Most Surprising Book of 2019

Monday, 23 December 2019


This list is made of up books that, wait for it, surprised me. These are all good surprises, so yay! So the common theme is that these books surprised me because I wasn't expecting to love them as much as I did. So here are a list of books that I loved more than I thought I would.


Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Most of the world has drowned after rising waters flooded the Earth during a climate apocalypse. The Navajo reservation has been reborn as Dinetah and in this new world, gods and heroes of old walk the earth once again, but so do monsters. Maggie Hoskie is a monster hunter from Dinetah who is supernaturally gifted. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie steps in to help, but she finds more than just a missing girl.

This is a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy, which is right up my alley. I went into this book prepared to enjoy it, but what surprised me was just how much I loved it. Rebecca Roanhorse is a wonderful author who created a truly wonderful cast of characters that I just fell in love with. I have to be honest, I expected a basic fantasy book, but I found a new favorite series.  If you've ever read authors like Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, or Kim Harrison, then you'll love Rebecca Roanhorse. If you love Harry Dresden, Mercy Thompson, or Rachel Morgan, then you'll love Maggie Hoskie.



I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend by Martin Short

I don't need a premise for this book. It's a memoir from Martin Short. That explains it. But what I do need to explain is why this stood out when compared to other memoirs I read. I listened to the audio book, which was read by Short himself, and I felt like it really helped the book. It was fascinating learning about his life, his start in comedy, his stint on SNL, his movies, and the love and loss he's experienced. I found myself laughing out loud more than once and even crying a time or two. I thought I was going to listen to a basic memoir. Something interesting but ultimately forgettable. But what I found was something that will stay with me for a while to come.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This is the story of Theo Decker, a young boy who miraculously survives the bombing of a museum but loses his mother. We follow Theo over the course of about a decade of his life going from living with a family friend, to Vegas, then back to New York. All the while he harbours a secret. He stole a painting in the aftermath of the bombing. A painting that was very special to his mother. The Goldfinch.

My wife recommended this book to me so I knew I was going to, at the very least, like it. But what I didn't know was that I was actually going to enjoy it. This book is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, which means that a lot of haughty judges somewhere thought it was artsy enough to win an award. I'm not a fan of "literature." I think it's overrated. But this was actually an okay book. My wife is reading one of Donna Tartt's other books and from what I've heard, it's pure torture. I may never read The Secret History as it sounds more pretentious than an ivy league sommelier. The Goldfinch was also pretentious, but not as much so I was able to stay invested in the story. The first half of the book is much better than the first and the ending sucks, but I still liked it more than I thought I would.



The Buddha in the Attic

This book tells the story of Japanese "picture brides" as they move from their homes in Japan to America where something other than the promised riches of their suitors awaits them. We follow their stories as they adapt to this new life in a county that doesn't want them, married to men who just wanted someone to help them work, and raising children in this new world.

Let's be honest. Books and stories written from the 2nd person perspective don't work. When I started The Buddha in the Attic, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to follow it. I was wondering if I would lose interest. But surprisingly enough, it kept my interest. This wasn't a great book. Not at all. But the reason this made it on the list is because I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. I was actually able to follow it. The second person omniscient perspective wasn't confusing. I may never reread this book, but I'm glad I at least read it once.



When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi was 36 and just about to finish a decades worth of training as a neurosurgeon. However life has different plans. Paul is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and while there is hope that he can survive, it doesn't look good.  So he begins to write a book that has the unique perspective of a doctor on the other side of things. Paul talk about his experiences on both the doctor's side of things as well as the patients.

This was another book Anne recommended to me and I never would have even given it a second thought if it wasn't for her. I barely want to read memoirs about celebrities I like, let alone a no-name doctor.  But I trust my wife and picked up the audio book and was unprepared. I wasn't prepared to be charmed by Paul Kalanithi. I ate the book up and even though I may never reread it, I'm glad I read it at least once.


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