Best Books of the Year 2019

Arsen Kashkashian, Head Buyer, Liesl Freudenstein, Head of Children’s Books and Stephanie Schindhelm, Marketing & Promotions Manager at the Boulder Bookstore join Maeve Conran of KGNU in the studio to share their favorite books of 2019 in our annual end of year Best Books of the year show. 

Listen to an audio-only version of the segment below:
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Arsen’s Picks:

The River by Peter Heller: Two college friends have to race a raging forest fire down a remote river while evading a killer lying in wait for them. This is outdoors adventure writing at its best. Heller’s evocative descriptions of the landscape and the breakneck pacing of the story make for a very satisfying read.




Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstin: This is a remarkable collection of short stories centered on the experience of Latino and Chicano women living in Colorado.

*Listen to Kali Fajardo-Anstin on Radio Bookclub on December 26th at 9a.m.*


The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste: Hirut is a female soldier in Ethiopia’s war against the invading Italians. Mengiste gives us her story but also those of the Italians and others in this sweeping historical novel.



How to Resist Amazon and Why by Danny Caine: The owner of the Raven Book Store packs a lot of information into this small pamphlet about how much harm Amazon is perpetrating on our society while a docile public keeps pushing the buy button. This is a perfect stocking stuffer for those liberal activists in your life who are proud Prime members.


Good Talk by Mira Jacob: Jacob examines the racial issues in America and the rise of white nationalism in a series of conversations with her mixed-race son in this graphic. Jacob’s simple drawings set against detailed backdrops heighten the intimacy of these talks.



Liesl’s Picks:

Being Edie Is Hard Today by Ben Brashares & Elizabeth Bergeland: This warm and tender story about being yourself–even when you’re sad, anxious, or feeling lonely–reminds readers that human connection is essential, tears can heal, and a new day is always coming. Being Edie is hard today. No one understands. Not her mother. Not her teachers, or the kids at school. If only if she could be an animal! Edie’s imagination may be the perfect escape, but she can’t run from her feelings forever if she’s going to be comfortable in her own skin.

The Toll by Neal Shusterman: In the highly anticipated finale to the New York Times bestselling trilogy, dictators, prophets, and tensions rise. In a world that’s conquered death, will humanity finally be torn asunder by the immortal beings it created? Citra and Rowan have disappeared. Endura is gone. It seems like nothing stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute dominion over the world scythedom. With the silence of the Thunderhead and the reverberations of the Great Resonance still shaking the earth to its core, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him? The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll, and the Thunder.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question—How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada: Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is inspired by Filipino folklore and is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about friendship, courage, and identity. Readers will love meeting Lalani, an ordinary girl on an extraordinary adventure; and Veyda, the best friend she leaves behind to ignite a revolution.


Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts: Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia (aka Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea—the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall—only to be told by a clerk that she can’t build a park because she’s just a kid! Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove what one kid can do.

Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler by Steve Sheinkin & Neil Swaab: When Abraham Lincoln overhears a classroom of kids saying “history is boring,” he decides to teach them a lesson. Lincoln quits history once and for all—to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler! Now step-siblings Abby and Doc have to convince Lincoln to go back to Springfield, Illinois, accept the presidency, and prove once and for all that history is not boring!


Pluto Gets the Call by Adam Rex & Laurie Keller: Pluto gets a call from Earth telling him he isn’t a planet anymore, so he sets out on a journey through the solar system to find out why in this funny and fact-filled romp that’s perfect for fans of The Scrambled States of America.


Big Ideas for Curious Minds: An Introduction to Philosophy, The School of Life by Alain de Botton & Anna Doherty: Without prompting children often ask some of the largest questions about time, mortality, happiness and the meaning of life. Yet all too often their inborn curiosity is not developed and, with age, the questions fall away. This book addresses some of their more complex questions by introducing accessible philosophical concepts from 25 famous thinkers, contextualized in relatable everyday scenarios. Presented in an interactive question and answer format this book takes us to meet leading figures of philosophy from around the world and from all eras—and shows us how their ideas continue to matter. With discussions about some of the most vibrant and essential philosophical ideas of history, this accessible book functions as an ideal introduction to the subject as well as a charming way to open up conversations between children and adults about the biggest questions we all face.

Stephanie’s Picks:

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: I’ll admit to some hesitancy when first picking this up, because I loved THE NIGHT CIRCUS so much, and how could this live up to that? OMG it was worth the wait – I might even love this book more than THE NIGHT CIRCUS! It has all of the lush descriptions that were so evocative in her first book (the scents are what really puts me right there), as well as the wonderful romance and the dreamlike quality of a magical place. But this book is about stories, and books, and the people who love them, and how can I as a bookseller not be totally swept away? Once you finish this, you’ll need to reread immediately so you can fully see how all of the stories connect. SO GOOD!

The Light Years by Chris Rush: This is one of those memoirs that’s easy to forget that it’s not fiction – so many crazy things have happened to Chris Rush in just the first twenty years of his life that it’s a miracle he lived through it all! Rush grew up during the 60s and 70s, discovering a love for art, other boys, and just about every drug you can imagine. The world he paints with words is bright and dark at the same time, and he brilliantly shows how the innocent pursuit of drugs in the 60s evolves into the addictions of the 70s. There is black magic in Rush’s writing, and it’s a thrill to experience!

The Deep by Rivers Solomon: This is a beautifully haunting novella about the Wajinru, mermaid-like creatures descended from drowned pregnant African slaves, and about history and how it affects us. The main character, Yetu, keeps all of the memories and histories for the Wajinru, and the pain of holding on to their tragic history is killing her. Her journey to discover who she could be without the burden of her people’s past is powerfully written.


Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia: I had SO much fun reading this book! It was so unputdownable that I actually snuck away from a party so I could keep reading. When an eccentric billionaire dies very suddenly at a charity function, he leaves behind a city-wide scavenger hunt in Boston, with the prize being some of his money. I loved the quirky cast of characters who embark on this quest, especially the main character Tuesday and her best friend Dex.


The Way We Eat Now by Bee Wilson: I love Bee Wilson’s food writing, and this book is no exception. For her newest book, she looks at how much eating habits have changed all over the world in the past 50 years. Right now, all over the world, people are simultaneously eating more healthily and more terribly than at any point previously. Wilson dives into some of the causes for both of these eating trends, including the global branding and marketing of sugary drinks and foods, the rise of self service markets, and the decline of the home cooked meal. This is a fascinating look at our relationship to food in the modern era.

The Bird King by G Willow Wilson: This is a lyrical fantasy novel set during the Spanish Inquisition in Muslim Spain. Fatima is a concubine in the Muslim royal court in Granada, and her best friend, Hassan, is the royal mapmaker, who has the curious ability to draw perfect maps of places he’s never seen and bend the reality of space to fit his wishes. When a Inquisition arrives, they see Hassan’s skills as devilry, and Fatima and Hassan must go on the run to avoid execution. Fatima is a wonderfully strong woman, and her development throughout the novel was a joy to watch. This is excellent diverse fantasy with a strong female lead!


Maeve’s Picks:

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe: From award-winning New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe, a stunning, intricate narrative about a notorious killing in Northern Ireland and its devastating repercussions






There There by Tommy Orange: There There is the story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. This debut novel was originally published in 2018 but was a finalist for several major awards in 2019.




Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor: This novel revolves around Bram Stoker, author of Dracula,  actor and impresario Henry Irving and leading lady Ellen Terry, and the complicated relationships  between the three.





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