The reading adventures continue!
Although, there were fewer adventures this year. I did not cover nearly as much ground as I did in 2018. This past year I read a modest 24 books in total. I had every intention of keeping up the pace of the year prior, but I think I may have been feeling a bit burnt out. I intended to focus my 2019 on reading all of Paste Magazine’s 50 Best Horror Novels of All Time. I’d already read a few of the books from this list in the past, basically all of the Stephen King and Joe Hill stuff, and I read another 15 from this list at the end of 2018 as well. I think going into 2019 I had about 25 books on this list still to tackle. And some of them I just felt like I probably wouldn’t read because they were harder to find through the library and online. Some of them just by cursory review of the subject matter alone I felt might be better left unread, you know, for personal preference and psychological preservation.
I sort of meandered this year, and only wound up reading 7 of the books from the horror list. When I found out I was pregnant the first time, back in the spring, I obviously lost steam because I started reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting and spent more of my time researching all kinds of pregnancy shit. So, to be fair, that was a pretty reasonable disconnect from the goal. Then there was a whole flurry of activity around selling our place and moving, so I simply did not have the time to dedicate to reading. There was a brief lull in the summer between the condo sale and the move in June and July when I got to indulge a bit more. At that point I didn’t want to be bound by a required list and instead preferred to read whatever caught my eye at the library.
Anyways, here it is. Here’s the list of all 24 books I read in 2019:
- Vox — Christina Dalcher (January 6th)
- Ring — Koji Suzuki (January 13th)
- Night Things — Michael Talbot (February 13th)
- A Head Full of Ghosts — Paul Tremblay (February 19th)
- At the Mountains of Madness — H.P. Lovecraft (February 24th)
- Educated — Tara Westover (February 27th)
- Sleeping Beauties — Stephen King & Owen King (March 17th)
- An Object of Beauty — Steve Martin (March 24th)
- Food: A Love Story — Jim Gaffigan (March 26th)
- Dad is Fat — Jim Gaffigan (March 30th)
- Revival — Stephen King (April 8th)
- Supermarket — Bobby Hall (June 7th)
- Disappearance at Devil’s Rock — Paul Tremblay (June 14th)
- The Sisters Brothers — Patrick deWitt (June 20th)
- Let the Right One In — John Ajvide Lindqvist
- Final Girls — Riley Sager (July 5th)
- Alice Isn’t Dead — Joseph Fink (July 9th)
- Tell the Machine Goodnight — Katie Williams (July 24th)
- The Hiding Place — C.J. Tudor (July 31st)
- Rabbit Cake — Annie Hartnett (August 5th)
- Where the Crawdads Sing — Delia Owens (August 28th)
- The Outsider — Stephen King (September 10th)
- Little Star — John Ajvide Lindqvist (September 26th)
- The Exorcist — William Peter Blatty (October 4th)
I’m still very much obsessed with fiction, reading anything with the slightest hint of action, adventure, and intrigue. I’ve never been one for non-fiction. I get enough real life in my real life. When I read I want to be transported somewhere I’ve never been, live vicariously through someone else’s exploits. I want things to be outrageous and zany, intense and thrilling! I need strong, complex characters overcoming challenges and triumphing over evil. I think I got a fair amount of that this year. But I did have a few uncharacteristic real life detours, with the Tara Westover memoir and the two Jim Gaffigan books.
I enjoyed everything I read this year too, there weren’t any major disappointments. The Bobby Hall novel Supermarket was bizarre, but I liked it. The Steve Martin book, An Object of Beauty was alright. I don’t think I’d recommend it, but I didn’t hate it. If you’re wondering, yes it was written by that Steve Martin, the one we all know and love from SNL, Father of the Bride, and other comedy favourites. Vox was fantastic, it was hard to put down. Night Things was a read from the horror list that I actually liked way more than I thought I would. It had horribly cheesy cover art that wasn’t encouraging, but it wound up being a fun read. Reminded me of those quirky books I was always drawn to in the 6th grade like “My Teacher’s an Alien!” because they featured such outlandish cover art.
Stephen King naturally makes a few appearances as well. It wouldn’t be a reading list without him. The Outsider was awesome, I liked it a lot. Looking forward to watching the series when it starts airing. I think Jason Bateman is a great casting choice for this story.
My reading came to another long pause towards the end of the year. I started reading a book called Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky which started strong and then just couldn’t hold my interest. I finally picked it up again with the intention of seriously finishing it at the end of December, but that one has slipped on through to the 2020 list.
Of this list, here are my Top 5 Picks for Best Reads of the Year:
- Rabbit Cake — Annie Hartnett
This book caught my eye because it was bright yellow and had an illustration of a cute rabbit on the cover. I immediately sensed that it was going to be unique and quirky. It did not disappoint. The main character is a little girl named Elvis who is very matter-of-fact and scientific in her approach to processing all of the grief and fallout in her family after her mother dies. It showed how people grieve differently, but through a hilarious lens. I needed this book. It was exactly what I needed to read after my miscarriage. Every word went right into my soul and I was so grateful it called out to me from that dusty library shelf. You can judge a book by the cover!
- Educated — Tara Westover
I mentioned I don’t often read non-fiction, right? This book was actually gifted to me by a co-worker in a Secret Santa exchange. It’s not something I would have chosen for myself, but I am so glad I read it. It blew me away! This is a truly amazing story of a real life person who overcame insurmountable odds to get a formal education, something most people take for granted. School is just something we’re all accustomed to as a part of life from a very young age and I don’t know if many of us would have the same wherewithal to pursue an education if it wasn’t something we were forced to do. Tara Westover is an impressive and inspiring person and I’m so thankful she shared her story with the world.
- The Sisters Brothers — Patrick deWitt
All the laughs! I loved this book so much because it was witty and wry. Much like Inherent Vice, there were multiple times I laughed out loud while reading. A good old fashioned cowboy romp with humour. Great characters, great story. The brothers were so real to me, I felt like I was on the trek with them. I could practically smell the cracked leather, dusty trails, and stinky boots as I read. Maybe that was just me though, who knows? I loved this book from the very first sentence through to the last.
- Tell The Machine Goodnight — Katie Williams
Imagine someone ran a simple diagnostic test on you that resulted in clear directives you could follow to be happy. They could be easy enough to do, like go to yoga. Or they could be utterly absurd, like cut off your pinky finger. Would you do it? What wouldn’t you do to be happy? The premise was really intriguing and I enjoyed reading this story. It did feel like it could have unfolded in a more satisfying way, but overall the characters kept me interested.
- Alice Isn’t Dead — Joseph Fink
Right from the start this book wasn’t fucking around. You’re thrust into a bizarre scenario in the first chapter and it just keeps getting weirder and wilder as you read. You feel compelled to uncover the conspiracy alongside Keisha. This book is actually the novelization of a podcast. I think that’s what made it so interesting. You’re reading a book, yes, but it reads differently. There are moments of fast-paced action, but also long stretches of inner turmoil while Keisha is on the road that make you feel like you’re on the same endless road trip. I still don’t even know if I fully understand how everything connected in the end, but it was an entertaining ride no doubt.
- Rabbit Cake — Annie Hartnett
Even though my output wasn’t as prolific as last year, I’m amazed I managed this many reads at all, given what an absolutely insane year it’s been. As appealing as it can be to escape reality, sometimes you just have to face it head on instead. I might seek out adventures and epic struggles in my reading, but I realize that my life isn’t entirely devoid of its own adventures and epic struggles. It might not be to quite the same extent, but there are challenges to rise to, little evils to overcome, zany pals to provide amusement and support along the way. I have all the makings of a great story right here in front of me. Wherever my story may take me, I’m ready for it. Armed first and foremost with a good book to help me get by.