Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Year in Reading

About this time last year, I said I wanted to up my Goodreads game. I joined Goodreads eons ago, then never used it. I'm still not using it a lot. I rarely interact with other people there, and I keep forgetting about the social media aspect of it. I do log most of my books there now, partly because I'm a visual person and I love seeing this little grid at the end of the year. :) 

Some of my favorites from 2019: 

Favorite Fiction: 
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger 
The River by Peter Heller 
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig 
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee 

Compelling stories told in gorgeous prose. Whenever I read Leif Enger, I repeatedly bother people around me with, "Hey! Stop what you're doing! Listen to this sentence." 

Favorite Non-Fiction: 
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb 
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro 
Why We Dream by Alice Robb
Becoming by Michelle Obama 
In Memory of Bread by Paul Graham 

Insightful, intriguing, and interesting. (And we found a new way to make gluten-free birthday cake, so huzzah.) 

Favorite Spiritual Writing: 
The Thorny Grace of It by Brian Doyle 
Stumble by Heather King 

No one could write like Brian Doyle did. His prose and his insights bowled me over every time. And then there's Heather King — Doyle wrote the foreword for her Stumble; he clearly knew a kindred spirit when he read one. ) I'm so sad that he's gone. I pray that Heather King will be around for a long time to come. 

Favorite Re-reads: 
Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury 
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead 
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron 

Dandelion Wine touches something in me; it's that nudge to remember that we're really alive, and to ask ourselves what we're doing with that knowledge. When You Reach Me is a little bit of brilliance that I appreciate more every time I read it. I miss Nora Ephron, so I just have to reread her and laugh out loud every now and then. 

Favorite Books Middle Grade or YA: 
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser 
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass 
Daddy Longlegs by Jean Webster 
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk 

I love that my daughters (adult and almost-adult) still recommend these books to me. 

Favorite Book About Education 
The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart

And not just because I work for her these days as a writing coach. It's a terrific book full of the kind of stuff that our homeschool has been full-to-brimming with for almost twenty years. I've always smiled and nodded at Julie's philosophies: "Yes, us, too, Julie, us too!" 

Least Favorite Book: 
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides 

Oh. Dear. This kind of thing just isn't my genre, I guess. 


What did you read in 2019? 


  1. Hi Karen: Thanks for this list. You have some of my favorites on it... I LOVE Peace Like a River. I've read it several times, love it more each time. I read Dandelion Wine this year also. Bradbury is fantastic. I also love Something Wicked This Way Comes. His way with language is amazing.
    I won't give you my whole year, partially because I haven't saved a list of every one, but I do have some favorites:
    Little by Edward Carey was a very interesting and well-researched historical fiction. You can't believe that it could be true, but I think it mainly is, about the crazy wild life of the woman who started Mme. Tussaud's wax museums.
    I read several by David McCullough: The Greater Journey about Americans who went to Paris in the 1830s and later because Paris was the height of culture, education and the arts at the time. Some very interesting stories there.
    The other McCullough book was The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers who brought the American Ideal West.
    Another favorite this year was Midnight in Broad Daylight by Pam Sakamoto. Fascinating story of a Japanese American family that had sons on both sides of the WWII.

  2. Hi, Karen! Your list sounds so good -- compelling and varied! I hadn't heard of Midnight in Broad Daylight, but ... wow.

    I've only read Peace Like a River once, but I will definitely reread it. Have you read Virgil Wander? I loved that one, too. And I recently picked up his other book, SO BRAVE, YOUNG, AND HANDSOME, at a used book sale but haven't read it yet. He is a master.

    I've never read Something Wicked This Way Comes but just the other day my oldest daughter was urging it on me. :)

    Are you on Goodreads? If you are, send a friend request my way. I've kept a book log on paper for years, but only recently really started using Goodreads. I do like seeing all those book covers gathered together. :)

  3. Oooh! BookTalk, yay :-) ... I've never used GoodReads! I just have a hard time with hooking into all these places to be, online. I've blogged for oh my gosh how long has it been!? My son is turning 18, and he was 4 when I started. Yikes.

    Anyhow! I've always written about books and these days it seems most of my posts are about what all I've read. Also, my spiritual path.

    In my ChristmasTide BookNotes post, I noted that I read something like 350 books in 2019 ... ! That's a lot, but, I've always been a voracious reader. I almost always have at least four or more going at once. I like to read whilst pedaling away on my exercise bike (an essential twice daily activity, PT, with my physical disabilities making it pretty much the only way my body gets moved). So I'll read each book for 15-20min, depending on how many books I'm immersed in. Love books. Where would I be without them!?

    This year, I couldn't list all my favorites off the top of my head but a few — Becoming (Obama), Inheritance (Shapiro), The Salt Path (ergh, blanking on name, but it's a memoir I just read. SO good). .... A fantastic series of theology books edited by Elizabeth Dreyer: Called to Holiness: Spirituality for Catholic Women ...

  4. Hi, Penelope! I totally understand never using Goodreads, especially re. it becoming just another place to spread oneself too thin online! :) One of my daughters uses it much more extensively than I do -- she's created categories, has extensive TBR lists, tracks her books and reading progress. I, on the other hand, don't want to be bothered to even enter the actual beginning and ending dates for books. When I'm finished with a book, I just enter the title and click on the year I read it. :)

    350 books in a year! I am unworthy to even carry your library card! That is amazing. It's great that you are able to read while you pedal.

    I so enjoyed both Becoming and Inheritance. I just looked up The Salt Path -- wow! It sounds incredible. Going on my wish list. I'll look into the Dreyer series, too.

    Thank you!