Better Late Than Never 2019 Book Recap
Updated: Jan 19, 2020
While everyone usually spends the last week of December posting their 2019 book recaps on social media, that was a pretty busy week for me so I never really had a lot of time to sit down and think through all the books I read last year until recently. So here is my better late than never recap/superlatives of some books I read in 2019!
Last year I had a goal of reading 50 books.
Guess what playa's?! I read 55 books last year! What a pleasant surprise! I was hoping to get to 50 but wasn't quite sure how realistic that would be. Honestly, what fueled that goal was making the decision to post every book I read (up to 50) on the 'gram. There were some pro's and cons about this:
1-While these posts didn't glean the most likes it was such a joy to read people's comments if they read the books, if it was a book they were interested in, or if it was one they eventually read because I recommended it. Book conversations are my favorite!
2-I also really enjoyed the process of posting a review of the books I read, picking a quote that, in my opinion, summarized the book or that I didn't want to forget. As well as having to minimize my summary based on insta's word count. There are times my summaries ran much larger than the allotted count so it was a good exercise of editing my words to get the main point across.
3-Finally, I had some friends look at me as a type of book guru WHICH I SECRETLY LOVED! Can this be a real job?! Like the Gilmore Girl's town troubadour- only you go around recommending books to people that you think would suit them.
Cuz I have a system... and the passion!
4-It helped me to see what I am capable of. I really wanted to know if 50 books was doable for me- and it was! Actually 55 was.
I also hoped that setting this goal would help me to chose to read a book over scrolling the gram. Spoiler alert: that never really happened as I anticipated, which is what brings me to the con's.
1-While I think posting the books on the gram fueled me to finish my goal it also made me keep coming back to instagram more... and more and more... honestly posting the 50th book felt a bit like a relief and I then proceeded to take a break from instagram since then. I set the goal of staying off until June and then reevaluating. I just need to figure out some things...boundaries? limits? that actually work and I think for me that starts with getting some real life things in order before I begin scrolling again.
WITH THAT SAID. I still have this blog ya'll!
I'm going to attempt to do a monthly recap of the books I read month to month and a little synopsis because I still like the idea of keeping the summary short (2.200 characters is the insta limit). I hope to read 50 books again this year but I'm not holding myself to this goal too hard, more like trying to see what is a realistic goal this year to casually read and not be on social media as much....
Ok who am I kidding? I don't casually read... If your reading consists of you charting out the books you hope to read this year. compiling a book journal and allocating page counts per day... I don't think your hobby falls into the category of "casual reader" but to each his own! #dontyoudarejudgeme!
Now for the book superlatives! I've arranged them in ascending order of my favorites to least favorites.
I think I read this book at the perfect timing. Just getting into the swing of things after having a baby, feeling like I wanted to start up my counseling practice again but also not feeling that internal drive. I honestly feel like this book was placed in my lap to be like "Hey remember this thing you loved to do? Which you were trained for? What ever happened to that?" It really lit a fire in me about counseling.
She does such a great job of explaining the process of talk therapy, all the little things counselors are trained to sift through and hold onto for later as well as techniques. Such a great read to help me remember why I became a mental health counselor in the first place plus she is just a great writer! Honestly this book is a memoir but also reads like nonfiction
I also enjoyed hearing her armchair expert interview.
Ya'll this book. It's written about three generations of a family from the Dominican Republic. If you don't know, the Dominican Republic is a neighboring island of Puerto Rico. I am Puerto Rican and my goodness was this story incredibly relatable. The culture, the Spanish, the intergenerational disfunction... "the curse". This book seriously fueled some therapy sessions for me. His voice is unlike anything I have ever read. Sometimes I felt like Diaz has heard the thoughts in my head and put them on paper not to mention the story is incredibly written (I mean it won the Pulitzer). This book has a prized place on my shelf. It is raw, and gritty, and graphic but, to me, it was beautiful. There is a quote by one of the characters I feel summarizes my thoughts completely
“If you didn't grow up like I did then you don't know, and if you don't know it's probably better you don't judge.”
Most Eye Opening:
This book really began the social media detox for me (the next one I talk about finished it). His chapters on just how addicting our phones have become is SOBERING/SCARY. It actually allowed to me give myself some grace in my social media addiction going from shaming myself "How could you be addicted to social media?! You're a mental health counselor!" to... "wow...no wonder you are addicted." Not to put total blame on the phone makers but it is like having a slot machine in my pocket. Before reading this book I read another book about rules for social media (and it was a great book and maybe that will work for some people) but after reading this book I realized I'm far past the protection of self-imposed rules I needed to plain detox, which I did, which helped me to see my addiction as it was. I'm still processing it. But I owe a lot of introspection (and freedom) to this book.
I think a better tittle for this book would be The Ruthless Elimination of Distraction but that's just me. This is basically the Christian version of Digital Minimalism and as a Christian it really appealed to my heart and values. This was the book that put the nail on the coffin of my instagram account (at least until June). If you are a Christian I strongly recommend you give this book a gander.
The premise of this book is that there are currently two types of tolerance. The first is the old way of tolerance which states you can have your beliefs and I can have mine and we can disagree and still have conversations from our side and be friends. The Second is a brand of tolerance which basically says you have to accept and believe what I do in order for us to be friends. This is a book written by a Christian to Christians but it really helped me be honest about where I stand on certain issues and then be free to evaluate whether I wanted to stay there or move my stance.
Ya'll this book. I would have never even looked at it were it not a book club pick but it basically just talks about dying and (newsflash?) we are all eventually going to die and maybe even help our love ones do so. I feel like this is a book that every human should read. It's not fun but it is heartwarming, enlightening, sad, and a powerful read.
I love Ray Bradbury so much, I SAVORED this book. Ray Bradbury feels exactly the same way I do about writing. It is survival. I cannot fan girl this man enough. I love his words and this book so much I printed out this picture to the left and put it on my desk to remind me of the beautiful way he writes about writing (don't judge me!) and I keep his practical advice about writing in my notebook (and heart).
"One thousand or two thousand words everyday for the next twenty years. At the start you might shoot for one short story a week, fifty two stories a year for five years... so we should not look down on the forty five or fifty two stories written in our first years as failures. To fail is to give up. But you are in the midst of a moving process. Nothing fails when all goes on. Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more. Work done and behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops. Not to work is too cease, tighten up, become nervous and therefore destructive of the creative process."
If that isn't practical advice I don't know what is. I go to these chapters multiple times to remind myself of why it is I write and to be okay with where I am in the process.
Such a practical book on habits. Really liked this on. Will reread. One of those I feel I will reread and get better at forming habits or help with troubleshooting habits.
Biggest Surprise: City of Girls
Both of these books are written by Dani Shapiro. I got Devotion as a 2.99 kindle book from modernmrsdarcy.com ( a great source for cheap ebooks!) I absolutely loved her writing about her family and thoughts on catastrophic anxiety (which I also have). I loved her writing and story so much I had to go ahead and buy her second book in which she finds out (as a 50 yr old) that her father is not her biological father. Wow what a story.
Best Random Read: Diary of A Bookseller
Ya'll I randomly picked up this book in the Jakarta airport and had to buy it because I secretly think being a bookstore owner would be a DREAM. This is basically a year in the life of a bookstore owner in Edinburgh. The people who work for him are hilarious and anyone who has worked in the service industry can relate to the love/hate relationship you have with certain customers. I just loved this quirky little book. I can't wait to read the sequel and to (one day) visit the shop.
Most Nostalgic: Little Women
This book has made quite a comeback and I think there are reasons why. We love the March sisters and Marmie. In one chapter Marmie's advice to Meg waaassss a bit outdated by don't even get me started on my research on Louisa May Alcott, how she was ahead of her time and how Jo not marrying Laurie was a old fashioned clapback.
Here are some great listens/reads. History Chicks on Louis May Alcott. A great article about the conflicted feminism in Little Women. A sweet This American Life episode about how Little Woman saved a young woman. Not to mention the newest movie which has yet to come out in Jakarta and how I am suffering because of this!!! (I think it will be here in Feb though)
I was super worried that these books would not stand the test of time. They did. I love them just as much now as I used to. I loved reading my old and worn copy I got when I was a kid. Avonlea is my happy place and I am happy about making my way through the series again.
A Muslim's Mind
Ramadan is the month of June and this year while all of Indonesia fasted from sunrise to sunset (or so it seems around here) I wanted to read something to help educate me about Islam. This is something I think I will venture to do every June (read a book about another religion) There is a lot to learn!
This book got pretty repetitive after around the third chapter but how she talks about "unlocking the stress cycle" is pretty applicable to my life. This book is also pretty strong handed in terms of fighting "the man". I consider myself a feminist and there were a lot of credibility in some cases but even for me it sometimes got tiring. If that bothers you read the first three chapters and don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Most Difficult, Emotionally:
This was a bookclub book and not one I would have chosen on my own accord but MAN if I'm not glad I was forced to read it. It is a hard read, actually I sped through this book because its content was so devastating but it is POWERFUL and incredibly written. It is a story of two sisters from Ghana and their descendants. One sister is sold into the slave trade and another is married off to an English slave trader. A must read.
Biggest Disappointment: The Wondering Years
Guys I really wanted to love this one. I LOVE the podcast "The Popcast" so I was expecting to really love this one. It was okay. I appreciate his writing and thoughts but nothing mind blowing.
The Heir and The Crown
So this was the follow up series from The Selection series. While I really enjoyed the three books in the series which describes a dystopian society who choses its queens based on a process that mimics the series The Bachelor. Man did it feel like the last two books in this series were phoned in. So bad.
The Night Circus
I really wanted to love this one. So many people I know love this one. It didn't really do it for me but I think I wanted to feel about it what I felt for Harry Potter which was prob just an unrealistic standard.
Most Tedious Read: Ten Women
Interesting read. Read it for Bookclub but by the fifth woman man do they start running together...
East of Eden
Glad I read this one but at 700 pages it is white the feat. I wish I knew that I should have taken my time with this one. I think I tried to read it too fast for our bookclub deadline rather than reading it slowly.
Interesting story about Native Americans but it was hard to figure out who was who and to remember who certain characters were in relation to each other. Not a favorite but glad to have read.
Good Lord I expected this one to be better than it was based on how amazing the Nightingale was. If there is something this author is good at it's making you cry at the end of her books- mission freaken accomplished with this one. This could have also gone in the tedious category. It honestly is one of the only books this year I contemplated not completing because I wasn't connecting with it but I'm glad I stuck with it as the end part gets better... and then you cry like a baby which I am NOT into but whatever.
So there you have it friends. Congrats if you made it to the end! Hope you got one or two more books to put on your list or avoid if its not your cuppa tea.
I will be updating my book progress in Goodreads if you want to catch me there. Until then I'm signing off as your wanna-be book guru. Until next month. Namaste.