At the close of 2018, I found a handful of posts in the blogger world batted around discussing and sharing the list of books read for the year and goals for the next year. All that led to wonder about how many books I read in the course of twelve months, and so I decided to create a list and discover the answer.
About half way through the year, however, I realized how boring a post of just a plain list of books would be and I abandoned the idea, and keeping record fell more and more out of habit, only remembering every once and a while and adding what I could remember for personal records.
That is until a friend a couple weeks mentioned she was writing a list of favorite books read during the year and why. I promised to make a list too and began coming back over the year in my mind and finishing the overall list, so then I could work it down to just favorites.
The list grew. And grew. And grew. (If I calculated correctly, I read 63 books.)
It was pretty easy at the start to knock out huge chunks at a time. My friend and I first set the rule, that only books first read in 2019 can be included (farewell rereads of amazing books from 2018) and then there were a nice amount of school books that I enjoyed but probably wouldn’t read again, (goodbye Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) and then there were books that I just didn’t enjoy that much.
By the end I had twenty-two novels on my list. My friend only had six. Including one I wrote. So really just five.
At that point my friend said to try to at least get it down under twenty.
So with some more careful carving, I reached seventeen and then fifteen.
You will notice though that I snuck in a couple nods here and there to some of those novels that “aren’t part of the list.” Please take note. 😉
With that! Two more things to be aware of:
Note #2: While I enjoyed these books, I would not necessarily suggest them for everyone. Make sure to check content warnings before reading any of them.
Note #3: These books are not listed in any particular order or ranking.
Oh and! Note #4: I had a lot of fun with this. I plan to start making this tradition each year. Feel free to steal this idea from my friend too. 😉
- Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson
I was excited to get a Rabbit Room gift card for my birthday, and with it I preordered this book (though apparently I did not get a true pre-order copy that glows in the dark…?) Once it arrived, it did not take long to read, it’s fairly short, but I found myself wanting to take just one chapter at a time. Most books I find on writing – or even just a set of prose attempting to capture writing – falls into the same endless circles that are worn to the point of sickening to hear over and over again, but I found this book different. It has a very personal feel to it, and captures the process of writing so incredibly well yet in a very uncliched and realistic way. It had some helpful nuggets and had some beautiful thoughts.
(Also as a side note if you ever have the opportunity to order a book from The Rabbit Room store instead of Amazon, I 100% recommend it. The updated status texts for your order make it worth it.)
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Another book on writing though this one is specifically about screenwriting. I heard about it from a novelist who said it is a good book for writers in general and checked it out from my library. I found it extremely practical, insightful, and fresh, even though I don’t have any grand plans of writing a movie script any time soon. I especially like the first section that talked all about developing ideas and writing “loglines” (one sentence story ideas summaries). I had never heard the technical term before but I realized I have often tried to write them, and his advice in doing so was super helpful. I also want to try his ideas on plot structure sometime. The notion of writing plot points on index cards and taping them to the wall is especially appealing.
- All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstien
This book was fascinating. I had been wanting to read it for a while (held out because of content issues) but finally got around to it, and didn’t put it down for a week. The true story about the Watergate Scandal written by the two reporters who sniffed it all out and published in the throws of it all, it’s both gripping and informative. I had heard a lot of things here and there about Watergate, and had even seen the original file cabinet that was broken into in person, but had never really understood what happened. Turns out a lot happened. And it also gave a picture of journalism and the true power of words. It can be hard to follow at times with all the names that I didn’t grow up hearing in politics, but thankfully they include a list and pictures.
- Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Either you hate it or you love it. I loved it. The old classic, slow perhaps, and yes, just an old man out at sea trying to catch fish, but I found it a very raw and realistic depiction of the straining human nature and its limitations. It’s a sobering novella, but I think in a good way. Also. Manolin.
- Letters From Father Christmas by JRR Tolkien
I was volunteering at my local library (during the summer) when I spotted this treasure on the shelf. After I finished my shift and had a while before I was going to be picked up, I went back, found it, and retreated to a corner to read. I loved every moment of it. It’s so sweet and magical, filled with clever illustrations and quirky handwriting that all tie into the story that arches over a couple years worth of letters to the Tolkien children. The unique take on the North Pole and the personable characters such as the Polar Bear and the Christmas elves, are all fresh and quaint, and the actions and events related within the notes are both comical and enduring. Every page is overflowing with creativity and beauty. The best word to describe the book, I think, is “delightful.” I would love to make reading this a yearly tradition with a mug of hot chocolate in hand and before a roaring fire.
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I had watched the movie first a couple years ago, and then found a nice copy of the book for cheap at a thrift store and bought it. The story was just as sad as I remembered, and the ending still hit me as hard as the first time experiencing it. I love the first person narrative, the struggles and emotions experienced, and still think it is a very clever plot (but a very sobering one, in the same way as The Old Man and the Sea.)
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
This book, suggested by a friend, I read all in one quiet afternoon sitting – it’s a fairly short story, but truly a beautiful one. I cried when I finished it, partially because of the deep sadness in it, but mostly because of the breathtaking ending which was so overwhelmingly simple and enchanting. “Enchanting” is probably a surprising but encompassing description of the book, even though it is placed in a very plain, rough rural town, filled with plain, rough, everyday life. The characters themselves are very plain and simple in a realistic way, but the journey they took me on, was in no way plain.
- Circus Mirandus and it’s sequel The Bootlace Magician by Cassie Beasley
These books. I adore them. I really do. I have ranted about it. And the relationship between The Lightbender and the boy…. Just – wow. My heart is stolen. Forever. I’m never getting it back.
The creativity. The quirky voice of the narrator. The sweet, simplistic but breathtaking beauty of it. And the illustrations. Everything. I loved it all.
I read the first book over a trip to Philadelphia for my older sibling’s college level Mock Trial competition. At first I was a bit embarrassed to be seen by the smart, advanced mock-ers (yes that’s what we call ourselves) carrying it around between rounds, but by the end I didn’t care. It’s the kind of book that is called a “children’s book,” but that you find and can never let go of – especially as you get older, like Winnie the Pooh. The second book came out this year and I borrowed it from the library as soon as it was available.
But to top it off? When I was in Nashville at a huge warehouse of used books, I found a gorgeous hardback copy of Circus Mirandus. I don’t think I stopped hugging it until I had to hand it to the man at the counter in order to buy it.
( ^ see?)
Also: A very good, similar type of book I read this year, which I loved, is The Girl Who Drank the Moon, because Glerk. And Fyrian.
- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
I don’t even know where to start with this one. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s thrilling. It’s fascinating. It’s epic. It’s emotional. It’s scary. It’s so life-like in its characters and their actions and reactions even as it’s placed in space in a battle against aliens. And I found myself not wanting it to end. I made the mistake of starting it in some spare time one afternoon and then finding myself altogether too caught up to do anything but read it until I finished it around noon the next day. And the ending? Wow. Just… wow.
Interesting note: it reminded me of one of my favorite reads from 2018, Starship Troopers, (which (also interesting fact) I had expected to be completely different than it actually turned out to be.) Early sci-fi with themes of challenging philosophy I guess…?
- Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt
Okay though. This book is fantastic. A friend (and both her mom and brother) suggested a handful of Gary Schmidt’s books to me. I first read The Wednesday Wars (amazing!) and then Orbiting Jupiter (good too), but in the end, I had to pick Okay For Now as my favorite. It’s such a wholesome, good novel, about a boy in a dysfunctional family learning about life and creativity and love and friendships. It’s extremely well written and paced and also very cleverly entwined around James Audubon’s bird paintings. I absolutely love the relationships developed through the story and how the characters change. It’s just such a good book.
I look forward to reading Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy next via said-friend’s mother’s suggestion.
- American’s Favorite Poems collected by Pinsley and Dietz
Here is another book I found at the thrift store, a nice condition hardcopy, for $2. What made this book unique as compared to any old used-copy collection of poetry discovered on a sagging shelf, is it’s set up. The two editors had hundreds of Americans send in their favorite poems and explain what it means to them. Every poem is prefaced with a name, an age, a location, and a paragraph of story connected to the poem. It has a large variety from all kinds of poets and all kinds of styles, and it manages to make every one of the poems so meaningful, setting them in lights I would have never thought of. With the wide variety, I also found new favorites such as Refugee Blues, a haunting poem I ended up memorizing for a presentation.
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book I struggled with. I don’t think I’ve still gotten over the ending. I didn’t cry. I was too numb.
The novel switches to and fro from the perspective of two characters – a German orphan boy and a blind French girl around the time of World War II. The prose is lovely, and while the main characters muse a little here and there about a memory, I had no problems with becoming bored. It is the sort of book that wastes no scenes or words, and that with the first words you know the author took up the task of writing it with such respect and love and carefulness.
I loved the storytelling and the characters. though I sometimes wondered if the latter was a good thing.
Overall it is a chillingly beautiful narrative, raw in its handling of humanity and emotions. It reminded me in some ways of The Book Thief.
- And finally – what I will try to sneak in as “honorable mention,” – Shaun Tan’s The Arrival.
Honorable mention? The reason? Because technically I did not read this book. I experienced it.
There are no words, only pictures. But breathtaking sketches at that. They all link together and unfold the story of a man leaving his wife and young daughter to make a new life for them across the ocean in a strange foreign place with strange and confusing contraptions and creatures. It’s everything… fascinating, scary, exciting, lonely, strange, and hopeful, and overall it’s really beautiful.
And then right now I’m currently reading Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card.
A glimpse at my TBR (to-be-read) List:
- Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
- The Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The rest of the Wildwood Series (I’ve only read book 1 so far)
- Ender In Exile by Orson Scott Card
- T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
What books did you read in 2o19? Which were your favorites? Any suggestions for my 2o2o TBR list?
(*all pictures beyond the one with my hand in it, taken from Amazon or other internet locations* :))