Books I finished in 2019
Last year, one of my goals was to keep a log of all the books I read. Total fail. I decided to share them here to keep myself accountable. Scroll down to see the list of books in reverse chronological order.
People ask how I finish so many books every week…reading fast is my superpower! It also helps that I am not on social media and I don’t really watch TV or movies. I try to spend my time in ways that reflect my priorities, and for me, reading is high on the priority list!
If I bought all of the books I read it would be really expensive. I take advantage of the free books I get through Amazon Prime, so this actually dictates some of my reading choices. I am also a heavy library user, checking out both ebooks and physical books. When my kids were little we went to the library every week with a giant bag that we put in the corner of the children’s section. Everyone would look for books they wanted and put them in the bag. When each of the kids was done, they would pick out a book to read while they waited for the rest of us. This gave me time to head to the adult section and browse for a little while.
Now that they are older we use the hold system to great advantage, having the books we want delivered to the branch of our choice. One of the branches is downtown, and in the summer I like to ride my bike there to pick up books. Another is next to Target, the bank, and my orthodontist, and that’s where I go when it’s cold out. Putting books on hold makes a library visit take under 5 minutes - I just head to the hold shelf to grab my stack, check out, and go. I do have to be careful about putting too many books on hold at once - even I have a limit to the number of books I can read at a time!
In addition to the regular library, there are a few little free libraries in my neighborhood. Quality is pretty spotty, but once in awhile I’ll get a surprise gem.
I get a lot of reading inspiration from the What Should I Read Next? podcast. Highly recommend!
Here are the books I've read so far this year:
August 18, 2019
So I haven’t updated this book list since we fully took over the coffee shop. However, we have now finished remodeling it and have put systems in place to the point where I can come up for air. Though I may be missing a few books, here is my best re-creation of what I read in June, July, and the first half of August. For the sake of getting this posted, I’m not including links, but these should all be easy to find for yourself.
The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry - loved, loved, loved this book. Lots of themes (suicide, mothers and daughters, true romantic love, caregiving) that are interwoven in surprising, challenging, and sometimes delightful ways. Really well-written. One of those books that I wanted to start re-reading almost immediately.
The Woman in the Blue Cloak by Deon Meyer - police procedural set in South Africa. Exactly what you would expect, and fine if you like procedurals set in South Africa. Super quick read.
Juliet’s School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam - a fable about wisely choosing the way we spend time. As you may know, I don’t love business fables, but I do love Laura Vanderkam. This one was more readable than most, and I guess if I had to recommend a business fable, it would be this one.
The River by Peter Heller - Modern Mrs. Darcy has been recommending this book all over the place, so I picked it up. Action packed and thought-provoking.
Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause - according to the description, this is “a quirky, colorful story about love, loss, second chances, and what it means to truly live.” I liked it enough to finish, but it wasn’t super memorable.
Prognosis by Sarah Vallance - a memoir written by a woman who suffered traumatic brain injury after being thrown from a horse.
I went on a bit of a Rosalind James kick (see my notes from May 27 if you want to know why) -
2 books from the Portland Devils Series (No Kind of Hero, Silver-Tongued Devil)
3 books from the Sinful Montana Series (Guilty as Sin, Tempting as Sin, Sexy as Sin)
4 books from the Paradise Idaho Series (Take Me Back, Turn Me Loose, Hold Me Close, Carry Me Home)
3 books from The Kincaids Series (Asking for Trouble, Nothing Personal, Welcome to Paradise)
5 books from the Escape to New Zealand Series (Just Not Mine, Just This Once, Just Good Friends, Just for Now, Just Say (Hell) No)
Yes, it is a little embarrassing that this RJ list covers more than half of the books I’ve read in the last three months!
In the same vein, I re-read a couple from Susan Elizabeth Phillips - It Had to Be You and First Lady - and a couple from Lani Diane Rich - Maybe Baby and Wish You Were Here
And a few random library-check-out romances from other authors: Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl, Forget Me Not by Brenda Jackson, and Not Perfect by Elizabeth Laban. They were all fine, not great.
I’m thinking that I’ll have a bit more brain space for non-fiction and good literature in the fall. Stress means that when I get a moment to read I just open the collection on my kindle called “Escapist Faves” and start at the back of the list. That pattern is definitely reflected here!
May 27, 2019
For me, comfort food is any combination of bread and melted cheese - mac and cheese, grilled cheese, bean and cheese burritos….you get the idea. My literary equivalent of comfort food is re-reading romance novels, and the first three books on this list fall into that category. Light, easy, familiar, happy endings…
Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie
Just for Fun by Rosalind James
Just My Luck by Rosalind James
Intentional Interruption by Steven Katz and Lisa Ann Dack - I read this one in preparation for a training I’m creating, called “Long-Lasting Professional Development.” According to the publisher, the book is about “interrupting the status quo of traditional activity-based professional development to help educators embrace permanent changes in thinking and behavior.” I recommend it!
May 5, 2019
Escapism all the way this week…remind me never to buy a coffee shop again! Things have been a little intense around here - and I’m really grateful that I found some time to read at NTI, and that I made a bit of time to read when I got home.
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms - This was lighthearted, funny and uplifting, while also exploring some pretty serious themes related to ideas and expectations (both external and those we impose on ourselves) about what it means to be a good mother. A quick read that I really enjoyed.
Kiwi Rules by Rosalind James - I’ve said this before…it’s a little embarrassing to admit, but I love Rosalind James romance novels. Strong female characters with full lives who meet and fall in love with kind alpha men. Definitely not for those who want their romances tame, but these are well written and feature healthy relationships. Kiwi Rules did not disappoint. Perfect for a week when I’m feeling totally overwhelmed by my own full life, and totally grateful for my husband (whose life would be much more calm if it weren’t for me and my endless projects/ideas/etc. and yet he has my back on all of it!)
April 28, 2019
The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis - I only finished one this week, and since it was this month’s book club book, I think you know how I feel about it. Love, love, love. I’m totally inspired and challenged.
April 21, 2019
We are less than two weeks from closing on the coffee shop, so that has been monopolizing much of my time (can’t wait until the transition is complete and I have a bit more free time!) Reading in on the plane to New Hampshire helped me finish two books.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones - This is a book about love. It’s also about marriage, parenthood, being black in America today, the injustice of our penal system, and impossible choices. It lived up to the hype! You should read it.
Inheritance by Dani Shapiro - This is an other much-hyped book. It was interesting to read it right before I read An American Marriage, since they actually touched on some similar themes (in totally different ways) - specifically about what it means to be a father, and about relationships between parents and children who are biologically unrelated. While those themes are interesting, I found this memoir to be a little navel-gazing and overly emotional…I feel the same way about many memoirs, though, including those by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love, for example) so you may not agree with my assessment of this one.
April 14, 2019
I decided that only finishing one book last week was unacceptable! This week I prioritized reading over laundry, and managed to finish three.
Leading With Emotional Courage by Peter Bregman - This is a much better book that most business/leadership books. The chapters are super short, super readable, and super useful. While I was reading it I ended up talking a manager through a conflict with an employee…I texted her a screenshot of a page that was totally applicable to the situation and that offered concrete steps she could take in order to defuse the situation.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou - This is investigative nonfiction. Moral of the story: people who are attractive and connected and willing to lie about everything can commit fraud on a huge scale over a significant length of time. Also, don’t trust medical startups.
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - I picked this up because my stepdaughter loves the series (it is YA fantasy) and she convinced my husband to read it. He is a slow reader, so it’s been floating around our house for awhile. I sort of read it by accident - picked it up to flip through, and found myself several chapters in before I realized that I was doing more than just flipping through. This is the second book in the series, and my stepdaughter was aggravated with me for not reading the first book first. I enjoyed it enough that I will probably read at least the first and the third books…not sure it will hold my interest beyond that. Reading it right before I took a nap gave me intense and poetic dreams.
April 7, 2019
Another week with not much reading finished. I’ve been prioritizing work, sleep, and the coffee shop instead of reading for fun. I do have a few in progress - maybe next week’s list will be longer. This is the first week all year that I only finished one book.
A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole - I would not have picked this up based on the cover or the description, but I trusted the person who recommended it. I don’t always love historical fiction, let alone historical romance, but I’m glad I gave it a try. It’s well written and has much more plot than romance. I would read other books in this series, though they might not make it to the top of my list.
March 31, 2019
The unread library books are piling up, as reading did not make it to the top of my priority list this week! Nonetheless, I did finish two books.
I Know How She Does It by Laura Vanderkam - You’ve probably heard me rave about Laura Vanderkam before. This is a book full of stories about how high-performing working moms find/create time for work, self, family, friends. She calls the research she did for this book the Mosaic Project, using the image of finding a way to arrange the blocks of time we have, and what we need to do in those blocks, to create a life that is a complete, beautiful picture. This was a re-read, and I am definitely still finding the ideas useful in this very busy season of my life. Sunday Spark readers, note that this book was an inspiration for our zombie apocalypse family scavenger hunt last weekend, as well as the date with my husband and the time I set aside to spend with my visiting brother-in-law.
Tracks by Robyn Davidson - A memoir, this one was first published in 1982. As a young woman, the author traveled across 1700 miles of Australian desert, mostly alone except for four camels. I would have enjoyed it more if she had revealed more of her motivation and the impact the journey had - it wasn’t ever really clear to me why she was doing it, or what she got out of it - but it is still an inspiring story about grit and challenging assumptions..
March 24, 2019
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan - I found the author’s intro annoying, and so was primed not to like this one. Luckily, the book was better than the intro. Super sweet story about finding just the right place in life and the world, and about that place being full of books. Descriptions of the heroine’s book-addicted childhood definitely rang true to this fellow book-lover!
North of Normal by Cea Sunshine Person - This is an intense memoir that makes me feel like my own hippie parents were extremely conservative by contrast. When I picked it up off the hold shelf at the library I realized I had read it before, so it’s an accidental re-read. It is pretty analogous to Educated, which I also enjoyed (not sure if that’s the right word for books that are about such traumatic experiences.)
I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan - This is a novel about being honest and making the most of your time and relationships. I liked it.
Betrayal of Love by Diana Hamilton - This book is TERRIBLE! Typical of the romance genre in the 1980s-early ‘90s, which I loved back then (and unfortunately modeled some of my early relationship choices on) but definitely do not love now. There is literally nothing redeeming about this book. And yet it ended up on the finished list...I picked it up at a little free library out of nostalgia, and then couldn’t stop hate-reading (well, more like skimming) and reading some of the most ridiculous/stalkery/overwrought passages out loud to my husband. Somehow it has 3 stars on goodreads?!?
March 17, 2019
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - I was probably ten years old the first time I read this book, and I’ve probably read it three times since then, but it’s probably been 20 years since the last time I read it. From long ago reads, I remembered the school, the creepy feeling that surrounded Grace Poole, the rending of the veil, and the burnt shell of the house when Jane returns. The rest of it was like a new story to me, and gave me opportunity to reflect on all the ways that I’m a completely different person than I was the last time I read it. Glad I re-read it, and also happy not to read it again for another 20 years.
My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows - This is a YA takeoff on Jane Eyre - something between satire and a tribute. It is pretty silly and turns the story into a comedic paranormal fantasy. I’m glad I read it immediately following the original, and appreciated the pop culture references (Ghostbusters, Mary Poppins, “nevertheless, she persisted”) but I’m clearly not the target demographic and it isn’t one I’ll ever read again.
The Witch Elm by Tana French - I thought this was going to be another Dublin Murder Squad book, but it wasn’t. This is my least favorite of the Tana French books I’ve read so far. The protagonist is pretty unlikeable, the story really depressing. It all seemed pointless. However, I think is actually the point of the book, which plays with ideas of luck and random chance and what makes a person who they are.
March 10, 2019
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield - A fairy tale for adults, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I read slowly to savor the plot and the language. Even though I didn’t want to get there, the ending was just as perfect and satisfying as the rest of the story.
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver - I didn’t like the first third of this. It felt like the story was written just to illustrate a particular worldview. I started enjoying it halfway through, and by the end the characters felt more real and the story seemed to take up more space than the polemic. I would say it’s worth reading. The main character is halfway between my age and my mom’s age, and that made this more interesting to me, especially because it is largely a book about generational divides.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty - This one was fun, quick, and light. Much better than the last Liane Moriarty book I read.
March 3, 2019
1984 by George Orwell - I hadn’t read this since high school and I’m really glad I picked it up again. If you haven’t read it recently, you should do the same. And then follow it up with this incredible essay by Maria Popova on language as a vehicle of truth and art as resistance to tyranny. I feel so lucky that I ran across her writing immediately after I finished 1984 - they are intimately related, though I love Popova’s voice more!
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen - A psychological drama that I waited to read until I knew I had time to finish it - the kind of well-written book that keeps you turning the pages, but ultimately not one I will remember.
Since You’ve Been Gone by Christa Allan and A Curve in the Road by Julianne Maclean - Both of these were free reads. They were fine but I wouldn’t have paid for either. The reason I’m listing them together is that they both tell stories of women whose significant others die in a car crash, revealing huge secrets. Apparently this is a common plot line. I don’t love it.
A Case of Need by Michael Crichton - A medical/legal thriller set in the era before Roe v. Wade. It was an okay plane read, but I don’t recommend.
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite - This is one that I finished a couple of weeks ago, but it somehow never made it on the list. I really enjoyed it! The protagonist’s younger, much more beautiful sister kills every man she dates. The protagonist helps her dispose of the bodies and hide the crimes - until suddenly her sister begins dating the man she has a crush on. Now she has to decide what to do before her sister has a chance to kill the man she is secretly in love with. I rarely talk with my husband about books I read, but this one definitely came up in conversation, because it gave me so much to think about.
February 24, 2019
Good thing I finished so many books last week, since I only finished one this week! I’m in the middle of re-reading some nonfiction (including Deep Work, our March book club book!) and none of my fiction holds at the library came through. If this short list/non-recommendation isn’t enough for you, scroll down to last week to see some books that I highly recommend.
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber - I don’t love business fables as a rule, and this book didn’t break that trend. It kept coming up on a couple of business/entrepreneurial podcasts that I listen to, so I finally gave in and read it. I found the author’s voice really annoying and it seemed like the main purpose of the book is to sell his consulting services. It is a quick read; even so, I can save you the time: if you want to be successful without burning out, you should work on your business, creating systems that can run without you rather than working in your business, trying to do everything yourself. Even though many of you probably don’t consider yourselves entrepreneurs, I do think that this idea has application in the early childhood field. That said, I don’t think this book lives up to the hype.
February 17, 2019
This list is longer than last week’s because I finished several books that I started in previous weeks.
One thing that has contributed to my book completion rate this year is an idea that I heard on the By the Book podcast (I think it was the episode about the 4-Hour Workweek in Season 3.) As you probably know, I work from home when I’m not traveling. This means that sometimes I work at the table, sometimes at our kitchen island, sometimes on the couch, occasionally in my bedroom…Well, the idea is to train yourself to only work in the place that you have designated for work. I do have a home office! So I’ve been trying to be in my office any time that I’m working, and leave my office any time that I’m not working.
This has actually been a great help in preventing the feeling that I should ALWAYS be working, and signaling to my brain that if I’m in my living room it’s fine to read for pleasure without feeling guilty. If you, like me, have a hard time setting work aside and relaxing, you should try it. If you teach, don’t take work home with you! You probably won’t do it anyway, so why have it sitting there making you feel bad? Read a book instead!
How We Work by Leah Weiss - I got this from the library, and will be buying my own copy. It is amazing! A new way of thinking about many of the Pyramid Model and Practice-Based Coaching concepts that I teach. I marked so many pages that have wisdom that I want to use and come back to. I first heard about it on the Bregman Leadership podcast.
Atomic Habits by James Clear - This book is clear and succinct - there is a ton of great info packed into a concise read. Nothing really new, but it’s a good synthesis of what we know about habit formation with memorable examples. Highly recommended for coaches. Practice-Based Coaching is really all about changing habits, so having a good foundation in what it takes to do so is helpful.
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls - My mom left this one at my house. It’s a novel about two teenage sisters finding their way through the world alone. It was entertaining but I’m giving it back to her rather than putting it on my shelf.
The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin - This was Will’s Christmas book. It explores parenthood, life, death, and the possibility of reincarnation through the story of a little boy who keeps telling his mother that he wants to go back home, to his mama. Pretty intense, and definitely thought-provoking.
Sleeping Giants by Silvain Neuvel - Sci-fi novel that begins with a girl falling into a hole and landing in an enormous metal hand. The format it used to tell the story seemed gimmicky, but maybe that’s because this isn’t my genre. Also, I was completely confused by the epilogue. This got great reviews, but I just didn’t love it.
In the Woods by Tana French - This is the first in the Dublin Murder series. If you are a fan of character-driven murder mysteries, I highly recommend this series. This is the third book of hers that I’ve read. They are connected, in that they are all about mysteries being investigated by the fictional Dublin murder squad, but each one can also stand alone.
February 10, 2019
This week’s list is shorter than usual. After a couple weeks of mostly fiction my reading leaned heavily toward nonfiction, which always takes me longer to get through. I started several books that are close to being finished and a few that I decided to abandon without finishing.
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - I pre-ordered this one so that I would have a physical copy as soon as it came out. It was really exciting when it showed up in my mailbox on the day of release! I am a huge Cal Newport fan (Deep Work is probably my favorite productivity book) and I knew that I wanted this to be our next family book club book. I read the whole thing this week, and will re-read it as the other members of my family read it for book club. I have started thinking through the principles and making small changes to the way I interact with technology, even though I’m not actually going to do the exercises until we work through them as a family.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - The last couple of years, we started using the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” framework for Christmas gifts. This one was on the list but didn’t make the cut (and truly, I don’t even remember whose list it was on, just that it was on the piece of paper where I scribbled a whole bunch of book titles to take on a last-minute shopping trip to Barnes and Noble.) It’s a crime scheme/con artist book set in a fantasy world. It was entertaining enough to stay up late to finish it, but enough outside my preferred genres that I probably won’t read the rest of the series.
February 3, 2019
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye - the narrator presents the story as a Victorian autobiography that mirrors the story of Jane Eyre, but with a lot more murder. I enjoyed it enough that I carried an actual library book on my trip this week because I wanted to finish it (I generally only read on my Kindle when I travel.)
Sea of Tranquility by Katya Millay - this is a YA novel about second chances, and it's a good one. I feel like reading fiction for and about teenagers makes me a better parent. I passed it on to my 16-year-old stepdaughter, who also seems to be liking it.
Girls of Glass by Brianna Labuskes - this one is a psychological thriller that someone on goodreads called a quick, indulgent, suspenseful read with an improbable storyline. That seems about right. I read it on the plane home. Trigger warning for abuse.
The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle - picked this one up at a little free library in my neighborhood. See above...quick, indulgent, suspenseful, and totally improbable. It was hard to put down, but easy to forget.
January 27, 2019
All of the books I finished this week were fiction (and mostly pretty light fiction!) I have also been reading some nonfiction, but it is more dense and so slower reading, and therefore taking longer to finish. I was doing a little KonMari on my bookshelves, so the first three are re-reads. I decided to keep all three of them...
Shelter Me by Juliette Fay - A sweet, easy to read but surprisingly deep story about a widow with young children in the first year after her husband's death
Nice to Come Home To by Rebecca Flowers - Another sweet, quick read. I'm pretty sure the main character is an Enneagram one. Over the course of the book she comes to terms with a life and family that are not what she planned and learns to be more vulnerable.
Summer House by Nancy Thayer - This one is slightly more emotionally complicated than the last two, but is still a total beach read about families and relationships.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware - Another family drama, but this one has a horror/suspense edge.
January 20, 2018
Just Come Over by Rosalind James. This is the 12th book in a romance series about rugby players in New Zealand. It's a little embarrassing to put this on the list, but I'm committed to honesty in my book reporting! If you like alpha males who are also really nice guys, this book/series might be for you. If you don't like steamy romance, it definitely isn't for you!
Landing by Emma Donoghue. I picked this one up because I really enjoyed two other Emma Donoghue books. I was scared to read Room because it seemed really difficult and triggery, but then I heard Emma interviewed on a podcast and she sounded so thoughtful and interesting that I decided to give it a try. It was not at all what I expected! That led me to The Wonder which is a book that made me wish I had a book club to discuss it with. I reread it almost immediately after finishing it. Anyway, Landing - about a small-town homebody who falls in love with an urban, peripatetic flight attendant and vice versa - was well written but definitely a distant third behind the other two.
What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast by Laura Vanderkam. Similarly, one of my favorite nonfiction books (168 Hours) is by Laura Vanderkam. This one is almost too short to be called a book, and if you've read some of her other work you might not bother with it. On the other hand, if you just need some quick inspiration for shaking up your morning routine, this might be just the thing. Laura also has a podcast that I enjoy.
How to be a Boss by Justin Kerr. This is a pretty quick read that covers ways to make your team hate you, ways to make them love you, how to give feedback, and things that you should do every day, week, month, and year. I don't agree with everything in it, but it's a good starting point if you have been moved into a management position with little preparation, or if you are struggling in your role as a boss.
January 13, 2019
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Fiction, but based on true stories about children stolen from poor families and sold to rich ones in TN in the 20th century. I recommend this one!
The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Meh. Like candy - sweet but not satisfying or super compelling.
Rock Needs River by Vanessa McGrady. A memoir by an adoptive mom who opens her home to the birth parents when they lose their housing. Made me think interesting things about family and the limits of generosity, but the narrative comes across as a bit self-centered/self-serving.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Another memoir, this one about life and mortality by a young neurosurgeon dying of lung cancer. Beautifully written - I will definitely reread this one more slowly to let it sink in more deeply.