Tag Archives: 2019 Reading

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

Favorites

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.

Oddball

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.

Travel

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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!

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