2019 Favorite Books

Hello, everyone! This is Shannon from
That’s So Poe, and today I am doing my favorites of 2019. I am so excited to talk about
these books. I’ve read so many amazing books in 2019. So what I’m gonna talk
about today is a bunch of different books in different categories. So I’m
gonna give you my top three in various categories that I’ve read in this
year. I thought about narrowing it down to like top 10 of the year. There’s no
way I can do that. I read over 70 books that I gave 5 stars to this year, so it’s
just – it’s just not gonna happen! But I will try to be brief so that it
doesn’t go on forever. These books are generally books that I gave 5 stars to,
although a couple of them were four and a half stars, in that there was something
that maybe I didn’t think was perfect about the book, but really stuck with me, really
impacted me, and just are the books that I kind of think I would recommend. So,
let’s get into it! I have quite a few different categories and books that I
want to talk about. But really, I loved all of these books and I highly
recommend you pick up any of them that sound interesting to you. So the first
category is nonfiction. The first book that was a favorite is Uncanny Magazine
Issue 24: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! by various authors. This is
something that I did a standalone video talking all about so if you want to know
more you can go ahead and look in the description box below and I’ll link that
video. Basically, half of this collection actually is fiction short stories that
are science fiction, but the second half is a bunch of nonfiction essays by
science fiction authors talking about how science fiction represents disabled
characters, and what they would like to see, and sort of the kind of strength and
purpose of literature in creating new worlds that imagine new realities for
people. It is absolutely stunning and I think really great to read, especially if
you like science fiction and you want to know more about kind of the disabled
experience. So I thought that was fantastic, even though, you know, not every
short story, not every essay was perfect, which is why this one got four and a
half out of five (stars). But it was still so, so worthwhile. Next is Sapiens by Yuval Noah
Harari. This is a book that looks at sort of the
history of humanity, and in particular tries to understand what is so special
about Homo Sapiens, what makes us kind of stand out and so effective as kind of a
species. So in particular, he talks about our ability to communicate, our
ability to cooperate, our ability to share belief systems, and how that
enables us to do things that are so much more than what just we as individual
humans are capable of. I found it was just really, really thought-provoking. I
had so many ideas after this. It definitely shifted the way that I frame
certain things, and look at certain things. And really, also just talks about
things like how so many of the beliefs that we have – they’re just constructed.
They’re in a sense, myth. Even things like money and, you know, capitalism, and all
these sorts of things. So that was a very interesting perspective shift for me. The
last book, and my top of nonfiction for 2019, is Between the World and Me by
Ta-Nehisi Coates. This, I thought, was beautiful. It is a memoir that Ta-Nehisi Coates writes to his son, talking about his experiences growing up black
in the inner city and then later becoming somebody who is on a world
stage. He was an advisor in the White House and just is now a really strong
writer. He has such beautiful, lyrical writing. And what I found so powerful
about this memoir was that insight that it offers into the way that growing up
in a very difficult circumstance can shape your world of view, and can limit
you in a lot of ways, and how for so many people in the U.S. that is kind of the
reality of things – even though it doesn’t need to be. And just that insight into
kind of the black inner-city male experience I thought was really, really
worthwhile, and I’d highly recommend that everybody pick this up to gain that
insight. Next, I’d like to talk about a couple of different graphic works
categories. The first of these is children’s picture books.
I did not expect going into 2019 that this would be a category
for me, but it very much was. I read so many amazing children’s picture
books. It is just fantastic how many great ones there are out there.
So the first I’d like to talk about is Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.
This is such a sweet young children’s picture book. It has very few words,
mostly just pictures, but it’s gorgeous. The artwork is fantastic and the story
is really heartwarming. It’s about a little boy, Julián, who
loves to swim and who one day decides he needs to become a mermaid. And so he
dresses up as one and this book is all about gender expression, about queerness,
and about kind of family support of that as well. So I highly recommend this book,
even though it has maybe like 10 words total. It’s so good. Next is Mary Who
Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, illustrated by Júlia Sardà. This is just
fantastic artwork. I I adore this. This is actually nonfiction.
It is a biography of Mary Shelley. So it’s all about her childhood and about
the time when she sort of went on that retreat with, you know, all of the
different authors, and decided to write Frankenstein. It offers really
interesting insight into her childhood and background and sort of the
influences she had – some of the rebellion, some of the fascinating things going on
in science that period. But it’s all done in a way that, you know, maybe an eight or
nine-year-old child would love reading about. The artwork, though, is what makes
this really stand out. The artwork is gothic and fantastic and it’s all done
in these autumnal colors. I love this book and I’m totally getting myself a
copy. The top one that I had for this year was NIghtlights by Lorena Alvarez.
This is sort of a fantastical story about a little girl who loves to draw.
And she finds herself sort of torn because she should be doing other things –
homework and such – but drawing is where she finds her passion. And one day she
starts making friends with another little girl who loves her artwork but
maybe has some ulterior motives. And this this story just goes into these kind of
fantastical dream elements. The little girl has all of these dreams at night
and creations and it’s so beautifully drawn. The colors in this are so vivid,
the shapes are so round, and the characters and beautiful creatures that
are created are just really fantastical. So I loved everything about this story,
both the artwork and that exploration of being a creative person, being an artist,
and finding your calling and your strength and dealing with kind of how
outside forces influence you. So these are all excellent picture books. The next
category is middle grade and YA graphic works. So first in this is a
manga called My Little Monster by Robico. This is basically a YA
contemporary looking at the relationship between a girl and a guy,
where the girl is very, very hardworking and wants to be successful in life but
closed off – extremely closed off emotionally. She doesn’t have friends. She
doesn’t have hobbies,. All she does is study. And she comes in contact with a
guy who is super-smart but has had a lot of family issues and
has really developed… become a little bit of a monster. He scares other people. He
gets into fights a lot. These sorts of things. And they end up becoming friends
and then falling in love. A lot of this book focuses on kind of overcoming your
own emotional issues, developing as a person, learning the importance of
friendship, and caring about others. And I think that the emotional journey in
this made it really, really great. Also it had a ton of comedy. A lot of things that
I found very funny about it. The next is The Witch Boy by Mollie Ostertag.
This is a series that focuses on a boy, Aster, who… it’s kind of a modern day but
with magical elements… whose family lives in… on a kind of a secluded area. And everybody in the family is either a witch if they’re
female or a shape-shifter if they’re male. But Aster is not. He is very much
male, but very much a witch, and he struggles with that because it’s very
much banned for any male to practice magic. Bad things happened in the past.
So he has to do it in secret and he struggles against the expectations and
the restrictions and wants to make everybody happy, but also can’t help but
practice magic. So this series does a great job of exploring a lot of
gender issues. Also a lot of issues of friendship and of family dynamics. And I
found it emotionally very rewarding as well as having beautiful artwork – very
soft lines, very sweet story, and just such a great middle grade picture book –
not picture, but graphic work. Then the last one, my top one, is The Prince and
the Dressmaker by Jen Wong. This is just the sweetest, most joyful story. It is
about a prince, sort of in a turn-of-the-century Paris-like city, who
loves to dress up as lady Crystallia. So at night he’ll go in drag and wear
these gorgeous gowns and wigs and everything like that.But it’s very much
a secret because he’s worried that that won’t be accepted. He has all of these
princely duties and responsibilities that weigh very, very heavily on him. And he
makes friends with a dressmaker who creates all of his beautiful gowns for
the evening, and they become very, very close. But there’s a tension there
because she wants to be a famous dressmaker but he needs to keep the
secret about where his dresses are made. So there’s a lot of difficulty there
with kind of coming out and fear of what the consequences will be. I thought that
the story was really sweet and the artwork and the dresses is… it’s this
beautiful kind of Haute Couture mixed with kind of that turn-of-the-century
style. It’s fantastic artwork and a lovely story that I thought was really wonderful. So all three of these were very much my
style. Next is adult comics. The first of these
I’d like to talk about is the Maus series by Art Spiegelman. This is a
classic in terms of graphic works that are very much meant for adults. It is a
memoir of Art Spiegelman and his father. His father went through the Holocaust
and it’s about sort of both what happened in the Holocaust, which is an
amazing story. It’s very heart-wrenching. So much trauma. As well as what his
father and his life were like afterwards, many years later when he was growing up
and being an adult. And it just delves into a lot about what the
Holocaust was, what happened with it, as well as that kind of trauma that comes
with it, and how that affects future generations. So this is a classic for a
reason. It is very, very strong. Next on my list is the Monstress series by Marjorie
Liu and Sana Takeda. The Monstress series is really some of the most
gorgeous artwork I have ever seen. It is lush and beautiful, this almost steampunk
Asian fantasy epic story that has a strong cast of almost all women that are
dealing with huge issues of politics and world power and magic and ancient gods
and there’s political intrigue. So it is a very ,very epic story. It’s a bit
graphic. There’s quite a lot of violence and war in it. And it deals a lot also
with trauma and kind of issues between families, things like that, so it’s a
heavy series. But it is the most stunning artwork and just really fascinating to
read through. And my top one is Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Nimona is something
that I only read somewhat recently but it was fantastic. I loved the quirky art
style. I loved the comedy of it. It’s just
hilarious. I loved Nimona as a character. She is this apprentice, basically to
an evil scientist, and she all she wants to do was go out and destroy things. She’s like, “Can we burn it down? Can we go kill those people?” And she’s
just so joyful and excited about all of this. She’s kind of a walking wrecking
ball. And I loved the way that this comic not only did so much fun humor, but also
explored a lot of really interesting themes of friendship and loyalty, of what
makes somebody a good person, what makes somebody a bad person, and how you
support those who are your friends and who are around you. So it was
heartwarming, it was funny, it was fun, and I also just loved kind of the cute
aspect of the drawing style. It was very quirky and fun. So all of these I really loved. Now moving on to my favorite short story collections of 2019. The first is a
collection of literary short stories called Sabrina & Corina by Kali
Fajardo-Anstine. These short stories are set in Colorado and modern-day and
they’re about all of these indigenous Latina women. The book is really a
collection of stories about a community. So it’s about all of these women, about
their relationships with each other, their mothers and daughters and sisters
and grandmothers. It’s about that connection to family, but also the
frustrations of your family. It’s about generational trauma It’s
about being stuck in a situation and unable to get out of it. It’s about
wanting more for the future than you have. And I found it really powerful. it
is definitely a bit melancholy. It is definitely something that has some
weight to it. But I thought that the stories were beautiful and I loved the
themes that it explored. Next is Jackalope Wives and Other
Stories by T. Kingfisher. This is really fantastic. So these short stories
are a lot of fantasy: things about witches and magic. And most of the
stories feature women who are like middle-aged or old, and I love that. I
love stories that are about women, especially older women. And almost none
of these had any romance in them. I’m not sure that ANY had romance in them,
actually. It was just really about the women and their power and their magic
and the way that often they’re sort of neglected by everybody else but they
have so much to offer. I really liked these stories. I really liked the kind of
feminist fantasy bent of them. And there was so much humor. So I got a lot out of
it. The last – but also more than one – favorite of the year is the Ted
Chiang short story collections Stories of Your Life and Others, as well as
Exhalation. So [mumbling] slipping in two for this because they’re both so good. They
are so, so good. So this is my first time reading Ted Chiang. And wow! Absolutely
amazing. I did do separate discussion videos of both of these collections, so I
will link those down below if you want to hear more about the individual
stories. But overall, both of these collections had such an excellent focus
on speculative fiction. I think that’s where Ted Chang is so strong in creating
these stories that take a premise and really follow it through and say, “Okay,
well, what if we did have this development? Or what if the world was
different in this way? How would that change society? How would that change the
way that we interact?” So they’re very contemplative, very philosophical
explorations of different speculative ideas, focused often on science fiction.
So I highly recommend both of these short story collections. If you have
heard of the movie Arrival, that is based on one of the stories, called “Story of
Your Life,” and it’s just a fantastic movie as well. Next, I’d like to talk
about my favorite poetry collections of 2019. First is If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar. This collection looks at Asghar’s identity
a lot, especially as sort of a Pakistani-American queer woman, and also
takes a look at sort of the history of the Pakistan-India divide, and a lot of
the sort of generational trauma – maybe this is a theme of
stuff that I like – that goes throughout that. So it’s really interesting. She
especially does a good job of looking at kind of both that desire to be connected
to her cultural heritage as well as frustration with not fitting in with it.
She has some really great things looking as well at sort of the microaggressions
and issues of being a Pakistani-American and what all of that means. So it’s
definitely a political and important collection of poetry that I think is
well worth reading. Next is Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez. This is again
very political, looking at identity. This book looks at being Latinx in the U.S.
Looks at that connection to your heritage. Looks at sort of Olivarez’s
desire to sort of be connected to his Mexican heritage, but also his
differences and distinctions from his parents and his kind of new way of being
as Mexican-American. So it really examines a lot of that. Also looks at a
lot of things that are political, especially the way that Mexican
Americans are treated in the U.S. So lots of politics, lots of identity, and lots of
really interesting themes. The last one – I think I have a theme in this – is
Americans Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrence Hayes. This is also
political, looking at identity. So Terrence Hayes wrote a bunch of sonnets
after Trump was elected, really talking about sort of the experience of being a
black man in the U.S. and about the difficulties when sort of the society
around you decides to elect somebody who is very much against sort of what your
community stands for. That frustration, that anger, that feeling of being under
threat. And it’s a very powerful collection for all of those emotions. The
next category is novels in verse, and yes, I have a category for novels in verse
because apparently I read quite a few of them and really, really loved them. So it is a category for me. The first of these
is Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. This was fantastic. It’s a YA about a
teenage boy who lives in a sort of dangerous neighborhood, and his older
brother is killed in some gang violence. And he decides to grab his brother’s gun
and go down and shoot the people who are responsible. But as he’s in the elevator
ride down, it sort of gets stuck, and he has to examine a lot of his thoughts, a
lot of his past trauma, a lot of the sort of reasons why this kind of cycle of
violence happens. And just really come to terms with a lot of important things in
his community. And I thought that that exploration of his personal journey as
well as a look at these sort of social issues involved in a lot of black
communities was a really powerful. Plus, the language was beautiful. Jason
Reynolds is just the most fantastic writer. I love – I love, love, love his prose.
It’s beautiful. Next is Lion Island by Margarita Engle.
This is a fantastic book that looks at… it’s a historical fiction, but based very heavily
in history. Looks at a Chinese Cuban boy in the 1800s who worked, through writing,
for the… for the purpose of promoting the emancipation of both Chinese kind of
slave laborers as well as actual African descended slaves in Cuba. And it tells
the story of him, as well as some of his friends, and the work that each of them
does trying to fight for justice, trying to fight for equality. And this is based
on real history, although it’s a fictionalized account. And it’s all told
in verse from their three perspectives – his and his two friends. And it’s just
beautiful. I loved the poetry. I loved the history.
I loved the political activism. It was excellent. And top on my list for novels
in verse, unsurprisingly, is The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo,
which, if you’ve been on Booktube, you’ve heard of this book. It’s just as good as
everybody says it is. It is a story about a teenage girl, Xiomara, who is struggling to find her place. She is growing up in a very conservative,
religious household, and is constantly silenced, but finds her voice through her
journaling in poetry and through joining a slam poetry club at school and
performing and expressing all of those emotions and frustrations. And just that
finding her voice and empowerment of this teenage girl was wonderful. Plus I
listened to the audiobook of this, which I highly recommend, and the author reads
it herself. It is so, so powerful. Okay, just a few more categories now. Next is
middle grade. I discovered a true, deep and abiding love of middle grade this
year and I read some EXCELLENT ones. First is Hurricane Child by Kacen
Callendar. This is a story of a little girl, growing up in the Caribbean, whose
mother disappears. And she’s been gone for a year, and the girl is so, so
frustrated, and misses her mother so much, and she doesn’t fit in at school, and she
is constantly bullied, and just so angry about the situation, but also so
determined to change it. She wants to find her mother. She wants to, you know,
make sure that she does the things that she needs to do. And at the same time,
there’s a new girl in school that she becomes friends with, and more than
friends – she falls in love with this other girl. But she has to deal with sort
of the consequences of how other people react to that relationship.
I loved the strength of the main character. I loved the emotions and the
power. And also, there’s a bunch of magic that is in this story. She can see some
magical ghosts and things around. And it’s just such a beautiful atmospheric
story. Next is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I had seen the movie of this years ago, but
this was the first time I had read the book. And similarly, it deals with a
girl who is very stubborn who wants to do things her way. And it has this dark
magic to it. So in Coraline, she and her parents moved to a house out in the
countryside, and there are funky things going on where there is a door that
leads to a brick wall, except that one day Coraline opens it
and it leads to kind of an alternate world that is her house as well, and she
has an “other mother” who has buttons for eyes, and is actually kind of scary, and
wants some things from Coraline. So I love the creepy horror aspect of this,
but in a middle-grade way so I could handle it. I just thought it was
beautiful writing, as often is the case because I love Gaiman’s writing in
general. And it was just such a cool story. My top middle grade of the year is
A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano. This is a really cute series, called the Love
Sugar Magic series. And it’s all about, again, a little girl who is very stubborn,
who discovers that her family are brujas, and they can make magic. But she’s the
youngest of all of her sisters, and she’s excluded from all of this. She does NOT
want to be excluded, though, so she kinda goes around their backs and does some
magic, and things go a little wrong. So it’s got a lot of humor, it’s got a lot
of focus on family, it’s got a lot of cultural aspects because they are latina.
And it’s just so beautiful and so much fun and so atmospheric. I had such a fun
time with this. And I’m really excited because the third book in this series is
going to be coming out soon, so I can’t wait to get my hands on that one. Next is romance. First on my list here is Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.
If you’ve been around Booktube, you’ve heard of this book because it is
such a favorite of so many people – for good reason! This book is so much fun.
It’s a contemporary, has so much humor, is very irreverent, a bit of swearing. And
it’s about this first son of the United States whose mother is president. He is Latinx, and he has some altercations with one of
the princes in Britain. The governments say, “Hey, you guys got to fix this up.” And
so they have to form a friendship that actually turns into a real friendship,
and real connection, and then later into love. Their story, that kind of
progression, also them dealing with very different personalities and very
different stressors while also having a lot of commonalities, was really great to
read about, as well as just all of the politics that were very timely.
It’s a beautiful queer romance and I highly recommend reading this one if you
want a good romp. Next on my list is A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi.
This is also a YA contemporary, although I would say it focuses not just
on the romance but also especially on the experience of the main character, who
is a Muslim-American girl, and all of the kind of difficulties that she has faced
with being Muslim with wearing a hijab, with dealing with all of that stuff,
because the book takes place right after 9/11 – a year after 9/11. She falls in love
with this kind of all-american boy who just doesn’t understand that she’s gonna
face any problems. And their relationship DOES cause a lot of problems for their
kind of conservative community. He’s brought to realize all of these things
that he didn’t understand, and she’s able to work through some of that anger and
some of that fear, and learn to just say, “Hey, this is who I am, and I’m gonna still
form relationships and have connections, even if some people are just awful in
this world.” So lots of politics in this one as well, but a really beautiful love
story that I enjoyed quite a lot. My top romance is Get a Life, Chloe Brown by
Talia Hibbert. I did do a separate video about this, so I will link that down
below. And this book was just… so much everything that I wanted in a romance.
It’s so sweet, and so cute, and funny, and it’s got such a great relationship that
really focuses on consent and compassion and understanding. It explores a tension –
not between so much the characters fighting, but between their own issues
causing them to struggle to connect. So the main character, Chloe, has chronic
pain and this has led to a lot of difficulties in her life, especially with
being able to connect with other people. The main male lead, Red, is dealing with
getting over the trauma of a past emotionally abusive relationship. And so
just watching them overcoming their own emotional hurdles and finding their way
and strength together was really beautiful. Plus, it was just such a fun
read. I loved it. Now for the the second to last category,
fantasy. Also I apologize for the lighting. The sun keeps coming in and out
between the clouds and that is messing with my camera’s ability to handle the
lighting. So sorry, but I’m gonna keep going.
So for fantasy, the first book I want to talk about is The Deep by Rivers Solomon.
This is a novella that came out towards the end of 2019, and has some really
interesting deep themes about generational trauma and about the burden
of history. So in this story there are a community of mer-people and these
mer-people are the descendants of pregnant African women who were captured by
slavers and then thrown overboard, only for their babies to be born in the water
sort of as mer-people. These mer-people have such a traumatic
history and past that it was found to be too much of a burden for them to hold. So
instead, there is one member of the community, the historian, who holds all of
those traumatic memories, and once a year will share that memory in order for
people to feel connection to their past in a “Remembrance”, which lasts a couple of
days. The current historian, Yetu, is really struggling with the burden of all
of those memories because they are so traumatic, and so heavy. And she’s just
finding herself unable to cope. So the story is really about her trying to
balance her need for safety and survival, and determining sort of what happens to
herself, with also her obligation to her community. And it’s a really interesting
discussion and story. I absolutely loved it. The next book is The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark. This is such a fun novella. It is set in New Orleans in
the kind of mid-1800s, in an alternate history version of the U.S. And in this
alternate history, New Orleans becomes an independent city-state that is very
powerful. And it is really fascinating this way of reworking history and
empowering the people of New Orleans. Also, Haiti is a powerful independent
nation that has a lot of magic. They have these gods that are from Africa that
have come over and supported them. And the story follows Creeper, who is a 13
year old girl, who’s super smart. She’s very street smart. She is somebody who
gets by by sort of connecting people, selling information, getting people what
they need. And she discovers that there’s some sort of plot going on and she wants
to sell some of that information to a Haitian airship captain. And she gets
involved in this. Also, Creeper inhabits one of those goddesses herself, so she
has a goddess inside of her who often takes control. So there’s so many
interesting, fascinating magical and steampunk elements of this story. Plus, it
was just a fun mystery. I really loved reading it. The top fantasy book that I
read this year was Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Again,
this is something that has been very popular on Booktube and for good reason.
I loved this book. It is the story of Casiopea, who is sort of a poor
relation that lives with her rich grandfather in the kind of late 1920s in
Mexico. And she’s treated kind of like a Cinderella character, very poorly, until
one day she discovers the bones of a Mayan death God. And through her blood,
through her flesh, accidentally revives him. And then she has to help him because
he is now on a quest to regain some missing items in order to get
his throne back from his evil twin brother who dethroned him and took over.
And the story follows them on this road trip quest where they go to all
different parts of Mexico. It’s filled with different little snippets of all of
these cities in that Jazz Age era. And it also shows so many different aspects of
Mayan mythology. Each place that they go, they have to interact with ghosts and
demons and witches and magicians – all these sorts of things – until finally they
actually have to go to the underworld, to Xibalba. And I loved the way that the mythology was all integrated and so beautiful and
atmospheric in this story. Plus, I love the development of Casiopea’s
character. She starts out as a very Cinderella type character, but that is
not how she ends up. She ends up empowered and strengthened and somebody
who not only takes control of her life, but also becomes very adult in terms of
understanding what her responsibilities are, understanding how to take the high
road, how to overcome past grievances, and how
to create the kind of life she wants to lead. So I loved this book. And now for my
last category, science fiction. I read so many amazing science fiction books this
year. It blew me away. Fantasy is definitely my go-to genre, but
this year I think I had many more science fiction books that really stuck
with me. I loved so many things that I had such a hard time just narrowing it
down to three… and in fact, I failed. I’m actually gonna talk about four books
because I really couldn’t narrow it down further. So many great books. So the first
one that I want to talk about is the Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. This
won Hugo awards for every book in the series, and it makes sense. It is a
fantastic series. This series really both has excellent world building, as well as
sort of character development and interpersonal relationships, and a lot of
political and social justice themes. It’s really an impactful series that
I highly recommend to everybody. The story follows a world where there has
been sort of an apocalypse in a sense, in that the world has a lot of ecological
disasters that happen frequently – huge, huge earthquakes and volcanoes and all
these sorts of things – that make life very, very difficult to sustain. And this
has been going on for a very long time. Humanity has tried to adapt, but it’s
become very, very broken down in a typical post-apocalyptic situation. But
what’s really hard is that they have these “fifth” seasons, which are extended
winters. So for 20, 40, 100 years winter. It’s very difficult for humanity
to survive, and it’s kind of eroded a lot of the humanity, really, of all of
these communities. Also the main characters of the book are something
called “orogenes,” and orogenes are a very low caste of people. They have a lot of
power because they can manipulate the earth, they can calm earthquake tremors,
these sorts of things, but they’re very, very feared and very controlled and
often abused. And the story follows some orogenes as they work through this fifth
season that is currently happening, that is much worse than all the previous
ones, and humanity may not survive. So it’s very epic and grand, but also really
deals with a lot of issues of the injustices, of the way that the society is
set up, as well as many really fascinating interpersonal relationships.
N. K. Jemisin, I think, was a psychologist before she became a writer.
And it clearly shows that she works a lot on the development of her characters’
emotional and mental state. So I loved everything about this series. It is very
heavy, but I highly recommend it. Next is another very heavy boo,k which is An
Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. This is about a generation starship
where all of humanity has been trying to find a new home. And this generation
starship is sort of set up like the Antebellum south, where each
level of the starship, A through Z, is for a different caste of people. So the white, rich people are in A, and the black, basically slave-like
people are in Z. So this starship has a lot of major social injustices. And
we follow the main character, Aster, who is non-binary, autistic, black, and is also
very intelligent, is a doctor and a scientist. And they are trying to
basically get on with their life, but also become very motivated to fight
against some of the social injustices in the system of the starship through
trying to follow some mystery that has to do with their mother.
I loved the mystery aspects of this. I loved the social justice aspects of it. I
loved the representation of non-binary, of autistic, of so many things. Also this
book deals with so much generational trauma and really deep topics. I thought
it was an excellent exploration of them. Next on my list is Semiosis by Sue Burke.
This is a very slow and contemplative and philosophical novel that looks at
sort of what humanity can be. So in it there is a colony of people who leave
earth and go to a new planet called Pax. They create an idealistic society based
on peace and cooperation. And it follows those colonists over many generations. So
each kind of section of the book is told from the perspective of a different
colonist of a different generation. We see how those colonists change and adapt
to their new home. Pax is a very different planet from Earth, in that it
does have a lot of plant and animal life, but it is a much older world and the
plant life is much more evolved and, in fact, sentient. But it takes a while for
them to understand what’s going on – both for them to understand and for the
plants to understand what these new animals are. So a lot of the story is
really about them figuring out how to cooperate, and how to understand one
another, how to communicate, and really how to grow
from their differences, how to learn from each other, and become better rather than,
you know, devolve into pettiness and fighting. And a lot of this book really
looks at what are our base natures and what are our better natures, and can we
become better over time – what is our potential? So this book is really
thought-provoking and just so wonderful to sit with and think about. I thought it
provoked a lot of reflection and I really enjoyed it.
Plus, a lot of it is about language and communication, which is a theme that I
really like. Speaking of which, the other book that I could not leave off this
list is also about language and communication, and that is Babel 17 by
Samuel R Delaney. So this book really really worked for me, although I know
that it doesn’t work for everybody because the second half of the book can
get a little confusing. The main premise of this story is that there is a poet
who is also an amazing codebreaker, Rydra Wong. And she is employed by her
planet’s government to sort of crack the code of this mysterious Babel-17
language that they’ve been intercepting messages in, that the enemy kind of
empire has been using. So she starts analyzing this language and quickly
discovers that she needs to go and do some field research. So she puts together
a team of people to be her spaceship crew, and these… this team is kind of like
sailors in that, you know, they are of a lower class, and she has to go to the
docks to kind of get them. And instead of tattoos they have, like, body
modifications, things like wings and horns and all sorts of stuff. And this
diversity of her crew is fascinating. There’s all sorts of different types of
relationships and people. People who are discorporate, so they have no physical
body. It’s really fascinating, the world building in this. And that part of
gathering her spaceship community, her crew, is really fascinating. So all of
that is great. I think the second half the book can be
harder for other people, but I really loved it. So what happens is this story
is all about this mystery of her unraveling, uncovering, what’s going on
with Babel-17. There’s a lot going on. A lot of crazy things, a lot of intrigue.
And the way that it unfolds is really fascinating, especially with the role
that language plays in this, for the language Babel-17. So I loved this book.
It really, really worked for me. I think I also just like space mysteries, so it
ended up being a real favorite of mine. So that wraps up my favorites of 2019. I
know this was a lot of books. I tried to go as quickly as I could, but I really
couldn’t leave these out. I just I had so many wonderful books that I read this
year that I wanted to share. If you guys have read any of these books, please let
me know down in the comments what you thought. If any of these are ones that
you want to read now, or if you have any other recommendations for me based on
what I’ve talked about, I really want to hear your thoughts. I’ve been loving
watching other people’s wrap ups of their favorites of 2019 as well, so if
you have one out and I haven’t already commented, let me know – I want to hear, and
see everybody’s favorites for the year.


  1. Wow! This was so great. One of my goals this year is to read more genre fiction and this video has given me so many suggestions in every genre I was planning on reading and some I wasnt.

  2. You had an amazing reading year! Maus will also be on my favorites of 2019 list. I'm currently listening to Get a Life Chloe Brown, and so far I'm really enjoying it ๐Ÿ˜

  3. Well, this is for sure the most scenic favourites video that I've seen yet! ๐Ÿ˜€ I've been trying to find graphic novels that I might like, and Monstress looks so interesting. For me the art style has to be really remarkable, otherwise I just can't be bothered. I started to read Saga yesterday and it does nothing for meโ€ฆ I've been interested in An Unkindness of Ghosts since it came out, but I read another generation ship story in 2019, so it might be years before I'm in the mood for another. :/ I somehow missed that you read Red, White & Royal Blue. I've been so unsure about that one. It sounds awfully twee and fluffy!

  4. Glad to see My Litte Monster made your list. Makes me feel very proud of my recommendation. xD I loved the Prince and The Dressmaker as well. The ending climax of the book was a riot. <3
    Just seeing your put your favorites into different categories really puts into focus how eclectic and varied your reading is. Always love listening to you talk about books, but you already know that. ^^

  5. Whoa what a list! I loved that we got to sit with you as the snow covered the tress in the background. I love that Rivers Solomon was featured twice in this list. Obviously all the middle grade was great too! Thanks for reminding me of Babel-17. I'd love to get to that this year but for some reason Delany intimidates me. You had such a great year!

  6. Yay, really good to see Ted Chiang in this although not at all surprising considering his writing and ideas. The Black Gods Drums I'm not surprised to see as well. It's short but does such impressive world building in that time. This is a really varied and interesting mixture of genres, ideas and styles.

  7. Non-sequitur…but I love your glasses frames. ๐Ÿ™‚ The Black God's Drums was excellent. I've read two of Clark's novellas now, and would read about anything written by him. ๐Ÿ™‚

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