Top Five Books Read in 2019

Most of the books I read in 2019 were unremarkable or just plain bad. I don’t even remember reading the first 10 or so because I was in and out of the hospital with my son and going through the postpartum haze. But there were a few notable ones (in no particular order):

  1. The Three and Day Four by Sarah Lotz. I cheated a little bit because these are two books in the same series, so I’m counting them as one. They were so absorbingly creepy, and the author had a different sort of writing style that sucked me in. I already wrote about them here and here.
  2. The Dogs of March by Ernest Hebert. I already wrote about it here. What else can I say? It’s a classic.
  3. Donnie Brasco by Joseph Pistone. This is a real-life account of an FBI agent’s undercover years as a member of the Italian Mafia. Yes, there’s a movie, but I highly doubt I ever see it. The book was fascinating from a psychological perspective. Pistone has balls of steel. Read the book to find out why!
  4. The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind. This one had its faults, but overall, it was a good solid fantasy novel. It is part of a series, but you don’t have to read the other books to understand what’s going on. Goodkind always gets hate from fantasy fans, and I’m not sure why. His worldbuilding makes a lot more sense, and his stories (to me) are much easier to get into.
  5. The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak. Set in the South in the 1950s, this book was about a woman who works for a prison, preparing meals for the inmates. She’s got some crazy stuff in her backstory, but everything is resolved neatly and poignantly at the end. I can’t say exactly why I liked this book; it was just a good, entertaining story. The recipes and descriptions of food throughout will make you hungry, too.

Last Dragon

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to get back into reading fantasy. In high school, I read fantasy novels all the time and got really involved in the worlds that the authors created. However, my love of fantasy disappeared in college because I was reading Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series. The first three books were amazing, but I found the fourth one a little cheesy. After that, I have never been able to pick up a fantasy novel and read it all the way through without groaning and rolling my eyes at all the cliches.

But I will always give fantasy a chance because it holds a place in my heart. I picked up J.M. McDermott’s Last Dragon at the library recently. To be honest, I was drawn to it because of the title (I’m a sucker for dragons) and because the chapters were very short.

When I started reading, I was pleasantly surprised. Last Dragon is sort of like William Faulkner meets Elizabeth Haydon. The first-person narrative is nonlinear and disjointed, but the fantasy atmosphere comes through so clearly and the characters are so well drawn and easy to picture that you get pulled into the story. The challenge of Last Dragon was to piece the events of the book together in a way that gives the narrative meaning, so the book was almost postmodern, in a way.

The book was beautifully written, and the writing style alone made me want to read another book by the author. A lot of epic fantasy novels are written in a lavish style that bloats the books to 500-plus pages. This one is absolutely not like that, but even though the chapters are shorter, the book doesn’t necessarily move faster because you have to process what’s going on. If I had to pick a subgenre for this, I’d call it literary fantasy.

How about you? Read anything good lately?