The Top 12 List of the Best Fiction I Have Read in 2019

Now that you have all been overstuffed by the glut of ‘Best of Year’ lists of late, I am here to offer you the list of my twelve favorite fiction reads of 2019.

This year I did things a little differently. In other years I have limited my favorite reads to include only fictions written since 2000, because I did not want the vulnerable new works to be overshadowed by old classics that I chose to read or re-read. However this year the older works which I most enjoyed are quite obscure and I do wish to highlight them so I am including them in my Top 12 list. As always the works are arranged in most favorite to 12th most favorite order.

‘Arturo’s Island’ by Elsa Morante (1957) – It is a beautifully written moving one-of-a-kind novel. Although there are clues that ‘Arturo’s Island’ takes place after World War II, the story seems to occur outside of time in a place of legend, of myth. Elsa Morante has captured an isolated world on this remote island of Procida and she brings back meanings that apply to us all. I won’t forget this one.

‘A Season in the Life of Emmanuel’ by Marie-Claire Blais (1966) – Here is an original spirited black humor novel about family life on the farm. The novel does to the farm family what Joseph Heller did to World War II in Catch-22. No writer makes outrageous fun of farm families anymore. I suppose why this novel struck such a chord with me is that it brought back memories of my own childhood and teenage days on the farm, but the novel is great anyway. Take my word for it.

All for Nothing’ by Walter Kempowski (2006) – All For Nothing’ is a magnificent atmospheric novel of the last months of World War II from the point of view of the East Prussian Von Globig family, Their estate is peaceful at the start, but they can hear the distant shelling of the Russian infantry advancing farther and farther into Germany. The near-rural setting is almost idyllic but the tension builds gradually as the shelling gets louder and closer each day. The question is: When should they evacuate?

The Long Take’ by Robin Robertson (2018) – ‘The Long Take’ is a narrative poem with evocative imagery that captures both the horrors of war as well as the crazed free spirit of Los Angeles after the war. Alongside the skid rows and the seedy sections of Los Angeles, the movie makers are filming the classic noir movies: ‘Night and the City’, ‘He Walked by Night’, ‘The Big Combo’, etc., etc.

Night Boat to Tangier’ by Kevin Barry (2019) – ‘Night Boat to Tangier’ is the story of two fading Irish gangsters, best friends, in their early fifties, Maurice and Charlie. Charlie has a severe limp; Maurice has lost one of his eyes. Maurice and Charlie started dealing dope in high school. I fully expect this one will be a movie soon.



‘Disappearing Earth’ by Julia Phillips (2019) – Two young girls disappear on the remote Russian peninsula of Kamchatka. Julia Phillips totally captures the spirit and the emotions of these people in this remote place so that this reader felt they could be living next door to him.




‘A Different Drummer’ by William Melvin Kelley (1962) – Here is a major rediscovery, a novel that has been totally neglected for decades. It is written in the open magnanimous humorous spirit of Mark Twain.





Normal People’ by Sally Rooney (2019) – In short declarative sentences, Sally Rooney gets the reader to care about these two Irish high school seniors, Marianne and Connell, who break up only to make up time and time again. Marianne is the smartest person in school but has no friends; Connell is a very popular star of the football team.



‘Olive, Again’ by Elizabeth Strout (2019) – Olive Kitteridge of the small town of Crosby, Maine is getting old but she is still a lively character who gets around town. She remarries at age 70. Having an old person near the center of your stories means you can deal with both life and death in them.



‘A Ladder to the Sky’ by John Boyne (2018) – A Ladder to the Sky’ is a captivating jaunty thriller about wicked literary politics. Our sole resourceful villain is one Maurice Swift, a man of limited talent who will stop at nothing to write a prize-winning literary novel. The hardest task for the talent-less is coming up with those succeeding novels after that first success.


‘Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’ by Olga Tokarczuk (2009) – This is a novel about an old woman who has a love and passion for justice for animals, even the smallest creatures. She absolutely detests the killing of animals, especially by hunters. I can think of no other novel in which the main character’s reaction to events is so fierce and sharp.


‘The Tartar Steppe’ by Dino Buzzati (1940) – ‘The Tartar Steppe’ follows the life of a young soldier in such a clear and precise manner that it is as though it were etched in stone rather than written. It is about a soldier’s life, but its theme of time passing is universal. Life happened while we were waiting, and the years and decades went by before we knew it.


Happy Reading !



8 responses to this post.

  1. Well, since I only have one of these on the TBR, you have just added 11 to my wishlist!
    Best wishes for the festive season:)

    Liked by 1 person


  2. It’s List Season! I enjoyed reading yours – and your review has given me courage to order the Olga T novel, I’ve been dithering over this one. Happy reading and I hope there’s a huge pile of gift wrapped books under your Christmas tree.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. I always enjoy reading these end-of-the-year lists.

    Thanks for sharing yours and happy holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person


  4. I really *must* read The Tartar Steppe! 😁

    Liked by 1 person


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