In 2019 I read a total of 52 books (Aaron just told me "that's one a week"). I definitely had months when I read more and months when I read less and I'm embracing that rhythm. I've got a whole stack in my bedroom just waiting for me.
Bottom line: I still love books. Ha. And I can't wait to see what I read in 2020.
Here's what I read in November + December:
- High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addicts Double Life by Tiffany Jenkins | Read this one for my book club and it resulted in a great discussion about addiction and about storytelling.
- Red At The Bone by Jacqueline Woodson | 4.5 stars. The writing, the writing, the writing. Read it for the writing. (It's a quick read but for some reason took me forever - been having a hard time getting into anything lately.)
- The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding Of Madness by Susannah Cahalan | I read this one before reading Brain On Fire (her first book). I found both fascinating - this one maybe even more so then her memoir. The bottom line is we know so little about how our brain works and this is a super interesting investigation into some of the history surrounding that.
- Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano | 4 stars. Truly enjoyed this story of survival and loss and beginning again. It was just a lovely book. I actually didn't find it depressing or sad - there were elements of that of course considering the subject matter but overall it's much more of a hopeful human story. I also loved that it went back and forth in time. I thought that was an effective storytelling technique to evolve the story. PS: I totally didn't know that this was inspired by a true story.
- Brain On Fire: My Month Of Madness by Susannah Cahalan | 4 stars. I actually read her newest book first and then went back to read this one. Both are so, so good. Informative, interesting and well-written.
- Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips | 4 stars. It's hard to figure out just what to say about this book. I enjoyed it. The writing itself is beautiful. In many ways it reads like a collection of short stories with some of the characters/settings intertwined. I'm glad I read it. Did I love it? No. Was it worth reading? Yes.
For My January 2020 Book Of The Month pick I went with Tightrope by Nicholas Kristof + Sheryl WuDunn.
COMPLETE LIST OF WHAT I'VE READ IN 2019
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (BOTM / Amazon) | Totally enjoyed this super-fast-to-read thriller. A great way to start out the new year.
- There There by Tommy Orange (local book club book for January) | This was a brutal book but an important read in terms of exposing ourselves to different voices - in this case Native Americans. There were lots of places I wished I would have underlined and I might just go back in and read it again for those words. It was a little confusing to follow the characters as it went back and forth - I definitely found myself flipping back to previous chapters to make sure I remembered whose perspective I was reading. Read it.
- Verity by Colleen Hoover | Super satisfying thriller. Started it one evening and finished the next morning. Just read it.
- The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith | Finally had a chance to start this series (written by JK Rowling under a pen name) and I totally enjoyed it. Detective mystery that kept me interested.
- I’m Still Here: Black Dignity In A World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown | 5 stars. There is nothing else to say besides this: this is an important book that should be read by everyone. Stories matter, especially of those who have been and continue to be marginalized in our society.
- The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai | 5 stars. I loved this book. I loved the weaving of the two different time periods (1980's during the AIDS crisis in Chicago + 2015) and I loved how the author posed questions about love, friendship, memories, stories (and who gets to tell them), imperfect people (everyone), and the passage of time. It was heartbreaking and rich and beautifully written.
- The Winter Sister by Megan Collins (BOTM) | 3 stars. A fast ready but one that was really just "okay" for me. The characters, the story, the whole thing - it was just not quite there. I've read so many better thrillers over the last few years.
- A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum (BOTM) | 5 stars. Loved it. Go read it. Three generations of Palestinian-American women's stories of daily life, courage, family, expectations, faith, etc. Really enjoyed the storytelling and how it all unfolded. So many times as I turned the page I kept thinking to myself how the stories of these women continue today here in the US and around the world. So, so different than my life experience. This is why I read.
- The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani | 3.5 stars // Picked it up because it was included in the New York Time's 10 best books of 2018 (others I've read from that list included "There, There" and "The Great Believers" which were both really good). This book was a super quick read - read it over the course of one day - and it was interesting but not awesome. Some pieces felt disjointed - I kept waiting for the author to go deeper into the story.
- Maid by Stephanie Land | 3.5 stars. As an advocate for telling your story, I generally appreciate memoirs like this that detail how lives are lived because I believe there are always things to be learned from people's experiences. While reading her story I had a wide variety of thoughts running through my head regarding poverty, single-parenthood (a piece I have lived + was thankful every single day that I had a job to support myself and my children), the way the "system" works, as well as thoughts about people I have interacted with throughout my life. From that standpoint, I'm glad I read it (and it was a super quick read).
- Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson (BOTM) | 3 stars. I found this to be a satisfying thriller. It's totally possible that I wasn't paying close enough attention while I was reading it (meaning I wasn't trying to figure out what was going to happen) but I definitely enjoyed it. Aaron read this on our vacation and also enjoyed it. Definitely good for a beach read.
- Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | 4 stars. Beautiful writing that I definitely think will stay with me for awhile. My local book club read this last month and I missed the meeting because I wanted to read it myself before having a conversation and the early part of my month was just too full to make time.
- Daisy Jones + The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid | 4 stars. I initially resisted this title as I was thinking I wasn’t interested in a story about rock & roll but people kept talking about it and then my book club picked it and down the path I went. I am so glad I went down that path! I definitely had a hard time remembering that it was fiction. I kept wanting to look up the band online to listen to their music and see their faces and read what had been written about them. That’s basically how well written and clever this book is. Beyond that, I loved the entire format for how she told the story and I loved the themes of love and loss and addiction and honesty and passion. So good. Highly recommended.
- Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton | 4 stars. Read this on vacation and loved the imagery. I'll definitely consider reading the new book she's coming out with that tells the story of Beatriz Perez: When We Left Cuba.
- The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith | 3 stars. This is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series and I didn't like it as much as the first one but it's a solid mystery with characters returning and their stories continuing. I like reading these ones on my Kindle on vacation. I'll definitely keep reading the series.
- Miracle Creek by Angie Kim (BOTM) | 3 stars. I really struggled with this book and I think it's probably just a personal problem with some of the subject matter surrounding autism. It's hard for me to articulate but I generally don't select books talking about Mom's + kids on the spectrum because it's already part of my daily life (and has been ever since my son was 2.5 years old). With this book I just kept having mixed feelings - about the characters, about the plot, about people trying to "fix" autistic people, etc. I'd be interested in hearing what other parents with kids on the spectrum felt about this one.
- All The You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr (BOTM) | 4 stars. I really, really liked this one. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I appreciate real life stories, but this one has really struck me for a particular reason: we live in an era where content/source material for our personal stories are able to be gathered via email and text and social media messages. Voices live on in their own words - similar to written letters of the past but also different (more immediate I guess). In this book I love reading David Carr’s words of encouragement to his daughter as she navigates early adulthood and addiction - he had a way with words that has me underlining and nodding and reflecting on my own life and relationships. So good.
- Lost And Wanted by Nell Fredenberger (BOTM) | 3.5 stars. I read this one while traveling and actually enjoyed the science mixed in with the story. I feel like I learned a little something about physics that is totally foreign to me and I liked the weaving through the story. I wanted to know how it was going to resolve itself and there were definitely parts that will stick with me.
- Wolfpack by Abby Wambach | 5 stars. This is a super quick read based on a commencement address and I loved it. Can't wait to share it with my girls.
- The Valedictorian Of Being Dead by Heather B. Armstrong | 5 stars. I'm going with 5 stars on this one because I think it's such an important read about depression + hope + life. It's Heather's own experience - not a prescription - showing a path she took to get out of a significant depressive episode. It's also a lot about understanding and kindness and asking for help and showing up for people. Really important read.
- Boss Up: This Ain't Your Mama's Business Book by Lindsay Teague Moreno | I got to read an advance copy of this one (it's available for preorder now) and it's a fantastic, straight-talking roadmap for getting started and for continuing to evolve and thrive as a woman entrepreneur. Lindsay takes the lessons she’s learned through her own experience and shares them in an honest, humorous, and inspiring way. Boss Up will make you want to dive right in and take the next steps forward no matter where you are in the process.
- Clean Mama's Guide To A Healthy Home by Becky Rapinchuk | As part of my personal wellness journey (more to come in a later post with an update about this) I'm working on reducing toxins in my house and this book and her site have been so, so helpful to me. It's easy to read and it was super inspiring me - I literally went around my house and got rid of just about everything I could that was a toxic cleaning product/personal care item.
- The Sound Of Gravel by Ruth Wariner | This is a tough book, along the same lines as Educated and The Glass Castle. I actually thought I had read this one already but I think I was confusing it with The Glass Castle. Definitely worth reading if you are a fan of memoir.
- Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center | I got this book as advance reader copy from Katherine (you can get this one via Book Of The Month before it releases to the public here). I loved this story of forgiveness and empathy and compassion and love and strength through struggle. Totally enjoyable.
- In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware | Read this one super quick on the beach. I didn't find it to be scary at all but that might have been because I was reading it on the beach during the day. It was a like not love for me.
- Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah | I've read The Nightingale and The Great Alone (one of my favorite books in the last few years) so I decided to pick up one of Kristen Hannah's earlier books. I liked it - a good friendship filled beach read that definitely had me crying at the end. If you have to pick one of her books I highly recommend The Great Alone or The Nightingale.
- Evicted: Poverty + Profit In The American City by Matthew Desmond | 5 stars : I started this one at the end of June and finished it fairly quickly - it's definitely an important book about poverty and housing. I love books like this where the author embeds themselves to tell the story.
- Lock Every Door by Riley Sager | 3 Stars : As a fan of thrillers I found this one to be just okay. I felt like it lacked depth overall and was just kind of boring - could totally be me. Ha.
- Three Women by Lisa Taddeo | 5 Stars : Super fascinating, very graphic look at the sexual/desire lives of three women + the stories they tell themselves + the stories that are told about them. Non-fiction that reads like fiction (pretty amazing storytelling using this voice/lens) - amazing achievement in terms of the research and then storytelling that went into writing this book.
- The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger | 3 Stars : I definitely wanted to know what was going to happen and how the story was going to be resolved and I stayed up too late to finish it up, but it I didn't love it. The way the characters behaved was a little like nails on a chalkboard for me (probably the point) and the issues raised are definitely timely for my friend group. I could see my book club enjoying this one for the discussion.
- Recursion by Blake Crouch | 5 stars : Somehow I missed that this was a recent BOTM book - I totally loved his book Dark Matter - so I ordered this on my Kindle after seeing Stephanie's husband reading it. I totally loved and devoured this mind-bending, sci-fi novel. This was one of those books that I just wanted to stop everything and read.
- She Explores: Stories Of Life Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub | This is kind of a coffee table book (the cover looks awesome for sure) but the stories were really motivating to where I'm at in life right now. Loved it and gave me a bunch of new people to follow on social media who love the outdoors.
- Wabi Sabi Welcome: Learning to Embrace the Imperfect and Entertain with Thoughtfulness and Ease by Juile Pointer Adams | Another coffee table style book but one I also read cover to cover and really loved because it was talking about a bunch of things I've been working on related to being more casual with get togethers. Really felt like it filled me up.
- Turn Of The Key by Ruth Ware | This one came in the mail on the the 30th and I finished it on the 31st just in time to add it to my list (I get my Book Of The Month picks in advance as part of them Ambassador Program). Super satisfying thriller.
- The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood | 5 stars : I have all kinds of feelings about this book and it’s hard for me to get all those thoughts/feelings in order. At its core, this is a love story. One of the main characters is autistic (Gentry). It’s raw and real and touching and hard and hopeful and human and deals with all kinds of family/relationship issues, especially loyalty and honor and love. It’s told from different characters perspectives (loved that) and Gentry’s version of the story is written using Middle English because that’s his passion. It takes a bit of getting used to the language in his chapters but I thought it was a completely awesome way to fully embody the character. As the Mom of a 17 year old who was diagnosed with autism at age 3, I had a definite soft spot for Gentry. I so appreciated that he was simply who he was and that he had people in his life who accepted and encouraged him for who he was and supported him in his passions (which complicates pieces of the story as it develops). Life is complicated and beautiful and I definitely felt those feelings as I read this one.
- Thirst: 2600 Miles To Home by Heather "Anish" Anderson | 4 stars : Since I can’t hike right now (ankle sprain) I decided to order some books about hiking/hiking memoirs and this was the first I read. I read it in a few hours and enjoyed it - I can’t imagine hiking 40+ miles daily for two months - definitely inspiring in the “get out there and make it happen” realm.
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead | 5 stars : An excellent, devastating book from the author of The Underground Railroad (which I have here but still haven't read).
- The Sunday Lunch Club by Juliet Ashton | 4 stars : There is something about this book that I found really, really delightful. It might be because it was different than what I've been reading (my last book was "The Nickel Boys" so there's that), or maybe it was just the right book for me at the right time. Whatever it was, I totally enjoyed it and I loved how she used the lens of the Sunday lunches to tell the story.
- The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains by Nicholas Carr | 5 stars : This is an older book but still super valuable about how the internet is actually changing the ways our brain works. Fascinated by so much of it - especially the chapter about memory. Felt super important and still mostly relevant. Following it up with Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World.
- Digital Minimalism: Choosing A Focused Life In A Noisy World by Cal Newport | 5 stars. I followed up The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains with this book and it was a really good companion with practical tips for living within the age of technology (not just leaving it all together). I underlined a lot and am planning on adopting some of his ideas in areas where I can in my own digital life. This is one I will definitely keep and refer back to regularly as I continue to figure out how to live intentionally and with meaning in the digital age.
- The Line Between by Lee Tosca | 4 stars. I saw Stephanie Howell recommend this one recently so I ordered it, cleared my day, and ended up reading the entire thing in an afternoon/evening. Totally captivated by the dystopian story - great distraction read for sure and I will definitely grab the next one in the series. I've got the follow up book that was just recently released here + ready to start soon (A Single Light).
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman | 4 stars. Been working my way through this one for awhile and finally finished it this morning. I’m still confused with the quote on the cover using the word “funny” as it never struck me as particularly funny. There were lots of vivid reminders to be kind to everyone you meet because you never know what kind of story they have lived or are living and I appreciated it for that. Definitely feel a soft spot for the main character which is why I kept reading.
- The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall (for Book Club) | 4 stars. I really, really enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful and the ways the characters wrestled with their faith felt very real. Totally agree with other reviews that this could have been a longer book with more details about the later years of their friendship/relationship.
- A Single Light by Tosca Lee | 3 stars. This was the follow up to The Line Between. I liked being able to continue the story and keep seeing what happened with the characters, but I just didn't enjoy this one as much as I did the first one.
- The Inflammation Spectrum by Will Cole | This one I read as part of my continuing education on inflammation and issues surrounding diet and autoimmune disease.
- Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis | I've been reading this one on and off as part of a stack of non-fiction that I dive into from time to time. I've been taking pieces that speak to me and leaving the rest behind.