My year in books

3 Jan

3 January 2020.

Year-end lists are more numerous than diet plans in this first week of January. From Barack Obama’s 19 books for 2019 to who died in 2019, there seems to be no escape from the wrap-ups.

Girovaga is no different. As I started a new book on New Year’s Eve, I felt the need to reflect on my 2019 reading. Thanks to Goodreads, it’s easy to do.

According to Goodreads, I read 32 books and almost 16,000 pages in 2019, about equal to 2018 but up significantly from 2017 when I last wrote about my year’s reading.

By genre

  • World War II novels, 9 books
  • Travel, 8
  • Spy/Mystery/Intrigue, 6
  • Non-fiction, 3
  • Other fiction, 6


42421761. sy475 Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is at the top of my 2019 list. Set in the deep south of the 1960s, Owens presents a rare combination of intelligent plot, rich characters, and talented writing. She carries the reader along effortlessly. A pleasure from start to finish and an amazing first novel.

Nearly as wonderful as Crawdads are William Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land and Ordinary Grace. How this author’s work has escaped me for so long I cannot imagine.

In This Tender Land, the story, the characters, and the landscape all conspire to pull the reader along in a compelling journey. Reminiscent of Huck Finn, but deeper, with a plausible realism of the era – 1930s Minnesota –  that at times is painful to imagine. Krueger is a truly gifted writer.

Krueger’s Ordinary Grace is set in a small Minnesota town with many flawed and interesting characters. In a way, it is a coming-of-age story for the protagonist, Frank, but it is equally a mystery and a study of the changes occurring in the 1960s. Krueger’s depictions stirred in me fond memories of Minnesota summers and small-town living.


34729689. sy475 One oddball to share, Sourdough by Robin Sloan. Not quite as good as Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, but engaging nonetheless. The protagonist, Lois, is an iconoclast and the people she meets unique in their own ways as well. A fun intersection of technology and food. San Francisco seems more of a small town than a major city in Sloane’s world.

World War II

This era continues to inspire stories of courage and survival. I am drawn to these stories whether in books or movies. Of the nine novels I read that are set in WWII, there are two standouts: The Huntress by Kate Quinn and The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel. In each book the plot kept me guessing and even when the dawn of understanding hit me, the stories kept me on the edge of my chair.


43172439. sy475

Invariably there are travel books on my list. Trip planning and execution have me delving into one of more volumes almost daily. In fact, while on-the-road, I seldom have time for recreational reading as I juggle our daily activities. SInce we were abroad for 12 weeks in 2019, my nose was often in a travel guide.

A standout in my Travel genre was not a guide, rather a collection of writings by Beppe Severgnini entitled Off the RailsSevergnini is an Italian journalist, writer, and columnist. Not only does he write for the Corriere della Sera, he is a contributing writer for the New York Times. What I enjoyed about this book is the curiosity and humor with which Beppe travels. He is obsessed with trains and amusing situations seem to find him wherever he goes. Maybe in 2020 I will try to read one of his books in Italian.

What to read in 2020? My first book is thanks to Barack Obama, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. I am not far into the book as yet but from the book’s overview this description caught my interest.42771901

“Jenny Odell sends up a flare from the heart of Silicon Valley, delivering an action plan to resist capitalist narratives of productivity and techno-determinism, and to become more meaningfully connected in the process.”

I am weary of paying attention to every twist and turn in the 24-hour news cycle. I am tired of scandals, lies, deception, and unrelenting opinions. There’s too much noise, too much input.

Here’s to tuning-out some of the cacophony and tuning-in to friends, family, travel, good food, the natural world, and great books.

What have you read that I might like? If you are on Goodreads, please connect with me (Laurel Barton) and we can inspire one another’s reading in 2020. Cheers and Buon anno!

11 Responses to “My year in books”

  1. Janet January 6, 2020 at 10:44 #

    I just finished The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman – oh my! And I second Eleanor Oliphant and Educated.


    • Laurel January 6, 2020 at 13:51 #

      “Bookshop” added to my list. It’s getting very long!


  2. Marcia Lynn Kakiuchi January 5, 2020 at 09:55 #

    The Crawdad book was incredible. I hope it becomes a movie! I think Jennifer Lawrence would be play a great character. I’m in 2 book groups and one of the books we’ll read in 2020 which I’ve already read is Eleanor Oliphant is completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It is an awesome book, I think.


    • Laurel January 5, 2020 at 15:03 #

      Hi Marcia! Happy New Year! Yes, it would make a fabulous movie. Surely the rights have been acquired. I have put “Eleanor Oliphant” on my list!


  3. Chloe Erkenbrecher January 4, 2020 at 17:41 #

    I love the books of WWII by Jeff Shaara. There is a trilogy; The Rising Tide, The Steel Wave and No Less Than Victory. Also this year I have enjoyed Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintrye and Educated by Tara Westover. Jeff Shaara’s father wrote Killer Angels, another book I enjoyed. i will have to try the Kate Quinn books.


    • Laurel January 5, 2020 at 15:00 #

      I loved “Killer Angels” but I have not read any of the other Shaara novels. Thanks for the recommendation of those and the others. My list grows!

      Happy New Year to you!


  4. Lori J Veloski January 4, 2020 at 08:04 #

    I enjoy tips about books especially from fellow travelers. I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing and loved it. I will put some of your other favorites on my list. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel January 4, 2020 at 09:02 #

      I think we might be of a mind on books. Anything you’d care to recommend?


  5. nancyarneson January 3, 2020 at 17:45 #

    Last one ….At The Waters Edge by Sara Grue.

    Nancy Arneson
    Edina Realty
    Sent from my I pad, please excuse typos!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. nancyarneson January 3, 2020 at 17:43 #

    Check out Kate Quinn’s books about Roman woman. 3 different ones I like historical fiction. Also check out Sandcastle Ladies about Turkey and the unwritten genocide of Armenian woman by Bohjalian. More later

    Nancy Arneson
    Edina Realty
    Sent from my I pad, please excuse typos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laurel January 4, 2020 at 09:01 #

      Thanks, Nancy! More Kate Quinn and set in Rome appeals. I have looked at Sara Grue’s book from time-to-time. Happy to have an endorsement.


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