One of my blogging goals for 2020 is to have more regularly-themed posts. Personally, I quite like top 5 (or 10 or whatever) lists as I feel like it cuts down on all the work that I have to do. So, I’m going to be devoting Fridays to a variety of my own top 5 lists. Hopefully, I’ll be creative enough to come up with something new every week.
I’m starting off with my top 5 books that I read in 2019. Referring back to my reading spreadsheet, I realized that I had 8 5-star reads from this past year, which means I had to rank 5 of those as better than the other 3. It wasn’t an easy decision, and I won’t go further to actually rank my top 5. Instead, I’m listing them in the order that I read them.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (finished January 17, 2019)
I think this must have been the sleeper hit of the year. I received it as an early release from the Book of the Month Club, and began raving about it before it even hit the shelves. If you have not read it (which mean you must be a book podcast host–everyone I know has read this, but when it comes up on one of the book podcasts, the hosts always say something like, “I’ve never heard of this one….”), I’m only going to direct you to the synopsis. It is best to go into this knowing as little as possible and I don’t want to slip up and inadvertently spoil anything. I will only say that this was the best psychological thriller I have read.
Becoming by Michelle Obama (finished May 26, 2019)
Here is another one to file under “something everyone has read.” I will admit that I expected this to be your run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. Interesting, but ultimately falling short of groundbreaking. And, yes, I was wrong. This book was heartbreaking, inspiring, sometimes infuriating, and ultimately hopeful. While I started reading it, I quickly switch to audio as I realized that I needed to hear the First Lady’s voice–and it was worth it. I realized that Michelle Obama is both a First Lady in a league of her own at the same time anyone can relate to her. She gets mad at her husband who is infuriatingly calm during arguments (been there) and uses HGTV to erase the day (done that). While she has accomplished more and ascended higher than most can ever dream of, she also shows us that we are all capable of our triumphs.
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal (finished August 17, 2019)
I’m a sucker for the Midwestern Novel. Stradal’s first book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, was a favorite and this one is even better. It’s ultimately a book about sisters and, being someone who does not have a sister, I find these stories fascinating. It’s a quiet but powerful (i.e. Midwestern) story that relies on character development and those characters are as real as any flesh and blood person you would meet on any street in Minnesota. While I’m a proud Oregonian, I grew up spending part of every summer in North Dakota and Minnesota and this book was a homecoming for me.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (finished December 3, 2019)
I realize that this might be the book of 2019. It’s been a while since The Night Circus was released and I’m sure I’m not the only one who was starting to think that Morgenstern was following the Harper Lee professional path. Speaking of Lee, Stephen King (I think) once said that the Harper Lee is the only writer to have escaped the Sophomore Slump. You can add Morgenstern (and Stradal) to this because The Starless Sea was even better than The Night Circus! Yes, it’s more complicated…and that may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But I sunk farther into this book with each page and soon felt like I was in the bowels of the earth with Zachary Ezra Rawlins. I realize that I will have to read this again as once is just not enough to soak up all the literary juice, but I’m more than happy to revisit this in the future.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (Finished December 31, 2019)
This was my last book of the year and it was the perfect way to finish off 2019. It is a lighter read than the other books listed here, but I wouldn’t give a label such as “chick lit” or “brain candy.” It’s whimsical and fun, but it still deals with serious issues. Nina Hill is a remarkable character. Not completely likable, she’s ultimately compelling. While she might infuriate you at times, you always root for her. The set up of the novel could have very easily fallen into a cliched abyss of melodrama. Instead, it stays fresh, realistic, and interesting. I simply loved everything about this book.
Who knows what 2020 will bring, but I hope that it will bring more worthwhile reading!