2019 was a great year for books! At the time of posting, I read 113 books in 2019 and counting. Below are what I deem to be the best books of 2019 (fiction and non-fiction).
When it comes to fiction, I tend to prefer family dramas. When it comes to non-fiction, I tend to prefer books that are emotional or somehow change my way of thinking about something. So, you will see a lot of those types of books here.
See if your favorite 2019 books made the cut or add a few new ones to your list. In alphabetical order, so I didn’t have to rank them:
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Ask Again, Yes is the perfect fictional family drama about two families whose histories are forever entwined. Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two rookie cops in the NYPD, and they live next door to each other, with their respective families, outside the city. The families’ lives become altered in negative and positive ways by one explosive event for decades to come.
Ask Again, Yes is about mental health, addiction, forgiveness, growth and love. It is told from numerous perspectives, and these perspectives also often intersect in unique ways.
Everyone and everything in Ask Again, Yes feels real and alive. It’s a great book for fans of Parenthood and This is Us.
The Conscious Closet by Elizabeth L. Cline
The Conscious Closet is a game-changer in the world of sustainable apparel. I had struggled with how to become more sustainable in my closet and searched for a book like this for a long time. When this book was released in 2019, it truly and completely answered all my questions and provided a comprehensive look into the who, what, where, when and why as to sustainable fashion.
It’s a resource. It’s a guide. It’s a call to action. I even sewed my first button and hemmed a skirt after reading this book. It’s the type of book I will refer back to for years to come. I highly recommend The Conscious Closet to anyone interested in learning about sustainable fashion.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy Jones & the Six seemed to be the most anticipated book of 2019, and now that 2019 is coming to a close, Reese Witherspoon picked it for her book club and Book of the Month named it as their Book of the Year! It’s about the rise and fall of a 1970s rock band of the same name, which reminded me of Fleetwood Mac.
It’s told in documentary style in the present, looking back at the past and uncovering the real reason behind the group’s split. Daisy Jones & the Six is all dialogue from interviews over many decades. It was a really unique story line and way of telling a story, and it even included full sets of song lyrics. Kudos to author Reid on her creativity!
Daisy Jones & the Six is filled with drama, love, fame, drugs and everything else you would expect from a rock and roll book. The audiobook has an actual cast of famous readers, and I hear it’s fantastic.
For more, read my full review of Daisy Jones & The Six.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Dutch House was my favorite audiobook and book of the year! I adore family drama novels, and this one exceeded all my expectations, especially because the audio version was read by the one and only TOM HANKS. It was also one of Jenna Bush Hager’s book club selections, and it’s one of the best books to read in the Fall.
Hanks exquisitely captured the spirit of narrator Danny, who tells the epic story of his life and his family, but more precisely, of his sister Maeve, who is so splendidly featured in the cover art. The Dutch House is a “must listen,” and it is one of my all-time favorite audiobooks.
In The Dutch House, the Conroy family’s lives are forever altered when they move into “The Dutch House” outside of Philadelphia. Ultimately, Danny and Maeve are left to fend for themselves (without giving away the story), and Maeve more or less becomes a mother figure to Danny, as they voyage through decades of their lives, occasionally returning to The Dutch House.
The story so magnificently comes full circle that I had goosebumps at the end. Ann Patchett writes with subtlety and nuance that makes her complex craft look easy.
For more information, read my full review of The Dutch House, with quotes, pairings and book club questions and food.
From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
From Scratch was one of my favorite selections by Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club and one of the best books set in Italy. I read it in preparation for my honeymoon in Italy and was moved to tears by this beautiful memoir.
Tembi Locke is not just an actress, but also an exquisite writer who captures emotions in a way that makes you feel her pain and her resilience.
From Scratch is a memoir in which she recounts meeting her husband, Saro, while she was studying abroad in Florence. Saro was a Sicilian chef whose family disapproved of him marrying a black American actress.
After they move to Los Angeles and adopt a baby girl, Saro is diagnosed with cancer.
From Scratch then chronicles the three summers Locke spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as they piece together a life without Saro. Sicily becomes a place of comforting food, but also forgiveness, growth, grief, healing, strength and so much more.
The descriptions of Sicilian food jump off the pages and make you want to taste it. Several recipes are included in From Scratch, and I made one dish and posted it on Instagram here:
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Know My Name was my favorite non-fiction book of the year. I love it when a book transforms the way we think about something, and this book is an absolute game-changer.
Miller is a tremendous communicator, and she dug deep to present her story. It resonated in a powerful way and will change the way so many people view sexual assault.
Prior to Know My Name, Miller was known only as “Emily Doe,” the Stanford sexual assault victim who read a powerful victim impact statement in Court about her experience.
In Know My Name, she expands upon the statement to tell her entire story of the sexual assault and everything that occurred afterward. She does so bravely, and with countless logical arguments that challenge what the reader thought they knew such an experience may be like and what’s wrong with our systematic handling of sexual assault.
Miller understands that social change is a marathon, not a sprint, but she made the hugest of strides in effecting change in Know My Name. I recommend this book as a “must-read.”
For more, read my full review of Know My Name.
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
The Last Romantics was my favorite read of Winter 2019. It’s a family saga that follows the lifetimes of four siblings after their father dies during their childhood, and their mother spirals into severe depression. It was also one of Jenna Bush Hager’s book club selections.
After famed poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration for her iconic writing, The Love Poem, she tells the audience the story of her family and one specific betrayal that reverberates throughout time.
The prose is poetic and captures a mix of small, medium and large events that occur over decades of the siblings’ lives– many of which relate in some way to the brother’s life. The Last Romantics made me feel like I knew the four siblings personally.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was an emotional journey. It follows a therapist seeking therapy for herself after a bad breakup, as well as the progress a few of her own clients make through the course of attending therapy sessions with her.
The reader gets the most intimate peek into each of their lives, their struggles and how they grow over time in very complex and difficult life situations. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was a beautiful and realistic take on humanity, and it was expertly crafted to make you feel like you knew each of the quirky characters.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
How do I love Olive Kitteridge? Let me count the ways … Olive returns in Olive, Again, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, as the quintessential curmudgeon who, at the same time, teaches the reader lessons about life, love, forgiveness, loneliness, regret, motherhood and so many other major topics.
It’s impossible not to get engrossed in Olive’s world, which feels like “still life” art. Strout so subtly captures the extraordinary that lies in the ordinary moments of life through the memorable character of Olive.
After recently watching Olive Kitteridge on HBO, it was a treat to learn what happened since that time in Olive’s life, by peaking into her sometimes awkward and sometimes humorous interactions with faces both old and new.
My favorite chapters were the ones that dealt with motherhood, one of Olive’s greatest struggles. Olive made her most stunning revelations in those chapters. That being said, some of the most telling moments came in very simple sentences gently sprinkled throughout Olive, Again.
Olive, Again is one book I want to re-read because every word counts. It was a masterful character-driven tale, and the audio was fantastic as well. If you are doing a 50 States of America reading challenge, this also makes a great book for Maine.
For more, read my full review of Olive, Again.
Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand
Summer of ’69 had a little bit of so many things I love: historical fiction; family drama; Martha’s Vineyard; and pop culture. It’s definitely one of the best Summer books, one of the best Elin Hilderbrand books, and one of the best books set in Martha’s Vineyard!
The story follows the Levin family during one monumental Summer in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. While they usually spend the Summer in Nantucket with their grandmother, this year, Blair is pregnant with twins in Boston, Kirby is working in Martha’s Vineyard, Tiger is fighting in Vietnam and only young Jessie is vacationing in Nantucket.
As the Summer of ’69 heats up, Teddy Kennedy’s car sinks in Chappaquiddick, killing a woman and a man flies to the moon, amongst a backdrop of civil rights and war.
Summer of ’69 keeps you intrigued in the family’s lives and transports you to the 60s at the same time.
In my humble opinion, out of the 113 books I read in 2019, the above books were the best books of 2019 (fiction & non-fiction). I highly recommend them all!
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