Best and Worst Reads of 2019

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Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

My goal was to read 26 books this year. It seemed like a good number, seeing as I had recently been struggling with reading anything at all, and I’m in college full time, on top of hoping to find a job soon.

But apparently I fell into a rhythm this year, and I read 71 books. (So far. I may finish one more before the year’s over.)

I also can have pretty strong opinions on what I read, and I enjoy rambling about what I’m reading. So I decided to make a list of my favorite and least favorite books I read this year. This is all my personal opinion, I don’t really have any authority in saying what’s “good” and “bad.” It’s just what I enjoyed reading, or didn’t.

So here we go. Possible spoiler warning. (Books are listed in the order I read them.)

Best:

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

I reread this book probably every two years. This was my third time through. I really like this book. The theme is one that resonates with me deeply, and Dostoevsky was a fantastic author. Plus Russian literature and culture fascinates me (I was actually taking a Russian class at the time of this reread), and the immersion into that makes me happy.

  • On Writing by Stephen King

I’ll be honest, the two Stephen King novels I read, I didn’t really enjoy. (The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three.) So I wasn’t expecting much, even though it had been recommended by several other authors I do like. But this book was well worth it. It was very conversational and easy to read, and rather than being written as if he had all the answers for how to write and become popular, King’s main conclusion was “I have no idea how I did this, here are some suggestions I’d have, but that’s not for everyone.” Which I really appreciated, and King’s down to earth voice was both comforting and encouraging.

  • Charlotte’s Web by EB White

I just really love how Charlotte was characterized. Spiders have always had a soft spot in my heart, and Charlotte was so lovely and gracious and beautiful. I already knew roughly how the story went, but it was worth every minute of the book to spend it with Charlotte. Part of me wishes the book had been longer, just to spend more time with her. Maybe I’ll find some more EB White to read soon.

  • Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein #1) by Dean Koontz

Taking book suggestions from someone whose judgement I didn’t trust in the slightest was admittedly a very risky move on my part. But the premise that had been described to me was enough to draw me in. And I’m glad I went for it. Koontz took the original Frankenstein story and treating it as if it had actually happened, brought the characters into modern day New Orleans. The entirety of the book is very dark and eerie, but it doesn’t rely on gratuitous violence to make itself scary. It’s the first book I’ve ever read that’s left me somewhat shaken up (and I’ve searched for a book that could do that), but because both the tone and the choices made throughout made it feel actually real, rather than trying to go for shock value in anything.

  • Among the Hidden by Margret Peterson Haddix

I’ve wanted to read this book for many years now, but I finally got around to it. I’m glad I did. It’s written for a younger audience than what I usually read, but I hardly even noticed. The pacing was exactly what it needed to be, the stakes were real, and the the characters felt real and relatable. Haddix never fails to impress me.

  • Winter by Marissa Meyer

It took me quite a while to get through this one, but I finally made it. And I enjoyed every minute of it. I like the entire Lunar Chronicles series, but Winter may be my favorite of the four books. Honestly, that’s entirely because of Winter herself. The way her madness was written throughout was just beautiful, and it’s one of the best fiction representations of mental health that I’ve seen in a while. There’s still a character that I can’t stand (first impressions can be a bear), and there were some things that didn’t feel like they went anywhere (one particularly right near the end), but all in all it was a very satisfying conclusion to a huge series, and Winter as a character written better than I could ever have hoped for.

 

Worst:

  • The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave was enjoyable the first time I read it. The Infinite Sea was still good, but just a little more annoying. This final book… I don’t know if I really have much to say about it. Part of the issue could have been the number of years that went between my reading the first two books and this one, but other middle of the road reads from this year lead me to believe that’s not the case. This one just felt completely melodramatic, boring, and pointless. I don’t actually remember much of what happened in it anymore, I just remember the ending, and how ridiculous it felt.

  • A Time to Speak by Nadine Brandes

Without going into another long and pointless rant about some choices made between the first book and this book that completely killed my interest in the story, I’ll just stop by saying it’s not really for me. The romance “subplot” seemed to take over the entire story, and circumstances made me feel like the main character wasn’t a person worth being with for her love interest, so I was honestly rooting the whole time for him to leave her, or to die since the former wasn’t going to happen. It seemed like the best option for him, rather than having to be tethered with the main character as a romantic partner for long. Which I know was an extreme reaction, but that’s how much I disliked the main character’s behavior in regard to her love interest(s). What little I remember of the rest of the story was good, but it was so choked out by the romance that even that wasn’t completely enjoyable.

  • No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty

This book was basically the antithesis to On Writing that I mentioned before. Where King mostly said “figure out what works best for you,” Baty’s tone seemed to be “this is what works for me, so this is how it must be done.” Granted King’s book was a general writing journey while Baty focused on writing a novel in a month, but his language still irked me. There is not one way to write, and while I understand the basic idea is getting words on paper so you can have a first draft to work with, no matter how bad they are, I don’t agree that writing mindless drivel is the solution either.

  • Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

I don’t have a die hard love for 80s culture, so the almost worship of the 80s as the main feature of the book didn’t do much for me. Beyond that, the plot was typical and predictable, the characters, especially the main character, were boring and very emotionless, which I’m still bitter about.

  • The Story of With by Allen Arnold

For one, I didn’t like the set up of the book. Having the “story” parts immediately followed by the analysis made me fell like the author didn’t trust his audience to be smart enough to understand what he was trying to say by the allegory, and had to explain it right away to them. It felt condescending and pretentious, and I’m not a fan of feeling talked down to. Beyond that it felt very spiritually uncomfortable to me, so the whole thing wasn’t a very enjoyable read.

  • Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman

It was an interesting idea at least. A fiction novel about getting a less than up to par student into an ivy league school, written years before the admissions scandal came to light. In practice, it wasn’t worth reading. The plan was boring, the characters were all flat and terrible, and there was a lot of stuff in it that didn’t need to be there. It was boring, underwhelming, and I’m never getting the four hours it took me to read this book back.

 

What about you? What are your favorite books you read this year? Least favorite? I’d love to hear about them!

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