Top Reads of 2019

As the end of 2019 is fast approaching, I thought I’d write a list of my top ten books of this year. If you like the sound of any of them, you’ve still got plenty of time to pop down to your local bookshop or order them online for Christmas. The following books are not in any particular order of preference, they are ALL fabulous! They include fiction, poetry, auto-biography, non-fiction, letters & diaries and books I have read to my children.

  1. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Edited by Maria Popova & Claudia Bedrick.
A Velocity of Being: Letters to A Young Reader

It really doesn’t matter if you are a young reader or an old reader or anywhere in between, this is for book lovers everywhere. Each double page spread is a visual feast in which illustrators are matched with scientists, artists, authors, CEO’s and many more to provide a glorious love letter to the power of books.

2. The Lost Words: A Spell Book. Written by Robert Macfarlane & Illustrated by Jackie Morris.

The Lost Words

Through Macfarlane’s flowing blend of poetry-prose and Morris’s atmospheric illustrations, words such as willow, acorn, bluebell and kingfisher (now removed from a children’s dictionary) are breathed back to life. With increasing numbers of species in decline, we cannot love what we cannot name. A deeply important and beautiful book.

3. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend: 1 (Neapolitan Novels)

Elena Ferrante had been on my radar for some time, but I’m unsure how it took me until this year to read one of her books. Ferrante’s inimitable style of prose has rightfully garnered global accolades and this tightly woven tale of an unlikely friendship between two girls in a 1950’s rough Napoli neighbourhood will stay with me for many years to come.

4. The Wild Edge of Sorrow by Francis Weller

The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

I was hugely moved by this insightful book that serves as a practical handbook for those mired in grief or sorrow and carves a path to help us find a way back to ourselves.

5. Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Plainsong

Another surprise: how had I never heard of Kent Haruf until this year? Set in rural Colorado, with the deftest touch, Haruf charts the disparate lives of two young brothers, a pregnant teenage schoolgirl and two elderly farmers and how their lives intertwine. This book was like a long, tender song; I could hardly put it down.

6. An Interrupted Life: The Diaries & Letters of Etty Hillesum

An Interrupted Life: the Diaries and Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941-43

Don’t be fooled by the greyness of this book’s colour, for inside lies bursts of colour and vividly described life which will not leave any reader unchanged. Jewish Etty Hillesum lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and while it may not be hard to guess her fate, her collected diaries and letters utterly defy convention. Far from being a misery memoir, they strike at the very heart of what it means to be human; though we may not have control of the situations that befall us, we can respond with compassion and choose love over fear and hate.

7. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favill and Francesca Cavallo

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo Paperback

I must confess I was fairly skeptical about this book as it just seemed to be everywhere and I thought it looked a little gimmicky. However, it won me over! The authors have done a fantastic job at seeking out fascinating, little known (as well as some more famous) global women over the course of history who have employed bravery, intelligence and determination to achieve impressive feats. Combined with some wonderfully sourced illustrations, I read one page a night after dinner to my children and they loved it too. (My eldest is currently enjoying the accompanying podcast which looks at each woman’s life in a deeper, more detailed context.) NB This book is NOT just for girls, my son also loved it!

8. The Sun Does Shine: How I found life and freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton - (9781846045738)

At the age of 28, Hinton was wrongly convicted of two murders in Alabama and went on to spend 30 years on Death Row, a scapegoat for rampant racism. What follows is an extraordinary personal account of how he navigated the choppy waters of rage and despair and survived. And not only survived but, astonishingly, thrived.

9. River Flow: New and Selected Poems by David Whyte

Image result for river flow david whyte images

This is a beautiful collection of poetry, firmly rooted in the natural world but taking in loss, hope, adventure, triumph, relationships and his own unique path to knowledge and wisdom.

10. Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Toffee

Sarah Crossan writes novels in verse for Young Adults, but they read like a dream for readers of all ages (I would say age 12 and up as some of the themes can be challenging.) I have read a few of Crossan’s books this year, but Toffee is my favourite. What happens when a teenage runaway hides out in what she thinks is an abandoned, seaside house, only to find that it is occupied by an elderly lady with dementia? Read this wonderful book to find out.

And there you have it! I’d love to know: what have your favourite books of 2019 been? Old, new, any genre, I’m all ears.

Rebecca Stonehill

Compliment this blog post with some suggestions for some lovely children’s Christmas books or 6 books for a Compassionate Christmas.

2 replies
  1. sustainablemum
    sustainablemum says:

    I love the Lost Words too we bought a copy of it this year, it is a beautiful book. I don’t think I have read any fiction this year I have been unable to find anything that I want to read in the library. I have, however, read a lot of non fiction my favourites have been When Woman Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie which is in a similar vein to Women who Run with Wolves but much more readable and far better in my opinion. Sharon Blackie has written a number of books, I would love to read more of her work. The other book I loved is Grandmothers Counsel the World by Carol Schaefer which is about the contribution our elders make to the world, perhaps I should say could make as they are rarely listened to but should be.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Stonehill
      Rebecca Stonehill says:

      Hi there, I just looked up both of those books you mentioned and they sound wonderful. And the Sharon Blackie book does sound WAY more readable than Women who run with the wolves (still sitting in my bookshelf…!). All of her books sound gorgeous. Thanks for introducing me to these. I honestly need a parallel life to get through just a fraction of all those incredible books out there X

      Reply

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