Here we are, friends. It’s the end of the year, the end of a decade, and I’m gumming up the internet pipes with another “Best of 2019” book list. Of course, you could go any day of the year to Goodreads and get their Choice Awards Picks for your next book club meeting. But if you do, you’re going to be stuck thinking that Rachel Hollis is giving us the best there is to offer in non-fiction. Let’s leave that trash in the twenty-teens.
No, you’re here at The Cool Table to get good book recommendations from a trusted source: ME. The person you know who reads the most (-ly smut, but also good stuff here and there). Here are the best books that I read in 2019 that I can also, in good conscience, recommend to anyone.
Beth’s Best Books of 2019
The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby
The subtitle of this book is The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism and if that doesn’t tell you what a ripping good yarn it is, I can’t help you. In truth, this book was one of the most poignant I read all year. As a preacher’s kid (and grandkid) who lives in the south in a very racially segregated city, I have a personal historical stake in how the American church (and specifically the southern church) has grown up in the weeds of southern racism.
It was chilling to read about the ways in which Christianity has worked tirelessly since even before the Civil War to prop up the pillars of racism. It wasn’t the first time I’ve sat uncomfortably in deep grooves of racial injustice that shape our wooden church pews, but it was the first time I understood just how deep those grooves run.
Well Met By Jen DeLuca
There are days when you pick up a bright, fun romance novel and crack it carefully. I mean, who in the world knows what’s going to be inside a debut author’s mind? Well, when I read Well Met back in May it took me just a few pages to stop worrying and start winding my way through the woods of this adorable ren faire.
Super cute, sweet, and story-fied, Well Met makes most of the other contemporary romance novels of 2019 look like they tried too hard to do what debut author, Jen DeLuca, did effortlessly: make me laugh AND make me care. And make me miss high school drama clubs and hot guys in doublets.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
You really don’t need me to recommend this book to you; it won the National Book Award and the Michael L Printz award in 2019, amongst others. It’s gorgeous and lyrical and reminiscent of Zora Neal Hurston and Melina Marchetta*.
*more on her in a minute
A young Dominican-American girl in Harlem discovers that a leather-bound journal and a slam poetry group is her escape and redemption. It’s a novel about family and heritage and growing up and being a woman. And I can’t recommend it enough.
“We’re different, this poet and I. In looks, in body,
in background. But I don’t feel so different
when I listen to her. I feel heard.”
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Ok, here is one you will see on the Goodreads Choice Awards list, but I voted for it so I will allow it to be the center of the Venn Diagram of Books Beth Will Be Ok With and Books Goodreads Readers Think Are Good. Because Red, White and Royal Blue is a ridiculous delight of a romance. There’s a reason it’s so popular.
It follows the young first son of the newly-elected FEMALE U.S. President as he is forced to form a sham public relations friendship with The Prince of Wales. No, not that Prince of Wales. This one is fictional: a young, handsome, sweet biscuit of a British royal. The two of them together are inevitable and truly, truly romantic. Funny, warm and even political … this one deserves its place in the top tens lists.
The Place in Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta
Long-time recipients of my book recommendations will recognize this one for what it is: hero worship. Melina Marchetta is my *hands down* favorite author, and we waited A DECADE for her to write Jimmy Hailer’s story. And guess what? IT KILLED.
Dalhousie is a pseudo-sequel. It follows her novels, Saving Francesca and The Piper’s Son, but it also stands fully on its own two feet (those feet being perfect turns of phrase and gut-ripping relational connections, both Marchetta specialties). I wish I could tell you that it’s the plot of this novel that is going to wow you, or that the characters themselves are ZOMG!UNIQUE, but the unparalleled way that Marchetta writes is what is going to get you. Jimmy and Rosie would be the first to tell you that they aren’t really anything special. But this book is.
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
I’m sidling up to the border of that Venn Diagram again with this recommendation because I’m pretty sure that Pulitzer Prize winning author Ronan Farrow’s runaway hit, Catch and Kill, made it to the semi-finals. But whatever, it also made its way to my very short list of Books I Read Until I Passed Out.
Anyone even tangentially aware of current events knows the milestone that Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein made on the #MeToo highway. Explosive and detailed, his New Yorker piece is where all #MeToo roads converge into a superhighway that no one can say they’ve never heard of. But his book detailing the secret intimidation campaign that Weinstein, his associates, an Israeli spy ring and some shady goons for hire waged on him and his producer reads like a fictional spy novel with just as many insane twists. Exposing the true un-limits of the halls of power in our media, Catch and Kill is a masterpiece.
I’m giving away a copy of Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow! Take my tried and tested recommendations to heart and enter here!
So … what were your Best Books of 2019?
Beth is the proud sponsor of two little women and a huge fan of fandom. She took 3 years of Latin in high school and now speaks fluent pretension, which fully explains her current preference for gay wizard regency novels. She will roll over for a giant book with a map in the front. She takes comic book recommendations every day but Wednesday and TV recommendations never (she knows what's good).