Joe’s Favorite Books of 2019

Purposefully, I kept my reading goal lower this year. I wanted to focus on reading for quality instead of for quantity. That said, I hit my Goodreads goal of 50 books last week, as opposed to my goal of 75 for 2018. I would love to shoot for 100 books in a year, but I am not a fast reader, and I have a lot of other things going on in my life that tend to fill my time.

This year I read a mix of graphic novels, horror novels, short stories, books on software engineering, and reference books on typography (I’ll talk more about my interest in typography in a later post). Here are my top 7 favorite books that I had the privilege to read this year, in no particular order:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Cover for We Have Always lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson was an amazing writer. This year I went back and re-read her short story, The Lottery, for the first time since high school, and that was a real experience. I remember that I didn’t think much of it at the time. But, now that I have really dove into the horror genre and come back around, it was an eye opener. Ever word, ever line in that story has purpose. The same can be said of this novel.

This one is a much different beast than her more popular novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Throughout, there is an uneasy feeling, you never know if the main character, Merricat, is telling the truth or hiding something from the reader. If you have not yet experienced this one, do be sure to check it out. This is an important part of, not only horror lit, but also of American lit.

My Review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Cover for My Best Friend’s Exorcism

The next book on my list is a more current book. It came out a couple years ago, but, as I mentioned before, I’m a slow reader and it took me awhile to get to it. I’m only a little distraught that I didn’t get to it sooner.

This was my very first book by Grady Hendrix, and it was wonderful. The first chapters build up a wholesome friendship that you wish would last forever. But the story has other plans for these girls. Definitely grab a copy of this one if you are into the current 80s horror throwbacks flooding Netflix.

My review of My Best Friend’s Exorcism

Wounds: Six Stories from the Borders of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud

Joe Reviews Wounds by Nathan Ballingrud

This was by far my favorite read of the year. Holy Sheboygan! This is an awesome book! I had been waiting for this one to come out for quite awhile, and I am honored to have a signed copy. I first came across Nathan’s work in the first Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthology edited by Laird Barron a few years back. The short story, Atlas to Hell, was in there and I was hooked. When I heard that this collection would contain a new story set in the same universe I started frothing at the mouth.

That story, The Butcher’s Table, was a creative eye opener for me. It was proof that it is possible to take stories in directions that I never would’ve thought possible before. The other stories in the collection are amazing as well, but the finale of The Butcher’s Table will blow your mind. Run, don’t walk, to the store and secure a copy today! Like, right now! Why are you still sitting there?

My review of Wounds

Sefira: and Other Betrayals by John Langan

Sefira book cover

Another wonderful collection, and this one came out this year! If you’ve yet to read John Langan this is a wonderful place to start. The title story in this collection is flippin’ horrifying. I loved it! If you like this one, be sure to check out his novel, The Fisherman.

Blood Standard by Laird Barron

Blood Standard by Laird Barron

If you’ve been following my blog for any period of time, you know that Laird is one of my very favorite authors. He is the fella that introduced me to modern horror. Way back in the day, when I worked at Barnes and Noble I came across his first collection, The Imago Sequence. This was a formative work for me. Before this I had only a little horror: Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and some Lovecraft. This was completely different from those. It had the cosmic dread of Lovecraft but ramped up to eleven. And it the voice was something I could sink my teeth into. It wasn’t overly flamboyant, and it was elevated above the comfortable tone of King. I loved it and was hooked. That book ignited my interest in reading and writing horror.

This book isn’t horror. Laird has delved into crime fiction with this new novel. I was reluctant to try it. But reviewers in horror circles still were satisfied with Laird’s new book, as was I once I ordered a copy. Yes, this is not horror fiction, but it still carries Laird’s personal style, and I highly recommend it to, not only his horror fans, but also to those who usually steer clear of horror.

My review of Blood Standard

Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors by Livia Llewellyn

Cover for Engines of Desire

Oh my. Livia’s fiction is something to experience. ‘Transgressive’ doesn’t even start to describe the subjects of her work. I highly recommend giving any of her work a try. But, a heads up, she writes both erotica and horror, both of which always end up extremely dark.

Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti

Cover for Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti

Thomas Ligotti is one of the best horror writers living today. I don’t think he’s everyone’s cup of tea, but I love his work. It is always extremely dark and unsettling, sometimes in subtle ways. He has an odd obsession with clowns, isolation, corporate control of individuals and society, and the lives of artists. I’ve never come across anything else quite like the fiction of Thomas Ligotti.

And that’s it! Those were my favorite 7 books that I read in 2019, in no particular order. Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below. Did you have any favorite horror reads for the year?


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