These days, my schedule (sadly) doesn’t often allow for marathon sessions with a good book. I used to love nothing more than sinking into a hot bath with a novel and emerging prune-like an hour later, my family asking where in the world had I been?! And although I may not tear through books at the pace I used to, I’m a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of reader, savoring single chapters of books in bed just before I go to sleep each night, no matter how tired I am. Reading is my favorite bedtime treat (well okay, besides ice cream) and it means that at the end of a year, I can look back at my iPad and realize that – hey! I actually read a lot over the course of a year!
2019 was a particularly great year for books IMHO, so thought I’d round up my favorites just in time for the cozy nights in of December.
Scroll on for the best novels, memoirs, and self-help of 2019, and I’d love to hear what books you’ve read and loved this year in the comments.
Wild Game, by Adrienne Brodeur
My book agent sent me an advance copy of this memoir, and one chapter in, I knew it would become my favorite book of the year. You know those rare moments when someone who lived an almost unbelievably interesting life also just so happens to be an incredibly gifted writer? This is one of those. Brodeur’s story centers around the complex relationship she had with her magnetic, beautiful, self-centered, and manipulative mother and the family secret they share for decades. It’s poignant, it’s heartbreaking… just read it.
The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
I’m cheating a little with this one because it’s my current read (I’m about three-quarters of the way through), but it’s totally un-put-downable. Like its predecessor The Handmade’s Tale, this sequel is set in a dystopian future where a cruel regime rules and women are rendered powerless. Of course, the women who build the backbone of this three-part narrative reveal their power in unexpected ways as the regime starts to crumble. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and I love a book that makes me think about current events through the lens of a fantasy world.
Face to Face, by Brian Grazer
This inspiring look behind the career of Hollywood producer Brian Grazer could be summed up as: it’s all about relationships. Through stories of his friendships with some of the most fascinating people on the planet (think Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Eminem) he shows how his obsession with human connection is the secret to living a big life.
No Drama Discipline, by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson
I shared more about my parenting journey and this book in this post — it helped me begin to view the idea of discipline as an opportunity to, as the authors say, “create connections in your children’s brains that build emotional and social skills that will serve them now and throughout their entire life — all while strengthening your relationship with them.” It’s a compassionate approach to parenting that’s respectful to both the child and the parent, and a practical roadmap to meltdowns that’s helped me to be more intentional with my responses.
Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
Among my group of female friends, this was the most discussed book of the year that seems to come up at just about every dinner party I attend. Taddeo spent 8 years of her life chronicling the sex lives of three “ordinary” women, and it feels like it provided a sort of forum for its readers to discuss the book (and therefore sex) in a nonthreatening yet vulnerable way. This is a book about desire and also some really heartbreaking situations, and I think the ability to see glimpses of ourselves through the lives of such different women made it a major part of this year’s conversation.
The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
Sometimes I just crave the suspense of a good psychological thriller, and this one revolves around the mysterious death of a famous fashion photographer… at the hands of his glamorous artist wife. Who then refuses to ever speak again. Told as a first-person account from the perspective of her psychotherapist, Theo, it’s one of those addictive reads where you really don’t know who to trust or where this novel could possibly be headed — but you’ll be racing to find out.
Do Less, by Kate Northrup
Reading this book was a no-brainer since I (like just about every other woman I know) am constantly trying to figure out how to do less without sacrificing work, family, friends, or any of the other areas of our lives that are important yet sometimes battle for our attention. Reading this book is a breath of fresh air that reminds us: our worth is not based on our productive output, and being truly present is more fulfilling than having a calendar so full we barely have time to stop and enjoy what’s on it. With stories from her own journey, Northrup gives us tools to DO less and live more fully.
Save Me the Plums, by Ruth Reichl
Since I’m a sucker for both memoirs and cookbooks, this one by trailblazing food writer Ruth Reichl really checked all the boxes for me. In Save Me the Plums, Reichl chronicles the period of her life when she went from a slightly hippy creative food writer to the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine in the heyday of traditional publishing. She peels back the curtain on life as a top tier Conde Nast editor when that meant glamour and fame — with juicy stories of the major players and equally succulent food writing and recipes.
Beauty in the Broken Places, by Allison Pataki
This heartbreaking memoir of a young woman on the cusp of the life she’d dreamed of tells how it all changed in the blink of an eye. In her twenties and five months pregnant, Pataki’s husband —a healthy thirty-year-old athlete and surgical resident—suffered a rare and life-threatening stroke. This book shares the journey that follows, with her beautiful letters to Dave weaving a thread of love and devotion throughout. It left me grateful for my health, my loved ones, and a reminder of the power of resiliency.
I’d love to hear in the comments: which book(s) have you read and loved in 2019? I’ve still got time to knock out one or two more before the year is over…