I’m insanely late in posting this here, but below are my top 10 books of 2019. I barely managed to reach my goal of 52 for the year (moving in September really threw off my groove), but I read so many good ones in 2019. I’ll include the full list at the bottom!
1. Their Eyes Were Watching God
by Zora Neale Hurston
This one is powerful no matter how many times you’ve read it. In many “best book” lists, it’s Florida’s claim to fame. I purchased the audiobook from Libro.fm, but also bought a physical copy while in Amherst, MA – thanks Amherst Books! Ruby Dee narrates the audiobook and it’s magical.
2. Home Work
by Julie Andrews
It’s no secret how much I love Julie. Her first memoir, Home, was a delightful glimpse into her childhood and introduction to performance. I’ve been holding space for this one on my bookshelf since its release was announced. Home Work is a delight in its little details of iconic movies and shows, but is also captivating in its exploration of depression, anxiety, and how messy life can be. I also purchased the audiobook of this one from Libro.fm (because Julie narrates – so of course). She is my very favorite.
3. Miracles & Other Reasonable Things
by Sarah Bessey
I cried in the foreword from Shauna Niequist and cried in Sarah’s introduction. I cried when Father Matthew refused the Eucharist because “Either it’s for all of us or it’s for none of us.” I laughed at the ridiculousness of a good parking spot being mistaken as a miracle and clapped when Sarah wrote sentences that spoke to these dry bones. And then I cried again when she described her trip to PEI and Green Gables because that Anne girl has always meant something to me.
Sarah Bessey creates space in the most beautiful way for the hard and the holy. Her words move me, challenge me, and make me feel known. Her words here are a deep gulp of fresh air, over and over again. The life-giving gasp I needed. I will always recommend her books.
4. Furious Hours
by Casey Cep
Casey Cep dives headlong into the mystery and culture of the deep south by examining a wild true crime in Alex City (a place I am quite familiar with) and an author we are all familiar (and yet so unfamiliar) with: Harper Lee.
I will never come quite to terms with the oddities of southern culture – especially the secrets… and how 300 people can witness a crime, but not convict the criminal – but all of that aside, I’ve never read a bio of Harper Lee. When Go Set A Watchman was released, I read a million NYTimes articles about her, but that’s it. Cep handles the details of Lee’s life with truth and a whole lot of grace. I had the privilege of seeing her at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge just after this released. A real treat!
by Michelle Obama
I also read this one via audiobook (because Michelle narrates – again, of course) and I regret nothing. If Michelle winning a Grammy for this doesn’t convince you to read it, I’m not sure what else will. The audiobook felt like having coffee with a dear friend. There’s so much here that I never knew about the Obamas. However you choose to read this, just read it already!
6. The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
I grabbed a copy of this from Books are Magic in New York at the behest of the staff at The Bookshelf. It’s a difficult read, to be sure, but such a necessary one. I will never get over our cruelty toward one another.
7. Date & Time
by Phil Kaye
On a last minute whim, I drove to New Hampshire on a Thursday to see Phil Kaye at Print: A Bookstore with my friend Diana. His poetry has been with me since early college YouTube videos with Sarah Kay. His work is deep and insightful and incredible. This collection of poetry is wonderful, thought-provoking, and honest.
by Will Harlan
This was such an intriguing read sent to me by a friend. Harlan tells Carol Ruckdeschel’s story – discovering a new salamander species, saving the Hooch, fighting for Cumberland Island (if you’re from Georgia – you’ll be amazed). She’s a mix between Thoreau and Goodall. She is striking and passionate and real and I love how she’s lived life fighting for what matters most to her – and what should matter so much to us.
9. Beyond the Point
by Claire Gibson
I recommended this book to more friends last year than probably anything else that I read. I received this as a galley from Harper Collins and wasn’t sure about it at first. My mind changed quickly. The plot follows three women at West Point whose lives are changed with the events of 9/11. The jump between year two at West Point and post-grad events was a bit much, but overall it was incredible and continues to be one of my favorites. Also, Claire Gibson is a gem to follow on social media!
10. An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
What Tayari Jones portrays in this novel is heartbreaking – yes, because love takes different shapes, but also because wrongful incarceration can completely change the trajectory of someone’s life. Jones speaks to the dark underbelly of our judicial system, of racism, and so much more. Her writing is captivating and beautiful, even in all the hurt.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker: 5
- A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs: 4
- I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel: 4
- The Archivist by Martha Cooley: 3
- The Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle: 3
- Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson: 4
- Date & Time by Phil Kaye: 5
- Me for You by Lolly Winston: 2
- Martha Berry by Joyce Blackburn: 5
- The Custom of the Army by Diana Gabaldon: 4
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple: 5
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn: 3
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: 4
- The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray: 4
- the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace: 3
- 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs: 5
- my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry by Fredrik Backman: 4
- Wolfpack by Abby Wambach: 4
- A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon: 5
- Please Don’t Just Do What I Tell You! by Bob Nelson: 4
- Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance: 5
- The Logic of God by Ravi Zacharias: 4
- On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman: 4
- Blue by Scottie Knollin: 4
- Becoming by Michelle Obama: 5
- The Library book by Susan Orlean: 4
- A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon: 5
- Furious Hours by Casey Cep: 5
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan: 4
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: 5
- Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: 4
- City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: 4
- Natchez Burning by Greg Iles: 4
- So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta: 4
- Virgins by Diana Gabaldon: 4
- Say Anything by Patrick Radden Keefe: 4
- Appalachian Reckoning by Various Authors: 4
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: 5
- The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams: 3
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: 5
- Untamed by Will Harlan: 5
- Home by Julie Andrews: 5
- The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: 4
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: 3
- South of Broad by Pat Conroy: 3
- Miracles and Other Reasonable Things by Sarah Bessey: 5
- Home Work by Julie Andrews: 5
- I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth Silvers: 5
- Family of Origin by C.J. Hauser: 4
- On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior: 4
- Passive Aggressive Notes by Kerry Miller: 4
- The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal: 4