Staff Picks: Best of 2019

Illustration of a book above the text "Best of 2019"

Alachua County Library District workers share their favorite works from 2019. Check out their selections for fiction, nonfiction, young adult and children's books, plus a few films. 


Alien Echo by Mira Grant - Mira Grant’s entry into the Alien series blew my mind. – Sara Peden

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore – This historical romance highlights the fight for women’s rights and the power of personal growth. – Carolyn WallaceImage of a book cover featuring a man walking in the ran in the dark under an umbrella.

The Plotters by Kim, On-su translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell - A thrilling page-turner set in Seoul that features high-intensity set pieces, a remarkable plot, and an assassin protagonist who is hard to like, this translation from the Korean novel is a compelling read. – Marlin Day

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir - The best character-focused writing of the year – maybe even of the decade. The two primary characters leap off the page into your head. Their internal conflict and mutual conflict with each other and their situation propel the story in unexpected ways. – Laura Clemmons

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper. A laugh-out-loud funny dark comedy that is charming and uplifting about an Englishman whose job is to sift through the lives of people who have died alone. – Marlin Day

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry – An entertaining and gory post-apocalyptic twist on the classic Red Riding Hood fairytale. It’s a horror story where you’re not wondering how the main character somehow survived past chapter two because she’s intelligent and makes all the right moves. It’s so good! – Alora Cummings

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass – A very enjoyable fantasy about magic users coming into their own and finding a way to survive in a world that wants them dead. An Excellent con/heist story with lots of political intrigue and danger. – Laura Clemmons

Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor – Jodi’s humor and her characters’ abilities to get in trouble are a great way to unwind after a long day’s work. Once you start reading this book, you will want to finish the series. – Caroline Huguet

Well Met by Jen DeLuca - This witty romantic comedy will have you shouting Huzzah! and volunteering for the nearest Renaissance festival. – Rachel Moore

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal. A familiar plot with a different setting, this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan was a fun read. – Renee Patterson


The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande – Compelling nonfiction about the history of using checklists and the way they help improve results and get us humans to do things better. – Cindy Dorfeld Bruckman

Me by Elton John - Elton John’s candor and sense of humor, as displayed in Me, helped me gain a whole new level of respect for him, not only as a musician but as a person. – Heather Lawless

The Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg – An interesting intelligent man with an amazing story. Well written and heartfelt. Several times throughout I had tears in my eyes. – Demaris Hill

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo – An incredible journalistic feat, Taddeo follows three American women’s journeys through desire, judgment, love, and power. – Rachel Cook

Young Adult

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys - Ruta Sepetys writes a well-researched, masterful story of a dark time in Madrid’s history through the eyes of a young photojournalist. I loved how she weaves the characters together and tells about an unforgettable time in history that is only beginning to come to light. – Courtney EvansBook cover featuring an illustration of two young men looking into the distance.

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell – This sequel to the book Carry On follows Simon Snow and Baz Grimm-pitch two wizards on a road trip in America. It’s a lovely “coming of age” story with lots of twists and turns and little bit of kissing. – Becca Smith

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks – This graphic novel follows two characters who work in a pumpkin patch as they work their last and final shift ever at the patch. It’s heartwarming and lovely and will make your mouth water with the amount of delicious food drawn on the pages. – Becca Smith


Bloom Boom by April Pulley Sayre - Vibrant and beautiful illustrations in nature and gardens. December/January is thebest time to plant the blooms you want to see arrive in the spring. – Diana Blitch

Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer - While taking a walk through his neighborhood, Daniel notices he’s greeted with the saying, “Have a good day.” So, Daniel asks the people he meets what ingredients make a good day for them. Great message of diversity, gratitude and understanding others’ points of view. – Susan Wright

My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero - Daisy feels joy and a connection to her L.A. hometown while she rides on the back of her father’s motorcycle wearing her unicorn helmet. This heart-warming tale celebrates familial love and community and includes speech balloons with Spanish phrases. – Susan Wright

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad - It’s younger sister’s first day to wear a hijab to school and her older sister provides a watchful eye and support as she is accepted by some children and bullied by others. Regardless, both sisters have great pride and respect for the hijab. A perfect match of words, emotions and illustrations. – Susan Wright

Movies/TV ShowsMovie poster featuring a photo of the author Toni Morrison.

Booksmart – This film is an entertaining, sympathetic look at high school students, riffing on some familiar tropes without falling dependent upon them. Playful soundtrack and camera work; fine acting; fun dialogue! – Sarah Ingley

The Farewell – Lulu Wang’s story of family and culture is wonderfully adapted to cinematic form with a quietly hilarious lead performance by Awkwafina. – Rachel Cook

Kingdom – Beautifully made Korean period drama with zombies. Possibly my favorite watch this year – Sara Peden

NOS4A2 – High-quality Stephen King-esque adaptation of Joe Hill’s book. – Sara Peden

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. - This is a brilliant documentary film.  It exposes ardent fans, as well as novice readers, to the real woman behind the elegant stories she told. – DH Johnson

Posted by RachelC on December 18, 2019