2019 Reading Round-Up
by E.B. Bartels
Happy 2020, my bookish friends!
First off, let me say right away that I will NOT be doing a favorite books of the past decade post. Sorry, but also I am not sorry, because I would actually drive myself insane trying to figure out my favorite books from the PAST TEN YEARS. That is so many years! So many books! How is that even possible? Also, it seems unfair? Ten years ago, I was 22, and the books that hit me hard at 22, I may roll my eyes at now at 32, but I don’t think that diminishes the impact they had on me a decade ago, so, yeah, I’m not touching that.
If you want recaps of my past reading habits, check out my 2018 Reading Round-Up and 2017 Reading Round-Up posts and this piece I wrote for Wellesley Underground about spending 2015 only reading books by women. (2010 to 2012 I was pretty much reading only YA and middle grade books because I was teaching at a middle school in Dorchester, and 2012 to 2014 I was in grad school and was reading whatever my MFA professors were telling me to read, and then I guess I was too much of an empty shell in 2016 to write anything about what I read that year?) You can also browse my GoodReads profile which I have been updating regularly since January 2012, and see my GoodReads reading challenges from 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.
But! As promised, even if I can’t handle recapping the whole past decade, I present to you my annual reading tally for the past year. So, as is tradition, here is the breakdown of what I read in 2019, my top 19 books that were published 2019, plus my reading resolutions for the upcoming decade and some of the books I am looking forward to in 2020.
WHAT I READ:
- I read 122 books, by 107 writers.
THE GENRE BREAKDOWN:
- Fiction: 24
- Nonfiction: 39
- Graphic novels/comics: 3
- Graphic memoirs/nonfiction: 14
- Poetry: 9
- Drama: 1
- Young adult/middle grade: 10
- Picture/art books: 22*
- Books that I had already previously read: 6**
*Again, many of these were dead-pet-related picture books for research.
**Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, Jane: A Murder and The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee.
THE DEMOGRAPHIC BREAKDOWN:
- Books by women of color: 29
- Books by white women: 55
- Books by men of color: 15
- Books by white men: 22
- Books by non-binary people of color: 1
- Books by non-binary white people: 0
- Books by LGBTQ folks: ~23
THE REASON-FOR-READING BREAKDOWN:
- Books for dead pets research: 48
- Books for Non-Fiction by Non-Men/other interviews/essays/reviews: 19
- Books for my People Who Read Darkness book club: 12
- Books for teaching: 4 (though every book I read is for teaching, in a way)
- Books for fun/other reasons/just for the hell of it: 39
E.B.’s TOP 19 BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2019:
As I’ve said in past years, I am really glad that I am doing this tradition of my top [xx] books published in 20[xx] because it means I get to add one more book to my list each year. I am also glad that in this list I focus on only books that were published in 2019 because that helps me further narrow down my choices, though it does mean that some of my favorite books I read this year may not make the cut, just because they weren’t published in 2019, such as Cottonmouths by Kelly J. Ford (2017) or Edinburgh by Alexander Chee (2001) or Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011) or The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (2015) or The Reckonings by Lacy M. Johnson (2018) or Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (2013). So, it’s an imperfect art, but it makes my life a little easier, so here I present to you: my 19 favorite books that came out in 2019, organized chronologically by their publication date.
- The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang (February 5)
- Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (March 5)
- Good Talk by Mira Jacob (March 26)
- The Body Papers by Grace Talusan (April 9)
- I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib (April 30)
- Allowed to Grow Old by Isa Leshko (May 10)
- Ugly Music by Diannely Antigua (May 15)
- The Edge of Every Day: Sketches in Schizophrenia by Marin Sardy (May 21)
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (June 4)
- Bunny by Mona Awad (June 11)
- With a Polaroid Camera by Sarah Dickenson Snyder (June 25)
- Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton (August 6)
- Mitz by Sigrid Nunez (August 6)
- Malaya: Essays on Freedom by Cinelle Barnes (October 8)
- Holding On To Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne (October 22)
- This is My Body by Cameron Dezen Hammon (October 22)
- In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (November 5)
- The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (November 5)
- Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung by Nina MacLaughlin (November 12)
E.B.’s READING RESOLUTIONS for 2020 (& the rest of the decade):
- Last year I said I wanted the majority of the books I read in 2019 to be by people of color. I did not achieve that goal: of 122 books, 78 were by white people and 44 were by people of color. So, once again, my goal for the upcoming year is to read a majority of books by people of color.
- Also as I said last year, I want to keep reading more and more books by nonbinary people and LGBTQ folks. I am embarrassed that I only read one nonbinary author this year and that this year only 18% (down from 20% in 2018) of the authors I read identify openly as LGBTQ. I can do better.
- I want to continue to make sure my People Who Read Darkness book club reads diverse writers. (This year we only read one book by a person of color, My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite, so we really need to work on that.)
- And also, like in past years, I need to keep paying attention to who is writing the books I am reading for research and diversify the voices I am quoting in my own writing.
- And, finally, as always, I want to continue to remind myself that if I don’t love something I am reading… I don’t have to finish it!!!! This is a reminder for you, too!
E.B.’s LIST OF BOOKS SHE IS ANTICIPATING in 2020:
There are many, many, MANY books to look forward in 2020, but here are just a few I am especially excited about, that you should put on your radar:
- I Know You Know Who I Am by Peter Kispert (February 11 from Penguin Books)
- Thin Places by Jordan Kisner (March 3 from FSG)
- A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell (March 10 from Viking Books for Young Readers)
- Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby (March 31 from Vintage)
- Glitter Up the Dark by Sasha Geffen (April 7 from University of Texas Press)
- Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs by Jennifer Finney Boylan (April 21 from Celadon Books)
- Summer Solstice by Nina MacLaughlin (April 27 from Black Sparrow Press)
- Fairest by Meredith Talusan (May 26 from Viking)
- Let’s Never Talk About This Again by Sara Faith Alterman (June 6 from Grand Central Publishing)
- The Names of All the Flowers by Melissa Valentine (July 14 from Feminist Press)
- Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman (July 14 from Simon & Schuster)
- A Wicked Magic by Sasha Laurens (July 28 from Razorbill)
- Tomboyland: Essays by Melissa Faliveno (August 4 from Topple Books)
- Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine (sometime in September from Graywolf)
- New Writers of Color on the American South edited by Cinelle Barnes (sometime in October from Hub City Press)
- I also heard a rumor that Eula Biss has a new book coming out in fall 2020!
Here’s to reading all the books in 2020!