This year was so many things. It was book finishing and book tour and head colds (so many head colds) and BookExpo and San Diego ComicCon and so much traveling and new friends and I am exhausted and happy and glad to be home for a little while, with the snow falling outside.
Adam and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary and his 40th birthday and my 41st birthday and Vesper’s 1st birthday and there was a book birthday in there, too. It was a very celebratory year. There was a great deal of sparkling wine. It felt like multiple years rolled into one, book tour alone was a bazillion years long and so many countries and cities and wonderful people. (Tour will continue a bit in January, too.)
This was the year of The Starless Sea in so many ways. It’s still hard for me to believe that it’s out in the world but it is and it is finding its readers and having a life of its own and for me it is strange and lovely and bittersweet. So much gratitude to InkWell and Doubleday and Harvill Secker for sending it out into the world in such tremendous style.
I didn’t read quite as much as I’d thought I would this year mostly due to exhaustion and head colds but when I went to make my favorites list it was actually quite hard, I really enjoyed most of what I read this year so these are the ultimate favorites among a great deal of competition. (Note: these are all personal favorites. I have developed an aversion to calling such lists “Bests” because these are just my opinions and I cannot deem bestness because I cannot read All the Books.)
Favorite Books That I Read in 2019
Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger. I met Paul serendipitously at San Diego ComicCon and after cocktail-drenched California adventures we’re friends now, he has to deal with that. So I was nervous starting this book because I really wanted to at least like it but oh, I loved it, so much. It’s bright and bold and has so much heart and it made me cry in that oh-no-the-book-is-over way, where you miss being in it as soon as the last page is turned.
Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb. I’d been meaning to read Robin Hobb for ages but I think the fact that this year was the 25th anniversary of Assassin’s Apprentice bumped it up on my list. This was my tour book that lived in my carry-on and I read bits in different states and countries and it was like having a familiar place to return to. I am so, so delighted that are many more volumes in this series and I found editions in the UK that I loved so much I ordered them when I got home.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow At some point in the last few years Alix and I apparently shared a brain because this book is a perfect complement to The Starless Sea and vice versa. It is Doors and Keys and Books and Vermont and star-crossed everything and so, so beautiful. I will be in conversation with Alix at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday, January 11th and I am excited about it.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. This book got me out of a reading slump where I was picking up things and putting them down after a few pages because nothing was really doing it for me but this one sucked me right in. A gorgeous, compelling suburban courtroom drama that is the very definition of a page-turner.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep. At the American Bookseller Association Winter Institute in January I asked booksellers what I should pick up from the advance copies table and this was their instant recommendation. They were right, of course. Like true crime and literary history had a book baby.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. I was lucky enough to read this book early because Colson is a fellow Doubleday author and a reminder of the extraordinary author company I’m in there. In retrospect Nickel Boys feels more like something that really happened that I remember someone telling me about in great detail than a book that I read and somehow that feels appropriate.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid which comes out TODAY, go get it! Go! It is a testament to the fact that all of those “Best books of [YEAR]” lists should be posted in January of the following year because it should be on the lists. It is real and raw and sharp and funny. Please tell everyone to just pretend it came out in 2020 and put it on all of the lists, thank you.
And possibly my very favorite thing I read this year that I am OBSESSED with comes out on February 11th 2020: The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet. It is a big, delicious fantasy to sink into and it is divine. Much like Steel Crow Saga I missed the world and the characters as soon as it was over and I’m going to re-read it soon. Also I have been keeping my post-tour February-May calendar as empty as possible but I am making a single exception for Kelly: we will be discussing The Unwilling with Oblong Books on Tuesday, February 18th.
Bonus honorable mention to Wanderers by Chuck Wendig which I read last year but it came out this year on an auspicious date! It is brilliant and epic.
Favorite Games I Played in 2019
I spent a good part of the year working my way through Assassin’s Creed Odyssey which I enjoyed immensely but there was also a lot of it. Though now I find myself wishing I could Sparta kick people off cliffs in other games.
Untitled Goose Game is, of course, an unbridled delight. (HONK.)
Gris is one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. Vesper liked it, too.
I have only just started Baba is You but it is genius. I’ve also only played a bit of Link’s Awakening but I’m looking forward to playing it more.
I spent lots of travel time replaying Skyrim on my Switch. And at home I started my third replay of Dragon Age: Inquisition mostly for anxiety soothing purposes. Playing a rogue this time and it is very satisfying to be able to unlock things myself.
(I also spent a good amount of head cold time watching Adam play Jedi: Fallen Order which was excellent and BD-1 is now my most favorite droid.)
Seeing out the decade with a sidecar, no sugar, waiting to see what adventures and cocktails the ’20s will bring. I started the decade unhappy and not knowing what I wanted and I’m ending it with two published novels, sitting in a house that I own with the best husband and the best cat, surrounded by snow-covered woods.
I always pick a song for the year and though I’ve had Toss a Coin to Your Witcher stuck in my head for over a week (it’s still there) and by the way I love the show SO MUCH (tv favorites this year are basically just The Witcher and honorable mention to Baby Yoda) I wanted to pick something that felt like The Starless Sea because this year was all Starless Sea, all the time. Awhile back I mentioned on twitter that in a perfect world the Starless Sea playlist would include a Ramin Djawadi Westworld-style cover of the Legend of Zelda theme, but for now it does include this, which is also appropriate.
Happy New Year, darlings. Keep your hearts safe.