2019 Reading List and Top 10

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.”

Honorable Mentions

  • 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.

 TitleAuthorRe-read?Stars
1 .Station ElevenEmily St. John MandelYes**
2 .The Devil in the White CityErik LarsonNo
3 .Another CountryJames BaldwinNo
4.Educated, a memoirTara WestoverNo**
5.The Hidden Forest: The biography of an ecosystemJon R. LuomaNo
6. The MiniaturistJessie BurtonNo
7. Golden StateBen H. WintersNo
8.DevotionPatti SmithNo*
 9.LysistrataAristophanesNo
 10.The Book of ThreeLloyd AlexanderYes
 11.The Witch ElmTana FrenchNo
12. The Black CauldronLloyd AlexanderYes
 13.The GirlsEmma ClineNo*
 14.The Castle of LlyrLloyd AlexanderYes
 15.MilkmanAnna BurnsNo*
16. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the CthuluceneDonna HarawayNo*
 17.How to Write an Autobiographical NovelAlexander CheeNo**
 18.Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanJ. K. RowlingYes*
 19.There ThereTommy OrangeNo*
20. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy WorldCal NewportNo*
21. The Other WindUrsula K. Le GuinNo*
 22.The Daughter of TimeJosephine TeyNo**
 23.We Have Always Lived in the CastleShirley JacksonNo*
 24.Taran WandererLloyd AlexanderYes
 25.The Remains of the DayKazuo IshiguroNo*
26. My Sister the Serial KillerOyinkan BraithwaiteNo
 27.Lost and WantedNell FreudenbergerNo
 28.The High KingLloyd AlexanderYes
 29.The Library BookSusan OrleanNo*
 30.Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside OutRuth KingNo*
 31.The Haunting of Hill HouseShirley JacksonYes*
 32.Reality is Not What it Seems: The Journey to Quantum GravityCarlo RovelliNo*
 33.My Life in FranceJulia ChildNo
 34.Mr. FoxHelen OyeyemiNo
 35.Heart BerriesTerese Marie MailhotNo
 36.CelinePeter HellerNo
 37.Under the Feet of JesusHelena Maria VaramontesNo*
 38.Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and LoveDani ShapiroNo*
 39.PersuasionJane AustenYes**
 40.The Reader: Book one of Sea of Ink and GoldTraci CheeNo
 41.Gods of Jade and ShadowSilvia Moreno-GarciaNo*
 42.Emily of New MoonL. M. MontgomeryYes*
 43.The Lathe of HeavenUrsula LeGuinNo
 44.BunnyMona AwadNo
 45.The ApologyEve EnslerNo**
 46.Normal PeopleSally RooneyNo**
 47.Emily ClimbsL. M. MontgomeryYes
 48.SulaToni MorrisonYes**
 49.PassingNella LarsonYes*
 50.The TestamentsMargaret AtwoodNo
 51.Emily ClimbsL. M. MontgomeryYes*
 52.Harry Potter and the Goblet of FireJ. K. RowlingYes*
 53.Year of the MonkeyPatti SmithNo**
 54.The Turn of the KeyRuth WareNo
 55.Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixJ. K. RowlingYes
 56.Light YearsJames SalterNo*
 57.Unnamed Friend’s Book DraftMysterioNo
 58.Parable of the TalentsOctavia ButlerNo**
 59.Oryx and CrakeMargaret AtwoodYes*
 60.Harry Potter and the Half Blood PrinceJ. K. RowlingYes*
 61.Trust ExerciseSusan ChoiNo*
 62.UprootedNaomi NovickYes*
 63.The Starless SeaErin MorgensternNo*
 64.A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety: How to Keep Your Cool On a Warming PlanetSarah Jaquette RayNo*
 65.Windfall: The Booming Business of Global WarmingMcKenzie FunkNo*
66.Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsJ. K. RowlingYes

One thought on “2019 Reading List and Top 10

  1. Pingback: The Wheelhouse Project: Story | Dogs, Coffee, & Books

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