Reading List: Powell's Books staff's best books of 2019

It’s up! Powell’s just posted their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2019! Since it has become an annual tradition of mine to crunch the numbers* on the staff picks, I couldn’t resist doing it again this year. (Click any of these to see previous years’ posts: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.)

The results are in. Below is the consensus top ten list of the books most mentioned in individual lists. Presented in order of most to least total points, the top ten highest rated books of 2019 according to the staff at Powell’s Books (in Portland, Oregon) are:

(Links below take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate.)

  1. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (memoir)
  2. Lanny by Max Porter (lit fic)
  3. Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer (sci-fi graphic novel)
  4. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (fantasy)
  5. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (lit fic)
  6. Mother Winter by Sophia Shalmiyev (memoir)
  7. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki (contemporary fiction graphic novel)
  8. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (non-fiction)
  9. The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (lit fic)
  10. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden (memoir)

The thing that surprised me most about this year’s list is that Sorcery of Thorns landed on it, and ended up in the #4 spot. I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed reviews about this one from BookTubers and elsewhere online. Now I’m even more curious to read this for myself. It is the only one on this list that was already on my TBR.

Least surprising were the number of memoirs on the list. I’ve come to expect interesting memoirs to be top picks from the staff at Powell’s. But, after last year, I’ve really started trusting their taste in memoirs. Some of my favorite non-fiction books I read in 2019 were memoirs recommended by Powell’s staff.

If you want to add these books to your TBR, I’ve added them to a Goodreads shelf called PowellsBestof2019. If you do add any to your TBR, let me know in the comments which you plan to read. Alternatively, if you have already read any of these, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments.

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. So I capped the list at ten books.

Disclaimer: I don’t work at Powell’s Bookstore. I have no financial affiliation to Powell’s Bookstore. I get no money from doing this post. I only do this because I have a tendency to like the books their staff recommends and because I like top five lists and crunching numbers. Enjoy! 🙂