It was bound to happen.
After ten years of primarily reading romance, in 2019, I found myself gravitating away from HEAs. According to Goodreads, thus far this year I’ve only read 50 romances and many of those were books published in earlier times. I’ve read 25 non-romances, all of them fiction. Of these 25, I adored seven, five of which were published in 2019.
Here are my fave non-romances I’ve read this year in no particular order:
This story of two white, well-educated sisters born in the late 40s–the story begins in 1952 when they are seven and four and takes them all the way to today–seemed written for me. I’ve always been obsessed with women’s stories and here Weiner covers the past seven decades of American womanhood effortlessly. At its very big heart, this novel sifts through the myriad ways women’s roles have changed as well as how they haven’t. I found it irresistible.
Black’s The Folk of the Air trilogy–the third book comes out in two weeks–is the most sorry I’m reading do not talk to me unless you are dying series I’ve read since Bec McMasters’ London Steampunk stories. Seriously–don’t pick these up unless you are prepared to let Black’s audacious modern fantasy realm take over your life. Black’s always been a strong story-teller but here, she is at the top of her game.
This is one of the strongest literary mysteries I’ve recently read. The Lady in the Lake book tells the story of a woman–Maddie Schwartz–who, in a brilliantly, vividly realized 1960s Baltimore, is determined to be more than just a wife and mother. In her quest to become a writer, Maddie’s world becomes entangled with mystery of who killed the lady in the lake, a black woman named Cleo Sherwood. The mystery is first-rate as is Lippman’s prose–the story is told through many different voices. But even better is the evenhanded and incisive way Lippman showcases the hard choices, almost all defined by men, women in the second half of the 20th century made in their quests for personal and professional fulfilment.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner has been on my TBR since it was published. But, as lauded as it was, I don’t love The Secret History and when I’d look at the (760 pages!) heft of The Goldfinch, I’d sigh and think tomorrow. But then the movie came out and I wanted to read the book before seeing it so I began and suddenly I was snared. The scope of the story is expansive–it’s a mystery, a meditation of the role of art, a hard-eyed look at a boy who lost his mother and became a man who’d have broken her heart, a portrait of New York and New Yorkers loving and wildly critical–but Tartt never loses her way. The last page is one of my favorites in modern literature and I think still about the characters in this book and wonder where they are now.
Conviction by Denise Mina
Denise Mina’s usual fare is dark, brilliant, and intensely Scottish. This book is brilliant, set in Scotland, hilarious, timely, and just a blast. I’m not a podcast listener but after reading this book in which Anna, running from a failed marriage, delves deep into a true crime podcast about an unsolved murder, I can see the appeal. Anna’s life isn’t working for her and, when it turns out she has a connection with the murder victim, she and a semi-famous musician–the man whose wife her husband is cheating on her with–go on the run, determined to solve the crime. I gulped this book down–it was my funnest read of the year.
The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
Were you to ask me what my favorite series of all time is, I’d reply His Dark Materials. When I heard that Pullman was writing a second trilogy around Lyra, the heroine of His Dark Materials, I was beyond thrilled. I enjoyed the first book in The Book of Dust–the second series–but it didn’t astound me. Book two, The Secret Commonwealth, did. Dense, profound, terrifyingly timely, and gorgeous–this is a book to gladden the hearts of all those who longed for more of Pullman’s worlds. I must caution you, however, if you’ve not read the first four books in this series, I think this book might be hard to appreciate. But, oh, those books are so worth it–if you love complex fantasy and haven’t read Pullman, you should.
How about you? What are the best non-romances you’ve read in 2019?