My favourite books of 2019

With 2020 almost here, it’s time to look back on my favourite reads of 2019. This is a shorter list than in previous years, because although I’ve read a lot of very good books in 2019, I don’t feel that there have been as many as usual that I’ve really loved. I’ll be exploring the reasons for that and some possible solutions when I post my reading plans and resolutions for 2020 in the New Year, but for now here are some of the books I did enjoy in 2019:


The Way to the Lantern by Audrey Erskine Lindop (1961)

From my review: “Why it has been allowed to go out of print and fade into obscurity is a mystery to me. I thought it was a wonderful book and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end…The balance between the historical detail and Roberts’ fictional adventures is perfect; it’s the sort of book where you learn a lot as you go along, while being entertained by a great story at the same time.”

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (1939)

From my review: “This is a beautifully written novel with characters I came to love and care about…At first I thought it was going to be a long, slow read, but as I gradually became more and more engrossed in Huw’s story the pages started to fly by much more quickly than I’d expected.”

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie (1936)

From my review: ” I found this a particularly clever Christie novel and didn’t come close to solving it. I allowed myself to be sent in completely the wrong direction by the red herrings and took everything at face value; in fact, for a long time I thought I was reading a different sort of mystery entirely…I loved this one and I think I did the right thing in reading it before trying to watch the adaptation again.”

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop (2019)

From my review: “As I probably knew even less about 20th century Greek history than Nikos and Popi at the start of the novel, I found that I was learning a lot from the book, as well as being gripped by the personal stories of Themis and her family…Those Who Are Loved is a powerful, emotional story.”

The Devil’s Slave by Tracy Borman (2019)

From my review: “I loved this book; the reservations I had about the first one (mainly the slow pace at the beginning and the story being not quite what I’d expected) were not problems this time and I was engrossed from the first page. This is such a fascinating period of history, yet being sandwiched between the end of Elizabeth I’s reign in 1603 and the Civil Wars of 1642-1651, it often tends to be overlooked. There’s so much going on in this novel…and Frances is right at the heart of it all.”

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer (1956)

From my review: “Georgette Heyer is almost always a delight to read and I found this 1956 novel, Sprig Muslin, particularly enjoyable and entertaining. Set in the Regency period she recreated so convincingly, it has all the humour, adventure and romance I expect from her work.”

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd (2019)

From my review: “What an unusual book! Not having read anything by Jess Kidd before, I didn’t know what to expect from this new Victorian mystery, but I immediately fell in love with the playful writing and imaginative plot. I knew as soon as the ghost of a tattooed boxer arose from a tomb in Highgate Cemetery that this was going to be no ordinary detective novel.”

The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor (2019)

From my review: “This series is getting better and better. We are moving further away from the time of the Great Fire now, but its effects are still being felt across London as rebuilding takes place and people try to move on with their lives…Andrew Taylor is so good at blending fact and fiction, so that the fictional events of the story feel quite plausible within the context of the period and the murder mystery fits smoothly into the history and politics of the time.”

Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie (1937)

From my review: “I really enjoyed this particular Poirot novel; I usually do tend to enjoy the ones narrated by Hastings and I wish there had been a few more of them. The real star of this book, though, has to be Bob the dog!”

The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry (2019)

From my review: “This is the second book in a new series of historical mysteries written by Ambrose Parry, a pseudonym used by husband and wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman…My main criticism of The Way of All Flesh was the weakness of the murder mystery, but I found this one much stronger…As with the first book, though, it was the medical aspect of the story that I found most interesting.”


And I want to give these books a special mention too:

The Butcher’s Daughter by Victoria Glendinning
The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby
Margaret Tudor by Melanie Clegg
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley


Have you read any of these? What are your favourite books of 2019?

22 thoughts on “My favourite books of 2019

  1. jessicabookworm says:

    Looks like a great year of reading, Helen even if there were less books that you truly loved in 2019. The only book I’ve read is Margaret Tudor by Melanie Clegg, and like you, it didn’t quite make it to my main list, but was in my special mentions. Happy reading in 2020! 😀

    • Helen says:

      I really enjoyed the Margaret Tudor book even though it didn’t make it into my main list of favourites. I’m glad you liked it too. Have a great 2020. 🙂

  2. Calmgrove says:

    Thought of you today, Helen, as I’ve just started Ariana Franklin’s The Death Maze. I note your strictures about it, but I’m intrigued enough to keep at it! Good list, I remember reading a good few of these reviews, and I hope that you get to read exactly what you want in 2020!

  3. Kathy says:

    I read the Devil’s Slave and The Conviction of Cora Burns on your recommendation and enjoyed
    both very much. I agree The Devil’s Slave was better than The King’s Witch…after being disappointed
    by The King’s Witch I wouldn’t have read The Devil’s Slave without reading your review.

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed some of my recommendations, Kathy. I was slightly disappointed by The King’s Witch too, but The Devil’s Slave was a much stronger book.

    • Helen says:

      I’ve enjoyed all of the books in that series, but I think The King’s Evil is my favourite so far. There’s a new one due out in 2020, which is something to look forward to!

  4. FictionFan says:

    The only ones I’ve read are the Christies – totally agree about how good The ABC Murders is – and the Heyer. I still intend to read the Andrew Taylor series one of these days! Glad you managed to find plenty to enjoy even if there weren’t as many outstanding ones this year. Here’s hoping 2020 is a vintage year!

    • Helen says:

      I read a lot of Christies this year and enjoyed them all, but limited myself to picking two for this list. I love Andrew Taylor’s books, so would definitely recommend that series!

  5. Alyson Woodhouse says:

    I’m glad you have still found some outstanding books, even if not as many as usual. As it happens, I’ve had quite a similar experience this year. Looking back on my notes, I have had quite a few 3 and 4 star reads, especially over the last few months, and I’m not sure whether this is because I am particularly hard to please as a reader, or if the star system doesn’t work for me, and I should try something different.

  6. buriedinprint says:

    The only one I’ve read is the Susan Cooper volume, which I hope to reread this year (and continue with the series). But that’s why I enjoy reading your list – not so much in hopes of recognizing other reads (and comparing/contrasting) but seeing the books that I haven’t been reading myself!

    • Helen says:

      I’ve read the first two books in the Susan Cooper series and enjoyed them both, so I’m hoping to read the third one, Greenwitch, soon. And yes, seeing everyone else’s end of year lists has made me aware of how many books I still haven’t read and want to!

    • Helen says:

      Yes, I started to watch the ABC Murders series and couldn’t get into it, so I read the book first, then tried watching it again and enjoyed it! Happy 2020 reading to you too. 🙂

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