2019 Reading Review

2019 has been a great reading year for me. I managed to surpass my reading goal by 33 books and most of those were books that I enjoyed a lot. I was more than happy to DNF books this year and doing so allowed me a greater sense of freedom and enjoyment when reading. Now, on the first day of 2020, I wanted to look back over 2019 to help me create some reading resolutions for the year ahead.

DNF

Although it may seem negative to start with, last year was a great year for deciding to DNF a book! In the past I have felt like that I had to read anything which I started and finish it, whether I was really enjoying it or not. It is not something I would do with any other kind of media, and yet I felt like I needed to with books – I’ve started so I’ll finish – was the kind of mentality I had. I was completely wrong. It has been so much more enjoyable and freeing this year to DNF books for a variety of reasons.

One reason to DNF a book is that it just isn’t good enough. It would have been a one-star book and was not worth my time. A good example of this was Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. I don’t like books with too much conversation and I don’t think it was ever really going to work for me. DNFing that book gave me the chance to read 7 others in what was a really busy month for me.

But another reason has also been that I just was not in the right type of mood for reading that book at the time. It is a book that I may go back to at some point, but right now I just cannot enjoy it like I should. Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver fits this bill. I was enjoying the gothic attitude at the beginning, but it was dragging over the Christmas period and just not the right time for me.

However, there are those that I’m glad I persisted with despite my happiness to DNF in 2019. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff and Beartown by Frederick Bachman are two of those novels. Both were so close to being DNFs for me, and yet turned out to be great reads and definitely worth my time. I’m going to take this attitude forward – be happy to DNF but always consider picking something up a second time, or sometimes, pushing through if I can see an element of hope.

Worst books of 2019

Of the books I did manage to finish there are a few that I definitely wish I had DNF’d and saved myself the trouble.

The Puppet Show – Wes Craven

There were elements to this detective/thriller that I enjoyed initially, and so I continued reading until the end but ultimately it was really predictable and just extremely middle of the road. I don’t mind reading an okay book, but this felt like it was a bit ‘meh, fine’ and I am sure I could have spent my time reading things a bit better. Do I remember details about it now, months later? Yes… But not because I’m gushing about them or really happy, just because it is recent enough to retain elements. Not a good book and I won’t be trying Craven’s work again.

Witch is When it All Began – Adele Abbott

Another quick Kindle read and something I took a chance on. It took me only a couple of hours to read and I genuinely cannot even remember if I finished it or not – that is how forgettable it is. Some kind of mystery with the idea that the character is a long lost witch, or something like this. It was done really badly with very little subtlety and just was not really worth even the couple of hours wasted on it. At least not to me.

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

I took a chance on some of these quick comic books and found the artwork interesting but I didn’t love it in the end and won’t bother to carry on with any other comics. It was a lot different than I expected based on all the iterations of Sabrina I have seen, and honestly, I much prefer the Netflix adaptation to the comic itself. It was definitely dated, but I feel like Netflix have done a fantastic job of improving and making it relevant for a new audience.

Best books of 2019

Now this is the best part of my reading. I have found some fantastic books over this last year. Some are entire series and new authors that I am going to be happy to continue following; others are single novels that I still remember now and will be happy to read again in the future. Here are a few of my top picks.

Spellslinger – Sebastien de Castell

This book was sitting on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time before I actually read it. Wayne saw it in Waterstones, thought that I would like it and picked it up for me… He was right, very right. I ended up reading this for the magical readathon as it was the group book and I do not regret anything. I adored the series which was full of magic and adventure. It constantly makes me laugh and I love the way that de Castell has presented his mythology and world building, as well as the host of characters he has created and the relationships which are being forged. I finished Spellslinger and instantly wanted to pick up the next book in the series. Wayne finally (after days of constantly hinting) purchased them all as an anniversary present and I am excited by terrified of finishing the series. I have been slowly reading them one book every two months, as this takes me to the paperback release of the final book.

I have already received Traitor’s Blade (the first in de Castell’s adult series) for Christmas, so I will still have his writing to enjoy, even when this series come to a close!

The Near Witch – Victoria Schwab

Rereleased this year was a beautiful edition of Victoria Schwab’s first novel The Near Witch. I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading it previously but took the chance to have the beautiful book signed and then went home to read the short fairytalesque book. It was incredible. I loved the eerie world, the charming and antiquated characters, the sense of adventure and the relationships within the story. It was short but it was memorable and, for me, a clear 5 star read and probably my favourite book by Victoria Schwab yet.

The Witcher Series – Andrei Sapkowski

With the release of the Witcher adaptation approaching, I felt that It was vital that I give The Witcher books another try. I had previously DNFd The Last Wish and so I was really dubious about this. I was completely mistaken. This is a time when I am so glad that I returned to a DNF book. The short stories turned out to be a really enjoyable read and I was gripped, pulled in to the world and the love between Geralt and Yennefer. It is one of the first ‘high’ fantasy series that has really managed to keep me hooked and I’m really glad that I had a reason to pick these up. I’m now three books in to the series and about to pick up a fourth. And it was worth it because the series is fantastic.

Honourable mentions

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – this series came to an end in 2019 but I have not finished it yet. I decided to reread to previous novels in preparation for reading Capturing the Devil and the conclusion to the to the relationship between Audrey Rose Wadsworth and Thomas Cresswell… It has been worth every moment of the reread I appreciated the novels and their craft even more the second time and just couldn’t stop gushing at the relationship blossoming.

Final thoughts on 2019

Leaving 2019 behind now, I feel much better about my reading and my attitude to books again. I have always loved books and reading, but work and study can really knock you and leave you feeling so far away from it all. I have started to really try to rekindle this love affair in the last couple of years, but more so this year due to work stress. I realised how important it was to prioritise time for myself! To do things that I enjoy and not just things that I have to do to feel productive. Will I ever be able to let that desire for productivity when I should be relaxing go? Probably not… But now I’m channeling it in a much more healthy way.

Last year I started making some videos on YouTube about books, and this year I’m going to be pushing forward with YouTube and with blogging. I’m now willing to make them in to ‘work’, but I do want to share that relaxation and have the part of me that needs to push energy through projects be spent on my favourite endeavours.

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!