Last year, I was a reading machine. 100 books in 365 days. This year, I'm taking it down a notch. My goal is one new book per week. I figure some weeks I'll read more, some less.
I'll keep a running list of all of my 2019 reads here, but make sure I tell you a bit more about my favorites. So, let's get started:
Favorite Books of 2019:
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Every actress is going to want to play Daisy Jones. This character is wonderful, horrible, talented and tragic. I know that Reese Witherspoon has already optioned it, and even as I zipped through the book, I also can't help but anticipate how it will play out on screens. A stunning landscape of 1970's culture, particularly Hollywood and the music scene.
|Daisy Jones & The Six|
I love reading books set in places that I'm traveling while I'm there. So, when I had two weeks planned in France for World Cup, I asked friends for recommendations about books set in France. Overwhelmingly, I heard: All the Light You Cannot See. I'm not usually big on books about war, and at times this was a tough read because of the brutality. But, ultimately it's the story of a German boy and a French girl caught up in the war and how their lives intersect across miles and years. I became so engrossed in it that when I got home, I basically stayed in and read until I finished it.
|All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr|
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I read this book in less than 24 hours. If anyone had told me the whole book is a novel told in poems, I probably would have passed. But, the main character, Xiomara sucks you in fast. I was invested. She's coming of age as a first generation American student. Grappling with family problems, religion, falling in love for the first time, and finding her passions. I got choked up. And inspired. [NOTE: This is a great read for the young adults/teens in your life also.]
|The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo|
I basically spent 30 chapters choked up. Listen, I'm not one for emotional, heart-wrenching reads. I like escapism and things that make me smile. I picked up Love You Hard on the recommendation of a mutual friend of the author. I remember thinking as I started, this thing that happened to them is awful and how can I endure it through to the end. But, the way that Abby tells their story... God. It's not only a tribute to her husband. It's a reality check on the precarious moments of true love that we find in life. It's a goddamned evolution... marriage, friendship, family, rebuilding and getting knocked down again, and still getting back up. A must-read for anyone going through a traumatic brain injury with a loved one, but all caregivers (and non-caregivers will relate.) And, finally, it's such a love letter to Washington, DC. Not the one on your TV, but our beloved neighborhoods, friends, teams, and community. How this city pulled together made my heart happy.
Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
Like most Washingtonians, I heard about Chef Onwuachi from his appearances on Top Chef and the controversial opening of Shaw Bijou. I had no expectations about this book and I don't know the Chef personally, so it was really eye-opening to find out the backstory of the restaurant opening. Even more so, I enjoyed getting to know the full life story... from New York City to Nigeria, Louisiana and eventually Washington, DC. I understand more what he was trying to do at Bijou and why it was destined to close (not due to the food.) And, I've certainly found myself at his Kith/Kin more often post-read. If you love food, biographies and/or black history, add this one to your list.
|Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi|
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
Intercepted is the kind of sweet, fun romance that you want to curl up in bed and finish in one day. Or pack in your beach reads bag. It's the story of a love triangle playing out behind the scenes on an NFL team. Alexa Martin was recommended to me by Jasmine Guillory when I was looking for other modern romances written by women of color. The whole trilogy is a blast, so keep going with Fumbled and Blitzed when you're done with Intercepted.)
|Intercepted by Alexa Martin|
Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping and Risking it All with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier
This was one of those books where I just so wanted to be there. What a goddamned adventure. If you like Bourdain, you'll love this. You get a front-row seat to the author's introduction and friendship with a band of chefs and food folks, lead by Noma Chef Rene Redzepi. It's fabulous insanity, and I loved every minute of it.
|Hungry by Jeff Gordinier|
I finished this one nearing midnight on December 30th and immediately felt the urge to update this list and add this book to my favorites. When I read The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory in 2018, I remember being struck that I had been reading the book and picturing a white couple, when they were actually biracial. My built-in perceptions kind of shocked me. I vowed to read more books and more romances by authors of color. Similarly, I think I had been putting off Red, White and Royal Blue because it was a gay romance. Was I going to be into it? I think the coolest thing about this book is how not different this rom com is from all of the other rom coms that I love. The story of Alex and Henry is fun and sexy and adorable. I'm not shocked that Amazon's already snapped up the movie rights. This book will suck you in and have you cheering for this couple. (And, you probably will also love the political intrigue and behind-the-scenes peek at the White House and Buckingham Palace.) Turns out, the one I had been putting off because I wasn't sure if it was for me... was my favorite romance read of 2019.
|Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston|
Full List of Books I've Read in 2019
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn - Amazing, courageous story about women spies in the French resistance in WW1
- Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller - Frances has been sent to report on a dilapidated mansions gardens and landscapes, but her most interesting find is a peephole into the bedroom below
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - Xiomara is a 15-year old first generation American living in Harlem and navigating family, religion and first loves.
- The Truths We Hold: An American Story by Kamala Harris - Loved getting to know this smart, charismatic presidential candidate... and learn how to properly pronounce her name.
- The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir - Creepy, interesting, dark story about what happens behind the scenes of a religious reality show when the youngest daughter turns up pregnant.
- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - Difficult, heartbreaking read about a family in rural Mississippi.
- Tailspin by Sandra Brown - Sexy mystery about the chase for a lifesaving drug
- Intercepted by Alexa Martin - Such a cute, romantic story about a love triangle on an NFL franchise team (recommended by Jasmine Guillory, author of The Wedding Date and The Proposal)
- The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle - What would happen if you invited six people, dead or alive, to dinner... and they actually came?
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Short, smart read about why it's important for both men and women to care about equality for women and girls
- The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae - a memoir by one of my favorite actresses
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - a dystopian futuristic story about a quest to win a video game (that's based in 80's culture)
- G'morning, G'night. Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin Manuel Miranda - just adorable and sunshine filled "tweets" that give you a little love to start and close your day
- Roomies by Christina Lauren - Sexy, fun and kinda feminist romance about a subway musician and a wannabe writer colliding in New York City's Theater District
- Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman - near future dystopia, set in a Midwest zoo. The second half of the book moves at a breakneck pace.
- My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite - fun, fast read about a nurse covering up for her gorgeous, but deadly sister
- So Here's The Thing by Alyssa Mastromonaco - fun, fast read for aspiring lady bosses and politicos
- My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - Godfather, but starring girls? Epic family saga centering around two childhood frenemies in rural Italy.
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Almost Famous vibes as groupie turned star, Daisy Jones, takes on the 1970's LA rock scene
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - You'll be rooting for aspiring rapper, Bri, from page one. Along for the journey, you'll also cheer for her family and friends.
- Diary of an Oxygen Thief by Anonymous - Ugh, what a trash character written by a trash human. Why did I read this? At least it's only 150 pages.
- The Matchmaker's List by Sonya Lalli - Such a sweet, fun read. First-generation woman tells her Indian grandmother that she'll let her arrange a marriage for her if she's not hitched by 30. And she's 29 and counting...
- An American Duchess by Karen Harper - It was cool to get to know more about American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. She was basically married off for a title at 18, despite being in love with someone else. Over her life, she became a philanthropist and feminist, fighting for women and children in America and her adopted homelands of England and France.
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott - A must-read for entrepreneurs, managers and even employees. Great advice for productive conversations and relationships, at work and beyond.
- Shortest Way Home by Pete Buttigieg - I'm reading the books (listening on audio so that I hear it in their own words) of the Democratic contenders for President. Loved Kamala Harris' book last year. This started a bit slow for me, but I'm enjoying hearing about his approach to government... and more so, learning to love the parts that are about being an empathetic leader.
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne - A smoking hot office romance novel about two office assistants competing for the same job at a publishing house.
- One Day in December by Josie Silver - Do you believe in love at first sight? This is a roller coaster of two people who see each other and are instantly smitten... and then it all goes awry for a decade.
- Love You Hard by Abby Maslin - a love evolution that gutted me and inspired me
- Fumbled by Alexa Martin - three chapters in and I'm rooting for Poppy & TK
- Hate That U Give by Angie Thomas - tragic theme (young black men killed by police), love the heroine
- Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi - really enjoyed getting to know the backstory of this chef based in DC
- The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren - such a fun romance about a maid-of-honor and best man who hate each other... and then, twist, end up taking the bride and groom's honeymoon trip together and falling in love.
- The Chef by James Patterson and Max Dilallo - This books entire premise is ridiculous - a police detective who's a chef on the side... and trying to solve for a terrorist plot. I finished it because it's set in New Orleans, a city I love. But, it was just goofy.
- Wine and War: The French, The Nazis and The Battle for France's Greatest Treasures by Donald Kladstrup: Fascinating historical read about the resistance in French wine country during World War Two.
- All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: Gutting story of a German boy and a French girl during the span of World War Two. Great read for when you're traveling in France.
- My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren: this writing duo cranks out some of my favorite rom coms, and this is no exception. It's not a one-night stand if you don't stay the night, right?
- Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo: great immersion into the politics and chaos as two 'families' collide in Nigeria
- Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl: I loved the food stories nearly as much as my heart broke as I knew Gourmet magazine was headed for its end.
- Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli: I heard about this one when it got nominated for a bunch of young adult awards. It's a fun read about a teenage girl ("your resident fat Slytherin Rory Gilmore") coming to terms with her first love and all of the other madness of high school
- Life Will Be the Death of Me by Chelsea Handler: I don't tend to think I like Chelsea a ton and was shocked at how much I loved this book. It's a chronicle of why almost everyone should have a therapist to help them deal with their issues.
- White Fragility: Why It's so Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo: this felt like an important read - both in confronting my own issues, but in breaking down how to talk to other white people about racism and how it impacts our communities, friends and country.
- American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson: When a book's on both the Girls Night In and Barack Obama's reading recommendations, it's worth checking out. This one's the tale of a young black woman who grows up to be a spy. The time-shifting keeps you trying to figure out where it's headed, and who's after here.
- I'm Telling the Truth, But I'm Lying by Bassey Ikpi: Bassey's one of my faves on Twitter and I love how she writes. In this personal set of essays, she explores how her awareness of her mental health impacted her life. (The Space Shuttle chapter made me realize I do the same thing.)
- Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai: perfect sexy beach read for my trip to Tulum
- The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee: swashbuckling young adult fiction about a daring young girl who's determined to become a doctor
- PS. I Still Love You by Jenny Han: the follow up to To All the Boys I've Loved in the Lara Jean series, coming to Netflix in 2020
- Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi: "Why am I still talking? I want to cringe until my spine collapses into itself... if sentences could reinstate your virginity, this would be a strong contender." <-- how can you not want to find out what happens there
- The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai: fun rom com about the founder of a Bumble-like app
- Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory: you had me at romance and monarchy, but also loved that this couple was in their 50s and still adorable, messy and hot
- The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han: fun beach read about a trio of kids coming of age in a summer beach town
- A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren: this made me like the POTUS candidate even more. Was great getting to know more about her life before she became a Senator.
- Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping and Risking it All with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier: I love loved this book about the author's relationship with Noma chef Rene Redzepi - fantastic travelogue full of great food stories and incredible characters
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: twisty pyschological thriller that was extra fun because I got to read it with my Florida friends' book club
- The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory: Love this author, love these characters
- Wine. All the Time. by Marissa Ross: Ross is one of my fave wine columnists and one of my faves to follow on Instagram. This book was equal parts awesome personality and relatable information to learn more about wine. Highly recommend if you want to learn more about wine, but not be stuffy about it.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Of course, I read it as a kid, but I wanted to read it again before the movie came out again. The themes are still so relevant.
- For the Love of Men by Liz Plank: Really thoughtful book that would be a great read for men and women as we try to navigate the world ahead.
- Bonjour Tristesse by Francois Sagan: I picked this up on a whim at the Paris airport and finally read it. A great short story with colliding love triangles set on the French Riviera.
- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow: Important read behind the news headlines of the year. This thing is deeper and more frightening than has yet to be unearthed.
- Blitzed by Alexa Martin: the last of the football wives and girlfriends trilogy - fun romance with strong women characters. (If you haven't started yet, read in order: Intercepted, then Fumbled and then Blitzed.)
- Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: romance, monarchy and LGBTQ love stories. Reads like a great rom com, but it also kind of feels more important when you realize how rare a gay men's love story is to breakthrough into mainstream top reads.
Here were my top 10 favorite novels of the 100+ books I read in 2018.