I’ve always loved a good story. A good book, a song, a good movie. Anything that hooks me and leaves me thinking even after I’ve stepped away. I think for this reason, I’ve always loved to read.
I read A TON as a kid and joke around that I learned super late in life how to get around the town I grew up in because when I was driving with my parents my head was always stuck in a book. It wasn’t just while in the car (though i’m super #blessed to not get carsick when reading!) it was at the grocery store, waiting rooms, before bed, on trips, at the beach. Everywhere. My parents used to call me Belle 😉
I even got really sad in 5th grade when I was forced to skip our DEAR day (Drop Everything and Read for those of you who never experienced this magic where you’d show up to school with pjs on and a blanket and pillow and tons of books to just read all day ((am i the only one who actually ENJOYED that?)) My nerd is showing).
The amount of time I’ve had to read has ebbed and flows with the seasons of my life. In high school and college when reading was super duper required, it didn’t leave much time for pleasure reading, but as I’ve grown into my adult life, I love having a good stack of books around. I gave myself a goal this year of reading 35 books and guess what?! I DID IT!
Keep on scrolling if you’d like to see my favorite books I read this year, a little about them, and some helpful tips I’ve picked up during my year or reading. At the end, I’ll also list all the books I read this year as well as my ratings out of /5 stars. YAY!
Let’s start it off!! These books are in no order and I’ll even leave a lil link for you to pick them up if you want 🙂 Also, these books were not all published in 2019, I just happened to read them this year.
Daisy Jones and the Six. by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It was my tenth book of the year and I think I finished it in two days. It’s written in interview format so it’s super speedy to get through and is based around the lives of these fictional band members in the 60s and 70s, the drama, the the love, the song writing. All in oral interview form. In my opinion definitely inspired by Fleetwood Mac. Really fun and super easy read, got 5/5 stars from me!
2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón This is the “first” book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series. The books can be read out of chronological order and all surround this secret bookstore, the bookstore’s owners and the lives they lead. When Daniel, the main character hits a certain age, he is allowed to “choose” a book from the Cemetery (more like the book chooses him) and he is thrown into the winding life of the books author. This leads to many mysteries throughout all the books of the series. I read the following two The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven (both 4 or 5 star reads) this year, too. The final installment, The Labyrinth of Spirits is on my stack for 2020. These books were recommended to me by friends because was looking for a mystery that packed a punch but wasn’t filled with crazy sex stuff. These books are still a little spooky and noir-like. The stories are based in Spain around the time of the Spanish Civil War and after, so not only were they gripping stories, but they allowed me to learn a bit about a time in history and a place I don’t know much about otherwise. Definitely recommend for mystery lovers or loves of a magical tale (Harry Potter readers, take note!) 5/5 stars from me!
3. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. A really beautiful tale of an older couple who has always dreamed of having a child. They’ve moved to the Alaskan frontier and are surviving, not only the seasons of winter, but the winter that is their marriage. In a moment of hope and playfulness they build a girl made out of snow. They wake up the next morning and the snow girl is gone but a new member has joined their family. This book is quite magical and moving and has a hint of whimsy and fairytale-like qualities. Recommended for lovers of folklore. 5/5 stars from me!
4. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles a beauuuuutifully written piece of historical fiction based in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow during the Bolshevik Revolution (another opportunity for me to learn about a period in history I don’t know much about. This story follows a man, a Count to be precise, who has been put under “house arrest” so to speak at this magical hotel. The story was a tad slow in the beginning but is so beautifully detailed and filled with characters who befriend and weave in and out of the life of this charming count. Count Rostov’s life is changed when he meets a young girl in the motel and is forced to help her in a way that changes his life for the better! It’s such a beautiful story about an unconventional family and a quirky, charming man making the most out of a less than idea situation. I’m excited to pick up more books by this author, because he wrote in such a way where he was describing things about human nature that I often notice but have a hard time formulating into words. YAY read this book!
5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern a magical and beautiful love story both about two “magicians” and this amazing circus that mysteriously shows up in cities around the world without notice AND it’s only at night (hence the name) 😉 I was really looking for a good fantasy book this year and there it was, sitting at one of the sales at the Pima County Friends of the Library! This book is about a competition that is happening within the circus. Also another great book filled with unforgettable characters that all help the story so much. Unfortunately, these two competitors fall in love and the fate of the circus and it’s members all gets wrapped around this relationship. READ THIS BOOK!! EEEEEeeeep!
6. Another Friends of the Library find and another gripping, quick read! Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. This is definitely a sci fi book but super good even if you’re not a sci-fi fan. It follows the man character Jason, and asks the questions about fate and the choices we make and reeaaaaallly bends the possibilities of reality when it comes to quantum mechanics. Parts were hard for me to understand because I am definitely not a scientist but it was such a gripping story, it really didn’t matter! I’m excited to read Recursion by this author in 2020! 5/5 stars from me!
7. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn I’m a sucker for a good historical fiction novel. Especially if it’s about strong women. I seem to keep picking up books surrounding stories about WWII. I think I’ve read 4 or 5 in that time period this year. This one was probably my favorite. It jumps between time periods and follows the life of a female spy living in France during WWII and her role and the sacrifices she had to make to survive and relay important information about the enemy. It was both sad and heartwarming to read about the events that happened to her and what she said yes to in order to serve her country in a time where women didn’t seem to have much of a role other than in the home. Definitely recommend picking this up if you’re a historical fiction fan especially surrounding WWII. 5/5 stars from me!
Lastly, #8! Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield This was another folklore, fantastical book that surrounds a riverside inn filled with storytellers and tall-tale-tellers and just plain gossips. This story mixes science and superstition when multiple girls go missing and one returns but nobody can seem to figure out who she really belongs to. This story also has a bit of romance AND even some photography fun facts which made it even more interesting for me. This is one of the books I picked up at Powell’s this year during my many visits while I was in Portland photographing a wedding. 4.5/5 stars from me!
Other books I read this year (or just scroll past them to read some tips of where I’m finding books and book recommendations!): (Follow me on instagram @meredithamadeephotography where i snap pics of each book as i read it!
The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers – 3/5 stars
The Angel’s Game (Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 5/5
Night Road by Kristin Hannah 5/5
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows 4.5/5
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman 4/5
The Prisoner of Heaven (Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 4/5
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han 4/5 – yes I’ve watched the movie on Netflix like 12 times and am anxiously awaiting the second one coming out in FEBRUARY!!!!
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan (third and final installment in Crazy Rich Asians series) 4/5
If you made it all the way through that, yay!! I also wanted to list the rest of the books this year along with their ratings in case you want to add some other books to your list of must reads! Most of the books I’ve read this year I’ve found by trading books at Bookman’s (if you’re in Tucson or Mesa you MUST go here – you can trade in books for credit to buy more!) good ol’ Goodwill, The Pima County Friends of the Library sales (they have them once a month and you don’t have to be a member to go!) and I try to find a bookstore in any new city I go to. This year, I found some cool ones in Phoenix, Atlanta and Portland! I also follow a lot of #bookstagrams on Instagrams where people post and review books they’re reading. Reese Witherspoon also does a “book club” called Hello Sunshine where she posts a new book each month and they’re usually winners. ALSO a big help I found this year was joining Goodreads! It’s an app that let’s you track the books you read and you can follow people, see what they’re reading and get recommendations. Check it out here!