Eight 2019 Books That Deserved the Hype…and Five That Didn’t

2019 books that deserved the hype


It’s hard to define what makes a book “hyped.” Does this mean a book was nominated for or won awards? Was being breathlessly chattered about on #bookstagram? Was getting big marketing dollars or a huge advance from its publisher? Was on many “most anticipated books of X” lists? Had glowing early reviews? Based on an author’s previous work? Everyone in your real life was reading and loving it?

The one thing all my 2019 “deserved the hype” books have in common is “tons of #bookstagram and/or regular reader buzz” and that makes me happy. I think this the best source for book recommendations and blows away award winners and “Best of” lists from elite publications for me.

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Eight 2019 Books That Deserved the Hype

Ask Again, Yesby Mary Beth Keane (My Review)
Lots of #bookstagram and regular reader buzz, Jimmy Fallon’s Summer Book Club pick, Amazon Best Book of 2019, Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist – Fiction, Book of the Month selection.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (my review)
Lots of #bookstagram buzz, Amazon Best Book of 2019, Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (my review)
Lots of #bookstagram and regular reader buzz, Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction, Book of the Month selection, massive publisher marketing dollars.

Recursionby Blake Crouch (my review)
Follow-up to hugely popular Dark Matter, Book of the Month selection, tons of #bookstagram and regular reader buzz.

She Saidby Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (my review)
Tons of #bookstagram and regular reader buzz, New York Times 100 Notable Book of 2019, Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist – Nonfiction

The Dearly Belovedby Cara Wall (my review)
#ReadWithJenna Today Show Book Club pick, tons of #bookstagram buzz.

The Dutch Houseby Ann Patchett (full review)
Beloved author, tons of #bookstagram buzz, #ReadWithJenna Today Show Book Club pick, Amazon Best Book of 2019, Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist – Historical Fiction, New York Times 100 Notable Book of 2019.

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11by Garrett M. Graff (my review)
Tons of #bookstagram and regular reader buzz, Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist – History & Biography, and how has this book not made any of the big “Best of 2019” lists so far?!

You’ll be hearing more about most of these books later, so no commentary just yet!

…and Five That Didn’t

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag
Accolades: Lots of #bookstagram buzz (including from some of my best recommendation sources).
My Take: I finished it, but rated it 2.5 stars. I would rather the author have told an adjacent story than the one she told, plus I got bored with the wilderness survival aspect and the fight scenes at the end of the book.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (my review)
Accolades: Amazon’s #1 Book of 2019, Co-Winner of Mann Booker Prize for Fiction

My Take: The beginning was confusing (who are the narrators? what is the time period?) and the first half was a bit of a slog. While the second half did pick up for me, I was still far more interested in one storyline over the others.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (my review)
Accolades: Tons of #bookstagram and reader buzz
My Take: I DNF’d at 26% because, though I loved Center’s previous novel, How to Walk Away (my review), I had trouble getting into this one. Cassie is a badass leading lady, but her relentless schtick about not having feelings and not being interested in love got old quick for me. 

Three Womenby Lisa Taddeo (my review)
Accolades: Amazon Best Book of 2019, Bad on Paper Book Club pick, Book of the Month selection, lots of #bookstagram buzz, publisher hype.
My Take: I liked this book and was riveted by the three women’s stories, but I wasn’t on board with the overall theme of the book and thought it was a stretch. So, though I did like it, I don’t think it deserved the level of hype it received.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
Accolades: National Book Award Winner – Fiction, Lithub’s 20 Best Novels of the Decade
My Take: I was a bit hesitant to include this one since I only read 2% of it, but in that 2%, the writing was virtually nonsensical. There has not been much #bookstagram buzz about this one…the buzz has mostly been confined to elite awards committees and publications, which is usually a “run fast” sign for me.

What books do you think deserved their hype this year? Which ones do you think didn’t?

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2019 books that deserved the hype

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  1. Heather wrote:

    Just out of curiosity, did you read The Handmaid’s Tale before you read The Testaments? The narrators are a little easier to figure out if you read The Handmaid’s Tale first. Atwood deliberately doesn’t name the narrators because she wants the reader to figure it out and be all, “Oh! Yes! I know who that is!” once they figure it out. I’m sorry it didn’t live up to the hype for you.

    I’ll have to check some of your “worth the hype” books out–I haven’t read any of those.

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Yes – I read it about 5 years ago and re-read the Epilogue right before reading The Testaments. I know authors use this tool all the time and I’m just not a fan. I have a hard time fully immersing myself in a story if I can’t imagine who’s talking or whose head I’m living in. Especially with multiple POV’s. I’ve been ok with it before if there’s only 1 narrator and there’s a big reveal that’s part of the plot (I’m thinking All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker), but that wasn’t the case with The Testaments.

      Posted 12.3.19 Reply
      • Heather wrote:

        That’s totally understandable. I haven’t been able to get into certain books before for the same reason.

        Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  2. For me the most over-hyped book of the year was The Silent Patient, good lord I’m still trying to understand what everyone saw in this book! Daisy is definitely the most deserving of the hype!

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I liked Silent Patient fine, but nowhere near as much as the rest of the world did! And, wow, they sure did! I’m betting it takes home 2 Goodreads Choice Awards.

      Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  3. I knew we’d have Ask Again, Yes and City of Girls on opposite lists. Still, we agreed on quite a few and had I gone a little deeper, I’d have included The Dutch House and The Dearly Beloved, and She Said on my books worthy of the hype list, too. Looking forward to the conversation!

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      We’ll have to hash all this out on the podcast episode!

      Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  4. Sally Valente wrote:

    I stand by my recommendation for The Testaments. Yes, I was a bit confused in the beginning. I read Handmaid’s Tale when it first came out, so yes, I had forgotten alot but as I read more it came back to me. I think it has a very important statement to make. And I really liked how the stories unfolded. I bought a new copy of Handmaid’s Tale. Someday I will reread it.
    I look forward to Patchett’s book and Gilbert’s book.
    The Only Plane in the Sky is still waiting patiently to be read.
    But I , like you am weary of hype.
    That’s where you and the many other avenues come in – here are suggestions and thoughts but ultimately – the reader decides. What’s really fun though is when people are on the same page as you and the fun can begin – the joy and excitement of singing a books wonderment.
    Happy Holidays!

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’d read the Handmaid’s Tale probably about 5 years ago, but it all still felt funny. I had to ask a friend who’d already read it to help me with the narrators. I always find it difficult to full immerse myself in a story if I have no idea who’s talking…especially if this is going on with multiple POVs.

      Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  5. Bookertalk wrote:

    I was so undecided about reading The Testaments. I now have a copy – a generous gift from a librarian. But still not sure about it because I’m worried it was written purely on the back of the success of the tv series

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I agree about it being written based on the TV series success…or the Handmaid’s Tale resurgence before the TV series. Just felt mailed in.

      Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  6. Lindsay wrote:

    I agree with you re: Things You Save in the Fire not deserving the hype. It was my very first BOTM pick this past summer. I finished it, but I knew from the first chapter that I wasn’t going to like it. Beyond that, there were problematic messages (in my opinion) and the ending was so cheesy and wrapped up far too neatly. I gave it 2/5 stars and that was being generous.

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  7. Melissa wrote:

    I wholeheartedly agree with almost all of your “Deserved the Hype” list! Except The Dutch House, to slow and depressing for me, although beautifully written and Tom Hanks is the best audiobook narrator ever (and to a lesser extent I didn’t love City of Girls, but it had its charms). I’m not sure about your “Didn’t Deserve” list, only because I DNF’d or didn’t read them (which probably means I agree about those, too).

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  8. I agree with this post SO much!!! I ADORED Ask Again, Yes, The Dearly Beloved, The Only Plane in the Sky, She Said, and Daisy Jones and the Six; and, I didn’t read many of your “didn’t deserve” choices, but I definitely agree about Three Women!! #nailedit

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  9. Karen wrote:

    I’m doing Three Women on audio now and I’m torn. The writing is excellent but the subject matter is so dark. I guess I feel like I “should” read it more than I really want to, so it may end up being a DNF for me.

    Posted 12.3.19 Reply
  10. Was just thinking about this today. I’d have to say, The Silent Patient and Mrs. Everything were two that did not deserve the hype.

    Posted 12.4.19 Reply
  11. susan wrote:

    On your lists I’d switch out Dutch House for The Testaments. Testaments was good … but Dutch House eventually put me right to sleep. Recursion became too crazy but Daisy Jones was a good read.

    Posted 12.5.19 Reply
  12. We’ll agree to disagree on City of Girls (I loathed it), The Testaments (I was engrossed) and Three Women (halfway through and so far, loving it). I’m saving The Dutch House for next week – figured I needed an ace distraction in the lead up to Christmas!

    Posted 12.9.19 Reply
  13. Terri D. wrote:

    I’m currently reading Daisy Jones & The Six. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I do, but I just love it. I love the way it’s done in a documentary style. It’s raw and engaging.

    Posted 12.9.19 Reply

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