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My 2019 End-of-Year List: The Best Read and Best Not Yet Read

According to Goodreads I read 29 books this year, not counting research and craft books. So the real number is higher than that. Still, my SFF To-Be-Read pile has a net growth. So here’s a list of the best SFF books I did read. Then I list two poetry books that are not SFF but you should read anyway. My list of SFF books I intended to read in 2019 but didn’t get to, and finally, one great book I’m still reading.

Great SFF Books I Read (Not necessarily published in 2019)

  • The Border Keeper by Kerstin Hall. This came at just the right time. It showed up in my library without me seeing any publicity about it. Thank god for libraries. One of the best books I’ve ever read.
  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine. My science fiction reading has been pretty thin in recent years but I loved this book.
  • Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. This short book was big on feeling. It has texture and emotion aplenty.
  • This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I seem to love everything Amal El-Mohtar writes and Max Gladstone is a new discovery for me. This series of love letters across time felt just right.
  • Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly. This fictional place inside the real world felt so real it could be history. Lots of political intrigue played out through personal relationships.
  • River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey. A pure joy to read, and I discovered my daughter also thinks Sarah is cool, so I earned some cool-dad cred.
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by J. Y. Yang. Plenty of tension and emotion. Their created world is rich and feels deep.

Outstanding Poetry (also Not necessarily published in 2019)

  • Registers of Illuminated Villages: Poems by Tarfiah Faizullah. This is a book full of raw emotion and memory. The poems seem effortless; as if they suddenly appeared on the page under the power of their own righteousness. Might be the best collection I’ve ever read.
  • The Dead Queen of Bohemia: New & Collected Poems by Jenni Fagen. Another collection of raw emotion and memory. These poems feel almost too personal, yet stand for more than just the individual.

The books I wanted to read in 2019

  • Desdemona and the Deep by C. S. E. Cooney. I only finished the Bone Swans late in the year, largely because I reread several of the stories. That collection is worth savoring. I’m putting Cooney in my pantheon of fantasy literary goddesses beside Patricia McKillip, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Sofia Samatar.
  • Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James. I might be holding onto this experience for just the right moment; to cherish it slowly, but I expected to read it this year.
  • The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley. Ever since listening to her speak on panels at WFC in 2017 (and being seat mates at a David Mitchell reading) I’ve wanted to read her work. Plus, I’m a sucker for Beowulf retellings.
  • A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay. Kay is already in my pantheon of fantasy literary gods beside Tim Powers, Fritz Leiber, and David Mitchell. Tigana and Children of Earth and Sky changed the way I write fantasy.
  • The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons. Looking forward to a rich, complex world.
  • The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. Every time I look at this book I want to start it, but like with Black Leopard Red Wolf, I want to cherish the experience and I wait for a day with more time. That’s not going to happen, and I just need to dive in.
  • Miranda in Milan by Katharine Duckett. I think there should be a bigger sub-genre of fantasy with roots in Shakespeare. I would read them all.
  • Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories by Vandana Singh. I purchased Sofia Samatar’s Tender directly from Small Beer Press at WFC 2017 and they gave me a copy of Three Messages and a Warning (which I can’t recommend highly enough) and became a huge fan of the press.
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett. The mixing of magic and tech is exactly where I’m heading with my next novel so this is lurking near the top of the TBR pile.

One book I’m still reading

  • How Long ‘Til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin. This collection of stories ranges wide but wraps itself around a few core themes. The Effluent Engine is so far my favorite story and was my favorite short-story for the year. I would read a series of adventures with Jessaline and Eugenie.