At the beginning of 2019 I set my annual reading goal to 52 books, just a smidge higher than the 50 books I read in 2018. My book total at the end of the year is 70 books. Honestly, the only way I managed to average only a book a week comes down to two things. First, I read a lot of quick-reading books. I love a book I can power through in a weekend. Second, I made reading a priority. I definitely watched less TV this year and tried REALLY hard to read when I might otherwise just scroll through my phone.
I keep track in Goodreads just so I can remember what I’ve read, but I don’t rate books there. I have the memory of a goldfish and can’t typically remember beyond the most recent book I’ve read. I’ve pared down my list of 70 to the ten best books of 2019, according to me.
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The Ten Best Books of 2019
If we’ve talked about books at all this year, this book has definitely come up. I spent the second half of the year chasing books to fill the void left by this book and I have yet to find one. I did find that listening to the book on audio after reading the book on the page was a different experience and I was glad to have experienced this book both ways. Red, White and Royal Blue is the tale of a romance between the First Son (son of the first female President of the United States) and the Prince of Wales. It is smart, steamy, funny and unputdownable. There are a few books that I reread to when I need an escape, and this will definitely be one of them. (The two other books that I turn to most often are The Devil Wears Prada and Fangirl.)
This book was almost on our 2019 summer reading guide, but I hesitated since opinions about Gilbert’s debut Eat, Pray, Love were so mixed. I regret that decision, because this book was fabulous. It’s the story of a woman who is expelled from Vassar in the 1940’s and is sent to live in New York with her aunt in the theater her aunt owns and runs. The story spans her entire lifetime, although it is heavy on her youth. It is told from the perspective of the main character as an adult and her honest and funny recollection of her own life is brilliant.
After listening to just about everyone talk about just how great this YA fantasy series is, I was compelled to read at least the first book. It took me a minute to get into the world of the book, and then I just couldn’t stop reading. I threw my arms up in celebration when I found the second book sitting on the shelf at the library the day I finished the first book. I read the third book a little more slowly just so that I wouldn’t have to be finished. My friend Amy describes this series as the perfect mix of steamy romance, feminism and adventure and I cosign that description.
(Technically there is a fourth book in the series which is a novella. I was happy to read it to continue spending time with these characters, but it just felt like killing time. There’s a second trilogy set in the same world that is forthcoming, and I think this book was intended to span the distance between the first and second trilogy.)
Taking a sharp turn into science fiction we have Blake Crouch’s latest novel. Mostly I am fascinated by the fact that Crouch is clearly whip-smart and can write circles around pretty much anyone. I am not entirely sure if the plot in this book makes sense, but I also didn’t really care because I was so engrossed.
This is a fabulous rom-com that doesn’t veer into cheesiness for me. It’s not without its flawed characters but they’re all flawed in ways that felt very real to me. I’m also pretty much on board with any book with a sportsy sub-plot. Just before writing this I read a critique of the snappy dialogue and the dialogue is one of the things that drew me in. In fact, it made me think that one of one million reasons why I’ll never write a novel is because I just don’t have it in me to write witty conversations for other people.
While this book is largely about the experiences of one child in a family, I felt like there were multiple points of focus. I was invested in the stories of each family member equally. No, I do not think this is the picture-perfect tale of parenting a child with gender dysphoria, but I wasn’t looking for a parenting manual.
Lori Gottlieb is both a therapist and a person in therapy after a traumatic event in her life. She focuses on three patients (with enough details changed so as to make them anonymous-ish) and weaves their stories into her own experiences in therapy. Trust me when I tell you that it’s way more interesting than it sounds. (It reads like a novel if you’re turned off by the fact that this is non-fiction.)
I would have guessed that I read more Christina Lauren in 2019 than my reading list shows. When someone asks for a well-written romance that works well as a vacation read (or a sitting on your own couch read) I always first go to Christina Lauren. First, it’s important to note that this is the pen name of two women who co-write these books. Second, if you don’t think you like romance books, but you do love well-written characters alongside a love story, then these books might be for you. I have the latest book, Twice in a Blue Moon waiting for me at the library as I write this.
Speaking of romance, I couldn’t step foot into a group chat about fun, distracting books this year without having One Day in December recommended to me. Occasionally, a book that everyone loves and recommends falls flat for me (I’m so sorry Daisy Jones and the Six – I love everything else Taylor Jenkins Reid has written) but that was not the case with this book. A little bit Christmassy, but mostly the tale of two friends, a few great loves, and one perfect ending.
Mystery fans should be ALL over this book that takes all of your preconceived notions about a book with this title and flips them on their heads.