Oh hi! Guess what!?! It’s BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS DAY, and it’s such a good group, it’s alllllllmost like an extension of Christmas this time.
This has become such a fun quarterly thing for me, and I’m really excited to share 2019 Q4 books with you. It was an especially quality quarter, I think. Like, I’m still thinking about several of these books a couple months later. So I really think you’ll find something quality too.
Also, a couple fun observations of themes for the quarter:
I had complained earlier in the year that every book I was reading seemed to take place in NYC. Only three books out of these twenty even touched down in New York, and that was a fun change of pace.
Five out of twenty books had plotlines that incorporated queer characters and relationships. Three of them were the main focus. Two of them became my top two books of the year. It’s still not where it should be, but it’s moving the needle.
With that, we’ll dive right in.
20 book recommendations to start your 2020 off right.
Royal Holiday Jasmine Guillory (So sweet and cute. I especially loved that this was a rom-com that wasn’t all about 20- or 30-somethings.)
The Floating Feldmans Elyssa Friedland (Excellent, excellent book about families and all their dysfunctional glory.)
Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel Casey McQuiston (See below.)
The Starless Sea: A Novel Erin Morgenstern (See below.)
After We Collided (The After Series Book 2) Anna Todd (Uggghhh, listen. This series is kind of junk. The writing is terrible and the plot (???) just goes back and forth and back and forth and the books are so long but now I’m just in it to figure out what the hell happens. Also, steamy sex scenes, so *shrug.*)
What Should Be Wild: A Novel Julia Fine (A bit of a dark fairytale situation. Interesting. Yes, wild.)
Mostly Dead Things Kristen Arnett (Loved this one. Really, another good one about family and relationships and what we think we know about them and ourselves.)
The Bromance Book Club Lyssa Kay Adams (Ooooooh, I LOVED this one. It was so lovely, funny, sweet, and actually, fairly realistic and deeper than the usual rom-com fare. Highly recommended.)
The Unhoneymooners Christina Lauren (Super funny, very cute, a great little easy romp.)
Save the Date Morgan Matson (Family also seems to be a mini-theme of the quarter. This one’s told from the point of view of a teenager, but still managed to be a great story.)
Three Women Lisa Taddeo (I wanted to like this one more than I did, but it honestly didn’t live up to the hype for me. I found it very interesting, and I’m glad I read it, but I was left wanting, I think.)
The High Season: A Novel Judy Blundell (This one was fabulous. And so, so funny. Loved all the characters, and love how everything turned out.)
The Swallows: A Novel Lisa Lutz (Woof. This one was excellent, and I definitely recommend it. But it also made me super freaking glad I don’t have kids who will eventually be teenagers.)
Star-Crossed: A Novel Minnie Darke (LOVED this one! Really funny, totally lovely, and got to escape to Australia.)
Meet Cute Helena Hunting (For anyone who’s ever had a crush on a TV heartthrob and then wondered what their life could end up like, this one’s for you.)
Stray City: A Novel Chelsey Johnson (Absolutely phenomenal. The main character is so gorgeous, and the story is just incredible. A really great glimpse into queer culture and life, and Portland specifically.)
Wanderers: A Novel Chuck Wendig (This one was an undertaking. It was long for sure, but it was certainly interesting and encouraged a lot of thought around a lot of hot topics like AI and climate change. Most definitely a political bent here, so know that going in.)
After (The After Series Book 1) Anna Todd (See above. I’ll stop short of saying don’t start this series, mostly because you’ll 100% be surprised by the ending of this one.)
The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna: A Novel Juliet Grames (I liked this one a lot. It was sad at times, but it was a very cool depiction of an Italian immigrant experience.)
The Witches are Coming Lindy West (Lindy wins everything. Read it.
And BONUS: the Top 8 of 2019
(Because I couldn’t narrow it down to five, but I wasn’t going to fish for ten. If you can only read eight books in 2020, make it these eight.)
Red, White & Royal Blue (This book has edged out The Night Circus as my favorite book. I thought I was in for a cute, sweet, funny romance novel, but that was not this. It was powerful and compelling. Emotional, raw, real. Full of real-life relationships, challenges, and questions of identity. It showcased an alternate reality that felt close enough to touch, and near enough to hope for. I laughed out loud multiple times, and bawled on and off through the entire last third. I finished it, started another book, couldn’t stop thinking about it, and literally speed read it a second time in an hour because I didn’t have my fill yet. The characters were incredibly well-written, the plot was rich, and I’m quite sure I’ll be stacking the next 20 books I read against this one. 10 STARS READ IT NOW.)
The Idea of You (Another one I absolutely cannot stop thinking about. I loved these characters so much. Everybody cross your fingers for a sequel! But if you haven’t put it on your list yet, do that now. This book is firmly lodged in my all-time top five.)
The Starless Sea (Ooooh, mama. This sophomore effort by the author of my previous favorite book, The Night Circus, delivered. Made the epic wait a million percent worth it. This book was extraordinary. It was gorgeous, it flowed, it had texture. Her writing is absolute perfection, and a story with this much depth and this much quality is no small feat. This is absolutely another one I’ll come back to and re-read. There were a lot of details that warrant further indulgence and exploration. Dig into this and I guarantee you will not be sorry.)
Dumplin’ (Feel good, great characters, funny. Also drag queens and Dolly Parton. Get it.)
Beautiful Bastard (#1 will always have the most special place in my heart, but the whole series is excellent and I’ll continue to recommend it forever.)
The Unbreakables (Yet another I can’t stop thinking about. More great characters and wonderful writing. A lovely story about life and transition and figuring out who you really are among the rubble of who you thought you were.)
Dopesick (Powerful reporting. Eye-opening information on a hugely important issue facing our country, and probably your next door neighbor, maybe your kid or your dad. Read it.)
Dark Age (The second-to-last installment of this epic space opera did not disappoint. Pierce Brown never does. So dramatic. So exciting. So rude to leave us hanging. If you haven’t jumped in on the Red Rising series yet, now’s as good a time as any.)
There you have it! I hope you find something intriguing and take the time to buy from your favorite local bookshop or borrow from your library.
If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your thoughts! (I can always gush about books.) And as always, if you have any recommendations for me, I’ll take ‘em!