2019 in review: top 5 books of 2019

Welcome to 2019 in review episode 2! There was no way for me to decide which of these was my favourite, so instead of pitting my favourite books together, here are my favourite books of the year!

Perfume by Patrick Süskind

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This book was one that took me a long time to read, but I like to think that I was simply savouring its deliciousness. It was definitely worth it when I finished it, and I gave it 5 stars.

Perfume is a modern classic which was published by the German author Patrick Süskind in 1985. It is set in 18th Century France and follows the story of Grenouille, a man with an amazing sense of smell who feels apart from society. It follows him as he escapes the smells of the city to explore the world of scents, which eventually leads him to becoming a rather horrific murder in the name of creating the ‘ultimate perfume’.

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Grenouille is undeniably a disgusting and twisted character, who is completely unaware of the fact, which is at once interesting and even more horrifying. The story is told from his perspective: he is the protagonist, and so you feel compelled to sympathise with him, understand him, even as you are revolted and reviled by what he is doing. It is, at times, rather uncomfortable to read, but every second is worth it and Süskind has managed to give us a beautifully crafter insight into the mind of the unashamedly depraved (with a side of beautiful description and information about perfume making).

The Royal Tutor by Higasa Aki

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On a more light-hearted note, say hello to my new favourite manga series! I swithered between picking this one or Black Butler, as I gave both 4 stars (highly unusual for a manga), I read more of this series (the first 3 volumes) so I ended up picking this one.

The Royal Tutor is a manga series by the Japanese artist and illustrator Higasa Akai, the first volume of which was originally published in 2014. The story is set in a fictional country, most likely inspired by a 17th/18th Century Austria-esque country, and follows the genius Heine Wittgenstein, who is enlisted by the King to teach the four princes.

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The characters were the stars of this story: each of the four princes has a distinct and vibrant personality, and Heine himself is full of fire, defying his tiny size to prove an unstoppable force. Beyond this, both the complexity and richness of family and teacher-student relationships are thoughtfully explored. The story is light-hearted and funny, and the art is adorable, but Akai also addresses many issues faced by young people, and how the right teacher can change a child’s life, adding a level of depth that makes this my favourite manga series to date.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

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This is a book that people seem to either love or hate, and I am definitely one of the former. I started reading it at work, almost cried, bought it during my lunch break and finished it the same day. Any book which manages to drive me to tears at work is definitely worthy of 5 stars.

The Sun and Her Flower is a book of verse by Canadian writer and artist Rupi Kaur and was published in 2017. Kaur is the daughter of immigrant parents, and in this book she discusses what that means, the lessons she has learnt from her mother, and the lessons she had to learn for herself. The book is not a collection of poems, nor is it a continuous narrative told in verse, but something in between. A collection of poems, many of which alone would have little impact, but when as part of a collective form a bigger picture like strokes of paint in a painting.

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Whilst the poems about self-love, finding oneself, and sexual harassment were interesting and contributed wonderfully to the overall impression of the book, it was the poems about the narrator’s relationship with her mother that almost made me cry, perhaps because I saw some of my own relationship with my mother reflected in that. This is the type of book that you will want to call your mum after reading and thank her for everything she has done for you (unless she hasn’t, in which case I am sorry, please call someone who has). You can read my full review for this book here.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

This play was one I hd ot red for my English Lit. class and has become my favourite play of all time (it shares the position with Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing). Obviously, I gave it 5 stars.

The play was written by American playwright Tennessee Williams in 1947, and in contrast to much of post-war American plays, exposes many of the domestic issues in the US as it takes us on a journey through the dramatic life of Blanche. The story starts with Blanche moving to live with her sister, Stella, and her sister’s husband, Stanley, in New Orleans. Blanche is very out of pace in her new environment and slowly, the truth of why she has come to the city is exposed. Nothing is as it seems about Blanche, and Stanley hates her. But Stanley is no hero either.

There are no good characters. There are no completely evil characters, but no good characters either. Perhaps that is what I loved most about this book. I expect to sympathise with Blanche, especially after some the things she has experienced (no spoilers here!), but I just can’t. And I don’t mind: I love the story even more for it, which is unusual for me. I think it’s because Williams makes me care about the characters and what happens to them without making me feel sympathy for them. I don’t know how he accomplishes it, but this play truly is a masterpiece of plot and writing, too.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

This was my first proper introduction to both Haruki Murakami and Japanese literature and I have never looked back. I had read a single Murakami short-story prior to this (Birthday Girl), but this was where my newfound love for Japanese literature, and specifically Murakami, began.

After Dark is a novel written by contemporary Japanese author Haruki Murakami and was originally published in 2004. It is one of his less famous ones, but I loved it. It follows two sisters in the middle of the night: Eri, who is sleeping herself into oblivion, and Mari who starts out in a cafe and finds herself wrapped up in the lives of people very different to herself, from jazz trombonists with important life lessons to bestow, to Chinese prostitutes who need her help.

This book has combines the magical realism and contemporary of Murakami’s writing. Eri’s story with a magical mystique that is both sinister and wonderful, whilst the stark and sometimes brutal realism of Mari’s chapters jolts the reader back to reality. This contrast works particularly well in allowing Murakami to explore a variety of huge questions about life, but also reflects the clear differences between glamourous model Eri and book-reading, cigarette-smoking Mari. The writing style feels as if we are behind the camera filming a TV show, focus shifted by the lens of the camera, taken where the director pleases, and this only adds to the sense that we are observing real people. Quiet, listening, watching, as they go about their lives: it’s the best kind of people watching.

And that’s all I have for today!! Don’t forget to talk to me in the comments, I would love to know what you thought of these books!

  • Have you read any of these books? Did you like them as much as I did?
  • What were your favourite books of 2019?

Please recommend your favourite books of the year, or leave a link to your own post below and I’ll be sure to check them out!!

2019 in review: reading stats

Hello everyone! It’s been so long- over 6 months!!! Apologies for the impromptu, unannounced hiatus: coursework kind of took over my life, I wasn’t really reading, and I didn’t really have time to blog. Now, though, most of my coursework is finished and I only have exams left, so I can resume regularly schedule, and hopefully improved, programming! Starting with wrapping up and updating you on the little reading I did manage to do in 2019.

Today, I will be running through some stats (which I love) and later (probably later today, because I’m trying to get these wrap up posts out quickly so we can move onto looking at the future) I will tell you all about my favourite books as well!

Without further ado, here we go!


So my reading goal this year was to read 30 books, which isn’t that many but 2018 and 2019 have been very off reading years, so I set my goal pretty low. I also managed to achieve my goal (just), which is very exciting!

I know people have mixed feelings about statistics, but apart from giving me an excuse to learn new things about how to use Excel (learnt how to use =COUNTIF this year which was exciting), I also think they give an interesting insight into my reading year!

So, firstly lets have a look at how long my books were!

Considering I did read 30 books, I didn’t read very many pages at all! This is reflected in my average length: 174 pages! I read a couple of picture books, a fair bit of manga and some plays, all of which probably brought down this average.

As you can see in the graph, I did read a couple of longer books, but most of the books I read were in the 120-150 range and then I read quite a below that as well! I’m not too upset about this, but it does mean that I definitely haven’t been focusing on my reading if I only managed 30 books when they were so short (but I already knew that, so nothing new here)!

Next, let’s check out when the books were published!

A lot of people try to read diverse books in terms of representation of different people, but I have been trying to read books from a diverse range of time periods and countries, so this statistic is a bit more important to me than the one about page count. What I am happy to see is that there is quite a good spread! I read quite a few books published before the 1990s, which I’m happy about as I have tended to do pretty badly on that front in previous years. I did read more books than I expected from 2019 as I really didn’t keep up with new releases, but I think 3 of them were picture books I happened to pick up at work when it was quiet (I work in a bookshop, if you didn’t know), and at least one other was a book I got for review.

I already mentioned that apart from publication year, author nationality is one of the stats I am most interested in. I think a lot of us read mostly US authors, with some UK authors as well (perhaps those of us based in the UK more than others because those publications are more available to us), and I wanted to make a concerted effort to read books from people of other countries. A lot of people try to read books by people of colour etc. because: representation (which I totally support), but I wanted to look at representation of different cultures from around the world. You can learn so much by reading from another cultural perspective!

So like I expected, most of the books I read came from the US or the UK (13 total). However, surprisingly the single country from which I read the most books was Japan! I’ve been really interested in Japanese fiction recently, but that has mostly resulted in me buying a lot of books and not yet reading them, so I don’t think that really explains this statistic, nor does the fact that I went to Japan. What really explains it is the fact that I read quite a bit of manga, because they are quick and easy to read! I also read one book each from Germany, Denmark, Kenya, Canada and Switzerland. It’s nice to see a little bit of African literature and some other European literature seeping in, but I think we can do better!

Now let’s take a look at genre.

At first I was quite surprised by this! I only read 2 non-fiction books, but it felt like a lot more. I certainly bought a lot more and got very interested in reading the genre through a combination of working in the non-fiction section at work, and doing research for some papers I was writing over the summer. Then I realised that whilst writing those papers I was just skimming through books to find relevant pages, so none of them were actually read, which would explain why I read so much more fiction than non-fiction in 2019, continuing the trend of previous years before I became more interested in non-fiction.

So, like I mentioned: I read a lot of Graphic Novels/Comics/Manga this year- they made up over 1/3 of my total reading. Apart from that, my biggest section was actually plays, probably because I had to read a lot of them for my English Lit. class. However, I also read quite a few classics this year. Although this graph only shows 10% classics, most of the plays I read were also classics, so it is probably more along the lines of almost 1/3 of my reading being classics! This never happens, and whilst it is exciting, is probably more of reflection of how little I read outside of my academic requirements this year. This is also reflected in how little Fantasy I read, as well as General Fiction (incl. contemporary, literary fiction etc.). One thing I did improve this year was reading less romance books, which I am happy about as I tend to find those books mediocre!

Penultimate stat!!!! We’re almost there. I try to read a books from a variety of demographics, and I also think it is interesting to see how my reading shifts as I get older (I turned 18 in December guys… that counts as getting old… right? Haha, just kidding, but anyway.)

So, it is pretty clear to see that most of my reading (in fact, slightly over 50%) was adult books this year! This was again likely highly influenced by the amount of reading I did for my English and German classes. The 3 children books are thanks to the picture books I read at work that one time, and I think most of the teen and New Adult and half of the YA comes from Manga, which I didn’t really know how to place, but did my best.

And now, perhaps the most clear indication of how good my reading year was! Although things like diversity and how much I read are important, I think the MOST important indicator of how my reading went was how much I liked what I read! That’s right, todays final statistic is going to be RATINGS.

So, I added a little look at how popular the books I read were: looks like I read some more obscure books this year (I mean only 7 people marked Stories as read!!!)

As for the actual point of this section…. 3.5 is a pretty average rating for me, I would say! I do try and be fairly critical about my books, but equally I don’t rate books that I DNF, so any books I give 2 stars I probably only finished for a class, and I don’t really have 1 star books because I just don’t finish them and therefore don’t rate them.

Fairly predictably, and potentially due to the number of manga, picture books and graphic novels I read (which struggle to get higher than 3 stars), almost 50% of my ratings this year were 3 stars. 4 were 2 stars, including a couple of books I had to read for school. I don’t like doing ‘least favourite books’ posts, but just to be controversial: one of them was Othello, and I actually gave it 1 star until we discussed it in my English class, which made me appreciate it enough to bump it up to 2 stars (I know, so much right?) On a more positive notes, I also gave 4 books 5 stars and found some new favourites this year!

And that’s all! Thank you for reading despite my EXTENDED absence and I hope you stick with me as I regrow this blog! In the meantime…. here are some questions for you (please leave me a comment with your answers and we can discuss all things bookish!):

  • Would you be interested in participating in a kind of international reading challenge if hosted one?
  • Do you tend to rate books more leniently or more harshly?

Also feel free to share some observations or stats about your own reading in 2019 either by leaving a comment below or sending me a link to your own blog post, and I’ll be sure to check them out!

Happy reading,

Keira x.


Hey guys! I promise I haven’t given up on the whole posting-every-day-in-December thing, but this post took ages to put together… sorry! I wasn’t sure how long to make this list, so I asked you guys on Twitter and most of you said top 50 so that’s what I went with. Enjoy ❤

Continue reading KEIRA’S TOP 50 K-POP TITLE TRACKS OF 2018