If it weren’t for Goodreads, I already would’ve easily forgotten everything I read in 2018. Writing my newsletter has helped me track what I’ve loved so far in 2019, but it doesn’t show the full picture. Here—along with ratings and recommendations—is the complete list of what I read this winter.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: 5/5 stars
For fans of 2015’s A Man Called Ove, this feel-good book will leave you at first confused by, then heartfully rooting for, this unlikely heroine. Eleanor Oliphant has had a tough life, which she explains matter-of-factly and without a trace of self pity. As an adorable cast of characters helps her to realize what life could be, we see her triumphantly embrace possibilities she’d never deemed herself worth enough to consider. (I listened to this via Audible, and highly recommend as an audiobook!)
Pair with: A big, hot mug of a cinnamon-y tea.
For when: You want to zoom through a book that will make you feel good about humanity.
Dopesick: 3.5/5 stars
Author Beth Macy spent years with victims of families of the opioid epidemic, as well as the law enforcement and medical professionals in the heart of the most affected communities. It’s not an easy read, but I think it’s so important to try and understand the origins—and pharmaceutical greed—of such a tragic trend.
Pair with: A stress ball.
For when: You’ve been reading about this Sackler family for months and want to better understand this tragedy.
The Poisonwood Bible: 3.5/5 stars
A group of friends and I have a 2019 goal of getting through a list of classics we haven’t yet read. First up was The Poisonwood Bible, a story of an evangelical pastor who takes his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo for missionary work in the 19602. The story is told in sections by the five female characters, and is a fascinating look at faith, colonialism, and how individual motivations can forever change a family’s history.
Pair with: Peppery red wine.
For when: You have time to get through a slow starting novel to reap the benefits of an interesting look at a time and place you probably don’t know much about.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz: 3/5 stars
Not even close to the most interesting or well-written novel I’ve read about WWII, this book tells the true story of Lale Sokolov, an Auschwitz prisoner who, in order to stay alive, was forced to tattoo numbers on his fellow inmates. It’s an interesting story and an easy read, but if you want a more gripping WWII story, I’d turn to Night or The Nightingale.
Pair with: A gratitude journal to remind yourself of the tiny comforts we enjoy every day.
For when: You’re feeling emotionally stable enough to read about The Holocaust.
The Immortalists: 2.5/5 stars
This is where you realize that not all of the books I read make it into my newsletter! This was a super quick read and did raise questions about family, self-fulfilling prophecies, and what it means to live fully.
Pair with: The subway. A quick, good-enough read to pass time on public transit but not so good that you you’re devastated when you get to your stop.
For when: See above.
The Death of Mrs. Westaway: 3/5 stars
A quick, fun whodunit that’s my least favorite of Ruth Ware’s books but will still fit the bill for a night where you just want to cozy up and read a murder mystery.
Pair with: Popcorn and Pinot Noir.
For when: You want to slow your brain down and speed your adrenaline up.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation: 3.5/5 stars
Darkly funny and ultimately profound, this bizarre novel follows a woman in her 20s through a prescription-drug fueled year in pre-9/11 New York City.There were times throughout reading it when I thought to myself, why the hell am I reading this…? But it’s kind of all worth it for the last few pages. And I definitely laughed out loud throughout—but the kind of laughs where you start, cover your mouth, and wonder, what the hell is wrong with me?!
Pair with: Plain black bodega coffee.
For when: You need a reminder that you’re doing juuuust fine.
The Library Book: 5/5 stars
A book for book lovers. Susan Orlean is an incredible storyteller—astute and descriptive, but never gratuitous; and here she masterfully weaves together the history of the Los Angeles public library system with the story of the fire that nearly destroyed its main branch. She writes: “Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve catalogued and stored inside us, a private library of life lived. It is something that no one else can entirely share, one that burns down and disappears when we die. But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it—with one person or with the world, on the page or in a story recited—it takes on a life of its own.” (😍)
Pair with: Chamomile tea and a cozy blanket.
For when: When you want a little R&R with some beautiful words.
Journalist Abby Ellin writes about her blissful engagement to The Commander, a highly successful, deeply romantic...liar. After falling for his web of deception, Abby sets out to uncover what she can about how ordinary people become victims of deception and espionage. This book is equal parts fascinating and hilarious, and I highly recommend it to everyone (especially any scam lovers out there).
Pair with: The Theranos and/or Fyre Festival documentaries.
For when: You want something smart, but not too heavy.
The Bell Jar: 3.5/5 stars
For the second book in my friend group’s “That’s so Classic” 2019 book challenge, we tackled Sylvia Plath’s haunting look into mental health, depression, and suicidal ideation. It’s so well written but I didn’t connect with the main character (I may have just been out of my depth, but I didn’t feel as sympathetic as I thought I probably should) and the second part got pretty confusing. My favorite part was how feminist this book is! It was written in the 1950s so you know Plath was way ahead of her time.
Pair with: A train or plane ride where you’re feeling introspective.
For when: You want to read a powerful female author or you’re going through something you feel like nobody understands.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls: 3.5/5 stars
If you liked An American Marriage, you’ll enjoy this fictional family drama. The story follows two incarcerated parents, the daughters, they left behind, and the aunts now dealing with their own shit in order to raise their nieces. The characters are woefully underdeveloped but I still enjoyed the story and the prose.
Pair with: Your bed. Good enough to keep you awake to get those pre-snooze pages in, but not so exciting that you won’t be able to stop and fall asleep.
For when: See above.