Well who does a year-end wrap up 3 months late? ME, that’s who. I’ve been on a hiatus-of-sorts these past few months and I’m not even sure if people noticed given how seldom I post (LOL), but here we are, giving it another go.
Last year, I challenged myself to read 40 books – and bless my schedule – I can’t believe I actually made it. I know it’s not that much compared to a lot of people in the book community – but as slow a reader as I am and how hectic my work schedule is, consistently finishing these yearly challenges has been one of my annual highlights.
Jade War | An Enchantment of Ravens | The Escape Manual for Introverts | Wicked Fox | The Black Tides of Heaven | This is How You Lose the Time War | Steel Crow Saga | Loveboat, Taipei | Evil Eye | How to Win Friends and Influence People | The Boy at the Beach | The Boy at the Bakery | Red. White & Royal Blue | As Kismet Would Have It | The Boy at the Bookshop | Snow, Glass, Apples | The Queen of Nothing | The Christmas Pact | Modern Love | The Sword of Kaigen | Good Omens | A Curse So Dark and Lonely | Muse of Nightmare | Rhapsodic | The Gilded Wolves | Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons | The Starless Sea | What I Talk About When I Talk About Running | I Want to Eat Your Pancreas | The Never Tilting World | What To Do When I’m Gone | King of Scars | Strange The Dreamer | The Lost Sister | The Wicked King | Sorcery of Thorns | The Rise of Kyoshi | While You Were Reading | The Dragon Republic | Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory
Quick stats of the books I’ve read this year:
- 20 full-length novels (physical/e-book)
- 8 novellas
- 4 illustrated books (graphic novel, manga, etc.)
- 4 audiobooks
- 2 non-fiction
- 2 short story collections
Looking back, this is definitely the year I’ve had the most variety in terms of format and type of books. I guess one pleasant thing I can highlight is my discovery of Audible – what a wonderful world it has open up for me. I’ve also (
finally, successfully) dipped my toes in non-fiction: I’ve finished two! (which, by my experience, is a lot more I can say for myself considering I am easily bored with NF). My love for book series continues, obviously, as 20/40 of the books I’ve read are part of a series. I’ve also delved on a lot of novellas, which is fun and sweet – plus, it adds up to the stats and helps me meet my challenges.
Here’s a quick rundown of my fave picks:
BEST AUDIO BOOK: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
I mean – can I even declare my love for this book even more? I loved this book to death, even when I read it in my Kindle and in print – but I think a huge part of the reason why my experience was that enchanting was how the cast, lead my Dominic Hoffman, did the narration. This book straight-up woke up a love of narration that I didn’t know I have in the first place – sending me into an audio book spiral. I used to have a low opinion of audio books, honestly, particularly because the audio books I’ve listened to in the past border on the monotonous and predictable. But THIS – brilliant narration + great story = a very immersive, unique reader experience. Same as with a good book, it takes a great piece of work for you to be a convert. Give this audio book a listen!
BEST NON-FICTION: How to Win Friend and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
It started with a random YouTube video that, for some reason, made it to my recommendations list (I can’t even trace it now). YouTube is funny that way, recommending you things you never knew you needed until you’re a few minutes in and you are questioning your choices in life. This book is more than 80 years old by the time I discovered it – and the usual sentiments came up: “Why am I only reading this now?“. This was God-sent. As socially awkward as I am, this is like a textbook of sorts – on how to navigate tricky (or even the simple) social situations – presented in a practical way that is inspiring and not-to-preachy. I wanted to make friends with the author after this. I wanted to hug him and thank him for writing this book. I have a copy of this in quick-reach – written, tabbed, highlighted – so I could refer to it over and over again.
BEST SEQUEL: Jade War by Fonda Lee
This was a close fight between The Dragon Republic and Jade War – but in the end, Jade War won. This was the best sequel I’ve read this year – one of the best sequels, I’ve read EVER. I didn’t think the Green Bone Saga could get more interesting after Jade City but this sequel brought the house down. It was bigger in scope, more explosive. It hit me right where it was supposed to then some. I am still honestly frustrated that this series is not getting more recognition, mainstream-wise, but people should be taking notes. This is how you do fantasy. And this is how you follow a strong 1st book. This is honestly the strongest sequel I’ve read since, say, Catching Fire, I guess – and it was a looong time ago.
BEST SHORT STORY COLLECTION: Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
This is probably my favorite collection of short story to date. Yep, I said it. Another one just dethroned Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman in my books. Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory (a mouthful of a title, that is) is a gift. Dark humor. Metaphors. Casual conversations with profound messages. This book warmed my heart and crushed it, story by story, in all these unexpected places – and I lived for it. Again, I am sad that this did not get much recognition – but this is honestly one of the most beautiful things I’ve read last year. My review of this short story collection is the longest post I’ve written last year (and to date). And considering how lazy I am with posting things, I think that says a lot.
BEST FIRST BOOK OF A SERIES: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
So one of the biggest blasphemies I made last year is to not review any of the books from the Strange the Dreamer series… but the series still remains as one of best books I’ve read last 2019. It was truly a love letter to fantasy readers. Some say that Strange the Dreamer only got interesting when Part II kicked in – but I have to disagree, the book was an absolute delight even all the way back to Part I. In fact, I loved it more. I loved how quiet it was, how gentle. The sense of whimsy and mystery all-present. Few characters, close to none, have ever considered their defining trait as a “reader”. And Lazlo is that – a reader, through and through. And THAT still fascinates me to no end. Hope I can review this book (including Muse of Nightmares) in the coming days – it’s not too late.
BEST STAND-ALONE: The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
This was a three-way battle between The Starless Sea, The Sword of Kaigen and Steel Crow Saga. But this was the obvious choice by a narrow margin (since Starless Sea already has the audio book mention) – and it was a surpise, even to myself. I was blown away by this book, if I haven’t stressed it enough. It hit me out of nowhere, like an unexpected storm. It took me to a whole roller coaster of emotions it’s not even funny. Misaki’s POV was a unique voice that I haven’t heard/read for a very long time, or maybe ever. One of the most interesting thing that came up in this book (at least, for me) is Misaki’s relationship with her husband, Takeru. As well as the fresh take on heroes and heroines, with focus on the “after”. There’s so many things I loved about this book that you may need to go to my in-depth fangirling post if you want to know all about it because this post would be unnecessarily long (if it isn’t already) if I list them all down here one-by-one. Just please, do yourself a favor. Read The Sword of Kaigen.
MY TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2019
This wrap-up wouldn’t be complete without a TOP 10. So here’s mine:
- The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
- Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
- The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
- Jade War by Fonda Lee
- The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
- Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
- Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger
- The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
- Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
- Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Note: How to Win Friends and Influence People is definitely one of my top books of the year but I feel kinda weird putting it in the same group as the above. So here’s to a special place in my heart for HTWFAIP.
So… that’s about it. I’m so glad I got this wrap-up out of the way because I am feeling really guilty about it for quite some time. Last year, I was in an unfamiliar place for an extended period of time and reading really gave me that solid ground that I desperately needed during those times. It was emotional and mental support all wrapped in one – paper and ink. I can’t put it to words enough but I am really grateful that I get to have this piece of magic I can tap into whenever I need it. I’ll always be thankful for books and reading.
So here’s to more years of reading and feeling the magic! xoxo
Add me up on Goodreads! 🙂