In 2019 I read 98 books. Here are my top 10 favorite reads from the year, including book reviews!
2019 has been a year of really great books. I set out with a Goodreads Challenge goal of 85 books and surpassed that by reading 98 books in 2019. That is by far the most books I’ve ever read in a year. I often get asked how I find the time to read so many books…I’ll write a post about that at some point. The long and the short of it is, I watch very little TV. Instead, I read!
Of the 98 books I read this past year, 23 of them received a 5-star rating from me. A 5-star rating means I really loved those books a lot and they will most likely end up in my favorites from the year. I’m typically very frugal with my 5-star ratings, but this year there were so many deserving books! Needless to say, narrowing down the 23 books to a list of just 10 was hard, but I did it!
I’ll write another post eventually about my honorable mentions, but for now, let’s see what made my top 10 list of favorite books I read in 2019.
You can check out all of the books I read over the past year on Goodreads – let’s be sure to connect there so we can share what we’re reading throughout the year. Also, before we move on, please note: this post may include Amazon links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
This list of favorite books from 2019 is not in any particular order…I truly loved them all!
Dine & Dish Favorites – Top Ten Books Read in 2019
The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman
Review: I love a good historical fiction novel that has me googling events in history as much as reading the book itself. The Home for Unwanted Girls is an eye-opening book about a time in Canadian history I had no idea about.
1950’s: When Maggie has baby Elodie at the age of 15 she is forced to give her up or be disowned by her family. The baby ends up in a Catholic-run orphanage, chastised as she aged for being “born in sin”.
When the child was just a few years old, the Canadian Government realized they could get significantly more government subsidies if they were to change all orphanages into nun run mental institutions. So, all of the un-adopted orphaned children were falsely certified mentally ill and locked in orphanage turned mental asylums along with true severely mentally ill people.
This incredible story documents the years of abuse, neglect, and horror Maggie’s child faced as well as follows along as Maggie fails to come to terms with her decision to give up her baby. Her search to find Elodie uncovers many secrets…within her family as well as ones buried deep by her own country. For more historical information about these events Google “Duplessis Orphans”..
If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais
Review: I thought it was going to be hard for Bianca Marais to top her debut novel, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words, but she did it with this book! I just love the way she builds characters you get completely attached to.
If You Want to Make God Laugh is a heart-filling and heart-wrenching look at motherhood, discrimination, terrible trials, hope and redemption in post-apartheid South Africa. Chronicling the lives of Zowda (a pregnant teenager living in a squatter camp), Ruth (a wealthy socialite), and Delilah (sister to Ruth and a former nun), readers are taken on an interwoven journey where the most unlikely of relationships form.
Bianca Marais has a way of writing that makes you feel like you are in the story yourself. Her ability to approach difficult subjects with ease and pull the readers along both educating them and endearing them to the characters is an incredible strength.
The One by John Marrs
Review: Hold on to your seat for this book! If you love psychological thrillers, then you’ll want to pick up The One by John Marrs, today!
I started this book one evening and kept saying “just one more chapter”…each chapter is just a few pages so I’d keep telling myself “just a little more”. Next thing I knew it was after 1am and I was still reading with no desire to stop. This is a gripping, can’t put down book so be prepared to lose some sleep when you are reading it!
The One is one of the most unique concepts for a book plot involving a DNA Match that’s supposed to match you to your one true love/soulmate. 5 people are matched with their DNA loves and readers follow along each person’s journey. Twists and turns and complications galore…this is a fast-paced thriller you won’t be able to put down!
Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
Review: Where the Forest Meets the Stars was one of my Amazon Prime First Read picks in early 2019. I had it on my kindle for months, heard rave reviews at the Mom Advice Reading Retreat I went to in July, and it still sat unread for most of the year. This ended up being one of my final books of the year, and I’m so annoyed with myself that I put it off for so long. It’s an absolutely fantastic read!
My reluctance to read Where the Forest Meets the Stars was based on the synopsis – it seemed rather odd. It’s about a young girl who claims to be an alien sent from the stars who shows up at the rural home of Jo, a graduate student studying nesting birds. Bruised and unclean, the girl says she’s on earth to study humans and cannot return home until she has witnessed 5 miracles.
As the story unfolds, Jo believes the story the girl is telling is untrue and attempts to figure out where she came from. Each trail leads to a dead end. As time continues to pass, Jo’s love for the girl intensifies and she wants to do whatever she can to protect her from her uncertain earthly fate.
If heartwarming, engaging and unique novels are your thing, Where the Forest Meets the Stars will not disappoint. Don’t delay as I did…read it today! It’s so good.
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
Review: I first came across Tiffany Jackson and the book Allegedly when my friend Ashley told me about Project Lit. Since then I’ve read Allegedly as well as purposely read a large number of other culturally diverse books. This has been one of the best decisions of my reading year, definitely enhancing my reading experience.
At the age of 9, Mary was charged with killing a baby who was being cared for by Mary’s mother. Did she really do it, or was she set up by her evil mother or her mothers’ boyfriend?
After being charged as a “baby killer”, Mary is put into”baby” jail, oftentimes spending time in solitary confinement. Next if Juvie. Then, she then is shipped around from group home to group home, finally resting on a halfway house with a cast of characters who have their own evil agendas. It’s not easy to be known as a baby killer, but it’s especially difficult for a young woman of color who is treated with unjust bias routinely throughout her trial and after.
Allegedly explores some real-life difficult conflicts such as racism, depression and the flawed legal system. Unfortunately, pieces of this story feel like they are ripped straight from the news headlines. Tiffany Jackson takes readers on a twisted and shocking adventure that will keep you saying “What?!” until the very last sentence.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
A beautiful, coming of age story in a small, midwestern town, Ordinary Grace is told from the perspective of Frank Drum and is about his summer of faith, family, mystery and grief. If this wasn’t a library book I would have found myself highlighting so many beautiful passages (which doesn’t happen very often with me and fiction novels.).
“And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.” If that doesn’t sum up the miracle of living while grieving, I don’t know what does.
William Kent Krueger’s writing style is remarkable. He has become one of those authors who I will read every time he has a new book. In fact, my in real life book club is reading This Tender Land, which I’ll be diving into this week.
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
Purchase on Amazon here or add to your shelf on Goodreads here.
Speaking of authors I’ll read every time they put out a new book…Things You Save in a Fire was my 4th Katherine Center book and as long as she continues to write books, I’ll continue to devour them! I absolutely love her style of writing, so it’s no doubt this book made it into my top 10 favorites from 2019.
The story centers around Cassie, an accomplished female firefighter living in Austin, TX. Cassie is highly respected among her team even to the point where she is awarded the Austin’s Firefighter Valor Award – esteemed recognition, especially for a female in a male-dominated profession. However, something happens to make Cassie have to leave Austin and move across the country to be with her ailing mother in Boston.
Cassie joins an old-school Boston firehouse, where they aren’t quite as welcoming to female firefighters. She has to fight her way to acceptance and prove herself to be worthy of their respect. This is a task that has proven to be quite a challenge.
Things You Save in a Fire is story of fighting for respect, being open to love and discovering a different kind of courage. Like many of Katherine Center’s books, have tissues handy. You just might need them while reading this one.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Review: Ask Again, Yes can be found on the top of many Top 10 lists for this past year, and rightfully so.
If you love a good multi-family drama, you’ll love this book. It’s a heartbreaking story of two families intertwined and forever connected through a terrible tragedy. It’s also a story about the power of forgiveness – a topic everyone can benefit from reading about.
I haven’t felt this connected to characters since I read Heft by Liz Moore (which is an absolute fave…read it!). This novel sucked me in, and stayed with me long after finishing it. I knew as soon as I closed this book it would make the top of my favorite reads for 2019. If you haven’t already, add Ask Again, Yes to your stack to read soon. In my opinion, it definitely lives up to all the hype.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Review: The Underground Railroad For some reason, I’ve never read the acclaimed read by the same author of this book. But now, after reading this incredible novel, I’ll be definitely picking it up to read this year. Whitehead has the remarkable ability to tackle extremely tough subjects while bringing much-needed awareness to the historical trials and tribulations of African Americans.
The Nickel Boys is about a group of African American boys sent to a reform school in the south during the early 1960s. Segregated by race, this school posed as an esteemed reform school, but underneath its exterior was a depth of torture, brutal beatings, sexual abuse, and murder. Students would suddenly “disappear” and the school would say they escaped when in reality they were tortured and murdered because of small infractions.
Partly based on a true story of the Florida Dozier School for Boys, this is a heartbreaking and difficult yet extremely important read about an unimaginable time in history. The Nickel Boys is as uncomfortable to read as you can imagine but it should absolutely be on a required reading list for everyone.
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
Review: I sat in the library parking lot after finishing the last 10 pages of this book and just couldn’t keep it together. Let’s just say I’m glad I was in the privacy of my own car and not sitting in the library. This book was extremely tough to read, but so well done.
Maybe emotions were in part because on the day I finished reading this book, rape victim Chanel Miller’s name was released to the public for the first time. The news of Chanel Miller’s name being released and hearing her speak so bravely about her rapist felt so much like life imitating art. The lines began to blur between fiction and reality. Eden’s life from The Way I Used to Be and Chanel’s life and so many others…so many people fighting to recapture the way they used to be. “Before”.
Chanel Miller’s full victim statement is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever read. “In newspapers, my name was “unconscious intoxicated woman”, ten syllables, and nothing more than that. For a while, I believed that that was all I was. I had to force myself to relearn my real name, my identity. To relearn that this is not all that I am. That I am not just a drunk victim at a frat party found behind a dumpster, while you are the All American swimmer at a top university, innocent until proven guilty, with so much at stake. I am a human being who has been irreversibly hurt, my life was put on hold for over a year, waiting to figure out if I was worth something.”
This is exactly what The Way I Used to Be is about. It’s important. It is so well written. It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard. And a warning – it has triggers for anyone who has been a victim of assault.
For those interested, Chanel Miller also has a book that I’ll be reading this month called Know My Name. I can almost guarantee it will make my top ten of 2020.
Dine & Dish Top 10 Books Read in 2019
Here’s a quick list recap, including links, of my top 10 favorite books read in 2019.
- The Home for Unwanted Girls
- If You Want to Make God Laugh
- The One
- Where the Forest Meets the Stars
- Ordinary Grace
- Things You Save in a Fire
- Ask Again, Yes
- The Nickel Boys
- The Way I Used to Be
I’m thankful to these authors for sharing their amazing talents with the world through books. There were so many other deserving books, and I’ll share those as well in a future post.
What made your top 10 books read in 2019? I’d love to know!
Several of my friends had a great reading year in 2019 as well. Check out these blog posts for their lists of top ten books read in 2019!
- My friend Lesley is one of my go tos for great book recommendations. I love her detailed year in review including her favorites from 2019!
- Happiest When Reading shared a detailed look at her 2019 Year in Review
- Novel Visits has some of the books on her blog post that made my honorable mention list. Check out her top favorites from 2019.
- My friend Amy with Mom Advice always has great book recommendations. Check out her 20 favorites from 2019.
If you love to talk books, make sure to check out the Dine & Dish “Reading Nook” and friend me on Goodreads.
Disclosure: This post may include Amazon links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.