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Best Books 2019
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So Last Year

Dunedin Public Libraries —

Our staff have chosen their favourite books for 2019

To help you choose your next great read we have compiled a list of books recommended by our staff. 

Bernie Hawke - Library Services Manager

The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

A powerful sequel to The Handmaids Tale which brings to life some of the characters adeptly interwoven by the masterful storytelling of Margaret Atwood.

Linda Geddes - Manager Collections & Access

The Rumour - Lesley Kara 

I liked this book because it took me completely by surprise, was easily readable. Just right for lazy days to keep you a bit on edge. 

Lynn Vare - Youth Services Team Leader

Half Bad - Sally Green

One of my favourite YA reads. A trilogy that rolics along and leaves your heart ripped at the end. Great fantasy story about a young teen who is half white witch, half black witch, which is hard when they turn on each other!

Jackie Howell  - Collection Development Team Leader

The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay & disaster -  Sarah Krasnostein 
I listened to this on CD in my car. I don’t think I could have read it on the printed page – it’s a harrowing story and contains quite graphic content, but the narrator tells the story so kindly and well that I was mesmerised. Australian Sandra Pankhurst (the trauma cleaner) is an amazing person – husband, father, drag queen, sex worker, wife – and her ability to help the traumatised through some of the worst events of their lives is extraordinary. My nonfiction book of the year.

Happy Old Me: how to live a long life and really enjoy it - Hunter Davies

Hunter Davies is the Beatles’ official biographer. He was married to the late novelist Margaret Forster and weaves their story of a long marriage through his book. A light, charming, often funny read.

Maybe you should talk to someone: a therapist, her therapist, and our lives revealed -Lori Gottlieb

The unwinding of a relationship is the springboard for this tale, about a therapist and, as it says in the title, her therapist – but also the story of the author’s clients, which is really fascinating.

Becoming the supervet - Noel Fitzpatrick

Good story of an Irish farm boy who goes on to become a vet who specializes in pioneering work in artificial limb replacement for cats and dogs. His love of and care for animals of all kinds shines through.

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt 

I have to say I have not finished this but intend to before seeing the movie. It is a very good book and a great story, well written and well told.

Voices from Chernobyl - Svetlana Aleksievich

I read this following the doco on telly. Brings to life the epic suffering of very ordinary people, which continues today.

The Salt Path - Raynor Winn 

What would you do if you lost everything you owned, at the same time as your partner was diagnosed with a terminal illness? This couple took to the salt path – a hike around the coastline of Cornwall and Devon. Camping. In a small tent. With no money. Just amazing!

Convenience store woman - Sayaka Murata 

Subtle, entrancing, fascinating, unfortunately quite short. Brilliant. My fiction book of the year.

Mutiny on the bounty - John Boyne 

This is so well written, I read it last summer sitting outside and it was a great story so well told, that you almost forgot it was history. So much better than the same title published more recently by Peter FitzSimons.

Lorraine Johnston - Heritage Collections Librarian

The Quaker - Liam McIlvanney

Another great yarn from McIlvanney, full of twists and turns. It wasn't until quite late in the piece that I twigged to who the Quaker was. Shades of Rankin's Big Ger in one of the characters, which was an interesting touch. I wonder if it was deliberate?

The Kingfisher's Debt - Kura Carpenter

What librarian could resist a book with a secret, magical 3rd basement in the public library?

Andrea Simonsen - Collection Services Team Leader

The Shepherd’s Hut - Tim Winton

Teenager Jaxie Claxton escapes into the inhospitable hinterland of Western Australia where he chances upon a defrocked Irish priest living in an abandoned shepherd’s hut. A friendship develops.

Dead People I Have Known - Shayne Carter

A love letter to life and lives flowing from Brockville to the world stage and back again.

Anne-Maree - Manager Business Support Libraries

Girl, Woman, Other - Bernardine Evaristo

The author cleverly interweaves the stories of 12 very different women, black and British, through the 20th and 21st century. I found myself caught up in their lives, rooting for them in times of hardship and celebrating their triumphs. This book truly engaged me.

Fake - Stephanie Wood

This compelling investigative story drawn from true life helps answer the question of why do women get drawn into relationships with charming men, and stay in them even when things don’t start adding up? I was fascinated at the lengths some men will go to, to deceive and manipulate.

Irene - Senior Library Assistant Mobile and Home Services

The Harsh Cry of the Heron - Lian Hearn

This is the fourth book in the Tales of the Otori series by Lian Hearn. This is a series I love and will go back and read quite often.

Shona - Collection Specialist

The Lying Woods - Ashley Elston

Full of tension and mystery. Alternates between past and present as it builds toward a spectacular reveal.

Yvonne - Library Assistant Collection Services

Small Kingdoms & Other Stories - Charlaine Harris

I like this book as the main character has a unique way of taking care of problems which jeopardise her new way of life and her past is revealed in four short stories.

Roslynne - Library Assistant Customer Experience

Rules of Seeing - Joe Heap

Nova is an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, and can speak five languages but one thing she cannot do is see. I thought the way the author describes how Nova makes sense of the world around her, and the choices she makes, was evocative and thought provoking.

Jill Bowie - Digital Outreach Coordinator

Skin Deep - Liz Nugent

This book had me totally hooked from the very first sentence - "I wondered when rigor mortis would set in, or if it already had." A brilliant psychological thriller.

The Chain - Adrian McKinty

I don't think I have ever read a book as fast as this one. An absolute thrill ride with a wonderfully dark premise. 

Overkill - Vanda Symon

I can't believe it has taken me so long to read this book. Vanda read the gripping prologue of this book at the Celtic Noir Crime Writing Festival and it went straight to the top of my "to read' list. This is the first book the Sam Shepard series and I can't wait to read the rest.

Debbie - City of Literature Project Coordinator

Loyalties - Delphine de Vigan

Thirteen-year-old Theo and his friend Mathis secretly drink on an almost daily basis. Their teacher, Helene, suspects something is not right with Theo and becomes obsessed with rescuing him, casting aside her professionalism to the point of no return. Cecile, mother of Mathis, discovers something horrifying on her husband's computer that makes her question whether she has ever truly known him. This book is my favourite of the year. There are no spare words and the author has captured loyalties, whether misguided or not, in young and not so young in a direct and refreshing way. This book is translated from French. 

David - Library Assistant Customer Experience

The Million-petalled Flower of Being Here - Vidyan Ravinthiran

The collection approaches issues of love, race, gender, immigration and community with humour and grace; while single handedly reviving the sonnet sequence. A modern masterpiece.

RebeccaLibrary Assistant Collection Services

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr - Frances Maynard 

Equally heart-breaking and heart-warming, Elvira’s attempts to understand the world around her go hand in hand with solving the mystery of her father’s trips ‘Away’. Told from Elvira’s point of view, it provides a profound look through the eyes of a neuro-atypical individual.

Golden State - Ben H Winters 

Set in a dystopian alternate future, California has become the ‘Golden State’, a place where lying is the ultimate crime. Lazlo is one of the Speculators, who sense liars and send them to judgement. Wonderfully weird with a flowing, easy-to-read style.

I Can’t Believe You Just Said That! - Danny Wallace 

Hilarious! Subtitled ‘The truth about why people are so rude’, this non-fiction book was inspired by an unsettling encounter, AKA ‘The Hotdog Incident’. There’s a mix of dedicated research and personal observations that make this very, very relatable.

Locke & Key graphic novels – Joe Hill

Supremely bingeable series of books based around the Locke family and their misadventures with a bunch of mind-bending keys. Super creepy, with awesome artwork that makes it really hard to put down. (Also, soon be a Netflix series.)

Laura- Library Assistant Customer Experience

I am, I am, I am : seventeen brushes with death - Maggie O'Farrell

This book is an autobiography by the novelist, Maggie O'Farrell, and is structured around the seventeen times she 'could have' died. It is quite amazing really how close she came so many times. And some of the stories are really quite thrillingly terrifying. This book was recommended to me by one of our regular patrons. Thank you Christina!

Poūkahangatus - Tayi Tibble

Poūkahangatus is a book of poetry by a young Māori wahine called Tayi Tibble. She won an Ockham for it, and rightly so. My personal copy of this pukapuka lives by my bed and I read from it regularly. I find it gives me courage, inspiration, a smile on my face and a fire within. Thanks to books like these, I have become excited about the future of NZ poetry….this not a field I would have browsed in the past – but thanks to Hera Lyndsay Bird last year, poetry (particularly by NZ women) is now a section I regularly check out.

Shirley - Senior Library Assistant Customer Experience

The Dutch House - Ann Patchett

This is a story of siblings Danny and Maeve Conroy and their relationship with the exquisite but overbearing family house which was bought by their father for a song. It was packed full of paintings, furniture and relics of the previous Dutch owners and this has a huge influence on their lives in many ways. The writing is exquisite, the observations of family life are astute, and the character of Danny, especially, is very well written. Highly recommended.

The Giver of Stars - Jojo Moyes

This delightful historical novel is based on the 1930’s Horseback Librarian’s programme in the Appalachian countryside of Kentucky which was started by Eleanor Roosevelt. (From 1936 to 1940 over 100,000 people were brought books.) The book is an easy read full of wonderful characters, has a fast pace, and a good sense of time and place. An excellent holiday read! 

Colleen - Senior Library Assistant Customer Experience

The Other End of the Line - Andrea Camilleri

Camilleri died this year in July at the age of 93. This book is the second last one to feature Sicilian police detective Inspector Montalbano. He is always accompanied by a colourful cast of compatriots operating on either side of the law, and the stories are full of humour and compassion. The final book in the series, The Safety Net, will be published in English in 2020.

Tracey - Collection Specialist

Turn of the Key - Rachel Ware 

This is a ghostly thriller set in the highlands of Scotland. A young nanny moves in with wealthy family and starts to hear strange noises in the night. A real page turner.

Run Away - Harlan Coben

One of my all time favourite thriller writers. A father sees his young run away daughter playing guitar in central park. He stops and begs her to come home…but she runs again.

Dianne - Team Leader South Dunedin Library

Starting From Now - Fleur McDonald

Hisses & Honey - Shannon Mayer

As usual I couldn't pin it down to my favourite book for 2019 but I've picked two books from my favourite genres Australian Fiction and Fantasy. There's nothing like a book by Fleur McDonald and finishing off a trilogy by Shannon Mayer.

Melloney - Library Assistant South Dunedin Library

Prince of Ponies - Stacy Gregg

A Rose Petal Summer - Katie Fforde

These two books were delightful. I have met both of the authors and they are delightful too.