02 January 2020

2019 Books

This year I read 70 books, with 44 on audio, 11 on paper, and 15 on Kindle. I really fell apart in December, when I got the flu and stopped running. (Yes, we all had our flu shots.) (I listen to a lot of audiobooks while running, so if I'm not running, and I'm too sick to commute to my office, there is not much listening going on for me.) My biggest months were January and March, with nine books each. I'm not sure how I got so much reading in those months. They certainly did not coincide with the months where I ran the most.

And with no further ado, my top 10% of books for 2019:

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. (#46 on this list)
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama (#15 on this list).
  3. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance (#25 on this list)
  4. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (#18 on this list)
  5. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton (#36 on this list)
  6. Station Eleven by Elizabeth St. John Mandel (#40 on this list)
  7. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (#43 on this list)
And obviously if any of you want to talk to me in real life about any of these books, I'd always welcome that. Two of these books were for my book group, and if you want to join it, hit me up. (But also a couple of the worst books I read this year were for book group, so you win some and you lose some.)

1. Winter by Marissa Meyer* - An overall satisfying conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. I was worried at first that I would hate the character of Winter, but she grew on me. I was also excited to learn there were a couple of additional books that are sort of part of the series, and I downloaded them immediately.

2. Fairest by Marissa Meyer* - I loved this back story for Queen Levana. I didn't read this one in order; technically it should have been before Winter, but it didn't affect the narrative at all.

3. The Twits by Roald Dahl - I had a lot of fun reading this with the boys.

4. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - Very engaging. At first I thought the characters were a bit stereotypical, but they really grew on me. I appreciated the various discussions of race throughout.

5. How Children Succeed by Paul Tough - I thought this would be more about things I can do as a parent for my kids. There's a bit of that in there, but mostly it's about helping low-income kids succeed. Interesting read, just not what I expected.

6. Heartless by Marissa Meyer* - I didn't really like this one, which was disappointing after my great affection for her Lunar Chronicles.

7. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg* - This was a fun audiobook with the kids.

8. Rapid Falls by Amber Cowie - It was fine. This was a free book through Amazon's system where I get a free book for my Kindle each month. The selection is always very limited, and I never know what to pick. It's always a gamble, and so far I haven't ready anything mindblowing.

9. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin* - It was fine. I may enjoy listening to it again with my family on a road trip.

10. The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie* - Beginning is a bit tedious, but she has great ideas for reading more with your family.

11. 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think by Laura Vanderkam* - Has some great principles for planning and using time well. I am going to try to implement more of them.

12. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore - Great story, very mediocre writing. Way too long and had too many chapter-ending cliffhangers.

13. Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady - Misleading title. Most of the book is about her failed relationships. The section about the actual adoption (less than half the book, probably) hardly even focuses on the things I expected considering its title. Great writing, just not an accurate title. (Another Amazon FirstReads book.)

14. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella - A perfectly good beach read. If only'd I'd been on a beach whilst reading it.

15. Becoming by Michelle Obama* - I was really impressed by this book. The writing, the author herself, just all of it. (Also, I miss our old president.)

16. Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years by David Litt* - Well, now I'm really nostalgic for President Obama. This one is a lot funnier than #15, but still had some really meaningful and thoughtful moments.

17. The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch* - There is so much goodness in this book as far as improving your marriage and evaluating yourself. I loved that it came from a perspective of somebody with Asperger's, but it has so much broader applicability. A lot of swearing though.

18. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - I just really enjoyed this book. Eleanor's character is delightfully quirky. I loved the unfolding of her history and found the pacing really good. I laughed out loud several times and thought there were so many good examples of kindness and friendship throughout the book.

19. Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl - I should probably stick to his fictional works when I select books to read aloud to my kids. This one was good, but a little over their heads (especially the six-year-old's), and needed some off-the-cuff editing on my part.

20. Lose 200 Lbs. This Weekend by Don Aslett - As with a lot of self-help or how-to books, the front matter is the "why" you should be doing this, which I think most readers who've selected such a book have already bought into the why and do not need. The areas of focus at the end are more helpful. There are some good guiding principles for decluttering.

21. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper* - I had a hard time with this one, mostly because of the depiction of incompetent special ed teachers. Overall, the book was fine, but not amazing.

22. Tribe by Sebastian Junger* - Plowed through this one in a couple of days. So fascinating. I think the lifestyles of Native American tribes are rather idealized, but the idea that Western culture is too isolated rang true for me.

23. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult - I was engaged in this book the whole time and raced through it. With that said, I saw the "surprise" ending a mile away, and frankly, I think it cheapens the ethical dilemma that the mother faces.

24. Go by Kazuki Kaneshiro - I read half of this and just couldn't make myself care about the characters. (Another Amazon FirstReads pick.)

25. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance* - I cannot stop talking to all the people about this book. So much of it rang true for my own upbringing (not so much the family life, but the community environment). I want to talk to everybody about it.

26. Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer* - This was a fun book. I immediately downloaded the sequel.

27. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis - Read this one with the boys. Ike understood it really well. Felix was a little bored.

28. Stray: Memoir of a Runaway by Tanya Marquardt - It's interesting to read about somebody whose life is so totally different than mine, but this book was really depressing. (Another Amazon FirstReads choice.) Also, the title is misleading. Her parents knew where she was the whole time she was gone, which was about six months.

29. Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer* - I liked this one even better than the first. I thought the plot and characters were far more developed, and I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen sometimes.

30. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli* - It was fine. I'd be happy to listen to it with my kids in a few years. The language in it is old enough I'd want to listen again and not be the one reading aloud.

31. The Forgotten Hours by Katrin Schumann - Finally an Amazon FirstReads book I actually liked. Wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but I found it very compelling and thought-provoking. With the #MeToo movement the last few years, I've discussed with several people the issue of, "GASP! He would NEVER!" And then the resulting, "Well, actually he DID," conversations that we are having. I felt like this book handled that back and forth discovery masterfully.

32. Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary* - I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I just love the Ramona books! I'm sad they weren't part of my childhood. I'm happy I'm getting to discover them with my children.

33. Hallelujah by J. Scott Featherstone - I wanted to like this, but it was terrible. It was self-published, and that man needed an editor. The book is about 300 pages too long.

34. A Lucky Life Interrupted by Tom Brokaw* - He's a great writer. This book was fine. It's about his cancer diagnosis and initial round of treatment, with reflections on various portions of his life. It wasn't read by him, though, which is disappointing.

35. Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes* - I liked it, but I didn't love it. I actually thought some of the content was too mature for the target age group.

36. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton* - Started a little slow, but once I was into it, I really liked it. Everyone in my book group liked it, which is a rare treat. While I "called" some of the ending, I definitely didn't see it all coming.

37. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty* - I just love her. This one had lots of laugh out loud moments and some really amusing characters.

38. The Tenth Island by Diana Marcum* - I've read a few memoirs this year, and this is the first one where I didn't hate the author, so kudos to you, Ms. Marcum. And obviously I need to visit the Azores now. I looked at flights, and it may be a while until we make it there.

39. Fablehaven by Brandon Mull - Such a fun one to read with the boys. We started on audio, but the narrator was horrible, so we got the paper copy, and I finished it off. Seth is obnoxious.

40. Station Eleven by Elizabeth St. John Mandel* - I loved this one from the start. The story is so engaging, and I loved the narrator. I kind of wanted to re-listen as soon as it was over.

41. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen* - Loved this one and listened to it every chance I got while I was at YW camp.

42. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling* - Audio'ed this one with the boys in preparation for "finally" showing them the movie. We had listened to this one before, but I thought the movie was too scary at the time. Even Trixie (age 3) watched the movie with us and didn't find it too scary. Go figure.

43. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight* - I was surprised by how much I liked this one. I listened to it mostly while running, which amused me. I definitely am grateful we have so much good technology in running shoes these days. Thanks, Phil Knight, and friends!

44. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen* - Not as much love for this one as the first one, but still very entertaining.

45. Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini - Ugh, what a slog this one was. It read more like a very bad historical narrative than a historical fiction. It needed more fiction to make the characters more interesting.

46. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens* - I loved this book so much that I almost started listening to it again as soon as I finished it.

47. The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen* - This series sure did fizzle. So much eye-rolling for me in this one.

48. Front Desk by Kelly Yang* - Many of the parts I found least believable actually were based on reality, according to her epilogue at the end. I'd like to read more about Chinese immigration now. There was a lot in here that I felt could ring true for impoverished kids, regardless of ethnicity or nationality.

49. Pandora's Lab by Paul Offit* - An interesting one to listen to with Eric on a road trip. It certainly shows the challenges scientists have in following the scientific method thoroughly before making sweeping claims. Of course, the problem isn't always with the scientists, but with non-scientists who get carried away with data and studies they do not understand.

50. Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen* - Kind of annoying to listen to, but overall a good read if you are interested about why and how thinking can change your behavior. It's not as simple as "think positive thoughts," but it's not all that much more complicated either.

51. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan - I suggested this one for our book group, and I'm so glad I liked it on this (my second) read. It is such a delightful book about a pretty amazing lady.

52. The Road Beyond Ruin by Gemma Liviero - Another Kindle FirstReads. It took me months and months to get through this one. It was fine.

53. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg* - A fun one to listen to. I will never start a restaurant. I wanted pizza while listening. I skipped over most of the recipes.

54. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery - I laughed out loud reading this one. It's like a more grown-up Anne of Green Gables. If you are an Anne fan, definitely read this one.

55. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche* - This one was a bit long, but I loved this woman's journey of finding new friends. I thought a lot during while listening, "Yes, and this is why I always tell Eric that book group is sacred!" It is important to have good friends. It is hard (but possible!) to find good friends.

56. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman* - Definitely an interesting read, though it was a bit long.

57. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro* - So beautifully written, and such an interesting story. With the availability of DNA testing for genealogy so available, many people have stories similar to hers (learning a parent is not actually biological). I thought Dani captured the experience really well.

58. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - I had totally forgotten that I'd read this ten years earlier. I only gave it two stars on GoodReads then, but I gave it three this time.

59. This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick* - I was surprised how much I liked this book. And I was a little chuffed with myself as I thought of all the things I have done in my city that help me feel more attached to it. (And doubly chuffed with myself that I listened to the book while running the historic Pony Express Trail that runs through my city. I was just ticking off boxes left and right.)

60. Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven #2) by Brandon Mull* - Started on paper, but it was taking us so long to get through it, that we moved to the CDs, even though the reader is absolutely horrible. I'd be fine if the boys just finish this series on their own when they are older.

61. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie* - I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of the characters, and I had to go back over sections a few times because I had gotten bored and stopped listening. Overall, it was fine, but I'm not itching to read it again.

62. Know My Name by Chanel Miller* - This is a really powerful book about sexual assault. It definitely has mature subject matter, but it's such an important topic.

63. Rising Strong by Brene Brown* - There were so many valuable things in this book. I talked about it to a lot of people after finishing it. I should read more by her and watch her TED Talks.

64. She Has Her Mother's Laugh by Carl Zimmer* - I started this book in like, April or May, and it was so interesting! But then it expired, and it took forever to get it off hold again. I loved the history of the study of genetics (of course), but I got a little lost in the weeds of the super-scientific stuff.

65. Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall - This was another one that took me a while. It's a great story and really worth reading. It just took me a while to get into it.

66. Renegades by Marissa Meyer* - A bit confusing at first, but I really got into it and couldn't wait to read the next two. I actually think there is a surprising amount of depth in this one considering it's about a bunch of superheroes.

67. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall* - Such an interesting book. I mostly listened to it while running, which made it particularly fun. I don't think I buy into the idea of barefoot running (especially since it's been ten years since this was published, and the running world is no longer gungho about it). But I loved the writing and the race narrative a lot.

68. Archenemies by Marissa Meyer* - A very good sequel to the first. Again, the plot is a little cheesy, but it has a surprising amount of depth. I'm on hold for the third book, and it's taking too long for my turn to come up.

69. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I would really like to read it with my boys one day.

70. Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich* - I've read one other by her, and had I realized it was the same author earlier, I wouldn't have bothered with this one.

*Signifies audiobooks.

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