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If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that I read. A lot. And, even that may be an understatement! This year I read 100 books–not including books that I reread. I was so excited to reach the 100 mark for the first time in a few years!
So, it was a little hard to choose my favorites of the year. I am sure that I left something off the list and will want to add it in another month of two! However, I decided to choose the books that have stuck with me. The books that I find myself thinking about again and again. Perhaps because of a gripping story line. Perhaps for the beautiful writing. Perhaps because of the interesting ideas. Or, perhaps for the way the book propelled me to act or change.
Also, please note that these are books I read in 2019, regardless of publication date. In no particular order, here are:
My Favorite Books of 2019
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
This was one of the very first books that I read in 2019, and it is still haunting me. In it, a writer travels to Scotland to work on her latest novel. (A quick aside, if you love atmospheric books or books about Scotland in general, definitely add it to your TBR list!) While there, she writes with startling historic accuracy about events that occurred over 200 years before in a castle near where she is staying. She learns that one of her ancestors was involved in the Jacobite rebellion, and things grow more mysterious from there. After I read this book, I began devouring Susanna Kearsley’s backlist. She generally writes historical fiction with a supernatural twist, a genre I didn’t even know I liked!
The River by Peter Heller
This was a Modern Mrs. Darcy recommendation, and it was certainly outside of my typical go-to genres. In this novel, two college buddies, who bonded over a shared love of nature and outdoor sports, take the canoeing trip of a lifetime in northern Canada. However, a wildfire and an attempted murder change the dream trip into a nightmare. Heller’s prose is beautifully minimalist, which adds to the dream-like intensity of the plot.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandlay
This is a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel. I tend to enjoy the genre as a whole (if it is not too violent or graphic), but this one came particularly recommended by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy–one of my all-time favorite blogs and the best place to get book recommendations. After a devastating flu that wiped out 99.99% of the global population, hope and culture are kept alive by a traveling Shakespearean troupe. The writing is absolutely beautiful, the characters memorable, and the plot haunting.
There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather by Linda Akeson McGurk
I was on a bit of a parenting book kick this year. While I read several good ones (I tend to favor more sociological, research-based ones), this book stood out. It tells the story of a woman who grew up in Scandinavia and brings that philosophy to parenting to her own children in the States. I was inspired to let my children play more in nature, regardless of the weather!
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
I have read Cal Newport’s other books and greatly enjoyed them. Digital Minimalism spoke to me on a deeper level, though. Through meticulous research and personal experimentation, Newport writes about the ways that technology can affect workers. He then thoughtfully and critically lays out an alternative philosophy: digital minimalism. Intentionally choosing what, how, and when you use technology for the maximum benefit. I was inspired to take a digital detox and to reconsider my technology habits.
Walkable City by Jeff Speck
I never thought I would enjoy a book about city planning, but I was enthralled by this book! Speck describes how a downtown can completely revitalize a community, how a city can become vibrant through creating walkable spaces. I find myself analyzing the traffic flow, pedestrian spaces, and bike lanes of each town that we visit now! The book is highly readable without a lot of technical language, perfect for a planning novice like me.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
This was a fascinating look at a chapter in history of which I was entirely ignorant. Shortly after the discovery of radium, it was hailed as a “miracle drug” and used in everything from watch dials to beauty products. One watch dial factory that created equipment for WWI hired young women to paint dials with radium. The women got radium in their mouths, to disastrous effects. Their case against the company became a landmark fight for justice from a corporation and protection of workers’ rights. A nonfiction book that reads like a novel.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Like thousands of others, I read the former first lady’s memoir this year and was captivated by her storytelling. I learned so much about life on a campaign trail, family dynamics living in the White House, and the role of a first lady. I was particularly interested in her portrayal of segregation and racism in Chicago as seen through the experiences of her grandparents. Regardless of your political affiliation, I highly recommend the book.
101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg
Near the end of 2019 I was introduced to the “zero waste lifestyle.” I have become more and more convicted of the unsustainability of our over-reliance of plastics and would like to reduce my family’s waste. While I read several other books on the topic, this is my favorite. It is very readable, practical, and makes the idea of zero waste seem less daunting. Even if you don’t plan on going zero waste, you can find simple ideas to help reduce your family’s waste.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Finally, we return to fiction in this beautiful example of Southern magical realism. Claire and Sydney Waverly have their family’s gift for growing magical herbs and flowers that can do everything from help your love life to show you a glimpse into the future. This generally causes their lives and love lives to be out of their control. It is a gentle, charming story. (There is one slightly racy scene, which a reader could skip if wanted.) I also began reading more of Addison Allen’s other novels after this one. Lovely!
What were your favorite books of the year? I’d love to add them to my list for 2020!