2019 Reading Year in Review

So many books, so few read


A rare visit to a bookstore in 2019 – in this instance, Bookingham Palace at Chester Indoor Market.

2019 has been one of my least successful reading years for a variety of reasons, all of which I have discussed at length in earlier posts. I was able only to marginally reduce my monstrous TBR mountain (in fact, it probably grew somewhat as the months progressed), and I became desperately behind schedule with reviews and features.

Viewing the past twelve months from a slightly less critical perspective – one in which the quality of books read takes precedence over the quantity devoured – I was at least able to tackle several titles on The Classics Club list, and I also took part in a handful of exciting challenges (albeit in a limited way), which enabled me to read:

I attempted the ever-popular 20 Books of Summer for the first time, aiming only to complete 10 books on the list between 3rd June and 3rd September. Sadly, I missed my goal by two.

The very first Wales Readathon (aka Dewithon 2019) was far more successful than I ever could have hoped, thanks mainly to all of those who threw themselves into the challenge with such gusto. The book chosen for the official readalong was The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp by W.H. Davies, which was read and discussed over a five-week period, plus there were fabulous posts from all corners of the book blogosphere pertaining to the writers and literature of Wales. I hope everyone will join me once again for the next Wales Readathon in March 2020.

Another bright spot in the year was the commencement of Tove Trove, my latest open reading project, arranged to tie-in with what would have been Tove Jansson’s 105th birthday on 9th August. I shared in a post my hopes of building a library of books written by and about this remarkable author – creator of the Moomins – and was instantly inundated with declarations of love for a woman who remains (arguably) Finland’s most famous export.

The release in September of The Testaments, Margaret’s Atwood’s much-hyped sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, was immensely exciting – especially as I was able to read it on the beach in Northern Cyprus (I travelled there the day following publication). I have long admired the author’s work but harboured reservations over the likelihood of her living up to readers’ media-stoked expectations. Could she hold her nerve and match the success of her classic dystopian novel? The answer was a big fat yes! What’s more, she did it with wit, intellect and perspicacity.

Looking ahead to 2020, I have booked a room in Hay-on-Wye from 23rd to 31st May, which means I will be able to attend a variety of happenings at Hay Fest from day three until the end. I have thus far obtained Early Bird tickets to see Ali Smith and Hilary Mantel, so I’m already buzzing with anticipation. Look out for my daily Hay Happenings during the event.

Finally, here is a brief breakdown of books I enjoyed reading this year (rather shorter than usual, I’m afraid):


Autobiography/Memoir: Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908) by W.H. Davies

Biography: Into the Wild (1996) by Jon Krakauer

Children’s Fiction: Moominsummer Madness (1954) by Tove Jannson

Contemporary: The Museum of Modern Love (2018) by Heather Rose

LGBTQ+: In the Dream House: A Memoir (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado

Literary Fiction: The Millstone (1965) by Margaret Drabble

Mystery/Thriller: My Cousin Rachel (1951) by Daphne du Maurier

Sci-Fi/Speculative Fiction: The Testaments (2019) by Margaret Atwood

Short Fiction: Public library and other stories (2015) by Ali Smith

Translation: A Nail, A Rose (1985) by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

Women’s Fiction: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008) by Mary Ann Shaffer


Intimate Ties: Two Novellas (1911) by Robert Musil


My overall book of the year is, perhaps unsurprisingly, The Testaments (2019) by Margaret Atwood.

May I take this opportunity to wish all my book blogging buddies and followers a very happy New Year!

Dewithon Logo Daffs


Categories: Features

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27 replies

  1. My Cousin Rachel is far more complex than Rebecca as a character study. Excellent choice.

  2. My Cousin Rachel is one of my favourite du Mauriers. Hope you have a better year ahead.

  3. Glad you enjoyed them.

  4. I can only echo the praise for “My Cousin Rachel.”

  5. Love this roundup of your year Paula. You may not have read so much this year, but the important thing is that you both got to the end of it and can hopefully, look to a better year next one.

    I’m so glad to see The museum of modern love on your special reads list!

  6. Well, you may not have reviewed as many titles as you wanted but I am always grateful for your Winding Up the Week posts, so thank you.

    Lovely to have bookish events to look forward to and the Hay Fest sounds excellent.

    Cheers to more reading in 2020.

  7. I love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! I’ve read it twice. The last time, as I read the final page, I seriously considered flipping back to the beginning and starting all over again.:)

  8. Happy New Year to you and yours, Paula!

    Your post heading could apply to me too, because I don’t seem to have reduced the stacks at all despite my best efforts. But I *have* read some corkers over the year so I don’t mind too much. Time to thin the pending piles though, I think…

    • To you, too, Kaggsy! 🥳🥂🤗

      Well, all I can say is that your reading rate never ceases to impress me. All those doorstops! You’re amazing! 😲📚

      Enjoy the corkers to come and see you in 2020! 🎆

  9. I think you’ve been amazing, Paula, to have covered as much as you have this year. Thank you for all your posts and links 🙂 I had wondered if there would be another readathon this year – delighted to know that there will be!

    Wishing you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2020. Blydhen nowydh da!

    • Thank you so much, Sandra. I’m so pleased you’ll be Dewithoning again next year. I must begin hatching plans in the New Year. 😃

      All the very best to you and yours in 2020. I hope it’s everything you want it to be. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! 🤗

  10. Da iawn i ti, Paula, I know it’s not been easy and you know we all understand. I’ve enjoyed this review, revisiting the highlights of the bookish year, and especially the reminder of Dewithon which I’m again looking forward to. But for now, Blwyddyn Newydd Dda to you both! 🙂

  11. Yes, by all means, the less critical approach! What a fine lot of books you’ve read. And of course I share your enthusiasm for your selection of your book-of-the-year!

  12. Beautiful post, Paula! Glad to know that you read many wonderful books last year! So wonderful to see Margaret Drabble’s The Millstone in your favourites list! That is one of my favourite books! Hope you have a wonderful reading year in 2020 too!


  1. Alba’s 2019 Favorites..♥ – Alba and Her Secrets..♥
  2. #Winding Up the Week #102 – Book Jotter

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