2019 book list

Here’s what I’ve read in 2019:

*The Wife, by Alafair Barke. A page-turner with a little too-much legalese and a surprising twist at the end.

*Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. Absolutely fantastic! A great book to read prior to going to the National Museum of African American Art and Culture. (I had my older daughter read it, too.)

*Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Art of Good Cooking, by Samin Nosrat. Samin is awesome!!! I totally have a girlcrush on her. Also, buy the book. It’s entirely, wonderfully, practical. (If you haven’t seen her Netflix show, DO.)

*An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Interesting.

*The Best Cook in the World: Tales from my Momma’s Southern Table, by Rick Bragg. Captivating and humorous. Fun story-telling, interesting culture. Good recipes. Finally mastered collard greens and ham and beans!

*Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, by Drew Hart. A bit tedious, but some helpful anecdotes and insights.

*The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank. More depressing than I’d remembered.

*The Diary of Anne Frank: the play, by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Being Mrs. Frank was more fun than I thought it’d be.

*It Happens Every Day: An All Too-True Story and A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story, both by Isabel Gillies. Stellar. I read them both in a rush.

*Just Mercy: a Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson. Intense, painful, eye-opening. Made me want to do something, like become a lawyer or something equally improbable.

*The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer. A pleasant read.

*Girls Burn Brighter, by Shobha Rao. Well-written, but disturbing and not very satisfying. I had to force myself to get through it.

*Heartbreaker, by Claudia Dey. Odd, but okay.

*Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok. An easy, enjoyable read.

*Deathtrap: A Thriller in Two Acts, by Ira Levin. Fast and fun. (I read it because I was thinking of auditioning for the play, but then I didn’t.)

*Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard. Good writing with a so-so story. I didn’t feel like I gained new insights, and the recipes didn’t tempt. 

*Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee. A tightly-woven and well-told story that touches on a staggering number of complicated issues.

*Where We Come From, by Oscar Casares. About the current immigration situation: a close-up, compassionate look at one small piece of the story.

*Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo. This is a book that begs to be discussed: if you have a book club, put it on the list.

*Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane. Super good and refreshingly understated.

*Slow Man, by J.M. Coetzee. So many words and soooooo slow. I’m amazed that I had the patience to read it, and even more amazed that he had the patience to write it. I’m still not sure what it was about.

*I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, by Nora Ephron. Easy and entertaining. I like her writing style — it loosens me.

*White Walls: A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between, by Judy Batalion. Excellent book (that did drag on a wee bit too long) with great writing that made me feel inferior about my own.

*I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections, by Norah Ephron. Fun.

*Travel Light, Move Fast, by Alexandra Fuller. Good book with a devastating ending.

*The Heart’s Invisible Furies, by John Boyne. Started super strong; drug on forever: meh.

*Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention, by Donna Freitas. Too long and wordy — would’ve appreciated more of a story — but eye-opening.

*Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout. Perfect and wonderful and lovely. I’m an Olive fan (though I don’t really like her).

*Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant: Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone, edited and compiled by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. An enjoyable, behind-the-scenes look at what food writers eat when they’re alone. Made me happy.

*A Life of My Own, by Claire Tomalin. A fascinating life told tediously.

*The Girl With Seven Names, by Hyeonseo Lee. I learned loads about North Korea.

*I’m Lying But I’m Telling the Truth, by Bassey Ikpi. Excellent, up-close look at mental illness (though I did get a little lost at the end….)

Right now I’m hurrying to finish The Hungry Ocean since it’s way overdue. Next up: Permanent Record, The Dutch House, and Nothing To See Here.

What have you been reading?

Got anything good to recommend?

More on books….
2018 book list
2017 book list
2016 book list
2015 book list
2014 book list

Her: Conspiracy, for the third or fourth or fifth time 
Him: Crown of Midnight, for the second or third time

P.S. I’m in dire need of good read-alouds to share with my younger son (almost 14). Preferably, I’d like to skip the war-and-disaster-and-sex books in favor of well-written comedy and/or the meaningful ordinary, books like Anne of Green Gables or Harris and Me or Holes or Where the Lilies Bloom or Counting by 7s. Both old-time classics and new gems welcome, please and thank you! xo


  • Libby

    To read with your son:
    The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper filled with Celtic and Arthurian influences. I just heard her speak and she is 84!
    Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
    Clan of the Cave Bear Series by Jean Auel
    April Morning by Howard Fast
    The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (might be a little young)
    The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
    A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
    Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
    All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
    Ishi, the Last of his Tribe by Theodora Kroeber

    My Favorite Books read last year that you might also enjoy:
    The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui (immigration story and the first and only graphic novel I have read)
    Where the Wind Leads – Vinh Chung – excellent and another immigration story…hmm maybe I had a theme and didn't realize it!
    Becoming Mrs. Lewis – Patti Callahan about the woman who married C.S. Lewis and was a poet and writer in her own right
    The Day the World Came to Town – Jim DeFede about how Gander, Newfoundland helped and welcomed thousands of travelers who were on grounded international flights on 9/11
    Circe – Madeline Miller might be my most favorite book of 2019
    Claws of the Cat – Susan Spann a mystery set in medieval Japan…and mystery is usually not the category I read

    So many books and so little time!

  • Anonymous

    Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard (the sequel to Lunch in Paris) was much better. I read it first and was excited to read Lunch in Paris but found it disappointing.

  • Apettis in Oregon

    3 read aloud books we loved this year were, The remarkable journey of Coyote Sunrise, Navigating Early , Moon over Manifest! The perfect horse was a good quick read for the teen crowd as well.

  • Margo

    I don't recognize a lot of books on your list – hooray!! (I adore the Nora Ephron ones)

    Just started reading aloud True Grit to my 14 and 11 year old. I highly recommend Gary Schmidt's books – they are marked as YA, but I read them and LOVE them. They're all stand alones, although some characters appear in other books – we started with Okay for Now.

  • Natalie

    Ragged Dick series by Horatio Alger Jr.
    You can listen to Ragged Dick free on librivox.com

    My side of the mountain and The call of the beaver are about young boys in the wild.

  • Mary

    When my son was 14 he and I read the young adult series "Secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel" by Michael Scott. The series starts with The Alchemist. Here is a summary: While working at pleasant but mundane summer jobs in San Francisco, fifteen-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh, suddenly find themselves caught up in the deadly, centuries-old struggle between rival alchemists, Nicholas Flamel and John Dee, over the possession of an ancient and powerful book holding the secret formulas for alchemy and everlasting life.

    It is a fictionalized (obviously) story of a real person. I'm not sure but I think he lived around Shakespeare's time. Anyway, we both LOVED the series. It should be read in order.

  • miriamp

    Hatchet is a classic. Don't Pat the Wombat by Elizabeth Honey (her other books were great too) is one I really enjoyed as a kid.

  • mommychef

    Have you read "The Root Cellar" by Janet Lunn with your son? I dug it out of my personal pile of adolescent reads (so it's OLD) and read it to my son. He liked it more than I thought he would. Farley Mowat's "Two Against the North" and the sequel were also successful. Sara Pennypacker's "Pax" might be a little young for yours but it's easy to read aloud and lends itself to a lot of discussion. "A Solitary Blue" by Cynthia Voigt…actually the whole Tillerman cycle is great for ages 12-14. LOVED Olive, Again and Ask Again Yes. Just finished The Nickle Boys by Colson Whitehead (really good but really hard) and just started "The Good Pig by Sy Montgormery. I look forward to this post all year! I always find great reads here!

  • Melissa

    I have 2 boys: 14&12. We read aloud an hour a day. If you haven't done The Mysterious Benedict Society, it's super wonderful. Witty, with good vocab. Also The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. I would recommend to you How God Became King by N.T. Wright. Just a great read about Jesus and the Gospels- especially good if you read them together! And lastly, Jayber Crow by Wendell Barry. Just. So. Good.

    • farm buddy

      My favorite Wendell Berry book, and I think you and your son would enjoy it, is Hannah Coulter. It is really, really good, and I read it every year. My second favorite Wendell Berry book is Remembering, which you both will probably also like.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Melissa: we've read the Benedict Society (and loved it), and now I have the Incorrigible Children on hold — thanks!

      Farm Buddy: got the first book on hold, thanks!

  • Eldon

    I know I post this every time you ask for suggestions for read-aloud books for the youngers, but its worth repeating if you have not read them, or if someone else is looking and didnt see it before… start reading Terry Pratchett's Diskworld series. Check out https://www.discworldemporium.com/content/6-discworld-reading-order to find out where to start. You can read chronologically, thematically, just dip a toe… the options are endless. They even have a list of books for younger readers because "Terry didn't believe in talking down to young people. May contain material encouraging independent thought, tolerance and mindfulness…"

    • Jennifer Jo

      Put one on hold at the library — thanks! (And that's a very helpful link. I first tried to search without it and was COMPLETELY lost!)

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