Best Books Read in 2019


In all, I read 102 books in 2019.

Forty-one (41) non-fiction, sixty-one (61) fiction and poetry.

I thought the ratio would’ve been more evenly split, closer to 50-50, but I was wrong.

Only one author placed two entries on my personal “Best of…” list, Ben H. Winters, and a big shout out to that man and his unique imagination.

Here’s my roster of favorite reads during 2019—how does it compare to yours?


Their Lips Talk of Mischief by Alan Warner
Infinite Detail by Tim Maugham
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
The Emerald Light in the Air (stories) by Donald Antrim
Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
The Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown
Grand Opening by Jon Hassler
Benediction by Kent Haruf
Hystopia by David Means
Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Thin Air by Richard K. Morgan
Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds

Honorable Mentions:

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
Money by Martin Amis
The Other Side of Silence by Philip Kerr
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
The Masque of Mañana by Robert Sheckley

Worst novel read this year:  Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky


Falter by Bill McKibben
Working by Robert Caro
Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varoufakis
Read & Riot: A Pussy Riot Guide to Activism by Nadya Tolokonnikova
The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
The Wayfinders by Wade Davis
How Fascism Works by David Stanley
Utopia For Realists by Rutger Bregman

Honorable Mentions:

The Destiny Thief (essays) by Richard Russo
The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, A Revolution in Hollywood by W.K. Stratton
Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Worst non-fiction book read this year:  Wolf At The Table by Augusten Burroughs



  1. Claire 'Word by Word'

    All male authors on your favourite fiction titles for the year, I remember noticing that about my list some years back and also that I used to read a lot of Anglo titles. I’m reading the Kent Haruf trilogy at the moment and enjoying it very much.

  2. Cliff Burns

    I’ve noted the prevalence of male writers too–last year I didn’t read as much non-fiction, otherwise there would’ve been more citations for people like Anne Applebaum, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong, Jane Mayer, Naomi Klein, etc. Ditto poetry–I’m a big fan of Mary Oliver and Anne Sexton, Elizabeth Bishop. In the past I’ve enjoyed literary offerings by Ann Beattie (CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER still the best book about relationships ever), Kathy Acker…and I’ve been dying to dive into Hilary Mantel’s award-winning trilogy. Rosa Luxemburg is one of my all-time heroes, I have numerous books by or about her but, yes, you’re quite right, I should be making a greater effort to incorporate more female writers onto my shelves.

  3. Claire 'Word by Word'

    I think once we become aware of it, it already starts to change, I now read a lot more in translation as well, and enjoy how that enriches the reading experience, even if the range is limited. Archipelago Books is offering their entire list ebook version for free at the moment, I found an interesting Russian translation of a polar journey, A Dream in Polar Fog by Yuri Rytkheu.
    Thanks for all your recommendations, many are new names to me. Happy Reading.

  4. Cliff Burns

    A good translation is CRITICAL. In the past decade I’ve become a lot more discerning when it comes to translations, doing my research, finding the best ones.

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