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  • R J Clark

My Favorite Reads of 2019

With just a few weeks left in 2019, I'd like to give a shout-out to a few of my absolute favorite reads of the year (so far) and just remind you that there's still plenty of time for you to squeeze in a book or two before we kiss 2019 goodbye and say heyyyy to 2020.


This year, I challenged myself to read eighty books and as of this writing, I've read 96. And while there have been some very memorable and moving reads — The Institute, The Testaments — and some just down-right awful books I couldn't even finish (they will remain nameless), these were the ones that stuck with me as a writer (and reader) long after I closed the book.


Topping the list is Shaun Hamill's wonderful debut novel A Cosmology of Monsters.

There are so many things to love about Cosmology, but perhaps my favorite is the way Hamill blends a captivating Lovecraftian monster story and a family melodrama. It's no exaggeration to say that I laughed, I cried, and I was on the edge of my seat throughout the novel. In a year that saw new work from masters — King, Atwood, Aciman — I still firmly put Cosmology as my favorite read. It was an unexpected delight.


And, speaking of Andre Aciman...

He sure had an awful lot to live up to after the film version of his novel Call Me By Your Name captivated audiences worldwide and earned him a legion of new fans. Find Me, the sequel to the best-selling Call Me By Your Name, defies expectations in a way only Aciman is capable of doing. Much of the novel isn't about Elio and Oliver, but by the time the two finally meet up, we feel like everything has been leading up to the book's beautiful and very moving finale. The prose is as gorgeous as ever, and I found myself as in love with Aciman's style as ever.


Lie With Me by Philippe Besson is a quiet little book that affected me much, in the same way, Call Me By Your Name did. I found myself thinking about it days after reading it. The novel deals with issues of acceptance, image, and ultimately being comfortable enough in your own skin to be with the person you love. There's no spoiler in saying it's a tragic story; you could get that from the jacket cover. But the journey is worth taking, and the reminder that life and love are fleeting resonates more and more with me as I get older. Spend an afternoon with Lie With Me. You won't regret it.


Last, but certainly not least, The Whisper Man by Alex North is an incredible page-turner that kept me riveted much in the same way The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris) did. North keeps us guessing by jumping through time and inter-weaving character's stories until everything intersects in an organic but still surprising way. I gasped twice and found the resolution very touching. North created a beautifully horrific world that I rather enjoyed spending some time in from a safely removed distance. I fell in love with Tom and Jake. They were/are very real to me. North's characters felt alive in the same way Stephen King's characters live and breathe off the page for me.


On the non-fiction front, Beyond Charlottesville by Gov. Terry McAuliffe was, far and away, the most touching and infuriating read of 2019 for me. McAuliffe's positivity is infectious. You want to believe a better world is possible despite the non-stop barrage of craziness happening on the political scene world-wide (seriously UK? Boris?!). It is touching because Heather Heyer becomes more than just a name. She comes alive and comes off the page. I challenge anyone to read Beyond Charlottesville and not be inspired to take action in their own community against white nationalism and just general fuckery against minorities, LGBTQ-people, immigrants, people of Jewish descent, etc. This book should be a must-read in schools.


What books moved you this year? Inspired you? Educated you?

No matter how many you've managed to read this year, keep reading.

Reading and intelligence are both sexy AF, and we should all be doing our part to bring them back in 2020.


Happy reading!


See you on the other side.

#fiction #writer #reader #amwriting #writingcommunity #booknerd

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