Best Books of 2019

2019 feels a little bit like a blur to me. In early 2019, our daughter had just turned one, we were in our new house after living with my parents for 4 months, and only five months into our move from Brooklyn. Now at the end, we are feeling more settled and more at home, but still learning the ropes of suburban living.

The biggest change in my reading life this year was audio books. I used to read a lot on the subway in New York, and I felt this gap in my reading volume. Last year I started listening to middle grade audio books to get caught up in that genre for my work. To be honest, I was initially intimidated by the length of even young adult books. But a teacher book club was reading The Silent Patient (an excellent psychological thriller) and I decided to give full length audio books a try. I loved it. Now I listen while I clean, while I work, and of course while I drive. (They’ve also helped me not go nuts on listening to too many political podcasts!)

Here are my top books of 2019, in order that I read them, including some young adult that I think are worthwhile reading for anyone.

Becoming by Michelle Obama: This was the first book I read in 2019. I thought it would be something I read over the course of a few weeks, but I finished it in 3 days, and missed it in the days following. I’ve long looked up to Michelle Obama, and her insights in this book only deepened my appreciation of her.

Refugee by Allan Gratz: It seemed that every student in my building wanted to read this book. After I finished the (incredible) audiobook, I knew why. It follows 3 different refugee children from different historical periods. A must read.

Pride by Idi Zoboi: Another YA novel I listened to, this is an updated Pride and Prejudice set in Brooklyn. I enjoyed not only the Pride and Prejudice connections, but the brilliant commentary. I was able to hear Idi Zoboi speak this year at NCTE, which made me love her writing even more.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton: This was the book one of my best friends said I had to read and immediately discuss with her. It was hands-down the most thought provoking and unique book I read all year.

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan: This was recommended by an NYC bookseller and offered a window into multiple generations of a family uprooted by war in Palestine. Fascinating and heartbreaking.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: I read this in New York City over the summer, finishing it in one of my favorite parks. Gut wrenching and beautifully crafted. I went on to buy one of Vuong’s poetry collections and read it in one sitting on my flight home.

Cracks in our Armor by Anna Gavalda: I’ve long been a fan of Anna Gavalda’s work. Her short stories in this collection were filled with her signature complex, interesting characters.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin: This was another audio book I got completely caught up in on my commutes home. The story of a family over a lifetime, as narrated by the youngest daughter, a poet, as an old woman.

The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn: I love a good mystery, and this one caught me with twists and also contained social commentary about the way society views the credibility of women.

A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern: This is a young adult book recommended by a colleague. What I loved most was the voices of the characters: they didn’t sound like miniature adults. Two high school students separately saw a special needs student being assaulted as became paralyzed as bystanders. The book explores how they wrestle with their inaction, and we also hear from the student who was assaulted as well.

First books on deck for 2020

I’d love to hear your favorites of 2019. What’s on deck for you?

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