A Report on My Most Anticipated Reads & The Ones that Got Away

Between my lists in January and June, I highlighted 45 of the 2019 releases I was most looking forward to reading. Here’s how I did:

Read: 28 [Disappointments (rated or ): 12]

Currently reading: 1

Abandoned partway through: 5

Lost interest in reading: 1

Haven’t managed to find yet: 9

Languishing on my Kindle; I still have vague intentions to read: 1

To my dismay, it appears I’m not very good at predicting which books I’ll love; I would have gladly given 43% of the ones I read a miss, and couldn’t finish another 11%. Too often, the blurb is tempting or I loved the author’s previous book(s), yet the book doesn’t live up to my expectations. And I still have 376 books published in 2019 on my TBR, which is well over a year’s reading. For the list to keep growing at that annual rate is simply unsustainable.

Thus, I’m gradually working out a 2020 strategy that involves many fewer review copies. For strings-free access to new releases I’m keen to read, I’ll go via my local library. I can still choose to review new and pre-release fiction for BookBrowse, and nonfiction for Kirkus and the TLS. If I’m desperate to read an intriguing-sounding new book and can’t find it elsewhere, there’s always NetGalley or Edelweiss, too. I predict my FOMO will rage, but I’m trying to do myself a favor by waiting most of the year to find out which are truly the most worthwhile books rather than prematurely grabbing at everything that might be interesting.


I regret not having time to finish two 2019 novels I’m currently reading that are so promising they likely would have made at least my runners-up list had I finished them in time. I’m only a couple of chapters into The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (on the Costa Awards debut shortlist), a Gothic pastiche about a Jamaican maidservant on trial for killing her master and mistress (doubly intended) in Georgian London, but enjoying it very much. I’m halfway through The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall, a quiet character study of co-pastors and their wives and how they came to faith (or not); it is lovely and simply cannot be rushed.

The additional 2019 releases I most wished I’d found time for before the end of this year are:

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Dominicana by Angie Cruz


In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: I’ve heard that this is an amazing memoir of a same-sex abusive relationship, written in an experimental style. It was personally recommended to me by Yara Rodrigues Fowler at the Young Writer of the Year Award ceremony, and also made Carolyn Oliver’s list of nonfiction recommendations.

Luckily, I have another chance at these four since they’re all coming out in the UK in January; I have one as a print proof (Cruz) and the others as NetGalley downloads. I also plan to skim Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez, a very important new release, before it’s due back at the library.

The biggest release of 2019 is another that will have to wait until 2020: I know I made a lot of noise about boycotting The Testaments, but I’ve gradually come round to the idea of reading it, and was offered a free hardback to read as a part of an online book club starting on the 13th, so I’m currently rereading Handmaid’s to be ready to start the sequel in the new year.


Here’s the books I’m packing for the roughly 48 hours we’ll spend at my in-laws’ over Christmas. (Excessive, I know, but I’m a dabbler, and like to keep my options open!) A mixture of current reads, including a fair bit of suspense and cozy holiday stuff, with two lengthy autobiographies, an enormous Victorian pastiche, and an atmospheric nature/travel book waiting in the wings. I find that the holidays can be a good time to start some big ol’ books I’ve meant to read for ages.

Left stack: to start and read gradually over the next couple of months; right stack: from the currently reading pile.

I’ll be back on the 26th to start the countdown of my favorite books of the year, starting with fiction.


Merry Christmas!

11 responses

  1. I love how there’s someone who packs even MORE books than me for a short stay! And I love the look of “The Dearly Beloved” – will look out for your review with interest. Have a lovely Christmas and hope there are some book-shaped parcels under the tree! I simply intend to make more time for reading and feel sure that will mend all my TBR woes (yeah, right). I have given up one of my hobbies so that should give me some more tranches of reading time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not running, surely?! I’m lucky (or not) in that books are about my only hobby, though in some different forms — running the church library, volunteering at the free bookshop, book club, the blog, prize shadow panels, etc. And I daresay there will be more books under the tree for me. I hope there are for you as well. Happy Christmas!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh good grief no, but I’m stopping doing athletics and cross country officiating which take up a lot of time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You won’t miss much if you didn’t read Grisham’s “Skipping Christmas”. It’s truly awful… 😬


    1. I’m 40 pages in and enjoying it well enough.


  3. I wish you luck in cutting back on review copies. I bet after a while you won’t have as much FOMO as you might think. Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Laila. I’ve realized I don’t like the feeling of obligation that comes with accepting a review copy (and it’s even worse if you get something directly from the author and don’t want to hurt their feelings). Plus I really want to make inroads into the books I own. I hope by the end of next year I’ll have a manageable list of unmissable 2020 releases to acquire and read.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know that I read quite as quickly as you, but I find that I can put books on hold at my library before they’re released and they often come in early enough that I get them as quickly as I can read them, so hopefully you won’t feel like you’re missing out if you use the library more. I do like that books I get that way come with no strings attached.

    I am definitely going to show my husband your pile of books to pack next time he (jokingly) gives me a hard time about the 6 or so books I pack to go home for a week 🙂

    Invisible Women has been on my to-read list for a long time and it’s very much my kind of book, so I don’t know what I haven’t picked it up yet. Honestly, next month isn’t looking great for it either, but hopefully sometime in the new year, I’ll get to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I worry Invisible Women will be too info-dense for me, especially considering that it’s due back at the library on the 10th with multiple requests after me, so most likely I will end up just skimming it.

      You’re right: if I’m first in the library’s holds queue, I’ll get a book not much later than a person who pre-ordered it online, for instance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ll be curious to see how your new strategy works out this year. Hopefully your FOMO doesn’t win out!
    I often like to sit back and see what everyone else thinks of a book before I decide to read it. It probably does help me choose the best ones (for me) – I tend to like almost all the books I read. I rarely DNF.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think waiting until I’ve gotten the full spread of opinions will be particularly helpful for deciding if I want to read a hyped book.

      Liked by 1 person

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