It’s that time of year again! I’m ready. For probably most of the rest of the month, you’re going to see what I liked/didn’t like about the books of 2019. And I’m so here for it. I love looking back on books and seeing what was awesome, and what maybe wasn’t.
So let’s check these out! These were the ones I either picked up without knowing anything about the book or they exceeded my expectations by quite a bit.
What’s funny is these picks were only January through August…but I think you’ll be seeing the others soon.
Top Ten Most Surprising Reads of 2019
1. Something Real by Heather Demetrios
I wasn’t sure I was going to like this, based on how I don’t really like or watch much reality TV (and that’s the subject of this book–a family with a ton of kids who’ve had a TV show basically their whole lives). But actually, it was so much better than I expected.
2. The Good Neighbor: The Life and Works of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
I am loving this resurgence of stuff about Mr. Rogers, and this book was worth it. There was so much in this book about Mr. Rogers that I didn’t know before and it made me respect him all the more for it. The man truly did love kids with his entire heart and everything he did was to help kids.
3. On the Spectrum by Jennifer Gold
The only reason I originally picked this up was because there were Eiffel Towers on the cover and I’m a little obsessed with reading stories about France. But this story ended up being so much more, especially with the main character’s half-brother being on the spectrum (which was part of the reason for the title, if you didn’t know). It was such a sweet story though. Truly touching.
4. All Fall Down by Ally Carter
I’ve enjoyed Ally Carter’s writing before, but I kind of figured this would fit the same formulaic mold of her previous series. And while I wasn’t entirely wrong, I did enjoy the darkness in this story. I think Grace is probably one of the darkest characters she’s ever written and there was something edgy and real about that that I was drawn to.
5. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
I’m a sucker for a Beauty and the Beast retelling, so this was a shoo-in when I found out about it. I actually even forgot it was on my to-read list when I found it at the library. I read the jacket and was like, “Why is this not on my list?” (…yeah…it was there…) But man, did this blast everything out of the water. Such an entertaining story. I even went out and bought it after I read it.
6. The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin
I had this one as an ARC and I was looking forward to it from my history nerd side. A modern retelling of King Henry VIII and his six wives? Sounded promising. And while it maybe didn’t exceed my expectations, it definitely took me by surprise with its wit, feminism, and interesting twists. Some of the connections to history were incredibly subtle and I appreciated them all the same.
7. The Leaving Season by Cat Jordan
I’d been aware of this book for some time, but reading it was actually something of an experience. It ran the gamut of emotions, from happy to sad to despairing to hopeful to lost to everything else in between. It was such a poignant book.
8. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George
I want to preface this by saying that I abhor the Roaring Twenties. I loath them, the excess of the time, the wild parties and Flappers and all of that. (I’m not sure why, but it strikes me the wrong way. Maybe it was a bad experience with The Great Gatsby, I don’t know.) But this semi-modern retelling of my favorite Shakespearean comedy, Much Ado About Nothing, had my attention. And truly, it was incredibly well done. Even the stuff about the 20s.
9. City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
I had this Middle Grade book from Scholastic sitting at my house for a while. I like to read these books before I take them to school and the kids steal them. I like ghost stories, Scotland, and Victoria Schwab, so I figured it was going to be good. But in many respects, it was better than I thought it would be. And it was a super fast read, which I loved too.
10. An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley
“Poison” in the title had my attention because…well, I’m weird like that, I guess? But the jacket hooked me, talking about royals and poisoning plots and magic. Oh, and France. We’ve established my obsession with that. For a book I’d not heard of until I saw it at the library, it completely exceeded my expectations. I loved everything about it.