My 10 Best Books of 2019

(In reverse alphabetical order by author because it isn’t fair that A always gets to go first.)

Wilson, G. Willow. The Bird King. An absolutely magical story, set during the Spanish Inquisition, about a Muslim map-maker who can create locations (new rooms, new buildings, new cities, new islands) simply by mapping them.

Shimotakahara, Leslie. Red Oblivion. A cross-cultural family mystery set in present-day China. A Canadian architect has to return to her country of origin when her father experiences a health crisis. Along with the expected difficulties she faces caring for an aging parent, she begins to realize that the life story he’s always told may not be true.

Sainz Borgo, Karina. It Would Be Night in Caracas. A few short days in the life of a woman struggling to survive in the chaos of present-day Venezuela.

Jordan, Toni. The Fragments. A genuinely fun literary mystery with a woman writer in the 1980s trying to find the female author of a 1930s manuscript tucked away in a typewriter she’s purchased. It’s believed the manuscript’s author died in a fire, but…

Hoffman, Alice. The World that We Knew. A story of survival and resistance in Nazi-occupied France with utterly captivating elements of magical realism.

Hess, Annette. The German House. The story of a young woman serving as a translator during the 1963 Auschwitz trials, a real event, but one much less well-known than the earlier Nuremberg Trials. She struggles both to assert herself against social expectations and to come to grips with her country’s past.

Gappah, Petina. Out of Darkness, Shining Light. An historical novel with two very different narrators that imagines the trek that brought David Livingston’s body to the African coast, so he could be buried in England.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. The Water Dancer. An unexpected semi-historical/fantasy novel that follows the life of a slave with an uncanny ability to survive near-drownings who becomes part of the underground railroad. I love Coates’ nonfiction. Now I know his fiction is equally impressive.

Cha, Steph. Your House Will Pay. A dual narrative that explores racial tensions in Los Angeles through the story of a girl shot by a store owner and the repercussions this has for both of their families and the city itself.

Alharthi, Jokha. Celestial Bodies. The 2019 Man Booker International Prize winning novel in a translation from the original Arabic that explores the lives of women in an isolated region of Oman experiencing “modernity,” with all its changes and contradictions.