In a year that saw travel, adventure, some drama, and months on end of work craziness, I’m kind of amazed that I managed to read anything at all, let alone that I read so many wonderful books. In times of stress and overwhelm, I turn to classics and old friends – nothing new there. And the result is that I do find myself turning the pages of many, many fantastic books. 2019 was no exception. And while this is always a hard post to write (I! Hate! Decisions!) here’s my very best of the best.
Doctor Thorne (Barsetshire #3), by Anthony Trollope – I have been slowly making my way through Trollope’s Barsetshire and liking each installment in the series better than the last. I adored Doctor Thorne – laughed a LOT, cried a little, and enjoyed every single page.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4), by Agatha Christie – For some reason, I’d been thinking I had not read Roger Ackroyd before, but after figuring out the identity of the murderer, I now think maybe I did? Either way, it was riveting and absolutely great.
Edith Wharton, by Hermione Lee – It took me a long time to get through this doorstopper of a biography of the enigmatic queen of American letters. Lee’s exhaustive research was beyond impressive. And fascinating.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski – This might be the most important book I read this year. Life seems to get harder and harder, and I am feeling the effects of all that stress piling up on my shoulders. The Nagoski sisters are full of tea and sympathy and tried and true scientific strategies for coping. I’m already thinking of a reread.
Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf – For the longest time I have been someone who wanted to like Virginia Woolf. I tried. A LOT. Mrs. Dalloway finally broke the barrier for me. I was enthralled.
The Eagle of the Ninth (Roman Britain #1), by Rosemary Sutcliff – Ostensibly a book for younger readers, Sutcliff’s first installment in her Roman Britain series was exciting, heart-wrenching, and completely page-turning. My reading experience was enhanced by the gorgeous Slightly Foxed Cubs edition I had, but really – there’s everything to love about this book.
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden – I can’t resist a nature diary, especially a richly illustrated one, and Holden had been on my list for so long. It was gorgeous and luminous and everything I was looking for.
Anne of the Island (Anne of Green Gables #3), by L. M. Montgomery – It seems like cheating to include Anne on here, but anytime the fabulous Miss Shirley puts in an appearance, she’s a highlight. Anne of the Island is my favorite, and probably most frequently reread, of the series.
I Was A Stranger, by General Sir John Hackett – One of the last books I read in 2019 was also one of the best. Hackett, then a Brigadier General with the British Forces in World War II, was parachuted into the Netherlands shortly before the disastrous Battle of Arnhem. I Was A Stranger is his memoir of several months he spent recuperating from his wounds and being hidden behind enemy lines by a family of mild-mannered ladies. It’s a beautifully written, contemplative, tense and exciting book and a testament to Hackett’s gratitude to Aunt Ann, Aunt Cor, and Aunt Mien, who took unimaginable personal risks to shelter a stranger who became one of the family.
Wives and Daughters, by Elizabeth Gaskell – It’s hard, but I think this is my book of the year. I loved everything about Wives and Daughters and already am thinking of rereading it. For years I had an unfair prejudice against Gaskell and I’m so glad I’ve rid myself of that nonsense.
2019 was many things, not all of them great, but it was a WONDERFUL year in reading. Old friends, new-to-me classics, rediscovered favorites, and lots of happy, cozy moments spent turning pages. What more can you ask for?
Next week, my book superlatives – one of my favorite posts of the year!