My Year in Books – 2019

All in all, this was a good year in books. I completed more books than I have in any previous year, and greatly improved my ability to put a book down, no matter how good I thought it might become, if it just wasn’t doing it for me. There are simply too many interesting books out there and too little time! My overall list was just about 50-50 this year between fiction and nonfiction, including some really exceptional graphic novels and memoirs. As in previous years, this list reflects my choices from what I read this year, not necessarily what was published in 2019; though I was #1 in line for a lot of new books at the library. (Note: If you were waiting for something I was hoarding in the tall stacks on my nightstand, my apologies. Even though the library eliminated late fees, I promise I still felt guilty.)

So here’s my list — would love to hear your comments and favorites, too!

Narrative Nonfiction (as compelling as any fiction, with the added bonus of being real) — Best: The Library Book, Susan Orlean; Runner-up: Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waites Waring, Richard Gergel

Regular Nonfiction (less enjoyable, but still eye-opening and important) — Best: What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, Mona Hanna Attisha; Runner-up: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, Anand Giridharadas

Concept Book (I’m a sucker for a good gimmicky premise… still waiting for my own) — Best: One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America, Gene Weingarten (such a good concept that I want him to write this book for every other day, too, all of them); Runner-up: Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting, Jennifer Traig; Also notable: Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey, by A.J. Jacobs, because (a) he kind of rocks the world of concept books, in general; and (b) who knew Ted Talks published books — a wonderful sermonic resource for any clergy friends who may be reading this

Memoir — Best: Shortest Way Home, Pete Buttigieg (if we judged candidates by their books only, he’d definitely have my vote — unless Bryan Stevenson declares his candidacy); Runners-up: Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper; and The Color of Love, Marra Gad — because it’s my list, and I don’t have to choose

Graphic Memoir — Best: Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations, Mira Jacob (I’ve never seen another book like this — really stunning); Runner-up: They Called Us Enemy, George Takei 

Fiction — I don’t know that there is such a thing as “best fiction;” so much depends on the time and place you read it, the mood you’re in, what you need the book to do. So here’s a list of the works of fiction I simply enjoyed reading the most this year in no particular order except the chronology of my own reading list:

  • We Cast a Shadow, Maurice Carlos Ruffin 
  • The Girl He Used to Know, Tracey Garvis Graves
  • Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner
  • Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane 
  • The Stationery Shop, Marian Kamali
  • City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, Robert Dugoni
  • Normal People, Sally Rooney
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, Della Owens (don’t judge; I didn’t want to like it either)
  • We Are All Good People Here, Susan Rebecca White
  • The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
  • Nothing to See Here, Kevin Wilson

Best Young Adult: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alice Sáenz (I loved this book so much)

Best Middle Grade, fiction: The Benefits of Being an Octopus, Ann Braden

Best Middle Grade, nonfiction: We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls around the World, Malala Yousafzai

Best Middle Grade, graphic novel: White Bird, R.J. Palacio (yes, that R.J. Palacio — who knew she was a visual artist, too; this is a wonderful Holocaust alternative for readers too young for Maus)

Collection — Best: Inbetweenism, Adam Krasnoff — Adam, I will read anything you write, anytime, anywhere, and at full cover price; Runner-up: The Moth Presents Occasional Magic: True Stories about Defying the Impossible, Catherine Burns, ed.