Reading Overview Circa 2019

Reading Overview Circa 2019

Preface: Due to two factors, the first being that I did a rotten job track when I read what between Fall 2018 and January 2019, and the second being that I decided to make this post cover through November 2020, this “year’s” book is most certainly a Circa. I kind of like that, though, and have decided that from now on, my booklists will be Circa lists, which after this year means they will run December-November.

On with the show.

First, a list of all the books I finished since about September 2018, some with notes:

  1. Heidi by Joanna Spyri – Precious and sweet and strong. Don’t let the Shirley Temple movie trick you into thinking this is an insignificant or cutesy story.
  2. I Let You Go by Claire Mackintosh
  3. The VanderBeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser – Delightful story with updated All-of-a-Kind-Family vibes (but the VanderBeeker family, as you might have guessed from the name, are not Jewish).
  4. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – This is typically how I like my YA – fantastical or dystopian, edgy, and not too sexy, with at least one strong female character.
  5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – I did not like this as much as I thought I would…
  6. I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – Incredible historical fiction worth lingering over and savoring. It’s later middle-grade fiction, but it’s a worthy read no matter how old you get to be.
  7. One Day in December by Josie Silver
  8. Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart – What self-respecting true-crime aficianado doesn’t want to read about the first female sheriff’s deputy in NJ history?
  9. Kiss Her Goodbye by Wendy Corsi Staub
  10. Circe by Madeleine Miller – This was very good. A reimagining of Circe that massively passes the Bechdel test many times over. Odysseus is not nearly as big a deal as he thinks he is.
  11. A Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli – A marvelous book about a young noble boy in the middle ages who is separated from his parents after becoming incredibly ill and unable to walk.
  12. The Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson – A nice little bookshop story.
  13. Behold Here’s Poison by Georgette Heyer – This year I became a Georgette Heyer fan, but it was not because of this book. This book nearly prevented me from reading any more of her work. It was like if a classic Agatha Christie was redone by the people who turned The Silver Chalice into this dreadful film.
  14. The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett – Solid 2.5-star Grail lore novel.
  15. The Tempest by William Shakespeare – Not only did my fourth graders read every word of this and act in a shortened (but with 100% Shakespeare-authored lines) version, but they LOVED it. It brought new life for me to a play that I’ve loved since that classic Wishbone episode.
  16. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – I liked it more than I expected but less than I’d hoped. Usually, I really enjoy Moriarty, but this one did not get good reviews. I didn’t think it was as bad as all that, but it was not great.
  17. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – Horowitz is the only person with permission from Conan Doyle’s estate to write authorized additions to the Sherlock Holmes canon, and for good reason. This fits seamlessly and meaningfully into said canon.
  18. The Huntress by Kate Quinn – This is a runner up for my favorites list. It’s gripping, thrilling, and a bit horrifying – the Huntress is a Nazi serial killer who’s a woman and has disappeared in the post-war chaos. To say more would be a bit unhelpful.
  19. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile – A great intro to the world of the enneagram, especially for people of the Christian faith. I love going deeper into the enneagram with Typology (Cron’s podcast) and The Enneagram Journey (Stabile’s podcast).
  20. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman – I think I wanted this to be more like The Eyre Affair or something out of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series (first book: The Shadow of the Wind), but alas, the worldbuilding here was weaksauce by comparison.
  21. The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – I absolutely fell for The Mysterious Benedict Society books (eponymous first book in the series), but this new venture did not measure up.
  22. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge – Part of the fun of this well-done Christian romance novel (closed door, not that anything questionable is going on behind the door anyway in this novel) is figuring out which parts of the plot are inspired by which Austen novel. This is an update, but not to any one specific novel like Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility (which I loved) or Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride & Prejudice modernization Eligible (which wasn’t my jam). Utterly delightful.
  23. The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore
  24. The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
  25. A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas – What if Sherlock Holmes was actually a woman pretending to be a man in order to use her gifts for the public good but not encroach on cultural norms?
  26. A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – My favorite book of Circa 2019. I nearly devoured it whole on a plane to NYC. It’s a creatively brilliant, vibrant reimagining of Beauty and the Beast. Bonus fact: The heroine has cerebral palsy.
  27. Bar Harbor Retirement Home for Famous Writers (and Their Muses) by Terri-Lynne DeFino 
  28. The White Cottage Mystery by Margery Allingham
  29. The One and Only Ivan by Kate DiCamillo
  30. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  31. Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg – I snort-laughed my way through this one in one sitting. A perfect gift for an English major of any age.
  32. Recursion by Black Crouch – Crouch does it again. This is brilliant speculative fiction that is well-conceived sci-fi that deeply delves into what it means to be human and what it means to be ourselves.
  33. The Municipalists by Seth Fried
  34. Rush by Lisa Patton – This one might scratch your itch for sorority stories.
  35. What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell
  36. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer – Heyer shines when she’s writing regency romances. Her heroines, like the eponymous Sophy in this case, are saucier than Austen’s heroines, but not unbelievably so. Think more along the lines of Charlotte Bronte. This is where I dove deeeeep.
  37. Storm & Fury by Jennifer Armentrout
  38. Venetia by Georgette Heyer
  39. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro – I don’t even know what I can say about this that wouldn’t make it sound except: favorite non-Horowitz take on Sherlock Holmes – better than both Elementary and Sherlock.
  40. The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer – Fave Georgette Heyer to date. Prime yourself for the story by reading this explanation of the term “Corinthian” – it’s not entirely different
  41. The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katharine Reay – Another nice bookshop tale.
  42. Heating and Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly – A life in 52 micro memoirs. Highly recommend.
  43. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  44. Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer
  45. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nukamp – Novel about a school shooting that unfolds “in real time.”
  46. Arabella by Georgette Heyer – Second-favorite Heyer novel to date. Fiesty, provocative, and good-hearted heroine from the country goes to London during the season. Drama ensues.
  47. Sabrina by Nick Drasno
  48. The Path Between Us by Suzanne Stabile – How people interact with others, based on the Enneagram – super-helpful content accessibly presented.
  49. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott – Feels a little like Big Little Lies meets competitive gymnastics.
  50. Winterhouse by Ben Guterson – Delightful middle-grade fiction with some dark supernatural bits toward the end.
  51. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms – #Momspringa
  52. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
  53. Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mahew Whalen – A bride disappears a few days before her wedding. Why?
  54. The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Fun, rom-com, fairly open-door.
  55. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – A gripping thriller I tore through in less than a day.
  56. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – This didn’t get great reviews, but I don’t really understand why. Maybe because I wrote a paper about its inspiration, Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, I recognized most of Ware’s allusions to the original and really appreciated this update. Well done, I say.
  57. Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich – How many Stephanie Plum novels will I read? Probably about the number Janet Evanovich writes.
  58. Conviction by Denise Mina – Imagine you’re a true crime podcast junkie and a podcast you’re listening to unexpectedly overlaps with your life history. That’s exactly what happens in Conviction.
  59. Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano – I didn’t care for this one.
  60. The Secrets of Winterhouse by Ben Guterson – A worthy sequel.
  61. Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
  62. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – A wildly popular fanfic writer (who reimagines her favorite novels – which smack of Harry Potter – as a long-term love story between the sorta Harry and the sorta Draco) goes to college. It’s fun and sweet, but for me did not live up to the hype.
  63. Mama Day by Gloria Naylor – One of my favorite books of all time. On this reread (for book club), I cried. Again.
  64. Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – My favorite true crime podcasters went and wrote a very profound book! I recommend tackling 1-2 chapters at a time, and with something soothing like a glass of wine or a cup of tea in hand.
  65. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – I always love Cormoran Strike books. Every time they’re great. This one is no exception.
  66. The Wicked King by Holly Black – A second book in a series is usually (deservedly) referred to as a sophomore slump. We can all think of the few exceptions because they are so unusual. This book fits in that category, in fact, I liked it better than its predecessor.
  67. The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – This middle grade fiction novel would be clever and creative if it had been written for adults, especially the sort who’ve read The Canterbury Tales or know a lot about the history of Christianity; instead it was weird and most likely would be confusing to a kid. If your child in the target age range wants to read it, I suggest a read along and that you have a lot of discussions.
  68. The Prince & the Dressmaker by Jen Wang – I did not care for this book, and I do not recommend it.
  69. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – Deliciously narrated tales from Norse mythology. I was so pleased to add it to my world mythology shelf.
  70. Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
  71. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
  72. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – Oh, this is good fun. This is a “memoir” of the early life and young adulthood of a lady in the age of naturalists who was instrumental in the research of dragons. There’s a little taste of emerging steampunk, but mostly follows the traditions and conventions of Western Europe (esp. England) and thereby has a strong feminist streak, in the best possible sense.
  73. The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradahl – My #2 book of the year. I just loved it so much. The end was utterly fitting. The only reader I wouldn’t recommend it to is one with moral or personal reasons to abhor or eschew alcohol.
  74. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Another reread for book club. What a great novel!
  75. Celine by Peter Heller – A loaner from my bookish fairy godmother, this book was a slow burn for me. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t gripped by it. It’s the story of an ill and aging uppercrust New England brahmin who spends her time doing art and solving mysteries, usually related to family matters (like helping adoptees find their biological parents).
  76. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – This was a fun read, a mystery told from multiple vantage points. Yeah, we definitely have the mystery going on, and you definitely want to get to the bottom of it, but also featured prominently is the disconnect that can grow between people as a result of different expectations, different personalities, and
  77. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend – Phenomenal world-building. Delightful characters. If you’re a Harry Potter fan who wants some elements of the Potterverse in a new series, but done differently, this is an excellent choice.
  78. Inheritance by Dani Shapiro – Another loaner from my aforementioned bookish fairy godmother, this one was another huge winner of my reading year – probably book #3 if I had to choose a #3. This memoir about finding out the father who raised her isn’t biologically related to her is masterfully done and really leans into questions of identity, parenthood, genetics, and grief.

Here are the books I haven’t finished yet but intend to:

  • Different Seasons by Stephen King – First two novellas down – the inspiration for The Shawshank Redemption and the very disturbing “An Apt Pupil.” Next time it’s my turn to borrow it from the library, I’ll definitely tackle at least the inspo for Stand by Me.
  • IT by Stephen King – I had planned to finish this 1153-page behemoth by the end of the year, and then I went and lost track of it for like a month. Maybe by February? (I happened started a new job in that month, and there’s no way I’m taking this heavy beast on the train with me, even if it is deliciously well-written and fascinating.)
  • Shrill by Lindy West – This memoir is brave and sad and funny and hard. I love so much of West’s body positivity and fat acceptance, but the chapter about her abortion broke my heart.
  • Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend – This worthy sequel to Nevermoor is fresh off the presses; I’m hoping to finish it this weekend.
  • Co-Laborers, Co-Heirs: A Family Conversation edited by Brittany Smith and Doug Serven – This is an incredibly important book for the PCA (and others wrestling with similar things) about the way the Church regards women and the roles we ought to play as church members. I am so grateful for this one, and for the ability to take it a couple of chapters at a time, thoughtfully and without rushing.


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