Archives: Books Read in 2019

Summary of the Year

Every year I set a goal of reading (or listening to) a book/week. This year, I easily cleared that goal, completing 57 books. A lot of my list this year was dictated by what the DC Library had available for immediate download, so there are quite a few titles that otherwise wouldn’t have made my list. Among the call-outs from this year:

  • Books I can’t stop recommending:
    • Beartown – beautifully tragic and incredibly well-written. This is my top pick for 2019. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s ostensibly about hockey. It’s actually about a small town and the complex bonds of love. 
    • An American Marriage – I procrastinated reading this because I thought that with such a heavy premise (wrongful incarceration) it would be a slog. I was so wrong. Tayari Jones creates such vivid and compelling characters that the pages practically turn themselves. 
    • The Dutch House – What can’t Ann Patchett write? This book doesn’t really make a grand point – it’s driven by character, not plot – but it feels quaint, like comfort food or sipping tea while snuggled under a soft blanket. 
    • Daisy Jones & the Six – This book would be my gateway drug for converting non-believers into audiobooks. Structured like a magazine “behind the scenes” interview of a band that had gone big in the 70s then fallen apart at its peak, the audio format lent itself perfectly to the various voices of the different band members. This book was like a cross between “Almost Famous” and “A Star is Born.” 
  • Books That Wasted My Time: 
    • Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty can write some fun beach books that have a good mysterious hook. This book felt like she’d leaned on AI to create the plot for her, then didn’t know what to do when it went way off the rails.
    • Social Creature – I’ll save you the hassle: girl becomes friend with a rich NYC socialite, kills her in a fit a of rage, disposes of her body, takes over her life and manages to convince her friends and family that she’s still alive for 6+ months through social media check-ins. It’s even worse than I just made it sound.
    • At the Water’s Edge – I don’t understand how the author of “Like Water for Elephants” (a book I loved!) also wrote this. The first 80% of the book crawled along at a snail’s pace while she was helping us understand how absolutely deplorable the three rich-kid main characters were, then in the last 20% of the book she got sick of her own story and decided to write an unrealistic happy ending by killing off the douchiest of the three. 
  • Authors I Read Multiple Books from:
    • Three authors I’m adding to my fun summer-vibe rotation: Jennifer Weiner, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Curtis Sittenfield
    • Bréne Brown – good books for my coaching clients 
    • Robert Galbraith – this is JK Rowling’s pen name for her adult mystery series, which did not impress me
  • Strong YA:
    • The Sun Is Also a Star
    • On the Come Up
    • Eleanor & Park

January

  • An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (A-)
  • The Witch Elm, by Tanya French (D+)

February

  • Nine Perfect Strangers, by Liane Moriarty (D+)
  • Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown (A)
  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni (B)
  • Lily & the Octopus, by Steven Rowley (C-)
  • Come Onshore and We Will Kill & Eat You All, by Christina Thompson (B)

March

  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue, by Lee Mackenzi (B)
  • The Grown-Up, by Gillian Flynn (C – novella that felt lear early work)
  • Rising Strong, by Brené Brown (A – solid book for coaching clients – good framework for examining the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves)
  • The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer (B – boring but the end made it worth it)
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (B – light and fun)
  • Sourdough, by Robin Sloan (C – underground farmers market with a twist provided a mysterious premise, but it felt like a slog)

April

  • A Visit from the Good Squad, by Jennifer Egan (B+ – short stories with connected characters in the music industry over a few decades – yes, please!)
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (C+ – the first in a series of detective novels by JK Rowling – reminded me of the teen Nancy Drew novels)

May

  • Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead (C)
  • Clock Dance, by Anne Tyler (C-)
  • Daisy Jones & The Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid (A)
  • The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer (C)
  • American Housewife, by Helen Ellis (B)
  • The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides (B)

June

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid (B – Hollywood glamour with some lesbian themes)
  • City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert (B- – coming of age in NYC in the glamorous 50s)
  • The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (B+ – fun premise for a novella – people who are killed don’t actually die)
  • Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (C – memoir by Steve Jobs troubled/ignored daughter)
  • The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (D – not compelling, too many characters in this publishing world whodunnit)
  • The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon (A+ – sweet YA in NYC on the day before a girl’s tragic deportation)

July

  • You Think It, I’ll Say it, by Curtis Sittenfeld (B – modern short stories)
  • Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner (A- two sisters choose different paths in this exploration of female identities)
  • All Fall Down, by Jennifer Weiner (C- – housewife gets addicted to opiates) 

August

  • American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield (B) 
  • The Library Book, by Susan Orlean (B)
  • Dumplin, by Julie Murphy (B)
  • Allegedly. by Tiffany Jackson (C)
  • Sisterland, by Curtis Sittenfield (C)
  • The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo (B-) 
  • The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood (C)

September

  • The Overstory, by Richard Powers (B)
  • The Silent Sister, by Dianne Chamberlain (C)
  • The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, by Lindsey Lee Johnson (B+)
  • Water Street, by Patricia Reilly Giff (D)

October

  • Elevation, by Stephen King (C)
  • Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan (C)
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, by Hank Green (B+ – fun sci-fi book about an alien statue)
  • The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, by Nova Jacobs (B – fun mystery set around a “too smart for their own good” family)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (A – reread it for the first time since the 90s – as relevant and gripping as I initially found it)
  • Social Creature, by Tara Burton (D – terrible decisions abound, including the concealment of one character’s death – no thanks!)
  • Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell (B – YA book of two misfits who find each other)

November

  • The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (A – solid sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale)
  • The Flight Attendant, by Chris Bohjalian (D – thriller with an unreliable narrator)
  • Necessary Lies, by Diane Chamberlain (B- – eugenics in NC in the 1960s)
  • On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas (B – high school rapper confronts big issues)
  • The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett (A – so well written)
  • Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert (B – if you need to be inspired)

December

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (B- – fun premise – lady astronaut)
  • Beartown, by Frederik Backman (A+ – beautifully tragic, well written)
  • At the Water’s Edge, by Sarah Gruen (D – spoiled rich kids try to find the Loch Ness Monster)
  • She Said, by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey (B- – roots of the #MeToo movement)
  • Lost & Wanted, by Nell Freudenberger
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