Favorite Books of 2019

I read 116 books in 2019, which is an all-time record for me. This is mostly due to being up in the wee hours of the night during pregnancy due to reflux and general insomnia  and then multiple nursing sessions and walking around the house to lull Elliot to sleep while listening to audiobooks via headphones. Ninety of the books were audiobooks (78%), five were ebooks (4%), and the twenty-one were physical books (18%).

I read a lot of awesome books, but here are my top five.

If interested, here are my posts about favorites from different years: 2018201720162015 

Favorite Fiction:

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson   (audiobook)
 Cussy "Bluet" Carter is a nineteen-year old girl living in the wooded outskirts of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky when this story starts in 1936. She is the last living female of the rare Blue People, a mysterious ancestry of blue-tinged skin. Townspeople avoid her, belittle her, and are cruel to her for the color of her skin, which has been carried genetically for generations. A job as a traveling librarian with the Pack Horse Library Project gives her hope for a future and some semblance of respect as she travels through treacherous mountains on her mule to reach impoverished families in remote areas of Appalachian Kentucky to deliver library books and magazines to those who otherwise would not have access to reading material. She helps some of them learn to read, which opens doors for them that never could have been possible before. She faces numerous trials, devastating suffering, but also grows in courage and acquires loyal friends along the way. I learned so much from this book while also enjoying the beautiful story, from the medical term for the blue-tinged skin of Cussy, called methemoheoglobinemia, that was in real life first studied with a family in Kentucky, to the remarkable literacy endeavors of the Pack Horse Project's brave "Book Women", which was started by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression as part of the Work Progress Administration. This book was fascinating and well-researched but it also had so much heart behind it. I adored Cussy and was rooting for her all the way. She endured so much and yet was still kind and never vengeful. She was a quiet, often timid protagonist that increasingly grew in self-assurance and grit as the story progressed, which is the type of character development I love to read about.

Rating: PG (trigger warning: a sexual abuse scene)
This book reminded me of: Christy by Catherine Marshall (both girls serve the impoverished families in the remote Appalachian mountains) and Miss Jane by Brad Watson (both girls are born with genetic disorders that stand in the way of "normal" lives)

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (audiobook) 
An Australian woman wakes up after losing consciousness during a fall at the gym. The last thing she remembers is being a carefree twenty-nine years old, pregnant, and head-over-heels with her husband. But apparently ten years have passed and she is months away from turning forty, has three children,  her marriage is crumbling, and she is known to be a bit of a rich, bossy snob. What happened during the last ten years that could have changed Alice and her circumstances so much? And will she every regain her memory? This was absolutely engrossing. I could not stop listening to the audiobook; I was so curious what would happen. It was fast-paced, mysterious, and thought-provoking (would I be surprised at who I've become after ten years if the same thing happened to me?). I also enjoyed the two sub-plots, one of which comes from the perspective of Alice's older sister who has been struggling with fertility for years and the other being their "adoptive" grandmother who is starting a new chapter in her life.

Rating: PG-13 (lots of language) 

Favorite Non-fiction:

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing  Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield    (audiobook) 
I first became acquainted with Butterfield's story through her first memoir, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (in which she shares her journey to Christ from being an atheist lesbian highly opposed to Christianity). Now in this most recent book, she shifts focus to the importance of "radically ordinary hospitality" as a bridge to bring the gospel of Jesus to those who do not yet know Him. The idea of hospitality was a bedrock during her journey to Christianity through a mentoring couple who invited her over for dinner for years as they listened to her barrage of complaints about Christianity. And it was also the bedrock of the early churches, as described in the Apostle Paul's letters to various churches and the book of Acts. Rosaria gives practical ways to incorporate this intentional type of hospitality regardless of finances, marriage status, or denomination. Every Christian has the ability (and the calling) to make their home (whether that is a house, a dorm room, or an apartment) a safe haven for others to find the hope of the gospel. She shares stories of what hospitality looks like in her home, with special focus to how her family chose to love a neighbor who was a recluse and deemed as dangerous by other neighbors, Biblical references to hospitality, nuts and bolts practicality of how to prayerfully make this a part of your life, and (surprisingly, but very interestingly since it is rarely discussed in literature or sermons) how church discipline is linked to hospitality when it means protecting a church family from one who is sinning and hurting fellowship. This was encouraging, inspiring, and a kick in the pants that I need. Rosaria's writing is clear, concise, hope-filled, and honest.

Recommended if: You liked Everybody Always and Love Does (both by Bob Goff) and other similar books, but wished there was more Scripture focus and practical steps for long-term discipleship after the initial (vital, yet not conclusive) extravagant acts of  love. (I  still love both those books, but recently the above critique was shared with me regarding Everybody Always and I agree that there seemed to be a vital part missing).
Rating: G

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren (audiobook) 
There have been a lot of books written lately about finding a holiness in the mundane. So I initially didn't place this too high on my To-Be-Read list. But after reading several glowing reviews and seeing it available for audiobook, I downloaded it. I was curious to see if Tish had anything else to add to the conversation. I loved her literary voice, especially since her Anglican priest background affords her much knowledge on the liturgical practices by which she frames the book. She brilliantly couples everyday routines with a liturgical practice or habit that can be done to point us to God. From waking up and making the bed and brushing teeth to seemingly annoying interruptions like misplacing keys, a tiff with a spouse, and waiting in traffic, Tish finds threads in each of these moments that can weave a tapestry of worship. I did not grow up within a liturgical tradition, but in recent years have become more curious about how these contemplative practices can deepen a relationship with God. This is a great read for anyone interested in seeing importance in the normalcy of everyday life to grow our faith in God rather than depending only on conferences, camps, mission trips, and other big events to stir our hearts towards Him.

Reminds me of: Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, Holy Is the Day by Carolyn Day, The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris, A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer, and One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp.
Rating: G

Favorite Middle-Grade:

El Deafo by Cece Bell (ebook) 
An absolutely outstanding middle-grade graphic novel about the author’s challenging childhood as a deaf girl in the 1970s. I was constantly rooting for Ceci as she adjusted to the difficulties of not being able to hear and found her confident voice in the process. This was my first graphic novel and I just loved it! I would compare it to a full-length comic book. I loved peering into the life of a deaf protagonist, especially one as spunky as her.

Reminds me of: Wednesday Wars (her daydreaming and overall numerous hilarious inner dialogue) and Wonder and Out of My Mind (fun, smart middle-graders living with physical disabilities)
Rating: G

(Linking up with Mary-andering Creatively on the #LMMLinkup)


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