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Reviewer Picks Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2019

Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2019. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with any of their selections! Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.


Kate Ayers

  • THE DESERTER by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille
    CID agents Scott Brodie and Maggie Taylor are tasked with finding a deserter who has been spotted in Venezuela. Unfortunately, their superiors aren't sharing everything they know, making the mission even more dangerous. Nelson DeMille teams up with his son, Alex, and the results are explosive.
  • A DOG'S PROMISE: A Dog's Purpose Novel by W. Bruce Cameron
    Readers met Bailey in A DOG'S PURPOSE, and he returns to continue his journey on earth, this time with the help of Lacey. This entire series is heartwarming and certain to bring joy.
  • THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh
    Steve Cavanagh's best so far. This involves an ingenious plot by a killer to ensure he gets away with murder. How? He sits on the jury.
  • TRUE BELIEVER by Jack Carr
    Jack Carr is simply one of the top writers of political thrillers. In modern times, it is easy to cheer for anyone who takes down terrorists, even if it's James Reece, a wanted man. When a series of coordinated attacks occur, the US calls on him. His ways may be unconventional, but they work.
  • THE PERFECT ALIBI by Phillip Margolin
    A college athlete is convicted of rape in a hard-fought court battle. When another rape occurs, and the DNA matches the convicted athlete, everyone scratches their heads. It's impossible. He was behind bars. He has the perfect alibi. Or does he?


Cindy Burnett


Sarah Rachel Egelman


Megan Elliott

  • RED AT THE BONE by Jacqueline Woodson
  • TRICK MIRROR: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino
  • COSTALEGRE by Courtney Maum
  • NORMAL PEOPLE by Sally Rooney
  • AN AMERICAN SUMMER: Love and Death in Chicago, by Alex Kotlowitz


Harvey Freedenberg


Joe Hartlaub

  • THE NEW IBERIA BLUES: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke
    Well into his sixth decade of writing, James Lee Burke continues to find new ways to explore the nature of good and evil (and the no-man’s-land in between) while giving his readers some of his best writing to date. 
  • STALKER written by Lars Kepler, translated by Neil Smith
    STALKER was the best-selling book in Sweden in the year it was published. It will have you tearing your walls down looking for hidden cameras. It’s that good.
  • BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM by Peter Swanson
    An edgy domestic thriller that will have you wondering about the neighbor next door who is friendly but a Save time to read Peter Swanson’s backlist afterward.
  • DECEPTION COVE by Owen Laukkanen
    Owen Laukkanen always writes well, but has never been better in this story of two people brought together by a service dog as they confront a dark and terrible danger.
  • DARK SITE: A Sam Dryden Novel by Patrick Lee
    I wish he wrote more, but Patrick Lee and his haunted protagonist, Sam Dryden, are always a rewarding pleasure. This is especially true in this haunting story of lost memory and an all-but-unsolvable mystery.
  • BLOOD RELATIONS by Jonathan Moore
    The inexplicable but ultimately explained mystery at the heart of this brooding novel will put Jonathan Moore at the top of your must-read list, where he belongs.
  • FULL THROTTLE: Stories by Joe Hill
    I generally prefer Joe Hill’s shorter fiction to his longer work, and FULL THROTTLE is full of the reasons why. Not to be missed by horror fans or anyone who enjoys great writing.
  • THE CHESTNUT MAN by Søren Sveistrup
    Don’t wait for the Netflix adaptation. It can’t be anywhere near as good as this story about a hunt for a serial killer who has been leaving clues that no one notices in plain sight, until...
  • A DANGEROUS MAN: An Elvis Cole and Joe Pike Novel by Robert Crais
    Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole/Joe Pike novels are into their fourth decade with no sign of slowing down. A DANGEROUS MAN is one of Crais’ best, one in which Pike rescues a bank robbery hostage. His good deed does not go unpunished, of course. Great stuff, worth rereading.
  • THE RUSSIAN by Ben Coes
    This spinoff from Ben Coes’ Dewey Andreas series features covert operative Rob Tacoma in a battle with the Russian mob. You’ll hang on to the pages for dear life. Every thriller should be this good.


Pamela Kramer

  • THE WIDOWS by Jess Montgomery
    A fabulous look into prohibition, gangsters, coal mining and unions. The two main characters are strong and determined women in a time when that was just not the norm. Great writing and fascinating historical perspective; the second book in the series will be out in January 2020.
  • WATCHER IN THE WOODS: A Rockton Novel, by Kelley Armstrong
    Part of a fairly dark series set in the untamed Yukon. A hidden village is populated with people escaping from something in their “normal” lives, and they spend years in Rockton. Casey went to Rockton to be a detective, and each novel features a different mystery, all the time building and expanding our understanding of the characters who live in that remote town.
  • STAY by Catherine Ryan Hyde
    A movingly written account of a teenager who feels that he has to save the people he cares about from their worst impulses. That’s a difficult task when some of them suffer from depression and other serious issues. And the main character doesn’t exactly have an easy life, either.
  • DOCTOR DOGS: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine, by Maria Goodavage
    Superb nonfiction about all the myriad ways that dogs help us live our lives. The author's writing reads like fiction, and the stories are fascinating and inspiring.
  • RESCUE DOGS: Where They Come From, Why They Act the Way They Do, and How to Love Them Well, by Pete Paxton with Gene Stone
    Ample in scope and touchingly written about the author and various dog-related situations he has encountered. Rescuers are familiar with most of these situations, but will still find the episodes moving, as will those who are new to rescue or just love dogs.
  • BETRAYAL IN TIME by Julie McElwain
    Kendra Donovan is an FBI agent and genius who is thrown back in time while going rogue. Back in the 1800s, she uses her FBI profiler skills to solve crimes while pretending she’s the ward of a duke. Believable characters and fascinating plot lines make this series really enjoyable.
  • THE LAST WIDOW by Karin Slaughter
    This latest Will Trent novel can be read as a stand-alone, but why not have more fun and start reading from the beginning? Great characters, thrilling plots and non-stop action make this a terrific series to get hooked on.
  • THE COLD WAY HOME by Julia Keller
    This book has two main characters: Bell Elkins and Acker’s Gap, WV, the setting of this mystery and character study. Bell grew up in Acker’s Gap, a poor coal mining town, and the series slowly reveals her background. While each book acts as a stand-alone, the backstory is important in terms of the motivations of the main characters.
  • DACHSHUND THROUGH THE SNOW: An Andy Carpenter Mystery by David Rosenfelt
    Andy Carpenter is a lawyer who doesn’t want to practice law, but when a case comes along that involves a dog, he just can’t resist. He, like David Rosenfelt, has a dog rescue and is a sucker for four legs and two big brown eyes. These mysteries are all fast-paced and filled with the author’s sarcastic, self-deprecating humor.


Bronwyn Miller


L. Dean Murphy

Dean's List

  • STONE MOTHERS by Erin Kelly
    Marianne was 17 when she fled rural England --- leaving behind her family, beau Jesse, and the body they buried. Now, 30 years later when she returns to care for her ailing mother, she feels the past closing in. And Jesse, who never forgave her for deserting him, threatens to expose the truth. Marianne will do anything to protect the life she’s built, the husband and disturbed daughter who must never know what happened all those years ago. Even if it means turning to her worst enemy for help. But Marianne may not know the whole story --- and she isn’t the only one who’d kill to keep the past secret.

  • LOST TOMORROWS: A Rick Cahill Novel by Matt Coyle
    A phone call thrusts Rick Cahill’s past and tragic consequences into the present. Krista Landingham, his former Santa Barbara Police Department partner, is dead. When Rick goes to the funeral in the city where his wife was murdered and where he is seen by police as guilty for her death, he discovers that Krista’s death may not have been a tragic accident. Hired to investigate by Krista’s sister, Leah, Rick follows clues that lead him to the truth, not only about Krista’s death, but about the tragedy that ruined his life. Along the way, Leah shows him that his life can be salvaged and he can feel love again if he can just move beyond his past. But the past is Rick’s present and will always be until he rights his one great wrong. In the end, Rick is left with a decision that forces him to confront the horrific actions he’ll need to take to exact revenge and achieve redemption.

            – Click here to read’s exclusive interview with Matt Coyle.

  • GUMSHOE ROCK by Rob Leininger
    Nevada’s senior Internal Revenue Service agent Ronald Soranden --- disliked by each agent in Reno’s IRS office --- vanished without a trace. Two months later, his skull is dropped through the slashed top of a Mustang convertible. The vehicle belongs to Lucy Landry, PI Mortimer Angel’s gorgeous young assistant now working with him on a seemingly unrelated embezzlement case. But Mort is a former IRS field agent in Reno under the tyrannical reign of Soranden. When the FBI is brought in to investigate the murder, Mort and Lucy realize shocking details about their own case, primarily Soranden’s involvement. It’s evident that events and suspects of the embezzlement case and Soranden’s murder are heavily entangled with those enmeshed in an ugly case of blackmail.

            – Click here to read’s exclusive interview with Rob Leininger.

  • TREACHEROUS STRAND: An Inishowen Mystery by Andrea Carter  
    French émigré Marguerite Etienne’s body washes up on a rocky beach on Ireland’s northwestern Inishowen Peninsula. Solicitor Ben (Benedicta) O’Keeffe has, for the second time, failed someone who needed her, with tragic consequences. When Sergeant Tom Molloy dismisses Marguerite’s death as the suicide of a disturbed person --- and Ben’s client --- Ben cannot let it lie. She uncovers Marguerite’s strange past as a member of a French doomsday cult, leaving her baby daughter behind 20 years ago. Disturbed by what appears to be chilling local indifference to Marguerite’s death, Ben pieces together the last weeks of her client’s life. She makes disturbing discoveries and questions the fragile nature of her own position in the area. Ben finds herself crossing boundaries (personal and professional) to unearth local secrets long buried.

  • RAG AND BONE: A Jay Porter Novel by Joe Clifford
    After a year on the lam, framed for the murder of an estate-clearer, Jay Porter returns to New Hampshire. Coming up empty-handed, he searched for a hard drive --- evidence that would put longtime nemeses Adam and Michael Lombardi behind bars. He hasn’t spoken to his ex-wife and son in 10 months, and he’s broke. His reputation tarnished and employment opportunities nonexistent, Jay takes a charity assignment from old friend/flame Alison Rodgers, and learns of a fire at her rehab farm. Jay is convinced that the Lombardis started the fire as a scare tactic, pressuring Alison to sell. As Jay investigates the fire, he hopes he’ll finally be able to put away his enemies. He soon discovers that evil isn’t easy to define, and he must take the law into his own hands to exact justice.

  • A FIELD GUIDE TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE: Who They Are, Where They Come From, What to Feed Them...and Much More. Maybe Too Much More by Dave Barry, Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel
    Why do random Jewish holidays keep springing up unexpectedly? Why are yarmulkes round? Who was the first Jewish comedian? What's “Christian humor,” and have you ever even heard of that phrase? Who is “the Golem,” and who do you want it to beat up? These baffling questions and many more are answered by comedy legends Dave Barry, Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel, two-thirds of whom are Jewish. In A FIELD GUIDE TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE, the authors dissect every holiday, rite of passage and tradition, unravel a long and complicated history, and tackle the tough questions that have plagued Jews and non-Jews alike for centuries.
  • THE VANISHING MAN: A Charles Lenox Mystery by Charles Finch
    London, 1853: Having earned some renown by solving a case that baffled Scotland Yard, young Charles Lenox is called upon by the Duke of Dorset, one of England’s most revered noblemen. A painting of the Duke’s forbear was stolen. But the Duke’s concern is not for his ancestor’s portrait. Hiding in plain sight is an adjacent painting of infinitely more value, one that holds the key to one of the country’s most famous and best-kept secrets. Dorset believes the thieves took the wrong painting and may return when they realize their error. When his fears result in murder, Lenox must act quickly to unravel the mystery behind both paintings before tragedy strikes again. As the Dorset family closes ranks to protect its reputation, Lenox uncovers a dark secret that could expose them to unimaginable scandal --- and reveals the existence of an artifact, priceless beyond measure, for which the family is willing to risk anything to keep hidden. In this intricately plotted prequel to the Charles Lenox mysteries, the young detective risks his potential career and reputation as he hunts for a criminal mastermind.


Ray Palen


Norah Piehl


Barbara Bamberger Scott

Of the books I reviewed in 2019, four stand out as especially significant, dealing with large, indeed iconic issues of crucial interest to all of us:


Stuart Shiffman

  • A STUDENT OF HISTORY by Nina Revoyr
    A modern tale of life in contemporary Los Angeles that has elements of mystery mixed in with some elements of the noir classic Sunset Boulevard. The writing is engaging, and the story is subtle. Very enjoyable.
  • TOUGH LUCK: Sid Luckman, Murder, Inc., and the Rise of the Modern NFL, by R. D. Rosen
    Football fans of my age will recognize the name Sid Luckman as probably the greatest quarterback in Chicago Bears history. While he played for the Bears in the 1940s and '50s, he still holds many career passing records for the team. R. D. Rosen tells the story of Luckman’s career and the secret he carried throughout his life: a gangster father imprisoned for murder.
  • THE BRITISH ARE COMING: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 by Rick Atkinson
    Volume one in a trilogy of the American Revolution. Rick Atkinson is one of America’s finest historians and a superb writer.
  • FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
    I served as a judge for 23 years. Among the myriad of cases I heard were those in domestic relations court. This debut novel perfectly captures the essence of what often happens in divorce cases --- no one is without blame, and the real victims are the children --- and it does so with humor and insight.
  • THE NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead
    Based on a real school for boys in Florida that closed in 2011 after more than 100 years in existence, this is a powerful and moving novel. The issues of racism and inequality presented on these pages are heartbreaking and demanding of our attention.


Rebecca Wasniak


Katherine B. Weissman