2019 was a good year for books and me. I made it a priority to read more, and I JUST hit my goal of 32. This was also a year of many interests, which resulted in starting a lot of books and not quite finishing them. Here’s some fun stats I took from my Goodreads “Year in Books.” Click here to see the whole thing.
Here’s a list of everything I read in 2019 in the order I read them (each title link goes to the Goodreads page for the book):
One: Thanks A Thousand: A Gratitude Journey by A.J. Jacobs
I’ve always enjoyed A.J. Jacobs’ writing. Each of his books are some kind of experiment. This one was, as the title suggests, all about gratitude. He sets out to thank everyone who had something to do with his morning cup of coffee. The gratitude journey is beautiful, and also shows just how connected we all are.
Two: It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort
This was a book club pick and I’m so glad it was. I laughed, I ached, I wanted to be best friends with Nora, it was great. It is heavy with grief and light with humor. You may know her from her podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, but if you don’t know her at all, I encourage you to check her out.
Three: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I devoured this book. It had been suggested to me a few times, and I’d seen it popping up in many different places. This debut novel is beautifully written and draws you in to a different world.
Four: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
A reading challenge I started but abandoned (because I kind of forgot about it) had “A Graphic Novel” on the list. I’d never read one before, but this one had been suggested to me multiple times. As a fan of Holocaust literature (which I still feel weird saying and explore in this post) this seemed like an obvious choice for my first graphic novel. A retelling of the Holocaust story with mice and cats, it’s not a fun or easy read, but a good one.
Five: New and Selected Poems, Volume One by Mary Oliver
Oh, Mary Oliver, how I love you. Yes, I “read” this book this year, but it’s a volume I visit often.
Six: Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon
I thought I’d read everything by Austin Kleon (I’m a big fan of his work and his blog) but I found this book that I forgot I had. This book goes through how he began with newspaper blackout poetry, and includes poems he has created.
Seven: Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
Fredrik Backman has become one of my favorite authors over the years. This book was a follow up to Beartown which I enjoyed, so I had to read the sequel. Centered around a wintry town that loves hockey, the character development is excellent and the story had me hooked.
Eight: Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
This book was a pick for a work book club (yes, another book club). I would have read it regardless because I ❤ Brené. If you lead in any way (and you probably do) this is a good read for bringing your full self to work/your leadership. It helps you identify your values and lean into them.
Nine: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
“I’ve never suggested this book to you before? Go read it. Now” was about how this recommendation went from my friend Emily. What a beautiful read. It made me want to pack up, move to New York, and eat savory, delicious food. The words that Danler uses are unlike any author I’ve read before, and reading it was akin to the feeling of holding your hand out the window in a moving car: calmly floating along on air.
Ten: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
What do I say about this book? It was a collection of short stories that surprised me, but I didn’t love it that much. It was a short read, so I stuck with it. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but just not my cup of tea.
Eleven: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
I absolutely loved The Hate U Give by Thomas, so when this book came out I pounced. Though it’s YA, this not-so-young adult loved it. Set in the same community as The Hate U Give, but with different characters, this journey of fame, rap, writing, and more is a great read.
Twelve: The Bathroom Chronicles: 100 Women. 100 Images. 100 Stories. by Friederike Schillbach
While strolling through the library one day, this book caught my eye. This is a compilation of 100 women’s bathrooms. One hundred photos and short stories (a page or less) about a special piece in this private room. I love the concept and was inspired to compile something with photos and stories. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m still thinking.
Thirteen: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Another YA book, another book club pick I loved. I won’t write too much because I don’t want to give it away, but if you want a nice little teenage love story wrapped in some complications, give this one a read.
Fourteen: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Dear Lindy, thank you for writing this book. As someone who has never been quite comfortable in her bigger-than-average body, this book was a gift. It helped me to learn to love myself a little more, and as I sat in a bathing suit next to a pool in Florida I was able to let go of my fear and enjoy the sunshine.
Fifteen: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book has been on my shelf for a while and I never got to it. I started once, but put it back down because I had a hard time following the storyline in the first couple of chapters. If you feel the same way, keep going. It’s a great read. I love books that set out separate stories and then they intertwine later, and this one does that beautifully.
Sixteen: Keep Going by Austin Kleon
We find Austin Kleon here again with probably my favorite book he’s written. Maybe it’s because it came out at a time that I needed to read it to revive my creativity. If you’re stuck, bored, in a rut, or just need a jumpstart, give this a read.
Seventeen: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Summary: Thoughts from a therapist who goes to therapy. There’s so much more to it than that, and it’s so good. If you were around me as I was reading this, I was suggesting it to everyone. I think it’s a great read for anyone.
Eighteen: Choose Wonder Over Worry by Amber Rae
This is another one I went on a recommendation rampage about. It was suggested to me and man I am SO glad ( I don’t do all-caps lightly). Part memoir, part ass-kicking, part guided writing, it’s all wonderful. If you struggle with any self-doubt, fear, or if you feel anything is standing in between you and the life you want, this is a read for you. I want to go back and dig in to some of the journal prompts I breezed by the first time as I devoured the book. It’s definitely going to be one I revisit over and over again.
Nineteen: Recursion by Blake Crouch
Blanket Blake Crouch review: this author knows how to hook you real good in the first few pages of a book. You’ll see him quite a bit from here on out on this list and that’s exactly why. He sets up a story so that you can’t help but stay up until 2am feverishly reading to find out what happens next. This book centers on memory, which is incredibly fascinating to me. If you want a good page-turner, pick up this book. Warning: you won’t be able to put it down, so give yourself some time.
Twenty: Pines (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch
Twenty-One: Wayward (Wayward Pines #2) by Blake Crouch
Twenty-Two: The Last Town (Wayward Pines #3) by Blake Crouch
I’m going to treat this as one review because I devoured all of them quickly (see above Blake Crouch blanket statement). Very early in book one, a man wakes up in the middle of a street, not knowing where he is or quite how he got there. And it gets more bizarre and intricate from there. Buckle up for this ride.
Twenty-Three: Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver
Different from her poetry, this is a book of essays that is also lovely. I think I skipped one toward the end, so I didn’t read the whole thing (and I felt the need to confess that) but what I did read I loved.
Twenty-Four: Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
I’ve read quite a bit of World War II-era historical fiction, and this is one of my new favorites. Based on a very true story, its main character is in Italian boy who is in the right place at the right (or wrong) time. I loved reading about a piece of history I knew nothing about. What an incredible story that I’m so glad someone told in book form.
Twenty-Five: A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea by Masaji Ishikawa
This is not a light or easy read. One man’s story of moving to North Korea and then escaping is not for the faint of heart. Though, spoiler alert from the title, he escapes, it is not a happy ending. There’s so many terrible things, but it’s illuminating on what terrible things are happening that we’re, or at least I, was completely unaware of. I had known it was a terrible place to live, but I had no idea just how terrible.
Twenty-Six: Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love by Jonathan Van Ness
YAS Queen! I love the show Queer Eye for the wholesome positivity it brings into the world. Jonathan is a ray of sunshine in the world, but didn’t have a super sunshiny life. It’s inspiring to read his full story and now see the life he’s chosen to live. He’s honest with his shitty past decisions and situations, and shares how he’s chosen to love himself. His voice shines through it which makes it a joy to read, even in the tough parts.
Twenty-Seven: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Favorite fiction book of the year. I say this for a few reasons:
1: It illuminated pieces of history I had no idea about and has inspired me to seek out the untold stories.
2: The story is centered around a love of books.
3: It’s well-written and though I didn’t want to put it down most of the time, it’s broken up into shorter chapters so it was easy for me to pick it up even if I only had 15-20 minutes to spare.
If you’ve gotten this far in this long post, one: thank you, and two: read this book.
Twenty-Eight: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Another Blake Crouch, yes. Another great book, yes.
Twenty-Nine: Find Your Artistic Voice by Lisa Congdon
Though I don’t consider myself an artist in the traditional term (paint, sculpture, etc.) this was a great read for me to think about my voice. What do I want to write? What else comes into my craft? It inspired this post and has me getting back into my neglected love of photography.
Thirty: Things Are What You Make of Them: Life Advice for Creatives by Adam J. Kurtz
I love following Adam J. Kurtz on Instagram (find him here), which is how I found this book. It’s a great little companion that I will revisit time and again when I need it. I read it cover-to-cover over a few days, but folded some corners and took lots of notes. It also inspired this post.
Thirty-One: Educated by Tara Westover
This book had been suggested multiple times, and I have wanted to read it for a while, but just didn’t make time. I picked it up and then couldn’t put it back down again. I had to in order to sleep, go to work, etc. but I read it whenever I could. It’s an incredible memoir.
Thirty-Two: Abandon by Blake Crouch
Not my favorite story by him, but an intriguing, time-hopping mystery that had me hooked nonetheless.
(I may have one more that I finish between now and the new year – I’m currently devouring (and underlining and journaling through) On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff. The only reason I won’t finish it before 2020 is because I’m savoring and learning from it.)
There you have it. My 2019 in books. In 2020 I will be reviewing each book with its own post right after I read it. Cheers to a new year!