Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Book Chase List: 2019 Top Ten - Fiction

2019 is already half over so it's time for me to review my reading to this point in order to determine which of the 60 books I've read so far (not all sixty meet the year-published requirement) belong on my first pass of a Best of 2019 Fiction list.  As in years past, I'm limiting the candidates to books published between October 1 of the preceding year and December 31 of the current year.  That means that there is always the possibility that a book could end up as one of my top ten picks in successive years - but that is yet to actually happen.

1.  A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by Scottish author C.A. Fletcher has so much going for it that I can't imagine it dropping far down the list in the next six months. Get this: it's a combination dystopian, coming-of-age, quest novel that (especially towards the end) throws one curve after another at the reader.  You know it's going to be special when an author asks his readers right at the beginning to avoid spoiling the book for others by blabbing too much about it online.  

2.  Hunter's Moon by Philip Caputo is going to be published on August 6, so you'll have to snag an ARC to read it now.  If you can't pull that off, just know that this one is well worth the wait.  It's a novel about Michigan's Upper Peninsula disguised as a collection of interrelated short stories that present a surprisingly violent view of life in that rather remote area of the country.  I have found that I can always count on enjoying anything new from Philip Caputo, and this is no exception.

3.  The New Iberia Blues from James Lee Burke is proof that an author's advancing age does not have to lessen the quality of his work.  Burke is 82-years-old now but you would never know that if this twenty-second Dave Robicheaux novel were your first experience with his writing. Dave Robicheaux is a Cajun, an alcoholic, a cop, and a knight in shining armor to those he's sworn to protect from the more powerful.  This is probably my favorite fiction series of all time.

4.  Speaking of favorite fiction series, Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series is very, very high on my list, too.  Dark Sacred Night is part of the Bosch series, but it is a little different in that it introduces a potentially new longterm partner for Harry, one Renée Ballard.  What starts out as a rocky relationship between the two cops, morphs into one of mutual respect by the end of the book.  Detective fiction fans who have not ready Harry Bosch yet have no idea what they are missing.  Don't be one of those people.

5.  Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver is a brilliantly constructed novel of historical fiction that uses an old house to link characters from the 19th century to a group of them from the 21st. It all happens in Vineland, New Jersey, and involves a small group of historical figures of whom very few readers will likely have heard. But that's part of the brilliance of Kingsolver's story - and it helps to make the author's fictional characters almost indistinguishable from those who lived and breathed in Vineland in the past.  It's so easy to get lost in the 19th century setting that I was always a bit reluctant to return to 21st century Vineland.

6.  Louise Penny writes another of my favorite detective series, this one featuring Montreal's Inspector Gamache, and Kingdom of the Blind is the latest in the series.  When Armand Gamache receives a letter inviting him to an abandoned farmhouse outside of Three Pines, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that an elderly stranger has named him as an executor of her will.  Armand never heard of the woman, and the bequests are so wildly unlikely that he suspects the woman must have been delusional - until a body is found, and the terms of her bizarre will are suddenly more menacing than they are confusing.

7.  Houston Noir, a collection of dark short stories from various writers, all of them set in Houston, is around the fifteenth such collection that I've read in this remarkable series from Akashic Books.  Each of the books sets its stories in one particular city or region from around the world, so I've been waiting a long time for Houston to finally get its time in the spotlight - not that the stories themselves are at all flattering.  No, these are exactly the kinds of stories a reader expects from any book with "Noir" in its title.  

That's it for now, only seven titles.  With another half of the year to go, I can't wait to see what books are added to the list, which ones drop off, and what the final order of the ultimate survivors will be.  This list is sort of like baseball's mid-season All-Star Game.


  1. Looks like you've read some great books this year. I really want to read A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World. It sounds so good. :)

    1. I enjoyed A Boy & His Dog so much that I'll be very surprised if something comes along before the end of the year that can knock it off the top of the list. But I already have some really good books in hand or on Library Hold, so who knows what will happen?

  2. I haven't read any of these. I love the Inspector Gamache series, but I'm taking it slow and savoring it, so I haven't read KINGDOM OF THE BLIND yet. A BOY AND HIS DOG sounds really good. I hadn't heard any kind of summary for it -- now I really want to read it. Thanks for the heads-up!

    1. It's encouraging to see that you haven't run into any spoilers on A Boy and His Dog. I'm hoping that means that readers are respecting the author's specific request to keep all the twists and turns of the novel to themselves. Don't let anyone ruin it for you.

      I know what you mean about the Gamache series. I always get kind of sad when I don't have one of those in the "bank" for later. What a great series that has been.