Friends! Can you believe it’s almost the end of the year?
2019 has been such a wonderful year of reading and diverse books. I’ve had the privilege and joy to read a myriad of brilliant diverse books this year, and I think it is only fitting if I followed what I did last year and celebrated my favourite reads of 2019!
This year, I read a total of 86 books – I’m still determined to hit my goal of reading 90 books! – but it was a fantastic year nonetheless.
Though I don’t sharing my ratings on my blog anymore, I still do rate on Goodreads (as a way for me to keep track of where books fall on my personal rating system)! And of the books I read in 2019, my average rating was 3.6 – which is not too bad!
Heck, was this list so so difficult to put together. There were so many books that I wanted to add to this list, but the list would have been 20 books long – and as much as I would have loved to just do that anyway, I ran out of time this year, so 8 books it shall be! So, without further ado, here are my top eight books of 2019, all published in 2019.
HUNGRY HEARTS EDITED BY ELSIE CHAPMAN AND CAROLINE RICHMOND
In this short story anthology, thirteen writers tell stories of thirteen teens who live on Hungry Hearts Row and how food intertwines with their lives, their identities, and love.
I had the immense honour of organising a blog tour for Hungry Hearts earlier this year with Vicky from Vicky Who Reads! I was immediately pulled into the idea of this book – an anthology wit diverse and unique stories about how food intertwines with love, culture, and identity? Food is just as, if not more, important to my life than books, so I was sold.
And friends, that feeling of reading a book that you are so excited for and it’s even better than you imagined? That was how reading Hungry Hearts felt like for me. I adored every single story, and I had the rare experience of engaging and connecting with every single story in this anthology.
If you haven’t read this diverse anthology about food, identity, and love, then do yourself a huge favour and read this book! If you need convincing, here is my glowing book review for Hungry Hearts. And if you love looking at pictures of food, to celebrate this book’s release and for my contribution of the blog tour, I went and searched for all the food featured in this anthology and documented my experiences trying the food!
LOVE FROM A TO Z BY S.K. ALI
A story of ‘opposites attract’ and the serendipity of life, Love from A to Z follows Zayneb, a Pakistani-Carribean hijabi teen, and Adam, a Muslim Chinese-Canadian teen, and their chance meeting and the blossoming relationship and romance that follows during their visit at Zohar, Qatar.
Seldom do romances move me in a way that leaves me reeling, leaves me appreciating the beauty of life and love and all its possibilities. But, Love from A to Z made me feel this way – and more. I adored this book, and it may be my favourite YA romance in recent years.
Everything about this book is beautiful – from its thoughtful meditation of life and its chances, to its brilliant and very real characters, and just the wonderful mix of heartfelt and sensitive and tension in Zayneb and Adam’s romance. This book deftly balances romance with a more solemn exploration of anti-Islam rhetoric and how anger is felt and experience by women of colour.
Honestly? I loved this so much. The ending was so achingly beautiful and it made me cry a little bit – and it was an ending that felt so deserved and satisfying. If you haven’t read this, do yourself a favour and read this.
PIE IN THE SKY BY REMY LAI
A blend of a middle-grade chapter book with gorgeous illustrations drawn by the author, Pie in the Sky follows Jingwen who has recently moved to Australia with his little brother and mother. This is a story about baking cakes, navigating immigrating to a new country where you don’t speak the language, and grappling grief.
Oh, friends. When I heard about Remy’s debut, Pie in the Sky, I had absolutely no idea – no idea – that this would become one of my ‘forever-in-my-heart’ favourite books of all time. I love this book more than words can possibly express.
Don’t be fooled by its cute and light-hearted cover. Pie in the Sky may be a middle-grade story and is about how a young boy bakes cakes that will have warm moments that will make you laugh, it also packs such a stunning emotional punch that had me sobbing my eyes out. Because it’s more than just a story about immigrating – it’s also a story about belonging, struggling to fit in a place that you don’t understand, and grappling with grief and loss as a young child.
UGH. I love this book so deeply, and thinking about this book is making me tear up a bit. Please, friends: Please read this book. This is a stunning debut and is a book I’ll never forget for as long as I live.
THE WEIGHT OF THE STARS BY K. ANCRUM
Taking place in the distant future on Earth, this is a story about Ryann, a teen who takes misfits under her wing – and one day takes new-girl-in-town Alexandria, a girl with a complicated and secretive past under her wing. When the two strike an unlikely friendship, this reignites Ryann’s buried dream of venturing into space and to be among the stars.
This book, friends… this book. I have to admit, The Weight of The Stars came out of nowhere and surprised me with its powerful and thoughtful quiet narrative that thrums with so much life. This book made me appreciate the smallness of our human and short existence; it made me appreciate how the imperfect circumstances of human existence, that we are limited by our imagination and what we tell ourselves, but that we can also be free and as immense as the universe.
This book is just… such a magnificent tour de force. And I’m so frustrated that so many people are sleeping on this book! I haven’t read a story quite like this, but am so happy and grateful that I did. If you love quiet sci-fi and just… stories that radiate perfection, then please read this. You can thank me later.
THE BEST LIES BY SARAH LYU
In this thriller/mystery, Remy Tsai is grappling with a tragedy that has changed her life forever: her boyfriend, Jack, has been shot by her best friend and soulmate, Elise. But did she do it? Or was it out of self-defence? Told in alternating narratives, oscillating between past and present day, this is a story that peels away the many complicated truths of Remy’s relationship with Elise and Jack.
The Best Lies blew me away and blew my mind. And I am still in absolute awe that this was Sarah’s debut.
If you love thrillers that will keep you guessing to the point where you’re starting to question yourself and the theories that you have come up with because of new facts presented in the story and obsessively weighing the implications of each theory, then you will love The Best Lies. Or, if you love a story that unflinchingly explores and confronts the reality of obsessive and toxic relationships, love, trauma, abuse, and revenge, then this is up your alley. (Truth be told: I don’t usually read mystery/thrillers, but this book might have single-handedly changed my stance towards mysteries/thrillers.)
Honestly? This book took me for a wild ride and I loved every minute of it. This was such a well-crafted story and the ending was just so spot-on.
OTHER WORDS FOR HOME BY JASMINE WARGA
Told entirely in verse, Other Words for Home follows Jude, a Syrian girl who flees to America with her mother when the war and conflict reaches their small town in Syria. Other Words for Home explores belonging, regrowing your roots, what is ‘home’, finding yourself, and the ache of being separated from those you love.
I don’t say this often (though, it may sound like I do because when I love a book, I talk about it non-stop) but I genuinely think that Other Words For Home is perfect. There are many books that I love despite their flaws, but I strongly believe that Other Words For Home epitomises exemplary storytelling and just… everything that makes a great book.
Jasmine Warga is such a wordsmith and it felt like an honour to read Other Words For Home. Reading this, I was in constant awe of the beautiful and heartfelt ways she conveyed such subtle and powerful emotions and feelings. There were many times where, after reading a passage or chapter, I just held the book to my chest and just silently wept – with joy, with sheer awe, or the heartache that Jude felt.
I just! I love this book with my whole heart. This book deserves far more recognition and love. And honestly? I’m sold: I’ll literally read anything that Warga writes from now on.
THE SURPRISING POWER OF A GOOD DUMPLING BY WAI CHIM
Set in Australia, The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling follows Anna Chiu, who shoulders the responsibility of looking after her younger sister and brother while her father runs his restaurant and her absent mother, who spends her time in bed for weeks at a time. This is a story that perfectly explores the intersections of Asian identity and values, mental illness, and family.
Prior to reading The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, I honestly do not remember the last time a book that made me feel so… vulnerable and raw like an open wound. That sounds like a terrifying prospect, but on the contrary, I found the experience incredibly validating.
I always look for portrayals and representation of the complex relationships that intersect identity, values, and social issues. The world is experienced differently by everyone, and our identities and values have a crucial role in shaping how we navigate problems. This is not hyperbole for the sake of sensationalism, but The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling has one of the best portrayals of mental illness and how it intersects with Asian identity that I have read – ever. Wai just gets it – she understands how mental illness is grappled within Asian communities, and has written a masterpiece that is so insightful yet sensitive and real.
I genuinely believe that The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling has the power to change a young teen’s life. Asian readers in particular? You need this. As you can tell, I loved this book and I’ll never forget it.
JADE WAR BY FONDA LEE
Set in an Asian-inspired city with warring clans and warriors wear jade that enhances their power, Jade War follows the Kaul siblings and the No Peak Clan as their conflict with their rival clan continues, forcing them to make decisions that will challenge who they are and what they hold most dear forever.
Jade War on my ‘top reads of 2019’? Absolutely no one should be surprised – unless you haven’t heard me scream about my love for this book to the high heavens.
Sequel to my previous favourite book of all time, Jade City, Jade War showed us that middle-book syndrome is not always inevitable. Reading Jade War was an experience – it wasn’t ‘just a book to read’ for me. It was a reading experience that I will never forget. From the intense high-stakes fight where I genuinely had no idea what would happen and thus felt fear so deep and visceral for my favourite characters to consequences that had me on my feet and sweating in the dead of winter – not only did I enjoy this book, but this book made me feel pain and fear. More importantly, this book made me feel so much love for Fonda’s incredible world and storytelling. I’m still in awe!
On a side-note, I won an ARC of Jade War from Fonda’s fanart contest! I drew my favourite character, Kaul Shae, and won! Fonda sent me a signed arc – signed! – and I basically sobbed my eyes out when I received it. I have never felt such overwhelming joy having a book in my hands before. And friends, this is probably one of my book blogger/reader highlights of the year: receiving a personally signed ARC of my new favourite book from one of my favourite authors.
There were a few books, however, that weren’t published in 2019 but were among my favourite books. Here they are:
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (published in 2018)
- A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna (published in 2018)
- The Iron Will of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (to be published in 2020)
My heart is full and I had a lot of fun writing this ‘top books of 2019’ post – even though it was so hard to choose! Seeing how much I enjoyed 2019, this makes me so hopeful and so excited for the books to come in 2020. What books will I discover in 2020? What stories will I read that I will fall in love and may change me? Where will the stories of 2020 take me? (I just! reading is amazing!)
Thank you all for reading my post! Across the rest of the week, my co-bloggers Skye (as Sprout) and Joce (as Cuddle) will be sharing their top reads of 2019 – I’m super excited to see what their favourite books are, and I hope you all will give them a read when they share it with us!
- Have you put together a top reads of 2019 post? If so, please give me the link in the comments – I’d love to read them!
- What was your favourite book of 2019? What was your most unexpected favourite book of 2019? What was a book that had the biggest impact on you?
- Did any of my top reads make your top reads list? Let me know!