The 2019 reading list

My fifty-ish books of the year

As with last year, fifty books that I read in 2019 that I would gleefully recommend.

I’ve tried to organise them by why I would recommend them, to scramble the genres a bit (and, let’s be fair, to save me the effort of writing fifty individual reviews).

A * means “If you threatened my cat and made me choose my five favourite books, you’d be a genuinely terrible person - who threatens a cat?! -, but this is one of those books. Now put Peep down, you monster. Oh, did she scratch you? Serves you right. I hope that hurt. Enjoy the book!”

For learning how to be sneaky

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

Beyond This Point are Monsters by Margaret Millar

The Thomas Berryman Number by James Patterson

Go, Lovely Rose by Jean Potts

The Cold War Swap by Ross Thomas

For freaking yourself out

When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom

The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin*

We All Fall Down by Daniel Kalla

Death of a Nationalist by Rebecca Pawel

For feeling a bit smarter

Culture and Environment by FR Leavis and Denys Thompson

Kill All Normies by Angela Nagle

Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard

For discovering new authors

For getting lost in time

Faro’s Daughter and Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer

The Essex Sisters by Eloisa James

A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

For sharing with iguanodons and other tiny creatures

The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

For inspiration and admiration

In the Heat of the Night by John Dudley Ball*

On Grand Strategy by John Gaddis

The Gameshouse by Claire North

Baghdad Burning by Riverbend

For wanting to read a great big hug

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Ten Blind Dates by Ashley Elston

The Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth

For admiring clever people

The Fabulous Clipjoint by Fredric Brown

Florentine Finish by Cornelius Hirschberg

Ra by qntm

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kellerman

For escaping it all

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole

The Pastel City by M John Harrison

Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern*


I contributed to’s annual Reviewers’ Choice. You’ll see some familiar names on that list.

Also, a reading guide to one of my favourite authors: K.J. Parker. I was joking on Twitter that ‘making it’ as a reviewer means being asked, every other year, to write an intro to K.J. Parker. And in the alternate years? China Miéville. No complaints here.

I was at Oxford Brookes, lecturing to some (very bright and extremely chatty) undergrads about ‘visual storytelling’ - specifically in advertising. With no explanation given, here’s the playlist I used. Print got into the mix as well, with examples from Stella, KFC, Lucky Strikes, and the Necronomicon.

And, of course, I would be remiss to leave off my very favourite books of 2019: The Outcast Hours and The Best of British Fantasy. Excellent presents for the whole family.

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