2019 in Books: Record-Breaking, Life-Changing, and a Whole Lot of Fun

35 books.

I shattered my goal of 25. And I had a hella good time.

Looking back at 2019 in books, I can’t believe how much happened. Last year’s books mark some big moments in my life:

  • I potty-trained my daughter (Oh Crap!)
  • I heard Elizabeth Acevedo talk at the North Texas Teen Book Festival and I had to have more of her magical poetry and amazing voice (Pride – audiobook read by her; The Poet X)
  • My grandmother died. The Year of Magical Thinking helped me cope with my grief by making me feel less alone.
  • I traveled to India with my cousin to see my grandfather. The Graveyard Book was the book I took with me and finished during that week.
  • I read and shared my reading with my students. We had some awesome conversations about the March series, Born a Crime, Into the Wild, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and Thunderhead.
  • I found a kindred spirit in my librarian who got me to go to the Book Festival in the first place, then challenged me to figure out sketchnoting and handed me The Sketchnote Handbook, and gave me the best book recs, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. If you listen to audiobooks, it’s one of those good ones that’s read by a full cast. GAH. So good.

Since we’re heading to Oscar season and you’re probably in the mood for looking at lists of titles (and mostly because I don’t have the energy to write more, but I also really want to share), here are some lists:

The books that broke me a little

  • The Astonishing Color of After
  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Educated
  • Into the Wild
  • The March series

The ones that grew me

  • Oh, Crap!
  • The Gifts of Imperfection
  • The Year of Magical Thinking
  • Wild
  • 180 Days

The ones that were just fun and lifted my spirits

  • Pride
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
  • The Graveyard Book
  • The To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Series
  • Born a Crime
  • Rereads: A Christmas Carol, One Day in December (I LOVE CHRISTMAS!)

The ones that will stick with me for a while

  • The Astonishing Color of After
  • Things Fall Apart
  • Educated
  • The Gifts of Imperfection
  • The March Series
  • Thunderhead
  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Born a Crime
  • 180 Days

And the ones that I thought were a bit overrated

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Crazy Rich Asians (WINNER of this year’s This Book Sucks, Watch the Movie Instead category)
  • Girl, Wash Your Face
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette?
  • The Cactus
  • Julius Caesar (and this is coming from someone who loves Shakespeare… Um. No wonder some people hate reading Shakespeare. No one cares about this play after Marc Antony’s speech. Not even teachers.)

My top recommendations for you

  • Educated: This was my favorite book of the year. I personally connected with it. It’s a heartbreak that speaks to my own and I loved it for making me feel less alone. If you liked Glass Castle, or if you’re a teacher or counselor, I think you would like this book, or at least feel glad you read it.
  • The March Series: Holy shit. You want to talk about a graphic novel series that will make you stop being a snob about whether or not graphic novels count as books? This series is about John Lewis’s journey in activism, following him from childhood through his participation in the civil rights movement to the inauguration of President Obama. I learned so much from it–so much more about the fight for equality than what we learn in school, so much more about the history of injustice that African Americans live with–that I feel I need to re-read it every few years just to remind myself of a part of American history that we do not honor enough.
  • The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: I can’t believe it took me so long to read this book. This book is genuinely important to our country’s history. I am so glad we read it during our Civil War unit. The kids and I got so much more out of it than reading it out of its historical context.
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: This is an absolutely delightful audiobook. It’s the story of a writer getting to know the people of Guernsey after German occupation in WWII. I haven’t watched the movie yet. The book is written entirely in letters, and it’s so lovely to hear a cast of four voice actors perform each of the characters’ unique personalities!
  • Oh, Crap!: OK, my practical recommendation for parents who need to potty train. I love this book so much. It gets my teacher heart, and it’s a good reminder to let kids learn by making mistakes. I’m so thankful for my friends who introduced me to this book and helped coach me through this messy part of parenting. Warning: You do have to let your kids run around naked, have accidents and learn that that’s gross, and deal with a bit of a mess for the first 2-7 days. The book has lots of good tips to help you help your kids as they learn.

This year, I read to learn, to cope, and to escape. I read to grow as a teacher and as a parent. And then, I just read for fun. Years ago, I would have scorned to include some of these books in my reading list. I would have thought they were too simplistic and not worthy of my time. I was a snob. Or, I would have assumed that I would have gotten bored by nonfiction. I was scared of feeling stupid. Letting go of these misconceptions and just searching for a bit of truth, a hint of joy, and a memorable story made all the difference.

I’m still going to set my 2020 reading goal at 25. I know 25 is doable for me, and I have no clue what this year has in store. Who knows – maybe 35 was a fluke! If I can go over 25 again this year, I *might* consider upping my goal. Whatever happens this year, I’m excited to read! I hope you plan to read this year as well! Happy reading!

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