Books read in 2019

I’m keeping a list of the books I read this  year.

There’s no definitive reading goal, other than to keep reading.  Some months, and January looks as if it will be one of them, I might average a book a week. But I also know from experience, there will be months when I’ll be lucky to read one complete book. My life, and my reading life in particular, is like that.

It’s likely that on the list you’ll see a fair smattering of recent publications from fiction, translated works, travelogues and the occasional classic. I usually read or reread one of the truly greats each year.  I enjoy the occasional biography, the occasional investigative non-fiction. But I don’t expect they’ll feature that often. And you probably won’t see much  “chick lit” on this list—it doesn’t engage me in the  way it once did.

The list works like this:

  • Titles are grouped by the month in which I complete them
  • Titles appear in the order in which I read them
  • If I’ve posted a review there’ll be a link to that
  • Where I can, I include information about how the book came to my attention.

January 2019

1). A Change of Key by Adrienne Jansen (Library copy)

I’m a fan of Adrienne Jansen’s writing. I’ve read nearly all her novels and I’m on the email list for Escalator Press, the small publsihing house run by Whitireia, which published this book.

2). All This by Chance by Vincent O’Sullivan (Library Copy)

Vincent O’Sullivan is a well-known New Zealand writer but this is the first of his books I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

3). The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton (Library Copy)

Tim Winton is a longstanding favourite of mine. Jaxie, the narrator, bursts on to the page, gripping me from the get go.

4). The Path of The Tiger by Sila Khoamchai (own copy)

My first reread of the year, and my first work in translation for 2019. This book is a classic. It rewards careful reading.

5). Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (Library copy)

This is a book that will break your heart, and then somehow help you put it back together again.  Outstanding debut from a writer  whose career I’ll be following.

February 2019

6). two old men dying by Tom Keneally (Library copy)

Not a favourite, nevertheless it grapples with some interesting ideas

7). The Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi (Library Copy)

This a gem of a book, which I learned about from Claire over on Word By Word.

Opening sentence: A cow came into her dream.

8). The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke by Tina Makereti (Library Copy)

Longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand book awards, and that’s where I first came across this book.

Opening sentence: Listen, miracle of the future.

March 2019

9). Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi (Library copy)

Opening sentence: There was a knock.

10). The Man Who Would Not See by Rajorshi Chakraborti (Library Copy)

Longlisted for the 2019 Ockham New Zealand book awards

Opening Sentence: My brother and I are with our dad at Howrah station to meet our grandmother off the train, but have learnt upon getting here that it’s running two hours late.

11). This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman (Library Copy)

Winner of NZBooklovers best New Zealand fiction award 2019
Shortlisted for the Ockham Book Awards 2019

Opening sentence: October 1955. If Albert Black sings to himself he can almost see himself back home in Belfast, the place where he came from.(p7).

12). Two Old Women, an Alaskan legend of betrayal, courage and survival by Velma Wallis (Library Copy)

Recommended to me by Claire from Word by Word

Opening sentence: The air stretched tight, quiet and cold over the vast land.

April 2019

13). The New Ships by Kate Duignan  (2018) Victoria University Press
(Library Copy)

Shortlisted for the Ockham Book Awards 2019

Opening sentence: Rob rang from England last night.

14). At Dusk by Hwang Sok-Yong Translated by Sora Kim-Russell (2018) Scribe Publications (Library Copy)

Longlisted for Man Booker International Prize 2019

Opening Sentence: My lecture ended.

15). A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (2018) Penguin
(Library Copy)

Opening Sentence: From the moment I accepted the invitation, I was nervous about returning to Germany.

16). Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (2017) Lawrence and Gibson Publishing Collective  (Library Copy)

Shortlisted for the 2018 Ockham Book Awards
Opening Sentence: Sita flushed the toilet.

17). Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton (2019) Dialogue Books
(Library Copy)

Opening sentence:
She’s sitting there on top of the chifforobe rocking back and forth to some music she heard ten, twenty years ago.

Longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019

18). The Death of Murat Idriissi by Tommy  Wieringa, translated by Sam Garrett (2019) Scribe (Library Copy)

Opening Sentence: In the deepness of time.

Longlisted for the Man Booker international Prize 2019

May 2019

19). Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden (2018) Akashic Books
(Library Copy)

Opening sentence:
On the morning of the day she killed him, the sun sat high and white in a sky washed clean of clouds by an early-morning downpour.

Longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction

20) No Friend but the Mountains: writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani, translated by Omid Tofighian (2018) Picador  (Library Copy)

Opening sentence:

Under moonlight /

An unknown route /

A sky the colour of intense anxiety.

Winner Victoria Literary Award 2019

21) The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti, trans Simon Carnell and Erica Serge (2016) Harvill Secker (Library Copy)

Opening Sentence: My father had his own way of going to the mountains: scarcely inclined to meditation, full of obstinacy and arrogance.

Winner English Pen Award

Winner Premio Strega, Italy

Winner Prix Medicis estranger France

22) Celestial Bodies by Jokha Altharthi translated by Marilyn Booth (2018) Sandstone Press (Library Copy)

Opening Sentence:
Mayya, forever immersed in her Singer sewing machine, seemed lost to the outside world.

Winner: 2019 Man Booker International Prize for translated fiction

23). The Overstory (2018) Vintage, by Richard Powers Winner Pulitzer Prize 2019 (Library Copy, and then kindle version)

Opening sentence: “First there was nothing. Then there was everything.”

24). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2013) Susan Cain. Penguin Books. Library Copy)

Opening Sentences: Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955. Early evening. A public bus pulls to a stop and a sensibly dressed woman in her fifties gets on.

25). My Brother’s Name is Jessica (2019) John Boyne.  Penguin RandomHouse UK. (Library Copy)

First sentence: There’s a story I’ve heard many times about how my brother Jason got the scar that runs above his left eye, almost parallel with his eyebrow.

26). The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (2019) Simon and Schuster Library Copy.

Opening sentence: An old woman sits on the beach, a cushion strapped to her bottom, sorting algae that’s washed ashore.

27). The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison L. Strayer (2018, English edition) Fitzcarraldo Editions (used to be library copy, but now mine)

Opening sentence: All the images will disappear:

Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019

28) The Year of Magical Thinking, a play by Joan Didion (2007) Vintage

Opening line:
“This happened on December 30, 2003. That may seem a while ago but it won’t when it happens to you. And it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you. That’s what I’m here to tell you.”

29) Late in the Day (2019) Tessa Hadley. Penguin Random House
Library Copy
Opening sentence: They were listening to music when the telephone rang.

30) Navigation, a memoir Joy Cowley (2010) Penguin Books (not reviewed)

31) State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011) Bloomsbury
Shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2012

32) The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (2017) Scribner.
Library Copy
Opening sentence:

“No coincidence no story,” my a-ma recites, and that seems to settle everything, as it usually does, after First Brother finishes telling us about the dream he had last night.

33) Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (2019) Penguin Books
Library Copy
Opening Sentence:
is walking along the promenade of the waterway that bisects her city, a few early morning barges cruise slowly by
to her left is the nautical -themed footbridge with its deck-like walkway and sailing mast pylons
to her right is the bend in the river as it heads east past Waterloo Bridge towards the dome of St Paul’s …

34) Persepolis

35) Auē by Becky Manawatu (2019) Makaro Press
Opening Sentence: “I am drowned.”

36) 10 Minutes 38 seconds in This Strange World by  Elif Shafak (2019) Viking
Opening sentence: “Her name was Leila.”
Library copy.
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019

37). The Scandal  by Fredrick Backman translated by Neil Smith. (2017) Penguin Books
Library Copy

Opening sentence(s):

Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager kicked up a double-barrelled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger.

This is the story of how we got there.


38 Buddha in the Attic

39 Pachinko

40 This is Happiness