Happy, happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe New Years Eve. I finished out the decade by taking a spin class, and then enjoying a few champagne toasts with two of my best friends before heading to a NYE dinner. (My last meal of a decade was a burger—some things never change!) After dinner, we went to my sister’s apartment and rang in 2020 with a bunch of my cousins. I had a great night, and, surprisingly, feel pretty great today.
I wanted to kick off the new year of posts on A Touch of Teal with one of my favorite topics: books! This post is going to be a longer one since I want to cover three main things: the top five books I read in 2019, my 2019 and 2020 reading goals, and recapping everything I read in December.
I. THE BEST BOOKS I READ IN 2019!
For the past two years, I’ve shared the top five books I’ve read—2018 here and 2017 here!—and I wanted to continue that tradition this year. If you follow me over on Instagram, then you know I shared my top five books of the year over on Stories a few weeks ago. I wanted to give away the list early so people could take advantage over “winter break” in case they were in need of a book. These five books are the ones I could not put down and could not stop thinking about once they ended. If you’re looking for a great book to kick off 2020 with, definitely consider one of these titles—I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. (Longer descriptions of these books can be found in past OMN posts here.) These are in no particular order:
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—I put off reading this one for so long because I thought it would be too “nature-y”, but I loved this book so much I ended up procrastinating finishing it. This is the story of a girl named Kya, who lives on her own in the marshlands of North Carolina. The book follows her life from childhood to her teenage years to adulthood. Kya is a social outcast who has no family and finds herself accused of murder. I can’t say much more without giving it away, but you need to read this book.
- Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald—A love story set in Grand Central Station, Nora and Joe meet one December Manhattanhenge. When they leave the Station, she disappears. Finding Nora time after time becomes the focus of Joe’s life. Each time he finds her, they fall more and more in love—only his life keeps moving forward, whereas she’s stuck in the 1920s when she died. They’re forced to figure out if their love can transcend time and space.
- The Only Plane in The Sky by Garrett M. Graff—An amazing oral history of 9/11, told by hundreds of voices. My favorite anecdote of the whole book was one person noted to get home that day, they had to walk through a really rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, the type of place you wouldn’t normally want to be. But on that day, all the residents of the neighborhood were out on the sidewalk offering water bottles, food, and hoses so survivors could wash off.
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah—A story about two sisters who both fight to resist Nazi occupation of France in their own way during WWII. Do yourself a favor and read it before the movie comes out—the Fanning sisters are starring in it!
- Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl—One of my favorite memoirs of all-time, Ruth was the Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine, and she shares an amazing inside look at the heyday of magazine publishing and why Conde Nast was so hesitant to embrace digital.
I’d love to know what books you loved in 2019 so I can add them to my list for 2020. And, if you’re looking for more reading recommendations, I always share what I am reading in real time on Instagram and keep my Goodreads up to date—feel free to follow me there!
II. MY 2019 AND 2020 READING GOALS
In 2018, I read 52 books—one book for each week. That was the most I’d ever read in a year in my life, and was a goal I hit without really trying. So in 2019, my goal was to read 62 books—ten more than I had the previous year. I met my 2019 goal in November, and decided to try to hit 70 books by the end of the year. In the end, I read 72 books in 2019, my new personal record.
For 2020, I am setting my reading goal at 72 books to match what I read this year—but, if I don’t make it, it’s not a goal I’ll beat myself up over missing. I really believe there are certain seasons of life that lend themselves more to reading than others; I am just in a season of life where I have a lot of time to read and can make it a priority. (I also always have a book on me so I can read it on the Metro, while I am waiting, whenever I have a free minute. It’s a big part of why I hit my reading goal this year!) When I was in grad school, I barely read any books for pleasure—and I am sure there will be another season of my life where it will be a triumph to read just a handful of books a year.
III. EVERYTHING I READ IN DECEMBER
Though December is always a crazy month with all the social events, work obligations, and large to-do list to get ready for the big day, I did quite a bit of reading in December and finished the year with some really, really great books.
As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and that’s not lost on me!
Without further ado, here’s everything I read in December:
CHRISTMAS SHOPAHOLIC // SOPHIE KINSELLA*
Another installment of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, Becky is back and it’s the holiday season. Expecting a classic Christmas at her parents house, a few months before the holiday, they tell her they’re moving to a super trendy neighborhood in London and it would be great if she could host Christmas for a change. As the countdown to Christmas is on, Becky’s sister brings hard-to-meet demands for Christmas Eve, she needs to find her husband the perfect gift, and she bought a too-small dress she needs to fit into for Christmas. What could possibly go wrong?
Would I recommend it? This was a really cute, mindless read—you’ll love it if you love the Shopaholic series!
THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD // CLAIRE LOMBARDO
This is the story of the Sorenson family. The parents, David and Marilyn, meet in the 1970s, and now, in the present day, have four adult daughters—each at a crossroads of their own. Some chapters of the book flashback to the past, when the girls were little and David and Marilyn were younger. Now, Wendy, widowed young, finds herself boozing and hanging out with younger men. Violet, once an attorney, now a stay-at-home mom, has her past come back in a very real way when the baby she gave up for adoption finds her. Liza is pregnant, but her husband is in such a deep state of depression he can’t be bothered with anything but video games. And Grace, the youngest, is living a lie halfway across the country. The main plot of the story follows the family over the course of this transitional year, and while each character is flawed, they’re all lovable in their own way.
Would I recommend it? ABSOLUTELY! My coworker recommended this one to me, and it was one of those books I couldn’t put down. There were a lot of great twists I didn’t see coming.
WINTER IN PARADISE // ELIN HILDERBRAND
Irene is living an idyllic life in Iowa. Her husband is successful and her two sons are grown and making their own way in the world. She’s ringing in a new year when she receives a phone call no one ever wants to get—her husband has died. And, Irene learns it was in a helicopter crash on St. John, a place she had no idea her husband had ever been, let alone had a second life there. Irene and her sons depart for the island and start to piece together their father’s secret life—soon discovering more than they bargained for.
Would I recommend it? I will always read whatever Elin Hilderbrand writes—and you may remember, I read the second book in this series first accidentally. My advice would be to read them in order ;).
LEAVING TIME // JODI PICOULT
For the last ten years, Jenna has been thinking about her mother, Alice, who disappeared one night at the elephant sanctuary where they lived when she was three years old. Now that she’s 13, she’s on a quest to find her mother again, refusing to believe that her mother abandoned her. Alice studied elephants, and was particularly interested in how elephants deal with grief. Jenna pours through her work, hoping to find clues as to where her mother went. To find her mother, she enlists two allies—a psychic medium who rose to fame on TV and Virgil, the original detective who investigated her mother’s disappearance.
Would I recommend it? YES, YES, YES. My dinner club gals gave me this book for my birthday, and it was the first Jodi Picoult book I’ve picked up in years. I was late for plans because I couldn’t put this book down—it was an amazing read that I think just about anyone would like.
ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE // GAIL HONEYMAN
Eleanor has always struggled with social skills—she says exactly what she wants, whenever she wants it, and that’s often gotten her in trouble. During the week, she goes to work and comes home. On weekends, since she doesn’t have friends, she self-medicates with vodka and calls her verbally-abusive Mummy. Everything begins to change as she develops a friendship with Raymond, the IT guy at her office. Together, they save an old man who had fallen on the sidewalk, and after that, start spending more time together. As Raymond gets to know Eleanor better, he helps her peel back all the layers.
Would I recommend it? This was a really engaging read and unlike anything I’ve picked up before. While I enjoyed it, I don’t think I loved it as much as some people do.
QUEEN VICTORIA’S MATCHMAKING // DEBORAH CADBURY
Queen Victoria’s grandchildren numbered over 30, and as a way to keep stability on the continent, she worked to influence their marriages so that many of the ruling houses would have ties back to the United Kingdom. But her matchmaking didn’t always go as planned—with unexpected deaths, wars, assassinations, and political unrest providing to be formidable foes.
Would I recommend it? 100%—especially if you’re a royal family junkie like I am. This is a non-fiction book, but is written in such an engaging way, it feels like fiction.
GET A LIFE CHLOE BROWN // TALIA HIBBERT
Chloe Brown has fibromyalgia and had been living at home with her family. One day, she’s almost hit by an SUV and nearly dies. This gives her a second lease on life and she decides she needs to get a life—so she makes a list of everything she wants to do. The first one? Move out of her family home. For the other items on the list, she enlists the help of her new building superintendent, Redford.
Would I recommend it? I really wanted to like this one since so many people rave about it, but I thought there was no build to the plot and it was really predictable. I’d pass on this one.