2019: Reading Review

All right, I get that this is very late, considering it’s mid-March, and with all the drama going on in the world at the moment 2019 seems like a long-gone twinkle in the far distance. But I don’t feel like I can start properly rambling on about what I’m reading this year without having a little retrospective of how last year went.


I may have mentioned that I ‘smashed’ my 2019 Goodreads challenge: my goal being to read 52 new books, and ending up with a grand total of 64. I say ‘smashed’ with a dramatic little inverted comma finger-gesture because I’m learning that 2020 is probably going to be far more worthy of that title, seeing as it’s March and I’m already 24 books in. However: 2019 was still a triumph and I’m pretty proud of myself.

By the way, I’ve not counted rereads in my actual challenge – even though I’ve just discovered that technically, you can – and to be honest, it would feel a bit cheaty if I did, seeing as even if I’ve got three new books on the go, I’m always rereading something too. But I feel it is worth mentioning that in 2019, a fair few books came out that were either finishing or continuing a series, and in those cases I always reread the preceding stories first.

Let’s have some stats! I like stats.


Not a bad year for reading, really! Now for what those 22,631 pages actually consisted of…

I put this on Instagram at the start of this year and I think it does stand. These are not in any order, but they’re definitely my favourites from 2019.

IMG_0196 Wayward Son – Rainbow Rowell

I might be an elderly woman of thirty, but I love YA fiction. And Rainbow Rowell really does do it best. I read her ‘Fangirl’ years ago, and the characters of that novel spawned the universe of Simon Snow. It’s complicated, roll with it here. ‘Wayward Son’ is the sequel to ‘Carry On’, the first Simon Snow novel from the real world (I told you, complicated: go and read Fangirl and you’ll get what I mean). If you like gay wizards and road trips across the USA, particularly if you have a soft spot for outrageous shirts, this book is right up your street.

Grave Importance – Vivian Shaw

Oh look, another sequel! This is the conclusion to the Greta Helsing trilogy, which began with Strange Practice and continued with Dreadful Company. A doctor of the supernatural, Greta Helsing’s adventures are fast-paced, witty and exciting – modern London life co-existing with the monsters of classic Gothic literature. And, of course, a hefty helping of theology and metaphysics. I’ve mentioned before that the phrase ‘infernocelestial politics’ is just delicious in the way it rolls off the tongue, and it pretty much sums up the series.

Bookworm – Lucy Mangan

I am in fact rereading this right now and might end up doing a full review because I love this book so much. I don’t remember the last time I read a memoir that made me yell “THIS IS ME!” like this one did. It’s Lucy Mangan’s retrospective of her life as seen through her childhood reading material, and it brought back such a wave of nostalgia I nearly cried; especially when she mentioned books I’d found in a charity shop and read to pieces, thinking I was the only one to discover them. Absolutely beautiful memoir.

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch

This is a slightly cheaty favourite, as I’ve put it in to stand for the entire Rivers of London series. My husband has been reading them for a couple of years, but I only gave in and tried them myself in 2019 – and I very much wish I’d started sooner. I ended up reading seven Rivers of London books last year, and only just ate up the eighth one, which came out a couple of weeks ago. Think Harry Potter meets CSI, with a fair bit of history and architecture thrown in.

The Testaments – Margaret Atwood

I couldn’t write this list without putting in the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I loved this: of course it wasn’t as good as the first book, which is a true dystopian classic, but it did a damn good job of expanding on the universe Margaret Atwood created so many years ago. Was the ending a bit too convenient? Maybe. Were the parallels to real life, so subtle and surprising back in 1985, a bit heavy-handed this time around? Perhaps. But I loved it anyway.

The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary

I shall go to my grave bleating on about how chick lit doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. This was a stellar example of the genre: a funny, moving love story with plenty of twists and turns. The concept – two strangers on opposing work patterns find a particularly unusual living arrangement – is fresh and different, and the story itself is so well-written I found myself wishing I had half Beth O’Leary’s talent.

The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill

This is technically another Young Adult novel; at least, that’s where you’ll find it on the shelves in Waterstones. However Louise O’Neill’s books always pack a very adult punch (see also: ‘Only Ever Yours’, another excellent book) and this one is no exception. A feminist retelling of The Little Mermaid with many nods to real life, this was only a short novel but it stuck with me for a long time.

Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce

I love a bit of historical fiction, and I have a particular weakness for stories set during the Second World War. This is another book that could easily be dismissed as ‘chick lit’, but it’s a lovely, gentle story (until, of course, it isn’t – it wouldn’t be a wartime novel without Peril with a capital P) with characters that leapt off the page. The main character, Emmy, is my favourite type of heroine: bookish and spunky, with an undercurrent of grit.

All That Remains – Sue Black

I had a little spate of slightly macabre death-fascination in 2019 – on a trip to Edinburgh I caused a friend to roll his eyes as I marched into Waterstones and loudly bleated “WHERE ARE THE BOOKS ABOUT DEATH?”. This one is the memoir of a forensic anthropologist, featuring stories from her own life alongside a pretty comprehensive study of what happens to the body after all different manners of death. The way historical puzzles were solved, such as the skeleton of a Saxon woman found alongside the remains of three infants, absolutely captivated me. It was also beautifully and poignantly written, with real passion.

Working Stiff – Judy Melinek

Another cheerful book about death; but a lot more ‘current’, as such. While Professor Black of ‘All That Remains’ is a forensic anthropologist, largely dealing with long-dead skeletons, Dr Melinek writes from the point of view of a forensic pathologist at the New York medical examiner’s office. This offers an equally fascinating look at the body after death, with more puzzles to solve. The chapters on 9/11, where Dr Melinek was on the front line, were so harrowing I couldn’t help dreaming about them for days after I finished this book.

I’ll put my full list in chronological order at the end of this post, just in case anyone fancies some weird and wonderful reading inspiration.

Finally (and turn away if you don’t like shameless self-promotion) there’s one book that I didn’t add to my grand total, though I probably should have, considering I read it approximately 900 times. Yes, I’m talking about The Bean Jar again. My own first novel hit Amazon at the start of 2019, and if it’s not on your own Goodreads list already… it should be!

Right, I’d say that’s 2019 done and dusted. Time to get on with a bit more 2020 reading – considering we’re all about to be plunged into a state of viral quarantine, I don’t think ‘I’ve not got time’ is an excuse any more…


2019 New Reads
  • The Jewel – Amy Ewing
  • The One – John Marrs
  • Hurricane (Hive Mind 3) – Janet Edwards
  • One Day In December – Josie Silver
  • The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village – Joanna Nell
  • Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
  • The Big Lie – Julia Mayhew
  • Dear Mrs Bird – AJ Pearce
  • Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy
  • Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton
  • Alice – Christina Henry
  • Don’t Hold My Head Down – Lucy-Ann Holmes
  • The Last – Hanna Jameson
  • The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
  • Old Baggage – Lissa Evans
  • On The Frontline With Women Who Fight Back – Stacey Dooley
  • The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey
  • Bookworm – Lucy Mangan
  • I’d Rather Be Reading – Anne Bogel
  • All That Remains: A Life In Death – Sue Black
  • Sweet Pea – CJ Skuse
  • Unnatural Causes – Dr Richard Shepherd
  • The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli
  • Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Little Princesses – Marion Crawford
  • Ma’am Darling – Craig Brown
  • Moon Over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Working Stiff – Judy Melinek
  • Whispers Underground – Ben Aaronovitch
  • In Bloom – CJ Skuse
  • Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a F*** – Gill Sims
  • The Bad Mother’s Book Club – Keris Stainton
  • A Discovery Of Witches – Deborah Harkness
  • The Librarian – Salley Vickers
  • The Prison Doctor – Dr Amanda Brown
  • Puddin’ – Julie Murphy
  • Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Do No Harm – Henry Marsh
  • Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Hanging Tree – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Flight Risk – Dr Stephanie Green
  • Lies Sleeping – Ben Aaronovitch
  • Rivers of London: Body Work – Ben Aaronovitch
  • The House We Called Home – Jenny Oliver
  • Under the Knife – Arnold Van de Laar
  • The Strain – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
  • Strings Attached – Erin Reinelt
  • The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill
  • The Kingdom – Jess Rothenberg
  • The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
  • Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged – Ayisha Malik
  • The Other Half of Happiness – Ayisha Malik
  • Grave Importance – Vivian Shaw
  • Wayward Son – Rainbow Rowell
  • It’s About Bloody Time. Period. – Emma Barnett
  • The Flat Share – Beth O’Leary
  • The Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth – Philip Pullman
  • We Met In December – Rosie Curtis
  • My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • The Bookish Life of Nina Hill – Abbi Waxman
  • Borderline (Hive Mind 4) – Janet Edwards
  • Cradle and All – James Patterson
  • Traces – Professor Patricia Wiltshire
  • The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters – Charlotte Mosley

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