My reading year has started off intensely with ALL the library requests coming in at the same time (naturally) and some really long books (because, why not?) and just life, but here’s the start of the list, what I’ve read to the children, and what I hope yet to read in 2019. As always, titles to add are welcome!
(I’ve gone back in and marked titles that were favorite reads; there are many others on the list that I’d recommend, but these are the ones I appreciated most this year.)
- Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty — I go back and forth with Moriarty’s books. Some I love a lot and others not as much. This swung to the loved side for me. It was a fun, easy read that didn’t seem as cloying as some of the others. Plus it had me laughing out loud at times throughout the whole book which was fun. Nowhere near as solid as What Alice Forgot, but a quick, light read. (finished 1.2.19)
- The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. Holy Hannah. My first Powers novel and does he ever give you a lot to chew on in one book. Good. Ness. Overall, I enjoyed this first foray, but one observation about the landscape of NE as a character of sorts within the book: not everyone who visits or lives here finds it to be the desolate drag the novel implies (thanks).
- The Winter of the World by Ken Follett (book club) — We upped our reading timeline and decided to finish all of book two instead of just half of it by the end of January, so I had to hustle and read a LOT (all 940 pages to be exact) in less than two weeks’ time. I liked Part Two of the triology quite a bit and enjoyed getting to know the second generation of characters. And, to follow up on my critique of KF’s writing after reading the first installment, this one is thankfully slightly less teenage hormonal when it comes to sex. Slightly.
- Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (book club pick) — None of us knew what we were getting into with this one and I’m here to say, don’t do it. Ever. This book is terribly and porny and nothing like the romance the back cover and blurbs claim it to be. I finished it only because I read too many pages to abandon it and the time I spent on it (it’s short but dense) , so damn it, I was going to finish and add it here, if only as a warning not to bother with it (finished 1/26/19)
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens — Oh, this book! One of my dear reader friends suggested it and she was totally right: I loved it! Oddly, birds and nature featured as another dominate character, much like they did in The Echo Maker, but a totally different setting and tone to this one, which was essentially a murder mystery.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman — When OverDrive from the library rains, it pours, so another one of my Must Reads came dropping down in the midst of due dates, but I got it done and I adored it. Such a different story with some twists and turns I saw coming and others not. Would make an excellent book club selection. (finished 2/4/19)
- Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan — I feel like I’ve met my quota of WWII books, however, this one was a good addition to that large pile of books read under the same category. The twist here? Based on a true life story and set it Italy. I don’t know if I just got tired or impatient, but the end of the book dragged on for me quite a bit, even though the first 400 pages were captivating.
- Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley — This was tough on many levels. I’ve obviously heard of conversion programs, but never read about someone’s account of having gone through ex-gay community. When you add assault and the mental distress of Conley, it is all just painful and heartbreaking to read. On a picky, literary note, I also struggle with memoirs containing overly descriptive passages/dialogue and this contains a lot of all that, too.
- An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao (book club read) — I’ve read about the partition that created the separate states of India and Pakistan before, but this collection of short stories knocked the wind out of me. First, it’s one of the best SS collections I’ve ever read in that the stories are so different and yet so interconnected in smart but less than obvious ways. Second, the subject matter and abuse and struggle is just grueling. Not very much uplifting to share out of such a tumultuous boarder/political/religious split. (finished 2/17/19)
- Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy (book club pick) — this was a fun listen (in my case) and is such an interesting look at body image, high school, family relationships, friendships, love, etc. I realize it’s not the most serious book ever, but I think there is a lot that a lot of people can relate to in it. Looking forward to discussing with friends at book club. Also, the Netflix version is fun, but of course different and not quite as good as the book.
- This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways — (One Book One Nebraska pick) Being a farm girl from SD, this subject matter is not foreign to me, however it was never the plan for succession to happen in my family, so reading about the passing from one generation to the next and all that farmers, the markets, and the planet must endure because of our current Ag situation/climate in this country was fascinating. My only contention with the book is that Mr. Genoways claimed that Milford, NE (my hubs’ hometown) is “just outside” Omaha. Y’all, it’s an hour and a half away from Omaha. Just sayin’. (finished 2.28.19)
- Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (Book Three, Century Trilogy) (KFC book club read) — holy moly cow. At 700 pages, I thought I was getting close to the end. In reality, I still had 400 to go. In some ways, the storytelling in this, like the other two, is fantastic. In other ways, the history of it all is a damn slog (and I’m still super annoyed by his portrayal of women and sex. I mean, UGH/gross/stop). Also, I’m not going to miss trying to read these great big heavy books in bed at night without injuring myself or Ben with them. I loved the group of women who comprised the book club that took on this challenge, but I’m pretty sure I’m done with Follett books for a good, long, maybe forever while. (finished 3.17.19)
- You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero — totally cheated and read this “read in bits and pieces book” in one sitting. Was loaned it by someone who gets it, and I’ve already ordered myself a copy of it so I can indeed have it on the shelf to pick up for now and then reminders and prompts of badass-ery.
- A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (book club read) — I am so sad to be missing the discussion on this one later this month. It was such a pleasure to read and holds so much potential for discussion. The book is at our library as a book kit for clubs and I can totally see why, as it is captivating and full of considerations. (finished 3/20/19)
- A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult — Whoa. Added this to my library request queue simply because it was the newest Picoult title, and although I struggled a bit with the narrative structure, she once again managed to blow me away with a novel centered on an issue that divides us in so many ways. I admire the humanity she shows in the last few books of hers that I’ve read and she manages to keep me guessing (for the most part) to the final pages as she does so.
- Overcoming Trauma through Yoga by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper. I have been putting off reading this in full because trauma work is WORK and hard work at that, but I’m glad to have finally gone through this title. Some stuff I’m already doing in my own teaching is there but there was also much to learn, as is always the case in this life.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama — everyone needs to read this book. That is all. (finished 4.6.19)
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (book club read) — my friend A picked this for book club because it is her favorite book but she hasn’t read it for age and wanted to see if it stood up to time. It was a first time read for me and a slog at that. It wasn’t that I disliked the book, but it was slow, slow going for me. Over 500 pages, long, there were lots of little parts that seemed like maybe you could skim over them, but then they’d be referenced later and sure enough, the last five pages brought together so much of the seemingly small bits from earlier in the book. Curious to discuss this one (finished 4.22.19).
- The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden — this YA book was good in that it was quick and thought provoking, and I could see where it would be a helpful read for its intended age range (8-12 yr-olds). It’s about a girl living in poverty also dealing with domestic violence and issues at school and it beautifully latches on to (pun intended) the imagery and superpowers of the octopus throughout the text.
- The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant — although it was not the stand out of Diamant’s The Red Tent, this was an easy, enjoyable read that took on some slightly different points of an already much discussed time period and spoke to many taboos that have started to lessen with time.
- “The Deal of a Lifetime” by Fredrik Backman — I don’t normally include short stories on my Read list, but I also don’t normally read shorties, sooooo….this one landed here because of my quest to read everything and anything by FB. I tend to Love or REALLY Love all of his work and this one again landed in the oh my gosh, I want to read it multiple times because it makes me think and feel so much category, so the streak clearly continues.
- Miss You by Kate Eberlen — grabbed this one off OverDrive because it was available. Turned out to be a slightly different take on chick lit that I enjoyed reading.
- Surprise Me by Sophia Kinsella — I am in the mood for fluff, so I’m running with that, and this one sort of redeemed itself in the second half, but the main characters and their “dilemma” at being faced with a long healthy life of being married to each other annoyed the crap out of me.
- The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms — Happened to be at the lib with RL and saw this on the New Release shelf; nabbed it because it looked fitting based with my recent reading trend. Turned out to have more meat to it than the Kinsella (thank goodness) and I enjoyed the characters and storyline quite a bit. (finished 5.27.19)
- The 7 1/2 Deaths of Eveyln Hardcastle by Stuart Turton — I think I was in the wrong frame of mind to follow/enjoy this book when I started it. The first part was too slow for me, then it got creepy, and then I just got plan old confused. LOL. I’ve heard good things about this one, but it was apparently not my cup of (novel)ty.
- One Second After by William R. Forstchen (book club read) — while I appreciate the concept behind this “thriller/dystopian” novel, the writing drove me nuts. There were so many sentence errors I about lost my mind in the early chapters and the flat way characters were written made it hard to keep going. (finished 6.13.19)
- Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan (book club read) — this was my pick for book club and after it got going, I wished I had chosen differently. I felt ashamed at the end when reading the author’s note because that made the story behind the novel sound much more interesting and worth reading than the actual book itself. I found the main character to be so annoying that it distracted from just about anything else. I will say, however, that it has inspired me to read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to the Big 3 once baseball ends this month.
- Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser — dubbed “THE definitive biography” this book taught me a ton about LIW and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane. It was a slow 500 pages of non-fiction, but still interesting and insightful. I totally grew up idolizing the Little House books and this showed so much more truth and history, not to mention relationship dynamics, behind the stories. (Finished 7.8.19)
- The Spirit Catches You and Then You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (book club pick) — Non-fiction read about being an immigrant family/navigating the US medical system and how language and cultural and religious differences turn into barriers. This was dense but so good to read. I learned a ton and appreciated how the main story was presented in such a way that as an outsider, you the reader could really see how and why these messages got mixed and problems ensued.
- Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner — So good! This was a current popular read I managed to snag from the library with minimal wait time on the hold and I’m so glad I read it. It’s such a great look at what (white) women have had to endure and have come through (and are still working through) in the last 70 years in America. I don’t know why I think of JW as a fluff writer because she’s really not. There were some predictable bits along the way, but this book was a well done look at womanhood, sisterhood, motherhood, and so much more. (finished 7.15.19)
- The Adults by Caroline Hulse — a fun, quick read. This one looks at relationships both marital and parental as well as dating and social, but in a quirky, intriguing way. I’d liken it to a Liane Moriarty book in terms of clever suspense/narration but not one of my faves of hers.
- Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane — one of those “must read” summer books that turns out to be right! A great look at family, personal, and relational drama and trauma, this is a compelling read.
- Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris (book club pick) — this one felt predictable and cloying at times, but it was a quick read and tackles a tough topic (desperate families in the Great Depression) though an interesting lens (newspaper reporting). finished 8.5.19
- The Farm by Joanne Ramos — nabbed this one off the shelf at the library and would recommend you do the same. It raises a lot of questions about surrogacy and women’s bodies and the business of birth and just all that. So good. Would be an interesting one to discuss.
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer (book club pick) — this turned out to be a hilarious one to discuss because although none of us hated us, none of us quite understood or liked it a whole lot, either. This of course led to the age old question – what good books are there that are a) good and b) light in nature/subject matter?
- On Being Human: a memoir of waking up, living real, and listening hard by Jennifer Pastiloff – after seeing this in Yoga Journal, I happened to get the new copy from the library and consumed it over the course of a few days. It is all about the life and work of a woman (Pastiloff) who teaches yoga and writing workshops. How did I not know of her already? How have I not signed up for one of her workshops yet? (finished 8.21.19)
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett — I feel late to the party on this one, but grabbed it off the library shelves last week and really enjoyed the read. I can see where this would be a fun one to discuss in a group to dissect all the group dynamics, relationships, language, and ultimately, the ending.
- Hamilton the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremey McCarter – oh, this book! I checked it out as “homework” before seeing Hamilton on stage for the first time later in September and I just loved it. I learned a ton, laughed like Lin was an old friend, and got even more super excited for the show. Plus this is a gorgeous book!
- Is There Still Sex in the City? by Candace Bushnell — yeah, so S&TC is one of my favorite shows ever but now I am not so sure I ever read the book. This book was interesting and at times really entertaining, but I am not the age or demographic of the intended audience. At all. But it made for more enjoyable dishes and laundry duty (my new go to for audiobooks + chores), so I will take it.
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal — (book club read) in progress — I really liked how this one was written – as a series of short stories/vignettes but all connected and ultimately telling the story(ish) of one woman’s life and career as a cook. Plus SoDak made a surprise appearance and warmed my heart. I think there will be some good elements here for book club discussion both about how the book was written and what unfolded in the stories.
- Elizabeth Warren: Her Fight, Her Work, Her Life by Antonia Felix — this was an enjoyable listen I learned a lot about the woman who is my favorite contender for 2020, both in terms of her life and her career. Now I need to read one of her own books! (finished 9.10.19)
- The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick — this reminded me a bit of A Man Called Ove, but is also totally different so it’s not really fair to compare them. Some bits of the narrative were jumpy to me, but I also liked the characters and thought it was enjoyable to follow along on Arthur’s journey.
- The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon — this novel about military spouses/families and relationships and culture clashes was a different read for me. I appreciated the unique take on how the author incorporated different narrators.
- Bear Town by Fredrik Backman (book club read) — my friend L hosted one of our book clubs in September and she picked not one but two of my favorite Backman books! For personal reasons, it was hard to read these books again, but I so love his writing style and that we got a chance to discuss these powerful stories.
- Us Against You by Fredrik Backman (book club read) — listen, re-reads count! Especially when you bust out 200 pages in less than 24 hours to take part in that night’s book club discussion! (finished 9.30.19)
- I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella — because sometimes you just need some brain fluff.
- The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth (book club – my pick) — oh, wow. I feel like I got really lucky with my book club choice this month; this book was great! I really enjoyed both the character and the story development. Now I can’t wait to read more books by Hepworth! (finished 10.8.19)
- Revolution of the Soul by Seane Corn — written by and about the life and learnings of one of my favorite yoga teachers, this was a joy to read, even though it is incredibly serious in nature and content for most of the book.
- The Good Neighbor: the Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King — another audio pick for chore time and much to my delight, narrated by LaVar Burton! I was in some sort of PBS-fueled childhood delight upon discovering that fact. The content of the book is also lovely. I learned a ton about Fred Rodgers and the legacy he created in terms of caring for and educating children. If you want depth, this is it! (finished 10.21.19)
- The Testaments by Margaret Atwood — this one was a super quick read because I could hardly put it down! I only wish I had reread The Handmaid’s Tale first to see how the two connected because what I mostly had in my head was the Hulu version, but seeing as Atwood helps with that and it is so well done, maybe that wasn’t the worst thing. Seriously – read this!
- The Wife by Meg W (book club read) — I both totally nailed and totally underestimated this book! 😂
- After the Flood by Kassandra Montag (book club read) — dystopian really counties to be not my thing. This one was tough because I was so ready to read it and support a NE author but overall opinion was meh and also OMG because the thought of the world being covered by 95% water and new world order seems a little too possible.
- Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes — was really excited to read this even though it seemed like an odd fit for a Moyes book. And the scandal around it has now added a new book to my list – the one that came out six months earlier and features same topic!
- Here I Go Again by Jen Lancaster — this one took me a while to get into but as far as fluff reads go, it was decent.
- The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen — Although this “thriller” did manage to surprise me a few times it was none too thrilling to read. I did not care for the characters and some severe weirdness/dropped plots annoyed me. (finsihed 11.17.19)
- After the End by Clare Mackintosh — oh, wow. The first half of this book wrecked me and threw me back into some heavy NICU memories, and then the second half was written in such an intriguing way. Even though the subject matter was hard, I would highly recommend this book. I could not put it down.
- The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth — this was my second Hepworth novel and while I didn’t like it quite as much as the first, I still enjoyed her rotating narrators. She does such a good job of changing perspectives/voices to paint a more complete picture of the story. (finished 11.25.19)
- The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood — parts of this threw me for such a loop and I could not connect to it like I did her other book I read last year, so not a highly recommended read from me.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (book club read) — I haven’t read this since sometime in my teens, so it was such a good idea for one of my book club friends to pick it before the new movie version releases (we hope to see it together as a group), so we could all either revisit/read it for the first time. I read this with such different perspective at this point in my life. And I could not put it down!
- The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson — (in progress)
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid — This book was fantastic. Maybe it’s my music addiction or maybe it’s just the way it’s written, but this was a total pleasure to read and I would highly recommend it all. Now I want to listen to Rumors and watch Almost Famous.
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera — this came as a recommendation from a student who is writing an analytical essay on this novel and it sounded so good, I just had to read it quick before I read his paper (it is a YA, so that always helps with read speed). I enjoyed it and it is indeed question-raising.
- The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth — I liked this Hepworth novel almost as much as The MIL. It was suspenseful without being coy, kept me guessing, and definitely made you want to keep reading. (finished 12.22.19)
- City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert — this was a slow start for me but then it really took off and I overall really enjoyed it. And, I finished before the ball dropped on 2019!
Read Aloud Books:
- Crenshaw by Kathryn Applegate — my first Applegate book, about an imaginary friend helping a 5th grader go through some hard times with his family as they find themselves without enough money for food and housing. This one caused some good conversations with my kids about recognizing that others don’t always have the same living situations that we do. This one I read to the 9, 7, and 5.
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DeCamillo — again, read this to all three of the bigs and they seemed to enjoy it, even though we got behind and strung it out over too much time. The chapters are short and the vocabulary done in an entertaining yet educational way, and the message of light vs. dark is of course age old and always good. (finished 2.24.19)
- Wishtree by Kathryn Applegate — so good. SO good. My big three loved it and I loved it, too. Gave me hope, made me cry, made me laugh. Highly recommend!
- The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis — loving revisiting this childhood read with three of my own children! I am impressed at how they hang in there and follow along/make predictions even though this book (and the British slang within it) is pretty dated by now. Even though the language gets a bit high level at times/British, my kids enjoyed it and got way more out of it (in terms of understanding the story) than I originally thought they might. I don’t know yet if we will continue with the whole series, but this was a good one to do with them.
- * Upside-Down Magic series by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins — I put the * on this because technically I am not the one reading these books to my children – Hoopla audio is from my library/phone – but dang, I love them and so do they. Super fun, appropriate enough, and some good underlying lessons/messages, all in an entertaining package with five books in the series. So good.
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Antidote by Shelley Sackier
Sticks & Stones, The Dorito Effect, Delivering Happiness, Shoe
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
There There by Tommy Orange
The Witch Elm by Tana French (crime)