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!

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Here are the books I've read so far this year:

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.