Read 2019: A Year in Books

For 2019 I set my Goodreads goal at 30 books and just barely hit it. Whew, it’s been a year. A high-risk pregnancy, car accident, new baby, and series of bad luck at work have me looking forward to 2020. I need a new start of sorts, a fresh take, and a new year is prime for that kind of perspective. I am not big on New Year’s resolutions but I will take the opportunity to turn the page and start fresh.

Here are the books I read for 2019 and some thoughts on my favorites, least favorites, and trends.

1. The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler (4/5 Stars)

2. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (3/5 Stars)

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (4/5 Stars)

4. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (2/5 Stars)

5. The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory (3/5 Stars)

6. The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises by James Scott Bell (5/5 Stars)

7. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (4/5 Stars)

8. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (5/5 Stars) (Reread)

9. The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco (3/5 Stars)

10. Hunter by Mercedes Lackey (3/5 Stars)

11. Elite by Mercedes Lackey (3/5 Stars)

12. The Mueller Report by Robert S. Mueller III (5/5 Stars)

13. Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (3/5 Stars)

14. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (3/5 Stars)

15. The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht (4/5 Stars)

16. Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede (4/5 Stars)

17. The Library Book by Susan Orlean (4/5 Stars)

18. Apex by Mercedes Lackey (3/5 Stars)

19. The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith (4/5 Stars)

20. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero (2/5 Stars)

21. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (5/5 Stars)

22. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (4/5 Stars)

23. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King (5/5 Stars)

24. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (5/5 Stars)

25. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (3/5 Stars)

26. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (4/5 Stars)

27. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (3/5 Stars)

28. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (5/5 Stars)

29. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (4/5 Stars)

30. Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James (4/5 Stars)

Top Five Favorite Reads

1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

2. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

3. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

5. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Least Favorites

You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My 2019 Reading Trends

I learned a few things about myself from my reading habits this year.

First, as I get older I find myself increasingly drawn to literary fiction.

Second, I am very disillusioned by self-help books that refuse to acknowledge systemic inequalities and assume all readers have the same privileges. I get that they are (most likely) writing to an audience of upper middle class white women in suburban regions but to not address any unfairness seems completely blind and very not 2019.

Finally, I have not read a YA novel this year that made me feel much of anything. My selection of authors might very well be the cause here. I didn’t try any really exciting authors who offer a new voice. That is something I plan to remedy in 2020. YA is one of my favorite genres and I can’t imagine not reading it. I know it’s a viable genre, I just need to find the good in the tide of mediocre.

Overall, with the year I’ve had, I’m happy with my reading accomplishments. More good reads than bad ones including falling in love with a new author, Min Jin Lee, whose entire body of work will definitely be making its home on my book shelves soon.

Here’s to only 4 star and up books in 2020!

What were your favorite (or least favorite) books you read this year?

The Dutch House: Book Review

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

“There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.”

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is a tale of growing up, nostalgia, and truth. It is a story ultimately about redemption.

The story is framed around a house, an old mansion built in the Dutch architectural style previously owned by a rich couple who made their wealth in tobacco but whose family ultimately fizzled our with no surviving heirs. Mr. Conroy, Danny and Maeve’s father bought the house after their demise, filled with their possessions as a surprise for his wife, an ex-nun accustomed to their simple life on a Navy base.

She is unsettled by the acquisition of the large home and never quite makes peace with her wealth and the general misery of the world’s poor. She leaves the dutch house, and her family, to go to India after reading about Mother Theresa’s charitable work.

Her departure nearly kills Maeve, who is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes after losing her mother. The story picks up with their father’s remarriage to a young woman named Andrea.

The book is about family, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ultimately it’s the fact that we never can quite remember things as they truly are. And that our capacity for forgiveness supersedes everything else.

The book is beautifully written, with tight prose and vivid imagery. I was nearly disappointed in the ending, believing it would fall back in the old evil stepmother trope. Lucky for us all, it does not do that and the twist at the end makes this book worth reading.

4/5 Stars

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: Book Review

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

“To be wilded. Have a wilded heart in this black-treed land full of wilded creatures. There were notches in these hills were a stranger wouldn’t tread, would not venture-the needle-eyed coves and skinny blinds behind rocks, the strangling parts of the blackened-green hills-but Angeline and hillfolk here were wilded and not afraid. And I longed to lift bare feet onto ancient paths and be wilded once again.”

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is set in Troublesome, Kentucky, an Appalachian Community, in the 1930s. The story follows Packhorse Librarian Cussy Mary (aka Bluet), coal miner’s daughter and one of the legendary blue people of Kentucky. Cussy Mary struggles for acceptance in her conservative and superstitious hometown. Though a Troublesome native, she is viewed through the same suspicious lens as any minority of the region.

Cussy Mary’s father works long hours on night shift in the mines, returning covered in black dust and already suffering from what appears to be black lung, a result of inhaling the coal dust underground and an affliction that coal miner’s still battle today.

Cussy Mary and her father are unique to the setting for their blue skin color, caused by a congenital blood condition. This is based on the blue Fugates of Kentucky, a well known legend to the region.

Back to the story itself, I wasn’t sure I would like this book. Being from the region I am always wary of stories that try to portray the truth of life here. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek deals with some difficult subject matter, the treatment of minorities in the region, subjugation of women, socioeconomic conditions, and cultural shortcomings. The author handles all of this with a great deal of honesty but also respect to the people who remain here.

Cussy Mary, a blue, is treated as a “colored” meaning she is held to the laws of segregation and miscegenation of the time. She is cautious, afraid to touch others and often chided for assuming she is equal to the whites around her. She is humble but eager to be accepted even by those that treat her terribly. Her greatest joy is bringing literacy to her people (an astounding act of rebellion considering them her people even though over half think of her as their inferior). The book reckons with the hypocrisy of a proud, but starving and close-knit but ostracizing community.

The writing is lyrical. More poetry than prose sometimes. That may be off putting to some but if so then literary fiction isn’t really for you anyway. This book is a bittersweet tale of overcoming hardship and bearing witness to tragedy.

5/5 Stars