My Favorite Books of 2019

by - Thursday, January 02, 2020

2019 was a good year of reading for me. I finished 82 books, 12 more books than the previous year. I have to credit the government shutdown last January and my extra week at the beach for our honeymoon with my big jump in numbers.

More down time in 2019 obviously meant more books.

Best books 2019

The 11 books below are my favorites from the year -- the ones I gave five stars on Goodreads and consistently keep telling people about.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
I can't tell if the reason I keep telling everyone to read this book is because the book itself is excellent or because the whole story of Theranos is such a complete disaster it's hard to believe it's real. Honestly, it's probably some combination of both. I knew only the most surface level details of the Theranos mess before reading this book. I found the lengths at which the company would go to protect itself from outside questioning terrifying and fascinating all at the same time. Excellent reporting by Carreyrou. This was quite the page-turner.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
This book started off slow, and I was beginning to wonder why everyone raved about it. But then it just hit a turning point and got so good. Backman's writing is beautiful, and he sucks you in to the lives of the characters in the hockey-loving Beartown. It basically reminded me of what would happen if you took Friday Night Lights, swapped football for hockey and stuck it in the middle of nowhere in the woods instead of the middle of nowhere in Texas. You've got the overbearing hockey parents, the sports politics and the lives of a bunch of teenagers when they're taught hockey comes before everything else.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman
I actually liked this book more than I liked the original Beartown book. It follows many of the same characters as they deal with the fall out of what happened at the end of the first book. The writing was again beautiful and gripping. I couldn't put this book down.

Love You Hard: A Memoir of Marriage, Brain Injury, and Reinventing Love by Abby Maslin
I got to meet Abby and listen to her read a passage from this book at the Gaithersburg Book Festival. I also briefly got to chat with her in the book tent, while I was there to buy her book. I'm not sure if the fact that I met Abby in person or if the fact that her husband's attack happened not far from where I live made me feel more connected to her story, but this book made me openly weep. I'd be curled up in bed reading and just completely soaking my pillow case with tears. The story of what Abby and her family endured was heart-wrenching. Her ability to persevere through everything and find a way to re-build her marriage and discover a new kind of love with her husband is incredibly inspiring. Read this book.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This book was billed as a fun and light-hearted beach read about the First Son of the United States falling in love with the Prince of Great Britain. But I actually found it to be a lot deeper than a book about a fun romantic tryst between the sons of two major world leaders. Sure there was plenty of the scenes you'd expect in any chick lit, but this book also tackled the really challenging topic of how one comes out to one's family and the repercussions of that on the world's political stage. Did the book maybe paint too rosy of a picture of those outcomes? Sure it did, but it was a pretty beautiful and hopeful picture and I'm here for that.

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin
I loved this book. It's the fictionalized story of the couple forced to run the Ritz hotel and cater to the Nazis living there during the Germany occupation of France during WWII. The chapters alternate being told from the perspective of the Frenchman Claude and his American wife Blanche -- so you clearly see the impact the occupation has on them, their relationship and the staff they employee at the Ritz.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
I can't say it was necessarily a pleasure to dive back in to the world of Gilead, but it was great to read about how Gilead fell. In Atwood's follow-up to the Handmaid's Tale, we hear the story from the perspective of Aunt Lydia, a young girl growing up in the Canadian resistance and a young girl growing up in Gilead. My favorite part of this book would likely be considered spoiler material, so I won't share it here, but I loved getting in to other character's brains and hearing their perspectives on life in Gilead.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
I couldn't put this book down. It follows the story of Rhiannon, the developer of Crush, a swipey dating app. She's not so good big in to love herself and is more focused on acquiring her competitor. This book somehow tackles about a million relevant topics -- the problem with sexism in Silicon Valley workplaces, discrimination, harassment, CTE and the NFL -- but it didn't ever feel like the author was shoving them in the book for no reason. This was an awesome fun and fast romance read.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
I finished this book in one sitting while on an airplane. I fell in love with the characters and the story that jumped back forth from when Annika and Jonathan met in college and when they reconnected again ten years later. I thought some parts of the story seemed so real and relatable, and there might have been some tears at the end -- though I'll blame that on the fact that people cry more easily on planes.

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul
I loved this book that reimagined what happened if one of the Romanov daughter's survived the murder of her family. Most often it's Anastasia that is the center of any of the "what if" stories about the Romanovs but I loved that this book focused on her older sister Tatiana. The book jumps back and forth between the time of the revolution in Russia and follows Tatiana and Dmitri, the man she loved, and present day, when a woman finds out she's inherited her great-grandfather, Dmitri's cabin in New York and begins to learn about his life skirting the Bolsheviks.

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
I couldn't put this thriller down -- which is why I'm giving it a five star rating. It sucked me in the from the very beginning where our main character is digging a grave in the woods. The book then jumps back in time and builds in suspense until you find out why she's in the woods. Sure, parts of the book are not the most believable, but this book grabbed me from page one and I never wanted to put it down.

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