. Byatt before my RWW mentor assigned this book to me a couple months ago. And yet, she’s become another favorite author. It’s honestly amazing how Byatt uses such beautifully strange descriptions, incorporating fantastical elements into everyday life as seamlessly as if fairytales were true. My favorite story of the collection, “The Thing in the Forest,” is especially stellar in terms of rhythmic language. The sounds, the structure, the rhythm…it’s like poetry. A beautiful collection and a must-read if you love stories of the strange and beautiful.
10. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
Words cannot describe how much I needed this book. I already knew that Aimee Bender is amazing (I read The Color Master in the summer and fell in love with Bender’s perspectives and style). But I had no idea just how enthralling I’d become.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is both beautiful in its delicious description and heartbreaking in the characters’ abilities tied to magical realism. The pacing is slow but steady, an absolute joy to experience. There was nothing more relaxing for me than to sit down with Bender’s style and characters and just let myself experience the beauty. It would be such a shame to miss out on this one: Bender’s work is nothing short of miraculous. I learned so much just from falling into the experience.
I hope you’ve found some new favorite books from this list. If 2019 was any indication of what the future holds for new reads, then I’m super excited for 2020.
Photo by Glen Noble on Unsplash