It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time to reflect on this year’s reads. As of this post, I’ve read 225 books in 2019 (yes, that’s terrifying to me too tbh) so each day though New Year’s Eve, I’ll post a top 10 list of reads I’ve gone through this year that fit a particular theme. This was excrutiatingly difficult, and yes there are a lot of overlaps, but I’m excited to share my faves AND see what your faves have been this year. In addition to sharing my faves, I’ll include readalikes for each title as well as three words that describe or remind me of the book. I’m hoping to do this last bit for reading in the new year so I can keep better track of my feelings about books!
If you follow me on Twitter (or if you want to, it’s @qmstitt!), you may have seen this list already! I participated in #libfaves19, which was a ten day long trend of librarians sharing their favorite books published in 2019. This is probably the first year that I’ve read more than 10 books released in that year, so I was super excited to participate and without further ado, here are my picks (in alphabetical order by author, because I’m a librarian of course).
Color Me In by Natasha Díaz
Summary: Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.
It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?
Three Words: flawed, coming-of-age, belonging
Readalikes: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Summary: Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamourous family’s mansion. The next items?
- Enjoy a drunken night out.
- Ride a motorcycle.
- Go camping.
- Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
- Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
- And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Three Words: inclusive, inspiring, unputdownable (yes that’s a word)
Readalikes: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Good Talk by Mira Jacob
Summary: “Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”
Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.
“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”
Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.
Three Words: thought-provoking, uncomfortable, necessary
Readalikes: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehesi Coates, I Was Their American Dream by Malaka Gharib, German Calendar No December by Sylvia Ofili
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
Summary: High school finally behind her, Winnie is all set to attend college in the fall. But first she’s spending her summer days working at her granny’s diner and begins spending her midnights with Dallas—the boy she loves to hate and hates that she likes. Winnie lives in Misty Haven, a small town where secrets are impossible to keep—like when Winnie allegedly snaps on Dr. Skinner, which results in everyone feeling compelled to give her weight loss advice for her own good. Because they care that’s she’s “too fat.” Winnie dreams of someday inheriting the diner—but it’ll go away if they can’t make money, and fast. Winnie has a solution—win a televised cooking competition and make bank. But Granny doesn’t want her to enter—so Winnie has to find a way around her formidable grandmother. Can she come out on top?
Three Words: summery, understanding, inspiring
Readalikes: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (if you haven’t read it already), Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding , Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Summary: In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
Three Words: eye-opening, coming-of-age, introspective
Readalikes: The Bride Was a Boy by Chii, Tomboy by Liz Prince, Wandering Son by Takako Shimura
Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Summary: When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?
Three Words: hilarious, steamy, character-driven
Readalikes: The Royal We by Heather Cocks, A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon
Summary: Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.
The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?
Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.
Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.
Ashish and Sweetie both have something to prove. But with each date they realize there’s an unexpected magic growing between them. Can they find their true selves without losing each other?
Three Words: warm, empowering, adorable
Readalikes: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, Fake It Til You Break It by Jenn P. Nguyen, Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Crowded, Vol. 1 by Christopher Sebela, Ted Brandt, & Ro Stein
Summary: Ten minutes in the future, the world runs on an economy of job shares and apps, while crowdfunding has evolved into Reapr: a platform for assassination that’s trickled down from celebrities to everyday life. A world where anyone with enough backers and the money they contribute can kill anyone else. Like Charlie, who up until now has lead a quiet, normal life, until she wakes up to find herself a target with a million dollars on her head. Hunted by all of LA, Charlie hires Vita, the lowest rated bodyguard on the Dfend app. As the campaign picks up and Vita takes out incompetent civilians and assassins on their tail, she and Charlie will have to figure out who wants Charlie dead and why before the campaign’s 30 days or their lives are over.
Three Words: action-packed, funny, colorful
Readalikes: The New World by Ales Kot, The Weatherman by Jody LeHeup, Invisible Kingdom by G. Willow Wilson
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Summary: Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.
Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever. Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.
Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell bring to life a sweet and spirited tale of young love that asks us to consider what happens when we ditch the toxic relationships we crave to embrace the healthy ones we need.
Three Words: relatable, beautiful, difficult
Readalikes: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Bloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganacheau, Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable & Ellen T. Crenshaw
Summary: Amanda can’t figure out what’s so exciting about kissing. It’s just a lot of teeth clanking, germ swapping, closing of eyes so you can’t see that godzilla-sized zit just inches from your own hormonal monstrosity. All of her seven kisses had been horrible in different ways, but nothing compared to the awfulness that followed Kiss Number Eight. An exploration of sexuality, family, and faith, Kiss Number Eight is a coming-of-age tale filled with humor and hope.
Three Words: coming-of-age, acceptance, relationships
Readalikes: Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, & Joy San, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
What were your favorite books published in 2019? Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time!