Each year since I started tracking books read, I’ve read more books than the year before. This year is no exception. However, I don’t feel exactly braggy about this fact. On one hand, it implies that I perhaps failed in this year’s goal to read better rather than more, to savor and remember and not simply motor through as many volumes as possible. It is also unsustainable. At some point an upper limit exists and no one gives out “books read” prizes and, even if they did, I would lose within the grand colosseum of readers. Also, memento mori.
On the other hand, I may not have failed in my goal. I notice myself watching less and less television and movies (although I still watch my fair share) because, when it comes down to it, I’d usually rather be reading. That trend also continues year over year since I started tracking my books read. And that is a very encouraging thought.
Top 10 – 2019
- 10. The Apology, Eve Ensler – A hard, beautiful book wherein Ensler ventriloquizes her own abusive father and writes the apology she needs and will never receive.
- 9. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson – Even when the adaptations are reasonably good—as with the Netflix series—none of them come close to the ooky, spooky brilliance of the novel.
- 8. Normal People, Sally Rooney – A portrait of not only young love but also the profound impacts young love can have on our developing selves.
- 7. The Library Book, Susan Orlean – A love letter to libraries and the complex, vital place they play in civic life.
- 6. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee – A beautiful collection of essays that also build on each other until the book feels like a constructed autobiography as well.
- 5. Sula, Toni Morrison – I appreciated this exploration of a complex female relationship and then the final lines punched me in the gut-heart and I found myself welling with tears. A good companion with Passing by Nella Larson, which I read around the same time.
- 4. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene, Donna Haraway – A weird, heady call to re-imagine our place in the world, while there’s still time to do so.
- 3. Educated, Tara Westover – I read this early in the year, before I started this site, but Westover’s painful, powerful memoir has stuck with me all year and I highly recommend it.
- 2. Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith – If I sought a guru, I might nominate Patti Smith for the role.
- 1. Parable of the Talents, Octavia Butler – “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you.”
- Bunny, Mona Award – Probably the weirdest book I read this year, a novel that’s sort of a mash-up between Heathers and The Craft but set in an Ivy-league MFA program.
- Milkman, Anna Burns – Smart and interesting. I would love to spend more time with Middle Sister and the Wee Sisters. I expect that the oft-recommended Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe would be a strong companion
- Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming, McKenzie Funk – Fascinating and only semi-disheartening; a lot of food-for-thought about the world that we’re making by default.
- The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern – It’s about stories and how they shape us but also maybe climate change?
- Gods of Jade and Shadow, Silvia Moreno-Garcia – A Mexican Cinderella! Mayan gods! Jazz Age! Road trips to save the world!
- Uprooted, Naomi Novik – I simply love this book. In particular, I appreciate how it unpacks and rejects the “destroy it all!” ethic that usually accompanies the black-and-white, good vs. evil aesthetic of fantasy. Novik is doing something special and different in YA lit/fairy tale re-imaginings.
- A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool On a Warming Planet, Sarah Jacquette Ray – Forthcoming from California University Press, and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek for a work project. Give this to your young people, give it to yourself.
- The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey – Everyone knows that Richard III killed his young nephews to seize power for himself. What this book pre-supposes is, maybe he didn’t? So fun!
The 2019 List
One star = I thought it was quite good; Two stars = I thought it was really good. Zero stars is not a value judgement beyond that, some I liked quite a bit, others not so much.
66 books read, 21,756 pages, 20 re-reads, 46 first timers.
|1 .||Station Eleven||Emily St. John Mandel||Yes||**|
|2 .||The Devil in the White City||Erik Larson||No|
|3 .||Another Country||James Baldwin||No|
|4.||Educated, a memoir||Tara Westover||No||**|
|5.||The Hidden Forest: The biography of an ecosystem||Jon R. Luoma||No|
|6.||The Miniaturist||Jessie Burton||No|
|7.||Golden State||Ben H. Winters||No|
|10.||The Book of Three||Lloyd Alexander||Yes|
|11.||The Witch Elm||Tana French||No|
|12.||The Black Cauldron||Lloyd Alexander||Yes|
|13.||The Girls||Emma Cline||No||*|
|14.||The Castle of Llyr||Lloyd Alexander||Yes|
|16.||Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Cthulucene||Donna Haraway||No||*|
|17.||How to Write an Autobiographical Novel||Alexander Chee||No||**|
|18.||Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||J. K. Rowling||Yes||*|
|19.||There There||Tommy Orange||No||*|
|20.||Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World||Cal Newport||No||*|
|21.||The Other Wind||Ursula K. Le Guin||No||*|
|22.||The Daughter of Time||Josephine Tey||No||**|
|23.||We Have Always Lived in the Castle||Shirley Jackson||No||*|
|24.||Taran Wanderer||Lloyd Alexander||Yes|
|25.||The Remains of the Day||Kazuo Ishiguro||No||*|
|26.||My Sister the Serial Killer||Oyinkan Braithwaite||No|
|27.||Lost and Wanted||Nell Freudenberger||No|
|28.||The High King||Lloyd Alexander||Yes|
|29.||The Library Book||Susan Orlean||No||*|
|30.||Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out||Ruth King||No||*|
|31.||The Haunting of Hill House||Shirley Jackson||Yes||*|
|32.||Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity||Carlo Rovelli||No||*|
|33.||My Life in France||Julia Child||No|
|34.||Mr. Fox||Helen Oyeyemi||No|
|35.||Heart Berries||Terese Marie Mailhot||No|
|37.||Under the Feet of Jesus||Helena Maria Varamontes||No||*|
|38.||Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love||Dani Shapiro||No||*|
|40.||The Reader: Book one of Sea of Ink and Gold||Traci Chee||No|
|41.||Gods of Jade and Shadow||Silvia Moreno-Garcia||No||*|
|42.||Emily of New Moon||L. M. Montgomery||Yes||*|
|43.||The Lathe of Heaven||Ursula LeGuin||No|
|45.||The Apology||Eve Ensler||No||**|
|46.||Normal People||Sally Rooney||No||**|
|47.||Emily Climbs||L. M. Montgomery||Yes|
|50.||The Testaments||Margaret Atwood||No|
|51.||Emily Climbs||L. M. Montgomery||Yes||*|
|52.||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||J. K. Rowling||Yes||*|
|53.||Year of the Monkey||Patti Smith||No||**|
|54.||The Turn of the Key||Ruth Ware||No|
|55.||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||J. K. Rowling||Yes|
|56.||Light Years||James Salter||No||*|
|57.||Unnamed Friend’s Book Draft||Mysterio||No|
|58.||Parable of the Talents||Octavia Butler||No||**|
|59.||Oryx and Crake||Margaret Atwood||Yes||*|
|60.||Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince||J. K. Rowling||Yes||*|
|61.||Trust Exercise||Susan Choi||No||*|
|63.||The Starless Sea||Erin Morgenstern||No||*|
|64.||A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool On a Warming Planet||Sarah Jaquette Ray||No||*|
|65.||Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming||McKenzie Funk||No||*|
|66.||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows||J. K. Rowling||Yes|