You may remember my halfway point round up from back in June. Well here we are at the end of the year and it’s time to decide what my favourite, favourite picks are from the whole year. There are a few things that haven’t changed though as you’ll see.
Mystery Fiction: Death of an Angel by Derek Farrell
No change here, because I haven’t read a new crime novel in the second half of the year that I liked more than Death of an Angel. I continue to love Derek Farrell’s creation – this is not the first time he’s appeared in a best books of the year post – and I’ve got a Danny Bird short story waiting for me to read because Fahrenheit Press have got Death of a Sinner in a special edition with Jo Perry’s Everything Happens and I have been saving it for a Christmas treat.
Honourable mention (also no change!): Vinyl Detective: Flip Back by Andrew Cartmel
Contemporary romance: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
The first change from the half year list. Evvie Drake Starts Over was just perfect for me. I could have spent hours longer with Evvie and Dean, just watching them go about their lives. I’ve spoken a lot about the fact that I miss the romantic fiction of the early 00s – where people fix themselves at get love as a bonus, and this is the best example of that that I’ve read this year. The the characters are great – their lives are messy and imperfect just like real people – and the romance is wonderful. I have the paperback pre-ordered, so that I can read it again, lend it out and keep it on the bookshelf.
Honourable mention: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (my pick at the halfway point)
Historical Romance: Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean
Another change. And I thought about it a lot because I do love A Duke in Disguise, but Hattie from Brazen and the Beast, was the heroine I needed this year. She knows exactly what she wants from her life, she’s got a plan for how she’s going to get it – and she doesn’t want it it if she’s only getting it as a gift from someone else. My kind of girl. Also a bit of a theme in my reading. As I mentioned in my 2019 obsessions post, I’ve had trouble with historical romance this year. There are a lot less of them on the list than usual and some authors who have dependably put out novels that I love have let me down. But Sarah MacLean didn’t let me down – this was exactly what I wanted at this point in time.
Honourable mention: A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian
Literary Fiction: Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
No change from the halfway point mostly because this easily my most recommended book of the year. Daisy is a force of nature, the story is so clever and not a manic pixie dream girl in sight. Daisy is smart and clever and not afraid of saying that she had a plan and she did the work – it wasn’t just handed to her. There have been other books that I’ve liked a lot – including The Starless Sea just a week or two back but I have found myself coming back to this all year: I read it in March, I’ve listened to it on audiobook as well now and I still think it’s brilliant. I’m a bit nervous about the TV adaptation, because I don’t know how you can make it work – how do you create the music and make it feel believable? The paperback is out in the UK on January 9 – I haven’t pre-ordered it, because I already have a (signed) hardback. So all I can do is hope that there won’t be too long a wait for the next novel from Jenkins Reid.
Non-fiction: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
At the halfway point, this was called non-fiction history – but now I’ve read a stack of other nonfiction too and so we’ve added a subdivision because they both deserve a mention and this is the not-history pick. It’s only a few weeks since this was a Book of the Week, but I’ve been recommending this to everyone. It’s just that good. It’s meticulously researched, but wears it lightly. It reads like a thriller but it’s real life. I’d read a lot of articles about the Harvey Weinstein story before I read this, but I still felt that I learned a lot of new information from it. It’s now got a tie in podcast – and I’m still learning more from that. And with a trial coming up in te new year, this is not a bad time to read this either – before it needs an epilogue on the next edition to explain what happened next.
Honourable mention: The Great Successor by Anna Fifield
Non-fiction History: Maud West Lady Detective by Susanna Stapleton
This survives as my favourite history book of the year. Maud West is such a Venn Diagram of my interests – early twentieth century, women in history, detective stories, forgotten lives and Golden Age Crime. Maud is a fascinating woman – very hard to pin down because she really didn’t want you to be able to – and Stapleton’s details about her search are fascinating too. No date for a paperback release yet – but hopefully it will get one. And if anyone wants to write a fiction series about a lady detective like Maud, then I am totally here for it. But it is also worth noting that the honourable mention in this category (in June and now)- The Five by Hallie Rubenhold – has been picking up prizes all over the place.
Honourable mentions: The Five by Hallie Rubenhold
Coming up next: A look ahead to some of the books I can’t wait to read in 2020!