Adventures of Reading in 2019: My List of 5 Star Books

When I started 2019, 50 books seemed like a pipe dream. I was (finally!) pregnant, and it looked like this pregnancy was going to get out of the first trimester and hopefully a healthy beyond. What gave me hope was the unrelenting nausea of “morning” sickness; it was more intense than the previous pregnancy that resulted in loss. So while my husband and I had more hope, I was also unable to focus on reading or writing for my own enjoyment the way I had in the past.

20191231 5 Star Books 2019

The pregnancy, with parenthood on the horizon, informed a portion of the reading selections for the year. I was curious what was happening inside of me, what to expect, how to continue a happy relationship with my husband post-baby, and to hear about what helped other professional moms return to work in a full-time, corporate setting be successful. Things were going to become more complicated – it was more than making sure someone was home for the dogs!

Reflecting on completing 40 books this year, I’ve impressed even me! In some years, being seemingly so far from my goal would have been disappointing. There were smaller “victories” wrapped into my list. I finally read books and authors I had wanted to for a long time. I finally re-embraced fiction this year – fiction that was smart, drew on all of my emotions, and made me feel like I was immersed inside of the story. Yes, the fiction was a mental shift and perceived break from the non-fiction, but it wasn’t mindless filler.

Other positive experiences this year revolved around the inclusion of memoirs and essays. These are genres where I need and want to spend more time. I am thankful to these authors for pouring themselves and their experiences onto the page. While the honest humanity is what makes the reading so intriguing, it is appalling to see so much inhumanity in the world.  These stories are where I found some of the most beautiful writing. 

Of the 40 completed books this year, I rated 40% of them 5 stars – it was a delightful year of awesome reads! The 15% that were 1 star or 2 star tended to be a DNF, or “did not finish,” as I didn’t find it worth my time. For these books, I generally try to read about 25% to 30% of the book before making the decision. Yes, they did teach us in school that the opening sentence should hook the reader, but perhaps the entire piece should hook the reader!

Without further ado, my five star, must read book recommendations for this year, in reverse chronological order of when I read them (most recently read at the top) are:

  • How We Fight for Our Lives, Saeed Jones
  • Bad Blood, John Carreyrou
  • Quiet, Susan Cain
  • The Ambition Decisions, Hana Schank and Elizabeth Wallace
  • The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
  • Thick, And Other Essays, Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • The Power of Onlyness, Nilofer Merchant
  • All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Parenthood, Darcy Lockman
  • The Myth of the Nice Girl, Fran Hauser
  • Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay
  • Babyproofing Your Marriage, Stacie Cockrell, Cathy O’Neill, Julia Stone
  • The Futures, Anna Pitoniak
  • Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less, Tiffany Dufu
  • You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, Jin Sincero
  • Difficult Women, Roxane Gay
  • Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly

The following are books in progress, anticipated to be five stars based on experience to date:

  • On Writing, Stephen King
  • The Big Nine, Amy Webb
  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

Right now, I have 12 books on my “currently reading” list that I plan to finish in the near future. Some are library books that I need to wait my turn for (Ready Player One), some I will purchase myself because I can’t wait for that (The Big Nine), and others I started within the past two weeks (On Writing). 

Going into 2020, I will keep my goal at 50 books again. The one per week pace seems sustainable while commuting on a train most days of the week. Now that I am better about bringing the e-reader everywhere, I’m working on the practice of leaving the phone (social media) in the bag to “waste time” reading something that brings more joy. 

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What were your best reads of 2019? Did you meet your goals, discover new authors and genres, explore new worlds in your imagination, or become better educated on a topic? Do you have a goal for 2020?

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