2019 may have been a hard year in life, but it was a gooooood year in books. I even *gasp* read more novels than anything. Drop out of multiple semesters of grad school, get a case of mono, and watch your need for a good novel sky rocket.
As always, here are my favorites & recommendations at the top, with a full list below. 2020 has already started with some great reads – but what else should I add to my list?? What was the best book you read last year?
- An American Marriage This book is devastating & beautiful & a needed read. It follows a newlywed couple as a wrongful conviction blows apart their marriage. It’s a raw look at incarceration, people on both sides of the jail cell, race, fidelity, and love.
- The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle This is, BY FAR, the most fascinating murder mystery I have read in years. I could not put it down and could not stop raving about it. It’s like a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Downton Abbey and Inception all rolled into a novel. But, fair warning, you need to be fully engaged (and maybe a notebook of clues) to get through it – it’s not a light, easy read.
- Little Fires Everywhere This book was all the rage in 2017 – as it should have been. I was late to the game, but am still as in love as everyone else. It follows a mom and daughter in small town America, their clash with a rich family, and life throughout the town. It’s interesting, witty, keeps you guessing, and beautifully written. I am counting down the days until the Hulu adaptation.
- Ayesha, At Last I will go on record and say this is the best Pride and Prejudice rewrite ever. It’s set in a Muslim community in Canada, has some modern twists that are done really well, and is just a fun time.
- The River A friend recommended this as a weekend read, and although I expected a good book – I was not ready for the poetry in the pages. An adventure in the wilderness, you’re transported to life in a rugged canoe – but with surprisingly beautiful prose. It’s the best page-turner I read this year, and a beautiful story about friendship.
- The Huntress This is your cliche three different stories surprisingly (not) intersect into one set in – you guessed it! – WWII. But it’s done really, really well. It’s not the best written novel you’ll read this year – but it keeps your interest to the very last page.
- The Poisonwood Bible I feel like it’s a sin to not mention one of my ALL TIME forever forever favorites. I ended 2018 (cough started 2019) rereading.
Most Gifted (as in… the books I gave as gifts the most this year)
- Scary Close I’ve said it before: I read this book every year. It has yet to get old, and has yet to not teach me something new. It’s the best therapy you can get for $15 – this I swear by. RJ also read it this year – which was fun to unpack together, and then we promptly bought it for just about everyone we knew.
- Miracles and Other Reasonable Things Bessey is my forever favorite author – I pre-ordered this basically the second it became an option to. But this book was different – in it she discusses a car accident, the life long effects on her body, miraculous healing, and the painful everyday moments. For anyone with life long medical problems or a body that doesn’t always work properly (um, everyone?) – this book is a tender friend. And for anyone who doubts when God doesn’t show up in the big ways, or is confused when He does and then doesn’t – it’s a beacon of hope. I started buying it for friends when I was still halfway through it.
- Becoming Does this need any comment? Michelle Obama is pure class, getting to hear more of her story (especially during Barack’s campaign years!) was really fascinating, and I’m so excited for whatever she does to continue to better our world. I miss her in the White House so much.
- Educated OKAYYYYYYYYYYYY. That’s all I can say about this book because the story is, wow, but the writing is next level (which then makes the story even more wow??). Westover’s life growing up (completely off the grid, with religious fanatics as parents) truly reads like a novel. You have to remind yourself constantly it is real life.
- Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say Some more therapy for $10? Yes please. This collection of essays is raw, funny, and some will make you cry (even me). A lot of Corrigan’s stories have stuck with me long after I put the book down, inspiring me to be a better friend.
- Scary Close Discussed above
- Miracles and Other Reasonable Things Discussed above
- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years Went on a full D Miller kick at the end of this year (RJ inspired me), rereading both Scary Close and this gem in tandem. It’s been a while since I picked it up, but I remembered why I love his style so much – Miller rarely lays down hard truths and ultimatums; instead he gives you his take on things and leaves you with something to ponder. Especially in the political climate we’re in, it was a nice breath of fresh air.
- Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith | I’ve read 3 of the 4 (and she just finished the 5th, according to Twitter!), and while these are not the best best best reads of the year: the series is good, the writing is great (though not excellent), the mysteries are entertaining. The series is a solid 4 stars (out of 5).
We all miss Harry Potter, but here we are.
- The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingslover | Forever a favorite
- Becoming, Michelle Obama
- An American Marriage, Tayari Jones
- I Can’t Date Jesus, Michael Arceneaux | Not what I expected, but I still enjoyed it
- Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | Everything by Adichie should be require reading for every human
- The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Torton
- The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon | A really fun YA read
- I, Eliza Hamilton, Susan Holloway Scott | The Hamilton fans will appreciate this…. but only barely
- Paper Towns, John Green | I’ve given up on ever liking Green’s stuff
- Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
- On the Come Up, Angie Thomas | Hate to say it, but no where near as good as That Hate U Give
- The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware
- Educated, Tara Westover
- On Beauty, Zadie Smith | This was painful to get through. Smith is another fan favorite I can’t get into
- Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
- Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin | This may have been a best seller in 2004, but I don’t think it aged well
- China Rich Girlfriend, Kevin Kwan
- A Fatal Grace, Louise Penny | I’ve heard each of these get better! This one was fun, but not amazing
- The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
- It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover | A+ concept, C+ execution
- What to Say Next, Julie Buxbaum | If you’re looking for a light hearted YA, this will do the trick
- The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith
- Eleanor and Hick: the Love Affair that Shaped a First Lady, Susan Quinn | Really fascinating for the historical nerds out there
- Ayesha, At Last, Uzma Jalaluddin
- The River, Peter Heller
- Virals, Kathy Reichs | This was a $1 thrift store find that I mistakenly thought was part of her other series… but a good YA pick
- Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say, Kelly Corrigan
- Scary Close, Donald Miller
- Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith
- The Huntress, Kate Quinn
- Miracles and Other Reasonable Things, Sarah Bessey
- City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert | This was enjoyable, but I don’t understand the craze it generated
- A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller