I can’t believe we are almost through February already! I obviously got a little distracted with the addition of our new family member mid-month, but more on that to come next month… Before we get too far into the year, I wanted to share a good thing- several actually, because today I’m recapping some of the best books I read in 2019…
First of all, I would not be able to track all these books without one of my favorite apps- Goodreads. I highly recommend downloading it if you are a bookworm as it helps me remember which books I’ve read, which I want to read, and find recommendations from friends. It is definitely something I needed last year as I had a goal to read 64 books but somehow read over 100 (barely… and mostly due to how much time I spent in bed while sick from being pregnant- the “bright side” of extreme morning sickness) I also tried harder to get more of a variety of voices in the books I read this year and I am thrilled looking back at the list that the diversity really enriched my year in books so I tried to reflect that in this list (not reflected is the many, MANY pages I still read by dead or older white dudes thanks to continuing through the Wheel of Time series and some Terry Pratchett, etc. since that is for an especially niche audience. You can find my thoughts on those by visiting my GOODREADS page)
(If you like this post, you can also check out my recap of favorite books I read in 2018!)
Educated by Tara Westover
I’d recommend this book to: Anyone open to a stunning work of non-fiction, anyone blessed enough to have an awesome education
The main idea: This memoir tells of a woman’s struggle to get an education because her fundamentalist father opposes his children getting any formal schooling, and the way her life changes once she makes it into a classroom.
Why I loved it: As someone who deeply values learning, this book was stunning and so moving. It is written in an approachable way and with a lot of compassion for the family she came from.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I’d recommend this book to: Your book club
The main idea: The “marsh girl” protagonist in this is a perfect fictional companion to Westover’s memoir… a girl who is not formally educated but clearly brilliant in her own way. The book just begs to be talked about and I was lucky to have one of my best friends reading it the same time I was.
Why I loved it: The descriptions were lovely, the characters interesting, and their was something reminiscent of To Kill A Mockingbird during the second part of the book…
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton
I’d recommend this book to: Anyone who isn’t afraid to cry at a memoir. Anyone who might need a good dose of empathy or who thinks our justice system is perfect.
The main idea: An innocent man spends an unspeakable amount of his life on prison and in death row yet somehow remains hopeful and a light amidst the terrible ordeals he goes through.
Why I loved it: After reading Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, Hinton’s eventual lawyer who works with people on death row, it was so interesting to hear from the other perspective of someone going through the trial of being on death row, and it made me wonder if my faith could be as strong as his.
Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (Translated by Ann Goldstein)
I’d recommend this book to: Anyone committed to making it through a long series
The main idea: The final book in a gorgeous quartet that centers around questions and ideas of friendship, feminism, politics, motherhood, and more.
Why I loved it: The writing is so rich and beautifully translated and there were so many little perfect gut punches and satisfying moments without leaving things too neat and tidy.
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
I’d recommend this book to: Readers who love the Rom-Com genre
The main idea: Basically A girl who loves rom-com in a deliciously light hearted rom-com situation
Why I loved it: The self-knowing/self-referencing bits that make you love movies like The Holiday are here as well as a cast of quirky, delightful supporting characters.
Starry-Eyed: Seeing Grace in the Unfolding Constellation of Life and Motherhood by Mandy Arioto
I’d recommend this book to: my fellow Christian Mamas, especially my MOPS mamas- but really there’s wisdom for any parent in here…
The main idea: A collection of essays on life and motherhood that are full of vulnerable real moments and a sense of humor as well.
Why I loved it: I borrowed this book after wanting to read it since our “Starry Eyed” theme year in MOPS and it did not disappoint. This echoes so deeply some feelings I’ve had since becoming a mom and there were just lovely poetic moments of writing.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
I’d recommend this book to: Anyone interested in historical fiction and strong female characters
The main idea: Set during WWII- told from the perspective of three very different women
Why I loved it: The voices were so specific and the fact that it is all based on true stories and characters was a gut punch. Just when you think you know everything about the horrors of this time in history you learn something more…
26 marathons: What I’ve Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From Each Marathon I’ve Run by Men Keflezighi
I’d recommend this book to: The athlete or runner in your life or anyone who may be entertaining the idea of becoming a runner…
The main idea: A world class athlete shares how what you learn on in a race and training for a race applies to so much of life.
Why I loved it: I read this shortly after running my first half-marathon and I loved it so much I bought it for my step-dad who is a marathoner/Iron Man finisher. I’m not sure I will ever in my life be interested in running a marathon, but I am in awe of those who do and of those who make a living from it. That being said, it was inspiring even as I think about training for much shorter races than that in the future and as I think about how running has changed my brain and the way I approach some of the hard things in life.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I’d recommend this book to: People who love hearing a new spin on a very well known story
The main idea: From the same author who wrote Circe (you can read my review about that in the 2018 books post), this is an earlier work with the same beautiful prose and the same alternative perspective, this time taking on the Illiad instead of the Odyssey as source material
Why I loved it: The prose style, the relationships, the detail, and the reimagining of something so familiar made this a favorite for me this year.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle
I’d recommend this book to: Anyone feeling nostalgic but who also needs a good dose of hope
The main idea: Misfits can save the world. Time and space travel. Love wins.
Why I loved it: After hearing what a train wreck the movie version was, I was nervous to revisit this childhood classic, but it did not disappoint. L’engle fills her writing with such tenderness and it was fun to revisit one of the first female protagonists who deeply resonated with me. Plus, I think the best YA authors approach intensely difficult subject material and present it assuming their audience will come along with them and L’Engle does this masterfully.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
I’d recommend this book to: Fans of quirky YA novels, anyone who wants an easy read that doesn’t feel like it is all fluff.
The main idea: I feel like the less you know going in the better it will be- but think mysterious notes, lovable characters, and bonus if you happen to be reading A Wrinkle in Time simultaneously…
Why I loved it: The characters, the writing style, the voice of the protagonist was delightful and the payoff at the end so lovely. More Rebecca Stead is definitely on my list for what to read this year…
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I’d recommend this book to: Everyone. I wish it was required reading for all high schoolers.
The main idea: I don’t want to say to much and ruin it so VERY generally speaking- high school girl grapples with police violence and racism and its immediate consequences in her life.
Why I loved it: The characters, the writing wasn’t over the top as it so easily could have been, the difference perspective, the relationships, and the HUMOR that is so desperately needed throughout the book to get through the heartbreak. This book had the longest hold time at the library of any book I read this year and it was well worth the wait.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
This is another favorite in a series of books that begins with The Thief– while they are technically a series of YA novels they are definitely not written in a childish manner and the twists and turns fo each book in this series is stunning.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
If you are a fan of Handmaids Tale then this will give you plenty to talk about while the show is on hiatus… it left me deeply curious how much this book will effect the ending of the show. That being said, this book is written from three POV characters and one character was definitely the strongest for me/most interesting to read…
City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Another fun rom-com of a book but written with a lot of heart and one that I loved a little bit more due to being a baker and being obsessed with the culinary descriptions… maybe keep a few baked goods on hand while you read this one…
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Some people will find this book totally boring, but for a library loving nerd like me I was oh so fascinated and kept bugging my husband about little bits and pieces I was learning.
Everybody, Always by Bob Goff
Goff’s writing may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly for me. You won’t find deeply researched and argued theology here, but you will find inspiring stories of creatively living God’s love in the world. Also a lot of lawyer jokes… Proud that he teaches at my alma mater.
I’d love to hear about if you use goodreads, if you have a favorite book you read last year, or about your reading goals for this year! My reading goals are much more modest for 2019, as I’m hoping to spend much less of it feeling ill/being in bed, but I’m still hoping to get through at least two books a month