Top 10 Picks for 2019


Below is our annual Top 10 Picks for 2019.  This year, we’ve added an Honorable Mention list since there were SO many great books for younger readers, we simply couldn’t leave these little gems out.  We hope you find this list is helpful in choosing some books to read in 2020 and look forward to sharing more great dusty jackets in the upcoming year.  Happy reading!

The Dusty Jacket’s Top 10 Picks for 2019*

Adult Fiction/Biography

  1. Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter & Me (Memoir) by Lorilee Craker (reviewed January 2019)
  2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (reviewed January 2019)
  3. The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander (reviewed January 2019)
  4. Memoirs of an Invisible Friend by Matthew Dicks (reviewed February 2019)
  5. Chosen By a Horse (Memoir) by Susan Richards (reviewed March 2019)
  6. The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (reviewed April 2019)
  7. The Human Comedy by William Saroyan (reviewed May 2019)
  8. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (reviewed June 2019)
  9. Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard (reviewed October 2019)
  10. Saints at the River by Ron Rash (reviewed December 2019)

Juvenile/Young Adult

  1. I Don’t Know How the Story Ends (YA Historical Fiction) by J. B. Cheaney (reviewed January 2019)
  2. Alchemy and Meggy Swann (YA Historical Fiction) by Karen Cushman (reviewed January 2019)
  3. Bud, Not Buddy (J) by Christopher Paul Curtis (reviewed March 2019)
  4. An Elephant in the Garden (YA Historical Fiction) by Michael Morpurgo (reviewed March 2019)
  5. The Wheel on the School (J) by Meindert DeJong (reviewed April 2019)
  6. The Lightning Dreamer (YA Historical Fiction) by Margarita Engle (reviewed April 2019)
  7. King of the Wind (J Historical Fiction) by Marguerite Henry (reviewed May 2019)
  8. Return to the Willows (J) by Jacqueline Kelly (reviewed June 2019)
  9. The Hundred Dresses (J) by Eleanor Estes (reviewed August 2019)
  10. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (J Biography) by William Kamkwamba (reviewed September 2019)

Honorable Mention

Silent to the Bone (YA) by E. L. Konigsburg (reviewed February 2019)

The Birchbark House (J) by Louise Eldrich (reviewed February 2019)

Abel’s Island (J) by William Steig (reviewed March 2019)

Bed-Knob and Broomstick (J) by Mary Norton (reviewed April 2019)

Bluefish (YA) by Pat Schmatz (reviewed July 2019)

Adam of the Road (J) by Elizabeth Janet Gray (reviewed August 2019)


*List contains selections reviewed in 2019


Saints at the River by Ron Rash

Saints At The River

Saints at the River

Ron Rash (Adult Fiction)

It was during Easter break when twelve-year-old Ruth Kowalsky lost her life to the Tamassee River.  One minute Ruth’s wading to the river’s middle to place one foot on the South Carolina side and the other on the Georgia side and the next minute she’s pulled downstream—her submerged body forever trapped in a deep eddy.  Soon, Ruth’s drowning becomes both a local tragedy and the center of an environmental debate with long-reaching political ties.  Caught in the middle is photographer Maggie Glenn who returns to her Oconee County hometown to cover this story for her newspaper.  Maggie must not only choose between grieving out-of-towners and her beloved river, but she must also confront events from her past that has driven a deep chasm between her and her estranged father.

Ron Rash provides a compelling story and serves up the question, “Should human life take precedence over environmental sanctity?”  When I came upon this book, I found myself a bit skeptical of the story’s premise.  How can you build a meaningful and suspenseful story around environmental activists waging war on grieving parents without making either side look unfeeling or unsympathetic?  But I had unfairly underestimated Mr. Rash who takes great care in presenting both sides of this debate and does so with passion, honesty, and neutrality.  He gives equal time to both positions and allows his reader to make up his or her own mind without fear of judgement or reprisal…unlike our protagonist, Maggie, who must bear and witness the full brunt of her choice.  Although the reader doesn’t get a chance to know young Ruth Kowalsky, her tragic death serves as a catalyst to understanding the motivations of her father, Herb, as well as the actions of Maggie’s own father during her childhood.  Both men are alike in their desperate search for redemption and closure.

Although I didn’t quite connect with Maggie and had little interest in her unfortunate and turbulent backstory, I was drawn to the Kowalsky’s plight and to the small South Carolina town caught in the middle of a bitter legal battle to protect its most precious natural resource.  Saints at the River is a cautionary tale of political influence, government overreach, and the delicate balance between life and the law.  Although there are many interesting characters in this book, the central figure is undoubtedly the Tamassee River.  It is a power onto itself and its water courses through this story like blood through veins.  It is to be admired, respected, protected, and—most importantly—never underestimated as history professor Douglas Brinkley once wrote, “Thus did nature triumph over man’s attempt to conquer it.  Nature always wins.”

Rating: 4/5

*Book cover image attributed to

**Want more?  Visit our Facebook page at


The White Stag by Kate Seredy (J)

The White Stag

The White Stag

Kate Seredy (Juvenile Fiction)

“Hadur, Powerful God, Thou hast indeed turned the sword against me, Thy sword, Hadur, not mine!  But Thou hast given me a scourge in its place and I swear to Thee, I, Bendeguz the White Eagle, that I shall use that scourge, that I shall make it into the most dreadful weapon ever known to men.  Thou hast given me a son, Hadur, he will be that scourge!  My son, Attila the Red Eagle, the Scourge of God!”

And so it was that in the year 408, Attila the Hun was born to Bendeguz the White Eagle and Alleeta, a girl captured during one of the many Hun raids.  Alleeta who would die in childbirth but would give her tribe one of the greatest and most brutal leaders it would ever know.  A leader who would take his people on a journey foretold by his great grandfather Nimrod, Mighty Hunter before the Lord, and started by his grandfather, Hunor of the Hun tribe, and his great uncle, Magyar of the Magyar tribe, and then continued by his father Bendeguz the White Eagle.  Great warriors who would bear the flag of the Red Eagle and follow the mythical White Stag from the headlands of wild Altain-Ula in the west toward the east.  A pilgrimage sweeping from Asia to Europe and leaving countless men, women, and children dead, dying, or enslaved.  A journey that wouldn’t stop until the promised homeland was reached.

Through her poetic prose and beautiful illustrations, Kate Seredy delivers an epic story mixing fantasy, legend, myth, biblical references, and history.  Although Seredy doesn’t fully plunge into the breadth of Attila’s savagery and conquests, she gives her young audience enough information to fully understand that the Huns were a rather nasty and savage lot.  Readers know from the onset that what they are about to delve into is going to be more epic fantasy than straight-from-the-books history: “Those who want to hear the voice of pagan gods in wind and thunder, who want to see fairies dance in the moonlight, who can believe that faith can move mountains, can follow the thread on the pages of this book.  It is a fragile thread; it cannot bear the weight of facts and dates.”

Through her rich illustrations that bring this magnificent tale to life, Seredy immerses her readers with a story of moonmaidens and miracles, life and death, and bravery and barbarism.  But above all of these, she gives us a tale of courage and faith and how the two are tightly woven together.  Because my own words often come up short, I sometimes choose to end my reviews with a quote (some known and others not so much) that manages to encapsulate the feelings and lessons I’m left with after the last page is turned and the book has been reshelved for another.  I found the perfect one from self-help writer Edmond Mbiaka who said, “At every given moment in your life, you have the option to move backwards with fears and doubts or to keep pushing forward with faith and courage.”  Although our own personal moments may never compare to those of the Huns or Magyars, we can find comfort in knowing that we too can reach our own “promised land” if we hold fast, stay true, and never waiver in our convictions and belief.

Rating: 4/5

*Book cover image attributed to

**Want more?  Visit our Facebook page at