The Lesbrary’s Best Reads of 2019

The Lesbrary's Top Picks of 2019

Now that 2019 has come to an end, some of us Lesbrary reviewers wanted to share our favourite sapphic book that we read this year! Each reviewer’s name is linked to their reviews, in case you want more. Here are just a few of our top picks for the year, with a quick explanation of why. Let us know in the comments what your favourites were!

Maggie’s picks:

The covers of Maggie's picks

A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian: This was so sweet, and I loved all the little moments and emotions it packed into a novella. This kicked off my longing for more queer lady-centered regency books. (Check out Maggie’s full review here.)

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite: I loved the combination of astronomer plus artist and them supporting other women scientists and artists. I also loved how this showed how they created space for themselves in traditionally male spheres. (Check out Maggie’s full review here.)

Emily Joy‘s picks:

The covers of Emily Joy's picks

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I love classic Hollywood, so as soon as I discovered that this book was about an actress from that era, I knew I would love it. And I did! It kept me guessing until the very end. I didn’t read all of this book in 2019 — I started it in 2018, and stayed up until 6 AM on January 1st to finish it, because I couldn’t put it down. (Check out Danika’s and Megan G‘s reviews.)

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: I love an occasional dose of high fantasy, although it’s not a genre I read often. This chunk of a book was worth every page, with excellent diversity in sexuality, age, and culture. I loved how the author took inspiration from all across the continents of our real world, and built her story out of so many cultures. It made the story and world that much richer and more enjoyable.

Of Ice and Shadows by Audrey Coulthurst: I was so excited to catch up with Denna and Mare in this sequel to Of Fire and Stars (2016). This fantasy book is lighthearted, fun, and easy to read. It lived up to its predecessor, and I might have even liked it more than the first book! I flew right through this one. (Check out Emily Joy’s full review here.)

anna marie‘s picks:

Covers of Anna Marie's picks

The Sophie Horowitz Story by Sarah Schulman: Sarah Schulman is one of my favourite authors to read, especially during the summer, and reading The Sophie Horowitz Story in June was, unsurprisingly, a lot of fun. It’s a short and easy to read story about feminist bank robbers and a lesbian journalist called Sophie Horowitz. It’s sweet in parts, political in others and quite relatable – Horowitz has big dyke energy and is also a bit of a mess – who can’t relate to that?!

Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg: This book won the most tears off of me whilst I was reading it, and has set up camp in my personal mind library as one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s a historical fiction novel which starts pre-Stonewall and then extends to include the first organised gay liberation work. The main character is Jess, a wonderful stone butch whose tender reflections, loneliness and resilience are inspiring and relatable. Reading Stone Butch Blues was an extremely personal and emotional experience for me and it’s such an important novel to trans & lesbian communities. Of all the books I have ever recommended, if people only read this one, I would consider that a success! (Just a note that the novel contains lots of sexual, gender and police violence.) (Check out Anna Marie’s full review here.)

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: The largest and one of the most enjoyable books I read this year was definitely Samantha Shannon’s stand alone fantasy novel The Priory of the Orange Tree. It’s about 800 pages of sweet characters, dragons, magic and queers, which was such a joy to get immersed in. The writing style is pretty simple, which was a relief for me and my dyslexia, and the relationships between characters were really what kept me reading and reading and reading. The story is set in a world where dragons are revered by those in the East and defiled by those in the West, and forces of religion and witchcraft and love all combine in an adventure. It includes someone who is now one of my all time favourite fantasy characters!

Danika Ellis‘s picks:

Covers of Danika's picks

Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha: Everything I’ve read by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha has been amazing. Bodymap is one of my favourite books of all time, and I don’t usually even read poetry. Care Work is a thoughtful and challenging book about disability justice, examining the hopes and struggles that come with trying to build care networks and dreaming of an inclusive future while living in an ableist world. Intersectionality is at the core of Piepzna-Samarasinha’s work, and they examine how ableism interacts with race, being a femme, and even personality–I won’t be able to forget the friend who said “I don’t want to have to be popular to be able to use the washroom.” This continues to give me so much to think about. (Check out Danika’s full review here.)

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, edited by Carmen Maria Machado: I have been repulsed and attracted to Le Fanu’s Carmilla for many years: here is a lesbian vampire who predates Dracula, who is in some ways sympathetic, but who is also the Monstrous Lesbian that helped to form the trope. Although Machado’s edition is mostly the original text, just by adding an introduction and a few footnotes, she creates a whole meta narrative that reclaims the story for queer readers–that places the fault on Le Fanu for obscuring the true queer story beneath it. This is brilliant. (Check out Danika’s full review here.)

This Is What it Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow: A literal “getting the band back together” book about three teenage girl whose friendship went from inseparable to nonexistent when one went into rehab for drinking and one found out she was pregnant after her boyfriend recently passed away. It sounds like a dark read, but it’s actually full of joy, including two cute romances (one f/f and one m/f) and a celebration of music. (Check out Danika’s full review here.)

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy: This is a queer, sci fi retelling of the Arthur myth that is simultaneously dystopian, sci fi, and fantasy. It is packed full of queer characters in a found family adventure where the current incarnation of Arthur has to try to unite all of humanity against a corporate tyranny. Meanwhile, a teenage Merlin is aging backwards with every Arthur reincarnation. Talk about ambitious! But somehow Capetta and McCarthy pull it off. I can’t wait for the sequel. (Check out Danika’s full review here.)

Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink: If you aren’t familiar with the podcast, “Alice Isn’t Dead” follows our main character whose wife went missing and is presumed dead. Except that she keeps seeing her wife in the background of news stories. So she becomes a trucker and goes looking for her, and on the way discovers eerie and sometimes horrific things in small town America, including the Thistle Men, who will tear people limb from limb (or take a bite out of them) with no repercussions. The podcast has more interesting tangents and really explores the road trip aspect of the story, whereas the book has a clearer plot that builds in ways I wasn’t expecting. I especially loved the own voices portrayal of anxiety.

What were your favourite reads of 2019?