I’m looking back and doing my usual “Top Ten Books of the Year” list … and because everyone else has been doing it, and because I have these top ten lists going back far more than 10 years, I’m also thinking about 10 outstanding books I’d recommend from this whole decade. So here are both lists:
First of all — my Top Ten of 2019. These are in the order I read them, chronologically, not ranked bottom to top or anything. I read around 120 books this year, although there were several rereads (I re-read a couple of much loved series this year, and I obviously don’t consider rereads eligible for best-of lists). I’ve long since given up trying to rank them, and there’s always a level of arbitrariness. Going back through my book Pinterest board for this year, and these reviews, I found thirteen titles that really lingered in my mind long after reading them, and chose ten from those, but I could have easily gone with thirteen or even fifteen.
This year’s list includes four non-fiction (all audiobooks; I’ve decided that is the way to go for me for reading non-fiction) and six novels; there are four male writers and six women; three of my top ten books are by non-white writers (two of whom are indigenous). Those are the stats: here are the books, with links to my reviews:
- There There, by Tommy Orange. This book just took my breath away with its scope and brilliance.
- The Kingdom of Copper, by S.A. Chakraborty. The second volume of this trilogy was as good as the first, and I can’t wait for the conclusion!
- Fools and Mortals, by Bernard Cornwell. This one took me by surprise; I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.
- Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver. This was the one that was tied with several others for a possible spot on the list, and I think it made the cut finally because something about the emotional tone of the story lingers with me months after reading it.
- A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, by Alicia Elliott. This is probably the book I’ve recommended to the most people this year.
- Chimes of a Lost Cathedral, by Janet Fitch. This sweeping Russian epic captivated me.
- The Difference, by Marina Endicott. I said these aren’t ranked, and they’re not, but if they were this would be #1. My most enjoyable and engrossing reading experience this year.
- Son of a Critch, by Mark Critch. I knew this would be funny but had no idea how funny. My biggest advice with this one is, if you can, please get the audiobook with Mark reading it himself. It’s priceless.
- The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold. Powerful history giving voiceless, forgotten women a story.
- Eyes to the Wind, by Ady Barkan. Moving and insightful memoir, beautifully read by Bradley Whitford on the audiobook.
As for a Top Books of the Decade list … that was even harder. I could have just picked one from each year, but there were years I read more great, list-worthy books. And my basic metric for a book making the list is “am I still thinking about it months later?”, so in looking at the whole decade, I tended to favour books from earlier in the 2010s that still linger with me years later, but that tends to disadvantage those that I read more recently. In the end, I threw a couple of this year’s books on the decade list, but only time will tell if they’ve really earned their place there.
Without further ado, I give you:
Ten of Trudy’s Favourite Stand-Alone Novels of the 2010s:
- Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
- The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
- The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
- Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
- Longbourn, by Jo Baker
- Frog Music, by Emma Donohue
- Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
- Golden Hill, by Francis Spufford
- The Weight of Ink, by Rachel Kadish
- The Difference, by Marina Endicott
Just to squeeze in some more books, I’m adding two sub-lists. Here are five of the best book series I read in the 2010s (though one was published much, much earlier and I only just discovered it a few years ago; another series is still not complete but I have faith that the third volume will fulfill the promise of the first two).
- The Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett
- The Lindchester novels by Catherine Fox
- The “Small Change” series by Jo Walton
- The Harold Fry/Queenie Hennessy duology by Rachel Joyce
- The Daevabad Trilogy: City of Brass/Kingdom of Copper/third volume yet to come, by S.A. Chakraborty
Finally, although you know I read mostly fiction, I have read a lot of great non-fiction in the last decade also. Here are five of my best non-fiction reads from the last decade:
- Take This Bread, by Sara Miles
- Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
- Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed
- Hunger, by Roxane Gay
- The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold
For fans of my podcast (or book podcasts generally), you can listen to a conversation between me and my daughter Emma about some of our best books of 2019 here.