The Best Books I Read in 2019

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Whew, what a year. I set a goal of reading 80 books, but in the end, I only ("only"!) hit 64. As I looked back through what I read in 2019, though, I was surprised to find that there weren't a lot of books on my list that I really loved.

How disappointing is that?! I mean, I re-read the Harry Potter, & I certainly love all of those - but I can't count them on a list like this! In the end, I've pulled five books (two fiction & three nonfiction) that were the best of the year. Don't get me wrong, these five were really great - but I hope I hit the mark a bit more often than this in 2020.

Without further ado, my best reads of 2019 - & I'd love to hear what you read & loved this year so that I can add it to my to-read list in the year to come.

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
Easily one of the most incredible nonfiction reads of the decade, this book is written by the two award-winning New York Times journalists who uncovered, investigated, & ultimately broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story.

I wish this book were getting the PR that Rowan Farrow's book (on much the same topic) is getting; I can't help but feel that because he's a man with a celebrity surname, he's getting the bulk of the attention on a story that they did so much of the legwork on.

Regardless: Kantor & Twohey are brilliant, compassionate, thoughtful, & skilled journalists who prove, with every single sentence on the page, why journalism is still so very necessary.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Five coworkers (with varying degrees of friendship) have all had their own experiences & run-ins with the man who may soon take over their company. What will happen those experiences & run-ins start to bubble to the surface? And whose death is it that is being discussed in the trial transcripts that appear between each chapter?

I stayed up late to finish this one, & I've been thinking about it ever since. I know that other readers felt the story was cliche or predictable. I, for one, did not think it was either of those, but more than even the plot itself, I appreciated the book's insights into & commentary on life as a woman, in general.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Under the pseudonym Emily Doe, Miller's story made headlines during the Brock Turner trial - not only because he was convicted of sexually assaulted her but because she gave a stunning, powerful victim impact statement that went viral.

This book absolutely blew me away - with its pain, yes, but also with its beauty. Here, Miller shares her story in a way that will stay with me, truly, like no book ever has.

If you read this book - & I hope you will - I urge you to listen to the audiobook, painfully & poetically narrated by the author, a thoughtful, reflective artist whose voice lends her story additional gravity.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Oh, how I loved this book from the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It's just as brilliant & well-told!

It's a bit of a Sliding Doors, choose-your-own-adventure-style story: In the beginning, Hannah has just moved home to Las Angeles, & she goes to a party with her best friend. Does she go home with her high school sweetheart, or leave him at the party?

The book follows those two choices & the vastly different lives that emerge from each decision. In the end, this book had me feeling a whole lot of feelings, thinking about life & all of its many what-ifs.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance 
It took me ages to get around to reading this one, but once I started it, I flew through it, listening to the audiobook every day like I would a serial podcast.

The author, who is my age, served in the Marines & received his law degree from Yale - but first, he grew up in rural Ohio & Kentucky in a family of self-proclaimed Appalachian hillbillies.

In this memoir-meets-research book, he writes poignantly about the pride & horror hillbilly culture, one that's unknown & misunderstood to - & simultaneously disrespected by - so many Americans. This book was a wide-eyed revelation to me, a look into a completely different world.

What about you? Did you read/like/hate any of the books on my list? What were your best books of the year? 

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