In the December 2019 newsletter I asked readers what the best book they read that was published in 2019 was.

Here are their responses:

Ginny: Best book recommendation:

1st choice:

Hawaii by James Michener

It’s not fashionable to read Michener any longer, and this book is hefty (900? pages) and therefore daunting. Also the first chapter (about 3 pages) is so terrible it convinces people they would never want to read anything by Michener, ever. So I have to kind of ease people into it, telling them skip the first chapter (read it last!), and read the rest of the book as if it was 5 or 6 short novels (the sections are more inter-related than continuous, as if you were reading a series). But everyone I have finally convinced to read Hawaii enjoyed it greatly.

2nd choice:

Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

Light readers avoid this book, because it is long (700+ pages), and also because it’s by Ken Follett (whom they think of as someone who writes WWII spy novels). That may have been true at one time, but it’s clearly no longer true. People I have recommended Pillars of the Earth to say they thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ayesha: Meant to email earlier but bit distracted (fires etc – I’m in Oz…) Sorry about that. Hope your arm’s OK (and chest) and you’re no longer experiencing extreme pain 😢
I really liked The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl (published by Allen & Unwind in April). I had to review it otherwise I’d never have come across it, but I loved it! An unassuming older lady whose history involves Edward Prince of Wales (the future King who abdicated)… It’s a lot better than it sounds (ha)
Happy New Year!

B: I think all these books were published last year or at least close to it.

Best books I read in 2019

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens – crime, racism and a white boy who wants nothing to do with either even if it costs him
Inland by Tea Obreht – a western, with camels
The River by Peter Heller – 2 men running from a forest fire and maybe a murderer in Northern Ontario
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry – 2 criminals in a train terminal watching and reminiscing
Star of the North by D B John – spy novel set in North Korea
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – twisted, fascinating, evil
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – enigmatic female rock star
The Current by Tim Johnston
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – old school spooky horror
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – magic within Yale and Skull & Bones
Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

I also really enjoyed these:

Just Watch Me by Jeff Lindsay – a new series from the creator of Dexter
The Guardians by John Grisham – found this one way better than his last few
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
The Substitution Order by Martin Clark
The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley – so sad to see this 10 book series end
No Exit by Taylor Adams – intense page turner that may be a bit far-fetched
The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox
Trigger by David Swinson
Sunrise Highway by Peter Blauner
The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
Never Tell by Lisa Gardner
The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
Chances Are by Richard Russo
A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins
The Last Act by Brad Parks
If She Wakes by Michael Koryta
The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

Wish I hadn’t spent time reading these:

I don’t understand why these 2 books got such good reviews:

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton – talking crow was cute but got boring real quick
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner – I thought books were supposed to show not tell, let alone tell you how and what to think

I also read a lot of books that were okay, glad I read them, but I doubt I’ll remember them.

Thanks for your newsletters! I always enjoy them.

Chris: Best book I read that was released in 2019: While I read plenty of books this year, most were not newly released. However, I found one new book, “Maid” by Stephanie Land, to be a very interesting read.
While it reminded me of the struggles I encountered when I was a single parent years ago trying to get through school, it also showed me how different people react to situations like this. I didn’t always agree with the author’s life choices but I could empathize with the challenges facing people on their own who are trying to improve their lives against great odds.

Sam: This was pretty easy for me as I think I only read two books this year that were actually published this year. But I’d have to give the award to Crucible by James Rollins. I’ve read the entire Sigma Force series and this one was seriously bold. He takes up the subject of computer technology and AI and really gives you the feel as the reader that he understands how this could all actually work. The characters in this installment were terrific as well – though Rollins always does a good job at creating unique characters for his novels. The good thing about the Sigma Force series is you can actually read them in any sequence you like. So you could just pick up Crucible without going through the other 15 or so novels first if you don’t want.

Sandi: Best books I read this year: Michael Connolly’s Night Fire. He is one of my favorites. Also Cemetery Road by Greg Iles. Great author

Elizabeth: Hard to narrow it, but my top 3 are

Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland
Love the Neighbor by Ajax Viejo
Guilty Not Guilty by Felix Francis

Kelly: What was the best book you read that was published this year?

my top 3

American Spy – Lauren Wilkinson (great new Author)

Knife – Jo Nesbo (never disappoints)

The Girl Who Lived Twice – David Lagercrantz (love that he continued the series)

Caroline: In response to your query about the best book published this year, I am nominating “Finding Dorothy,” by Elizabeth Letts. I found the story behind the writing of the book and the making of the movie quite fascinating as well as the insight into how Judy Garland was treated by Hollywood execs. This one is definitely worth the read especially for us loyal fans of the Wizard of Oz.

Phoenix: First, let me say I hope you heal quickly from your “adventure.” The only good thing about being laid up is that one has a great excuse for reading more!

Next, I’m a fan of medieval mysteries, and this year Joyce Lionarons came out with her latest Matthew Cordwainer book – “Three Score and Ten.” I positively adore Matthew Cordwainer, a curmudgeonly, elderly King’s Coroner in the 13th century. As Coroner he not only must determine cause of death, but often investigates the deaths as well, which usually lands him in hot water. “Three Score and Ten” is the 9th in the series, and I purchase them as soon as they come out (on my Kindle.)

In addition, I’ve found another series, where the protagonist is Fridgyth, the herb-wife, by Theresa Tomlinson. This series takes place much earlier, in the year 664, as I recall. While attached to a Christain monastery, she is often more attached to her pagan roots. I’ve finished the first book, “A Swarming of Bees,” and plan to start the next after I’ve finished what I’m currently reading.

Lastly, while not being new this year, I’d like to suggest “The Diviner’s Chronicle,” by Frank DuPont. The scholarly research that went into the novel is evident throughout, providing a thoroughly absorbing read. The time period of the novel is about 1860 B.C.E. in Sumeria. At this time, if a calamity were predicted to befall the real king, then a sham king would be put in his place, thereby fooling the gods. On this day, however, the real king actually does die, leaving Enlil-Bani, the sham king, in charge. For those who enjoy historical novels, this one fills the bill. The second book is “Gods of Gift and Grief.” Both are available in hard copy and e-readers. I understand a third in the series is being written as we speak. I wish Dr. DuPont would hurry up!

Janice: John Grisham’s The Guardians, based on the efforts of a real organization dedicated to freeing wrongly-convicted prisoners in our jails. One of Grisham’s best books.

Kris: Hi Graeme! Sorry about the injury, that’s a great way to wreck a vacation, though! It’s awesome that you are so positive about it! There are SO MANY people out there who complain if their ice cream is cold, but you have a legitimate reason to complain and you choose to look at the bright side, I love it!

I would have to say that the best book I read that was published this year would be a tie. Malcolm Gladwell’s “Talking to Strangers” was outstanding, it really made me think about myself and my interactions with other people. The other book is “Well Met” by Jen DeLuca, and this one I wish I could re-read every week. It is her first book, and also the first of a new series. It isn’t high literature, it’s more of an escapist romance story, but it was just so dang cute and fun and sexy that I read it 5 times while I had it checked out at the library. I absolutely adored it. (I’m sure I read others that were excellent, Karen Thompson Walker’s “The Dreamers” was terrific as well, but since I hit well over 200 books read this year, I could keep you all day with recommendations! Oh, the life of the library assistant!)

Linda: So sorry about your accident. Hope you are healing well. I broke my arm years ago and to me it seemed forever before it was normal again, so I feel your pain. Thanks once again for a great newsletter and new recommendations. I am not trying to be a copycat, but my two favorite new releases were also “Mission Critical” and “Lethal Agent”. Gray Man and Mitch Rapp are two of my favorite characters and their books are always top of my list. I read two of Marrs books this year and must say his book “When You Disappeared” was probably my favorite book of the year. I had never read his books before, but will certainly be trying more. I also gave in and got a Kindle for Christmas (early) and I am hooked. Main reason is the lighting is so much better for my old weary eyes at the end of the day and I can adjust the print size. Takes a lot less time to read now. My only problem is I have about 6 bookcases full of books to read the old-fashioned way. What a problem-right? I love reading the mailbags because it is good to hear other reader’s opinions. I agree with the one about the “Outlander” series. That series is only for certain readers, not for everyone. I once read the series “The Clan of the Cave Bear” by Auel and loved them, but could not find anyone else of my friends who appreciated them at all. I am so glad there are a variety of books out there for all sorts of readers. That is another reason that in school, they should not just push the classics on our children. Children need to enjoy what they read and each child has a different idea what is enjoyable. In order to get great readers, we must cater to diverse opinions. My granddaughter (who is 8) loves to read, but only her favorite characters. Captain Underpants is a favorite and I can’t understand the appeal at all-lol. Enjoy December and enjoy Reading.

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Best Book Published in 2019

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