Merry Christmas, Friends! 🎄

Today seems like the perfect day to let all of you know just how grateful I am to have you sharing this small piece of the internet.

I don’t have a lot of friends IRL who read (let alone LOVE to talk about books) like I do, so to have a place to do that is priceless for me.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and I look forward to sharing another bookish year with you!

Merry Christmas! 🎅🏻

The Best of the Best: My Top Fiction Book & Nonfiction Book of 2019

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Here they are: my favorite fiction book and nonfiction book of 2019!

Fiction:

City of Girls by: Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead) – Pub Date: June 4, 2019

“At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.”

When 19-year-old Vivian Morris gets kicked out of college, she finds herself moving in with her Aunt Peg who owns a rundown theater, the Lily Playhouse. There she is introduced to an eclectic assortment of characters – flamboyant, vivid, and unconventional. Vivian has a lot of growing up to do and as she discovers who she is and what kind of life she desires, she makes mistakes and grows from them.

Admist the razzle dazzle of the theater and the showgirls, the setting of NYC is fabulous! I’m so glad I was able to read this one while vacationing there with my husband; it really brought the book to life in such a memorable way!

This book still manages to find its way into my mind from time to time. It’s the perfect balance between light-heartedness and fun, but also deeper and more complicated issues. This book made my Mid-Year Top 10 List back in July and it was never knocked off from its #1 spot in my mind. I also mentioned it on Sarah’s Book Shelves Live Podcast as one of the books that has deserved all the hype it’s gotten.

Nonfiction:

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by: Garrett M. Graff (Avid Reader Press) – Pub Date: September 10, 2019

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this amazing book except READ IT! Powerful, emotional, and essential, it is THE book of all books.

Told in oral history format, Graff took meticulous notes to compile a priceless historical account of the day that changed the world, September 11, 2001. This is a book that should be read by every American, and I also believe it needs to be added to high school and college curriculums everywhere.

This book is outstanding in every way. While I initially read the print version, audiobook will be next for me. This is one of those books that I will recommend for years to come and I plan to visit it as a reread annually.

I’d love if you leave a comment below telling me your favorite fiction book and nonfiction book of 2019!

Top 10 Fiction Books of 2019

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If You Want To Make God Laugh by: Bianca Marais (Putnam) – Pub Date: July 16, 2019

This was a strong contender for my favorite fiction book of the year (find out what I chose as my favorite on Tuesday!). It narrowly missed the top spot! I like to think of this book as one that sneaks up on you…around the halfway mark, it really takes off and before you know it, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you’ve finished the book. These are my favorite kinds of reads – the ones that make time disappear. It’s been months since I read this book and I still catch myself thinking about it at least once a week. It just has staying power and I adored it! (I take every opportunity I can get to mention this book!

You can find other mentions here: 5 Books That Flew Under the Radar5 Books I’m Thankful For…, Book Flights Vol. 1 and Mid-Year Top 10.)

After the Flood by: Kassandra Montag (William Morrow) – Pub Date: September 3, 2019

What would you do to survive if suddenly the entire world was underwater? I certainly wasn’t expecting to love this one as much as I did, but it had all the themes I really enjoy: dystopia, motherhood, grief, grit, hope, and determination.

This book was also mentioned in: 5 Books That Flew Under the RadarTop 5 Surprising Reads of 2019!, and Grief: Be the Expert, Ask the Expert, Become the Expert

Cantoras by: Carolina De Robertis (Knopf) – Pub Date: September 3, 2019

Sometimes a book comes along that changes your world. It changes your perspectives, your opinions, and your empathy levels. I loved how this book made me emotional – extremely happy, extremely sad, and everything in between. I learned a little about Uruguay’s political past, but mostly I found the idea of one’s “chosen families” and what that can mean. I know I’m grateful for my chosen family and wish everyone could find that comfort and safety for themselves.

Also mentioned here: 5 Books That Flew Under the Radar, and Top 5 Surprising Reads of 2019!

The Most Fun We Ever Had by: Claire Lombardo (Doubleday) – Pub Date: June 25, 2019

If you’re looking for some over-the-top snark and dysfunction, this is the book for you! Full of eccentric characters and complicated issues, I loved being in the world of the Sorensons. This book has themes of family secrets, forgiveness, and hope. While this book is long (many have said it could have been about 100 pages less), I thought it read quickly. 

The Dutch House by: Ann Patchett (Harper) – September 24, 2019

The thing I loved most about this complicated family drama was the sibling relationship presented. So many times, I feel like books pit siblings against each other instead of in close, caring relationships so this was a nice change from that usual trope. It did get a bit long and repetitve at times, but I’m a fan of Patchett and truly enjoyed this one!

Red, White and Royal Blue by: Casey McQuiston (St. Martin’s) – Pub Date: May 14, 2019

This one caught me completely by surprise! I loved everything about this book – it had the perfect balance between light-hearted romance, the exploration of deeper issues, and a well-developed plot and characters. Besides, who isn’t intrigued with the idea of a romance between America’s First Family and the British Royal Family?

Finding Dorothy by: Elizabeth Letts (Ballantine) – Pub Date: February 12, 2019

This historical fiction book about the creation of the Wizard of Oz flew under the radar and deserved so much more recognition than it got. In a genre that easily gets bogged down by WWII, this was a fresh and (mostly) upbeat change of pace.

I also mentioned this one in the following posts: Mid-Year Top 10 and 5 Books That Flew Under the Radar.

A People’s History of Heaven by: Mathangi Subramanian (Algonquin) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019

Another book that totally flew under the radar (in my opinion), and I really wish more people would have read it. I loved the characters in this one and appreciated a story where the relationships between women was supportive and genuine rather than competitive or ugly. While the people live in dire circumstances, they were optimistic and hopeful.

This one is also on my Mid-Year Top 10 list!

Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine) Pub Date: March 5, 2019

I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but this book is so well done and in a class of its own! The audiobook is equally as good as the print version (Daisy made my Top 10 Audiobooks of 2019), and in fact, I devoured the story in both forms. I got different things from each version, so I’d encourage you to do the same!

Daisy is also on my Top 5 Surprising Reads of 2019!

Ask Again, Yes by: Mary Beth Keane (Scribner) – Pub Date: May 28, 2019

This book has it all – coming-of-age, tragedy, complicated relationships, love, forgiveness, and hope. I read this clear back in May and included it in my Mid-Year Top 10 List. It has stuck with me all that time and now makes its reappearance for my final list of Top 10 Books for the year!

Top 10 Backlist Books I Read in 2019

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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by: Cheryl Strayed

I mentioned this one yesterday in my Top 10 Audiobooks of 2019, but this one is equally as good in print form! I began it on audiobook, but loved it so much I immediately ordered the book because there is so much I wanted to underline and remember. I absolutely love this book; it’s definitely an all-time favorite!

We Were the Lucky Ones by: Georgia Hunter

This was the first book I read in 2019 and it has totally stuck with me. Sarah had the author on her podcast and it prompted me to pick it up immediately! It’s an historical fiction novel that reads like memoir and I couldn’t put it down!

The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt

This was a reread for me and I loved it more the second time around. Tartt writes about grief so well. I also really enjoyed the plot much more this time; something about the book was easier for me to understand after having some background. It also may have helped that I hosted an online book club and we had some great insight and discussions to help us decipher the story. (This book is included in my post about grief.)

The Night Circus by: Erin Morgenstern

Another reread in anticipation of Morgenstern’s recent release, The Starless Sea (my review), I also appreciated this one much more the second time around. What I love about Morgenstern’s writing is her ability to create magical worlds that I want to immerse myself in. I thought the character and plot developement were a little flat, but the imagery she created made this one such a great atmosperic read! (Also, if you have to choose, I suggest The Night Circus over The Starless Sea!)

Americanah by: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Admittedly, it took me awhile to get into this one, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. This book forces the reader to think. I see this book being added to high school and college curriculum to better teach the nuances of issues like race and class privilege, racism, immigration and emigration. I think it will one day be classified as a modern classic – and for good reason! 

Dry by: Augusten Burroughs

I have never read Burroughs before (apparently he has quite a list of published books!), but this book was so well-written, I was engrossed in his story. In Dry, he talks about his struggles with sobriety, admitting himself to a rehab facility, and the loss of one of his closest friends. It’s raw and honest and I truly appreciate when an author can give the reader their heart and soul. Dry is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read!

A Monster Calls by: Patrick Ness

This book was beautiful and good and so unexpectedly gorgeous! About cancer, caretaking, and grief, this book gave me all the feels. I know I will return to this quick read over and over again because it truly handles the topics and themes of grief so well. (I also included this on my post about grief.)

Dear America: Notes of an Undocutmented Citizen by: Jose Antonio Vargas

Vargas was brought to America as a young boy, but when he went to the DMV to get his learner’s permit for driving, he found out that all of his documentation was fake and he was not, in fact, a US citizen! This book gives detailed insight into America’s problematic immigration system. This read is timely given the situation on the US/Mexico border and I think all Americans (especially those in politics) need to read this book!

Waiting for Eden by: Elliot Ackerman

This book packs a punch in its small size. It’s a beautiful meditation on death, love, loyalty, guilt, and yearning. This book’s premise is unlike anything I’ve read before and Elliot Ackerman masterfully delivers. You’ll want to add this one to your TBR soon, if you haven’t read it already!

Next Year in Havana by: Chanel Cleeton

For some one who claims not to llove rereading books, I sure did a lot of it this year! TI’m happy to report that the rereading of this book held up! This gives the reader the most interesting Cuban history and Cleeton’s writing makes you feel like your walking along the seawall in Havana! Maybe my favorite historical fiction book ever, I can’t wait to revisit it again in the future!

There you have it…my top reads of backlist books in 2019. What books would you add to the list?

The Top 10 Audiobooks of 2019

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Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid

The audiobook lineup is amazing! It has a full cast of characters that bring the story to life!

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by: Cheryl Strayed 

Not only does Strayed have a kind and gentle voice that’s soothing to listen to, there’s nuggets of advice throughout this book that are relative to everyone!

With the Fire on High by: Elizabeth Acevedo

Acevedo’s descriptions in this book will have your mouth watering! And the storyline is deeper than you’d think for a YA novel…and so well executed!

More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) by: Elaine Welteroth

LOVED this book read by Welteroth herself…including some appearances by her mom and dad! The interview with her parents at the end is the absolute best!

Ordinary Girls by: Jaquira Díaz

Technically I’m not done with this one just yet (hence no link to my original review), but I know it would land in my Top 10 just by what I’ve listened to so far.

How We Fight For Our Lives by: Saeed Jones

Just like Ordinary Girls above, memoirs are my favorite thing to listen to on audiobook – especially when the author reads it themselves. It adds so much to the experience and this one was excellent!

The Girl He Used To Know by: Tracey Garvis Graves

Such a sweet little love story that I really enjoyed as I got ready in the morning.

Frankly in Love by: David Yoon

While this book wasn’t my favorite, I did enjoy Yoon’s narration and the topics explored in this book. I just thought it could have been better.

Red at the Bone by: Jaqueline Woodson

Loved this very short novel that brought a lot of family members together on one particular day in their lives. Listening to various perspectives of the same topic is one of my favorite kinds of books!

The Grace Year by: Grace Liggett

Again, I didn’t love this book, but the audiobook was good enough that I kept listening! I love a dystopian novel and this one is right up there for wierd and I-hope-it-never-happens-in-IRL!

 

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Dear Santa…5 Books I Hope to See Under the Tree!

Screen Shot 2019-12-15 at 6.41.01 PMTop 5 Tuesday is hosted by Shanah of Bionic Book Worm.

What books are on your TBR that, try as you might, you just weren’t able to get to this year? Here are five books I’d be happy to unwrap next week!

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by: Sonia Purnell (Viking) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019

It doesn’t matter what genre the book is, if it’s about WWII in any sort of way, I’m gonna read it. This one flew under the radar for me but I recently saw it at the local bookstore and the byline totally caught my eye. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Though the reviews seem to be a bit mixed on this one, I’m still interested in giving it a try!

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by: Olga Tokarczuk (Riverhead) – August 13, 2019

I briefly remember seeing the cover of this one and liking it, but my interest didn’t go much beyond that until I saw Jodi’s review over on #bookstagram. She describes it as the book that upended her top book of the year. It has also been descibed as odd and dark and quirky…so my curiosity has definitely been piqued.

Hollow Kingdom by: Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central Publishing) – Pub Date: August 6, 2019

At first I was totally turned off by the synopsis of this book, but the reviews keep coming in fairly strong and now I have fomo and want to know what the fuss is all about. It does seem to be divisive so I wonder what side of the fence I’ll fall on.

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by: Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday) – Pub Date: February 26, 2019

This book didn’t catch my attention until I kept seeing it pop up on the Best Nonfiction Books of 2019 lists. I’m still not sure I care about the story that much, but many say it’s phenomenal writing so I don’t want to miss out on that!

Trust Exercise by: Susan Choi (Henry Holt) – Pub Date: April 9, 2019

Probably the book I’m the most nervous to include on this list because I feel like more people hated it than liked it. It recently won the National Book Award for Fiction, so it has definitely moved up my TBR!

 

Top 5 Books I Didn’t Get to in 2019!

Top 5 Tuesday is hosted by Shanah of Bionic Book Worm.Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 7.07.23 AM2019 was an amazing year for books. I read more than ever before and I think I have more 4- and 5-star reads than I’ve ever had! Because of this, I just wasn’t able to get to all of the books on my list (will I ever?!). I’m a total mood reader so I read what strikes me at the time; sadly, this leaves a lot of books that I want to read stuck on my TBR.

Here are the Top 5 books I just didn’t get to in 2019 (but still hope to get to soon!):

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 7.00.31 AMJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by: Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau) – Pub Date: October 21, 2014

Years ago I was watching tv when 48 Hours played a teaser for their upcoming episode. It caught my attention because it was a kid I went to high school with! I immediately went to his social media account to see what the heck was going on. Turns out, his father had been wrongfully convicted of a murder twenty-seven years prior and had just been exonerated. (Here’s some more information about his specific case, if you’re interested: Frank O’Connell, YouTube.)

Since then, I have been curious about our justice system. I read and highly recommend The Sun Does Shine (my review here). I feel like Just Mercy is the next logical step in this process of trying to learn more about our prison system.

Other similar books: A Grip of Time (nonfiction); The Mars Room (fiction); and An American Marriage (fiction); The Graybar Hotel (stories)

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 7.01.00 AMThe Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by: Julie Yip-Williams (Random House) – Pub Date: January 8, 2019

If you’ve been here long, you know I’m all about books about grief and dying (in fact, I wrote a post about it!). I think this will be my next read under that category, and though I think it may be hard to read (a mother dying of cancer hits real close to home), I always gain such insight into books with this topic. Ultimately, they make me feel closer to my mom and help me understand some of what she may have been thinking and going through during her illness.

Some similar books: The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying; Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss; Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End; Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 7.01.25 AMThis Tender Land by: William Kent Krueger (Atria) – Pub Date: September 3, 2019

I absolutely loved reading Where the Crawdads Sing, so when This Tender Land was compared to that novel, I knew I had to pick it up. So many of my trusted book recommendation sources have sang its praises, but for some reason, it’s continued to fall through the cracks for me. I hope to remedy that soon!

Some similar books: Before We Were Yours; Where the Crawdads Sing

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 7.00.02 AMRecursion by: Blake Crouch (Crown) – Pub Date: June 11, 2019

I was completely captured by Crouch’s first novel, Dark Matter, so its surprising to me that I haven’t picked this one up despite the fact that it’s been sitting on my shelf since it was published in June! I think I’m a little nervous that it will be over my head and I won’t understand it – but there’s no way to know without giving it a try…so here’s hoping it makes it into my hands soon!

Some similar books: Dark Matter; Exhaltation; Artemis; Ready Player One

Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 6.59.41 AMDominicana by: Angie Cruz (Flatiron) – Pub Date: September 3, 2019

I think I originally shied away from this one because I kept seeing mixed reviews. Also, I had just finished reading Patsy for a buddy read and I felt like they might be similar. That’s been a few months ago now, so I think I’m ready to read this one soon!

Some similar books: Patsy; Behold the Dreamers

 

Which book should I read next? Are there any other must read books from 2019 I have to get to soon?