Share The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

We are passionate readers who love nothing more than discovering fantastic books and sharing them with friends. We recommend books that move us to laughter and tears—and everything in between. Trust us when we say, "You've got to read this!"

Book lists are great but there’s something about a hearing a reader’s personal account of how a certain book changed them that really tugs at our bookish heartstrings. Here are 10 of the best book reviews we read this year, right here on Off the Shelf.


Ohio
by Stephen Markley

When I first recommended OHIO to someone, I explained the plot and said that it was one of the best books I’d ever read. (How’s that for an adequate vote of confidence?) They proceeded to ask me, “well, who does he write like?” Reader, I was paralyzed. Sure, we’ve all compared writers and have references at the ready, but in that instant my mind went blank. I replied honestly, “I’ve literally never read anything like it before.” I still, many moons later, stand by this unequivocal statement.

Read the full review of OHIO.

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Ohio
Stephen Markley

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MENTIONED IN:

12 Gripping, Heartfelt, and Powerful Novels That Take Place in the American Midwest

By Kelsey Radomski | January 22, 2020

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2019

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

Readers’ Choice: The Top 10 Most Shelved Books in June

By Off the Shelf Staff | June 28, 2019

This Debut Gets My Vote for the Next Great American Novel

By Ana Perez | June 18, 2019

6 Must-Read Novels New in Paperback This June

By Kay Cosgrove | June 10, 2019

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
by Karen Joy Fowler

The Cookes—Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sisters Fern and Rosemary—are an ordinary middle-class American family, in all ways but one: Fern is a chimpanzee. Beautifully written, this is the tale of an unconventional family and the heartbreaking consequences of their good intentions.

Read the full review of WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Karen Joy Fowler

“WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES is one of those completely absorbing books that makes the rest of the world disappear, while at the same time reminding us all too clearly of the world we come from and its occasional cruelty.”

Read the full review by Midge Raymond here.

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2019

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

Readers’ Choice: Our 10 Most Popular Books in August

By Off the Shelf Staff | August 30, 2019

We’re All Completely Obsessed with This Award-Winning Novel

By Mary Doria Russell | August 7, 2019

Off the Shelf Turns 5: The Top 10 Reviews of All Time

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 18, 2019

13 of Off the Shelf’s Favorite Book Recommendations from 2016

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 27, 2016

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In the House in the Dark of the Woods
by Laird Hunt

Earlier this year, I spent a long weekend at a writers’ retreat in Woodstock, NY. We were staying in a cozy little cabin in the middle of a quiet, dark, snowy wood. A friend finished the book she had been reading and when I asked how it was, she told me it was strange, disquieting, and difficult to describe, but good. Then she pressed it into my hands and told me I should read it. The book was IN THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS by Laird Hunt.

Read the full review of THE HOUSE IN THE DARK OF THE WOODS.

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In the House in the Dark of the Woods
Laird Hunt

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

A Strange and Disquieting Read for Dark and Stormy Nights

By Sarah Jane Abbott | July 17, 2019

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The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware

Psychological-thrillers have a special place in my book-loving heart. Though I don’t read them as often as I do a literary fiction or memoir, when I’m in a reading rut or suffering from a book hangover (or I’m paralyzed with too many “next-read” options), an engrossing, gaslighting, plot-twisty thriller has been known to jolt me out of such a state. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10—the first Ruth Ware novel I ever read—was the book of my rudderless summer and it’s a mystery I’m still attempting at piecing together even today.

Read the full review of THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10.

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The Woman in Cabin 10
Ruth Ware

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2019

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

12 Addictive Reads You Can Finish in a Single Flight

By Danielle Bucco | November 26, 2019

[CLOSED]Enter for Your Chance to Win 20 Books from Some of Our Favorite Authors

By Off the Shelf Staff | November 1, 2019

Readers’ Choice: Our 10 Most Popular Books in October

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 25, 2019

A Twisty Psychological-Thriller That Will End Your Reading Rut

By Tolani Osan | September 18, 2019

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The Lost Queen
by Signe Pike

When I first heard that this book was being promoted as OUTLANDER meets CAMELOT, I knew right away it was going to be something I would enjoy. It has all the Scottish history and charm of OUTLANDER with the religious undertones of the King Arthur legends, which—for a Scottish mythology nerd like myself—made me unable to put it down. Reading this book was like getting a crash course in sixth-century Scottish history. With endless wars raging between different clans to the increasing number of Christian missionaries spreading their religion like wildfire throughout the country, this book was chock-full of political intrigue and scandal that had me gripped from page one.

Read the full review of THE LOST QUEEN.

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The Lost Queen
Signe Pike

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MENTIONED IN:

Lingering Last Words: 8 Of The Best Book Endings We’ve Read

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 9, 2020

Heavy Is the Head That Wears The Crown: 5 Majestic Books About Royal Women

By Sarah Walsh | January 20, 2020

Readers’ Choice: Our Top 25 Most Popular Books of the Year!

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2019

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

8 Historical Novels with Epic Love Stories to Swoon Over

By Hannah Schaffer | November 5, 2019

Readers’ Choice: Our 10 Most Popular Books in October

By Off the Shelf Staff | October 25, 2019

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I Am Pilgrim
by Terry Hayes

I read I AM PILGRIM in 2014, and again in 2019. I missed the escapism, and the sigh of relief the book had me feeling—jet-setting from exotic locales while devouring the legends of two amazing protagonists.

Read the full review of I AM PILGRIM.

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I Am Pilgrim
Terry Hayes

“For me, I AM PILGRIM was a game changer. It raised the bar for international spy thrillers and became the benchmark for all future reads. It’s rich in detail and character, full of heart-racing action, and terrifying in its plausibility. It has heart and has you questioning your own beliefs.”

Read David Brown’s review here.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

Readers’ Choice: Our 10 Most Popular Books in September

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 27, 2019

An Electrifying Novel That Will Keep You Up Reading All Night

By Mike Zeko | September 13, 2019

23 Thrilling Novels from the Bookshelf of Linwood Barclay

By Linwood Barclay | December 29, 2016

It’s Our Birthday!

By Off the Shelf Staff | March 22, 2016

The Addictive Thriller That Has Everyone Talking

By David Brown | May 27, 2015

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The Map of Salt and Stars
by Zeyn Joukhadar

THE MAP OF SALT AND STARS is a moving literary debut. It weaves together the stories of two heroic girls who experience similar harrowing journeys centuries apart through North Africa and the Middle East as they battle and overcome forces bigger than themselves. Bound together by undaunted courage on their course to find home, this stunning, lyrical, and timely coming-of-age novel urges readers to focus on the devastating reality of Syrian refugees.

Read the full review of THE MAP OF SALT AND STARS.

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The Map of Salt and Stars
Zeyn Joukhadar

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MENTIONED IN:

Hope and Heartbreak: 10 Books About Immigration and the Refugee Experience

By Carrie Cabral | March 19, 2020

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By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

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By Off the Shelf Staff | August 26, 2019

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By Off the Shelf Staff | June 28, 2019

Loved THE KITE RUNNER? Read This Timely and Moving Debut

By Ana Perez | June 14, 2019

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Three Things About Elsie
by Joanna Cannon

When I first picked up THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE, Joanna Cannon’s sophomore novel, I was not expecting to be so deeply affected by the world inside Cherry Tree Accommodation for the Elderly. It is a charming suspense novel, yes, but it is also a heartwarming and profound treatise on lifelong friendships, bravery, and aging. I found myself thinking about this book long after I turned the last page, pondering my own lifelong friendships, and wondering about the lasting power of stories and what happens to truths that get left unsaid. (And immediately after finishing this book, I called my grandparents and my best friends.)

Read the full review of THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE.

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Three Things About Elsie
Joanna Cannon

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MENTIONED IN:

Readers’ Choice: The Top 10 Most Popular Books in February

By Off the Shelf Staff | February 28, 2020

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By Sarah Jane Abbott | February 25, 2020

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By Keturah Jenkins | February 13, 2020

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By Off the Shelf Staff | January 31, 2020

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By Off the Shelf Staff | December 30, 2019

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By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

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A Sudden Light
by Garth Stein

The towering conifers of Puget Sound are the setting for A SUDDEN LIGHT, Stein’s magisterial, inventive follow-up to the worldwide sensation THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, now a film starring Milo Ventimiglia and Amanda Seyfried. Just as Stein charmed readers with the wisdom of Enzo, the race car–loving old lab terrier in THE ART OF RACING, he does the same with Trevor Riddell, the precocious scion of a once proud and mighty timber family.

Read the full review of A SUDDEN LIGHT.

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A Sudden Light
Garth Stein

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MENTIONED IN:

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

11 Autumnal Book Covers to Fall in Love With

By Sarah Woodruff | October 3, 2019

Readers’ Choice: Our 10 Most Popular Books in September

By Off the Shelf Staff | September 27, 2019

A Must-Read Follow-up to THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN

By Off the Shelf Staff | August 23, 2019

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The Beautiful Bureaucrat
by Helen Phillips

In THE BEAUTIFUL BUREAUCRAT, Helen Phillips makes the most of her literary freedom, putting her considerable talents to work in creating one astounding kitchen sink of a novel. Why choose thriller when you can use the pacing of a thriller? Why restrain the world to a dystopian future when you can highlight how our current world already echoes with dystopia? Why limit yourself when you can have satire and romance. Wordplay and sci-fi. Mystery and existentialism. “You don’t even have to choose!

Read the full review of THE BEAUTIFUL BUREAUCRAT.

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The Beautiful Bureaucrat
Helen Phillips

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MENTIONED IN:

20 Amazing Authors and Their Books To Read in 2020

By Carrie Cabral | January 9, 2020

The Best of 2019: The Top 10 Reviews of the Year

By Off the Shelf Staff | December 24, 2019

Readers’ Choice: Our 10 Most Popular Books in August

By Off the Shelf Staff | August 30, 2019

A Book You Didn’t Know You Needed

By Elizabeth Breeden | July 23, 2019

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