My Year in Books | 2019
2019 was the year I fell back in love with reading. I used to read a lot as a child, but I fell out of the habit of reading fiction while I was at university. While studying and spending all day everyday reading and writing, the last thing I wanted to do at night was pick up another book and read some more. Between 2010 when I started keeping a log of my books and the start of this year I read 63 books. This is a figure I have almost matched book for book in the twelve months of 2019.
I can’t really pinpoint what it was that made me want to read again. Maybe it was reading Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A Little Life’ from cover to cover in three days in September 2018 that made me remember how good it feels to get lost in a book, or maybe it was that I started making an effort to curate a long list of books I was excited to read. Perhaps it was that I started to use the library reservations system which has enabled me to abandon books I don’t get on with and be more experimental in my reading. At any rate, in 2019 I have read 55 books cover to cover, and may well finish my 56th before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. This includes a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, short stories, essay collections, and graphic novels. There is even a children’s picture book in the mix!
I keep note of the books I have read and the books I want to read on Goodreads and I give the books I complete a star rating as a reminder of what I thought of them. That said, I don’t take too much notice of the Goodreads algorithm as I tend to find my reading material elsewhere. I don’t like that Goodreads is owned by Amazon or that by using it I am contributing to their bottom dollar through improving their recommendations algorithm – data is money – but I have yet to find a decent open-source alternative. When I do I’ll jump ship.
I listen to the Guardian Books podcast, and the Penguin podcast, and I’m subscribed to The New Yorker email newsletter and Granta as well as a few other literary periodicals via Feedly. I also look for reviews written by authors whose work I enjoy, as they tend to review and recommend things that I will find interesting. Put together, this means that I always have something to hand that I want to read.
My favourite books that I read in 2019
In reading order, these were the books I gave five star ratings to, alongside links to the posts where I’ve shared my thoughts on the books I’ve read and why I loved each of these titles:
Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (read in January)
Maus I – Art Spiegelman (read in January)
Barefoot Gen I – Keiji Nakazawa (read in February)
A Place for Us – Fatima Farheen Mirza (read in April)
Pachinko – Min Jin Lee (read in May)
I’m very picky with my criteria for a five star rating. I’ve read lots of books this year that I’ve loved, but only five that get my top rating. To get five stars a book really has to wow me from cover to cover. It has to leave me unable to put it down, completely engrossed in the narrative, and thinking about it long after I’ve finished the final page.
My 2019 Reading Stats
Fiction | 37
Non-fiction | 18
Graphic Novels | 21
In Translation | 12
Books by women | 24
I totted up my stats to get an overview of my reading habits. I wasn’t surprised to find that I read more fiction than non-fiction. I tend to find most of my non-fiction reading material in periodicals rather than books, which skews the stats a little bit. That said, I’m not ashamed to say that I love fiction and it’s what I usually reach for at the end of the day.
I thought I had read more books written by women and more books in translation than I actually have, so that was a little surprising. I don’t choose my books based on the author’s gender or nationality, but they’re interesting metrics to keep track of all the same.