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The Top Five Books I Read in 2019

Sunday, January 5th, 2020 | Posted by Brandon Crilly

Alice Payne Rides-small The-Kingdom-of-Copper-medium Titanshade-medium

Covers by Cliff Nielsen, Unusual Corporation, and Chris McGrath

Being semi-retired from my biweekly column doesn’t mean I’m off the hook from picking my Top Five reads from 2019! *The crowd goes wild*

Like with previous years — 2016-18; see below for links — I’m focusing specifically on fiction (sorry, non-fiction books) published sometime in 2019 (sorry, amazing older books I read – especially the Broken Earth trilogy). I’m also chickening out from ranking all five and only picking my top choice, with the rest in alphabetical order.

Drumroll, please…

Alice Payne Rides by Kate Heartfield (Tor Books, 176 pages, $14.99 paperback/$3.99 digital, March 5, 2019)

Fine, I’m just one of the multitude going on and on about how amazing this time travel duology has been. Sue me. I was concerned at the end of Alice Payne Arrives that retconning some of the story and resetting its core characters (a la time travel) would turn me off, but Heartfield maintains the core of Alice, Jayne, Zuniga and the others while putting them in even more harrowing scenarios. There’s a ton of genuine peril and some neat twists on what sometimes feels like the bloated genre of time travel stories, tied together somehow with a tidy conclusion.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color, edited by Nisi Shawl (Solaris Press, 384 pages, $15.99 paperback/$6.99 digital, March 12, 2019)

There’s so much good writing in this anthology, I didn’t know where to start with my earlier review. Minsoo Kang has this incredible story told as an academic treatise about a painting depicting a major historical event. It features Rebecca Roanhorse and Darcie Little Badger, whose works are always brilliant, and a bunch of new authors that were added to my “to-follow” list. I suggest you read it and do the same.

The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager, 640 pages, $17.99 paperback/$11.99 digital, January 22, 2019)

Earlier this year I talked about how Chakraborty somehow emphasized everything I adored about the first Daevabad novel, City of Brass, and improved on everything I didn’t. This is amazing and refreshing high fantasy, and not simply because it isn’t Eurocentric worldbuilding. The characters are delightful, the stakes are high, and the choices are dramatic. I’ll warn you there’s a bit of a cliffhanger, but it’s excellent, and I am stoked to see how Chakraborty wraps up this story in 2020.

Titanshade by Dan Stout (DAW Books, 416 pages, $26 hardcover/$12.99 digital, March 12, 2019)

Disappointed by Bright? Even though I enjoyed it, Titanshade is the story Bright should have been. Stout provides this fascinating, pseudo-dieselpunk world populated by unique creatures instead of orcs and elves. It has everything I loved about Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys without the problematic bits, centered on truly engaging and dynamic characters. And I just found out we’ll be getting a sequel in April 2020!

New Suns Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color-small A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy-big-medium

Covers by Yoshi Yoshitani and Lisa Marie Pompilio

TOP PICK FOR 2019: A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White (Orbit, 544 pages, $15.99 paperback/$9.99 digital, December 11, 2018)

It’s like Alex investigated my soul and made a series from everything I love. Fun, action-packed space opera, PLUS a multi-layered and diverse magic system, PLUS god-like beings trying to destroy the galaxy, PLUS a found family made of broken people who fit each other like glue? Get the hells out of here, Alex. I cry foul, while I wait *patiently* for Book Three.

Happy New Year, fellow readers and writers! I’ll be poking in here periodically through 2020 with new reviews and interviews. If you want to recommend a title, give me a shout on Twitter or through my website (see below).

My previous Top Five/Ten lists include:

The Top Ten Books I Read in 2016
The Top Five Books I Read in 2017
The Top Five Books I Read in 2018

Until next time!


An Ottawa teacher by day, Brandon has been published in On SpecPulp Literature, Electric Athenaeum, and elsewhere. You can follow Brandon at brandoncrilly.wordpress.com or on Twitter: @B_CrillyHis latest publication is “Exactly What You Need” in The Best of Abyss & Apex: Volume 3available now! He also talks fandom on “Broadcasts from the Wasteland,” with co-host Evan May and feature guests like Kelly Robson, Marie Bilodeau, Kevin Hearne, and Amal El-Mohtar. Check it out here: broadcastsfromthewasteland.com

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