Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

My Personal Top Books of 2019

Happy New Year everyone!  2020 - hard to believe.  Looking forward to another great year full of laughter, fun, travel, family time and - of course - reading!

As you saw in my last post, I had a great reading year.  Biggest one to date.  So I have decided because my list was so big - and I enjoyed so many of those books I read - that I would do my top books of 2019 instead of just top 10.  Too many I wanted to include on this list to make it so small.

You will find that there are not a lot of popular reads on this list.  For one - I am doing a Read The World Challenge, so many of my books might be unknown.  Second - I did read quite a few popular books this year, and while I liked many of them, they didn't make the top of my list.  A lot of 4 star reads, though.  You can check out my list to the right to see what popular books I read this year and how I felt about them.

To Start - Here were all the books I read this year that I gave 5 stars.  (in no particular order) It takes a special read for me to feel that strongly about a book.  I am pleased to have so many excellent reads from this year.  If you click on the title, it will take you to my review of the book.

1) Dracula


I liked this book so much more than I thought I would.  I have been putting off reading it for years figuring it wouldn't be for me.  But then we visited where Bram Stoker actually lived and worked, and I decided to give it a go.  I am so glad I did.  It was one of the best books I have ever read - not just this year.  

2) Mornings In Jenin

This was a recent read for me- I just finished it up a few weeks ago.  I had been looking for a book for Palestine and the Read The World Instagram pages I follow came through for me.  This book is beautifully written and an incredible historical fiction story that you must add to your read list.

3) Daring To Drive

I have read quite a few non-fiction books this year, and Daring To Drive was one of those that made my 5 Star list.  The author tells her own story of what it was like as a woman in Saudi Arabia in the not so distance past. It is an eye opening read, espeically for us women who never had to deal with restrictions like Manal had to, just because she was female.

4) What Is The What

Another excellent non-fiction novel.  I listened to this book and it was a great audio book - the man who narrated it was perfect.  The story will draw you in as the main character tells the story between being an adult in the United States and a little boy (one of the Lost Boys) in Sudan.  It is a captivating, heart breaking, incredible story that I am so glad I read.

5) The Astonishing Color Of After

This is a beautifully written, incredible story that I found by accident while researching books to read for Taiwan.  Someone in Instagram posted it as a book they loved, and I decided to give it a try.  I listened to it, and I could not get enough.  I found myself drawn to the characters in this book, even though it is not my favorite type of writting (magical realism).  Amazing read.

6) Fire And Blood

Anyone who knows me knows that a Game of Thrones book would top my list for the year.  Unless George R. R. Martin all of the sudden lost his mind, I don't think I could not love his books.  One of the most talented writers that I have ever read, I am always looking to read his work.  When this one came out, I had to have it.  It is the pre-quel to the Game of Thrones books (and TV series) and it was incredible.  Filled in so many gaps for me.  And the artwork in this book - astounding.

7) The Only Plane In The Sky

When this book came out, I dropped everything else to read it. As all things I see or read about the 9/11 tragedy, I was tense the entire time I read this book.  But I was also intrigued.  We get to read first hand accounts of so many people that the author interviewed in the days, weeks, months after 9/11, and this is not something that has been done before.  It is well done and respectful.  You need to put this one high on your list.

8) Bad Blood

This book was recommended to me by a family friend.  He was blown away by the true story of Elizabeth Holmes and how she fooled so many people.  The way he talked about it, I knew I had to read it.  And I concur with his thoughts - it is incredible that this happened.  The book is well written and takes us through the entire story.  You have to read it to believe it.  I understand it is also being made into a movie.

9) When Life Gives You Pears

Jim Gaffigan is by far my favorite comedian.  I have watched all of his specials, and when I learned that his wife wrote a book after her brain tumor, I knew I would like to read it.  And I am so glad I did.  It is very well written with dry humor, but also fear that we would all have if we found that we had a pear size tumor in our head.  

10) Mindhunter

A friend of mine recommended this TV show.  I found out there was a book, so I wanted to read it first.  A non-fiction story that I cannot believe I liked as much as I would.  The stories are horrific - detailed murders of people during the authors time as an FBI profiler.  Even though the stories are hard to read, the book is very well written.  I listened to this and I highly recommend it as an audiobook.  

I have recently watched both seasons of the TV show, and didn't like it nearly as much as I liked the book.  It was fine, but so many side story lines that I didn't think were necessary.

These next books are the ones I gave a 4 1/2 star rating. (in no particular order)  Just as excellent and worthy of metioning as incredible reads for this year.  If you click on the title, it will take you to my review of that book.

1) The Rent Collector

This was one of the first books I read this year.  It is a beautifully written tale about living in the dumps in Cambodia.  Something I couldn't even begin to imagine.  It is heartbreaking and inspiring and should not be missed.

2) Lost On Planet China

The books by this author are hilarious, and I ended up reading three of his books this year.  All for my Read The World challenge, which was an added bonus.  He is an incredible writer, and his books highly entertaining.  I am so glad I found them.

3) Mythos

When searching for a book for Cyprus, I asked a friend of mine who lives there for a suggestion.  Greek mythology was her top recommendation, so I went for one I have not read before.  This was a great book - entertaining and enlightening all at once.

4) Sex Lives Of Cannibals

This was my first Troost read, and while you may wonder what the title is leading too - I promise you it is worth a read.  (and the Cannibals they are talking about are dogs).  This book sent me down the path of author Troost, and I knew I had to read more of his books.  They are hilarious.

5) The Hidden Light of Objects

This is a collection of short stories that you should add to your TBR list.  Normally I don't like books with short stories because they don't leave enough room for character development that I crave.  Not true with this book.  They are expertly and beautifully written.

6) The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

This well told, well written book quickly went to the top of my list this year.  It is a true story that is utterly fascinating.  The boy is brilliant and actually ends up at Dartmouth College in America.  It was turned into a Netflix movie which I also highly recommend watching.

7) Swiss Watching

What a fun book this was about the country of my current residence.  I have read quite a few books on Switzerland since we moved here, but this was by far my favorite.  It is written by an expat as he travels all over the country, and I found myself laughing out loud and also nodding along at the things he wrote about.  All very familiar!  It was a great read.

8) The Village Of Waiting

Another non-fiction that made the top of my 2019 list.  This one was about a teacher who worked in Togo as an English teacher.  It is real, and eye opening as George expresses his frustration about the time he lived there and you learn about Togo and its people.  Good read.

9) A Carpet Ride To Khiva

This was an incredible book.  Another non-fiction masterpiece that I highly recommend.  The author's stories and experiences will draw you in and you will not want to put this book down.  I learned an incredible amount about Uzbekistan in this highly enjoyable book.

10) Getting Stones By Savages

Yep - all three Troost books I read this year made my 2019 top reads list.  He truly is a gifted author, and I do love a good humor book.  I am anxious to read his 4th book in 2020.

11) Beyond Sky And Earth

So many of the books I read for my Read The World challenge were non-fiction.  Many times I chose that because it gave me good insight into the country itself.  Who knew so many of them would be excellent?  This is another well written and intriguing read about a teacher who moved to Bhutan to teach English.  Being an expat myself, I am always interested to read how other people view a country that isn't their own and compare that to my own experience.  This author did a great job mixing her experiences with the history of Bhutan and made this a great find.

12) This Voice In My Heart

This is the author's own story after he survives an attack as a student.  He is the only surviving member of his entire school, and the book delves into his life before and after the attack.  It is well written, and I could not put it down.  It will pull at your heart strings for sure.

13) Empty Mansions

This book was recommended to me by a family friend, and it was excellent.  It actually starts in my hometown of Connellsville, Pennsylvania - a quiet out of the way place which use to have the most millionaires in the country (once upon a time).  This is the story of one of them and how he made his fortune and the story continues and ends with his recluse daughter.  It is an incredible non-fiction you must read to believe.

14) Call The Midwife

Another amazing non-fiction book I read this year.  I love this TV show - I have watched all the seasons.  Based on the author's time as a midwife in the rough East End in London - her tales are astonishing.  The book pulled the TV show together for me, and I am so glad I discovered there was a book series.  It is a pack of 4, and I plan on reading them all.

What a year!!!  How was yours?

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