2019 wrap-up: our favorite reads from book club and beyond

Aurelien’s favorite book club pick

Wow, this is tough! We’ve read so many weird, creative, new-to-me stories this year. I think I have to choose based on what surprised me most:

Art by Ashley Mackenzie

“Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy” by JY Yang

I had no idea what to expect going in and it has layers upon layers of weird, awesome, spooky futuristic worldbuilding. Witches and wraiths and haunted waterworlds, oh my! And I’d love to read more stories set in this world.

Read the story for free: https://www.tor.com/2019/01/30/circus-girl-the-hunter-and-mirror-boy, then listen to our episode discussion!

Honorable mentions: “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor; “From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death” by Caitlin Doughty

Catrina’s favorite book club pick

“All The Birds In The Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders

When this book came around on our schedule I ended up reading it in a day (part love, part procrastination). It was emotionally exhausting but I loved every second. An alternate future where the fate of the planet will be decided by a war between technology and witch craft, sign me up! I’ve already recommended it to multiple people.

Read the story (or don’t, we try not to spoil it) and then listen to our episode discussion!

Honorable mentions: “The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury; “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

Aurelien’s favorite personal pick

How do you choose a favorite read of the year? Is it the one you think about most after you finish reading it? Or the most creative and imaginative? Or the one with the most realistic characters?

Art by David Burroughs Mattingly

The Invasion (Animorphs #1) by K.A. Applegate

I can’t lie. If you had told me that I’d be choosing this as my 2019 favorite, at the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have believed you. If you’ve listened to the podcast, you know that I missed a lot of kids books the first time around, including this series. But this kids’ series from the 90s is super weird, sometimes funny, and the plot is timeless, real, and emotional.

It’s about aliens, sure, but it’s really about resistance, hopeless odds, being brave, war, taking on things that feel too big for you, and growing up. The writing is simple but the characters face hard choices. The series has an undercurrent of very real danger, and with 50 books in the series, it’ll keep you occupied for awhile. (Don’t spoil me, I’m only up to #6!)

And honestly, I finally read it because of K.A. Applegate’s famous letter to readers, after the story was finished:

“So, you don’t like the way our little fictional war came out? You don’t like that one war simply led to another? Fine. Pretty soon you’ll all be of voting age, and of draft age. So when someone proposes a war, remember that even the most necessary wars, even the rare wars where the lines of good and evil are clear and clean, end with a lot of people dead, a lot of people crippled, and a lot of orphans, widows and grieving parents.”

Read it here: http://www.hiracdelest.com/database/articles/kaa_response-full.htm

Honorable mentions: “The Postmortal” by Drew Magary; “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Catrina’s favorite personal pick

“Eileen” by Ottessa Moshfegh

I’ve wanted to read “Eileen” since it came out in 2015, but it was just one of those books that I never got around to. I also wasn’t entirely sure what it was about, so I was skeptical that I would even like it. This book provided me with a whole new experience as a reader, it taught me to embrace unlikable characters and to be okay being uncomfortable. It was a valuable lesson for me and I carried it throughout the year, challenging myself to reach for books with characters you don’t necessarily root for. The narrator, Eileen, is a gross human and she never gives you a reason to love her. I chose this book as my top pick because I think it fundamentally changed me and it will stay with me forever.

This was my year of villainess energy and unlikable characters, all my favorites definitely reflect that mindset.

Honorable mentions: “My Year Rest and Relaxation” by Otessa Moshfegh; “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

What a year of reading! Across horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and thrillers, all of these stories are fundamentally about characters. And as you know, we love our weirdos, freaks, and spooky friends around here.

What were your favorite reads this year? What did you end up loving?

Happy 2019! See you in 2020!

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