The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I usually get to read an insane amount and plan my reading for the following year. What could be better??
I have been a voracious reader ever since I learned to read and discovered The Boxcar Children.
My mom would have to call my name three times before her voice penetrated the world of whatever book I was reading so that I would come help set the table for dinner.
My sister was disappointed/annoyed that I preferred books to playing outside in the muggy Indiana summer weather. (Sorry, C!)
As a student, I was always the kid who finished early so she could snatch a few more minutes of reading while others finished their work.
High school and college and the first few years of teaching left me a bit barren in the world of books. I had some bad experiences with a few books, had less time for non-required reading, and as a beginning teacher, the effort of finding new books that would be worth my time and be rich reads felt like too much.
But two Christmases ago, that all changed. One, I was reminded once again that reading is good. I couldn’t let a few bad experiences scare me away from the riches waiting for me in books. Two, I discovered, from a post by a friend, the reader-blogger-podcast-author Anne Bogel and her yearly reading challenge. Her reading challenge, unlike others I’d seen, didn’t have specific genres per se. It has between ten and twelve categories, for a total of twelve books. One for each month of the year. That didn’t seem too bad. I squeaked in under the wire last year to finish all the categories, though I did read other “fluff” books (what my family calls easy fiction reading) along the way.
This year, I finished the reading challenge in June (or July?) and then had about half a year to just read whatever I felt like. I gave myself an extra challenge to read more of the books in my classroom library so I can be more effective at recommending books to my little readers.
I’m finishing 2019 having read and finished about 70 books, probably more – of varying lengths and genres. I’m kind of amazed by that number. I never kept track of how many books I read as a kid, but this is by far the best reading year, in terms of sheer numbers and possibly in terms of content, that I’ve had since I started high school.
If you didn’t read that much this year, though, don’t compare yourself to me. Some of Ms. Bogel’s followers have read between 100-200 books. (Whaa??) So don’t compare. It’s not a competition. But reading is worth the challenge.
Because I love a good book, and love telling others about a good book, I want to share some of my favorites from this year, as well as other notable books from my 2019 reading.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – the emotions are raw and real and gives a glimpse of the life of a black teenager in the U.S. in a captivating way. There are plenty of four-letter words, but for books like this, I’m okay with it because it’s part of what makes it real. I waited forever to get my hands on this and it made my summer. It was just as good as the reviews said.
The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – based on interviews the author conducted with the man who lived through these things. Still counts officially as fiction, but seems more like a memoir. Heart-wrenching, appalling, and somehow still hope-filled. The best book I’ve ever read about concentration camps, though The Hiding Place is really close up there. I actually listened to the audio version and would highly recommend it.
Indian Givers by Jack Weatherford – I tried explaining to my family how amazing this book was and how much I learned, but perhaps I love it more because I live in South America, so I’ve heard and seen and experienced some of the things he mentions. However, our current lives are highly influenced by the lives of the native peoples of the Americas, and it was fascinating to learn how medicine, government, economics, and our diet have been changed by what we have learned from these incredible people and cultures. My summary might make it sound boring, but I promise he manages to make economics and government interesting!!
Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle – I love reading memoirs, and this one was especially inspiring and heart-warming. I listened to the audio version by the author, which was incredible. This man has a heart of gold, which he freely and faithfully has given to gang members and their families for decades. His perspective and insight about life was challenging and edifying. I plan to buy a hardcover copy of this book, because I want to read it more and often.
I happened to pick up Each Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles in a used bookstore this summer, without knowing anything about it. It’s one of those finds that surprises you in the best possible way. As I’ve been learning to allow myself to grieve the loss of my grandma, I’ve been drawn to books and movies that have people processing similar emotions. This book isn’t for just any kid. But if there’s a kiddo who is grappling with the death of a loved one and needs the perspective of another (fictional) kid, I’d recommend it.
I have quoted The Book Whisperer and referenced it a bajillion times since reading it this summer. Donalyn Miller helped me accelerate the progress I was already making in teaching reading. I felt like I was reading what I would write ten years from now – like we’re kindred reading-teacher spirits. If you need some inspiration for teaching reading to upper grades, read it!
Beauty by Robin McKinley – who doesn’t love a retelling of a good fairytale? Especially a retelling that adds depth and color to the characters and the plot! I was introduced to this book by my roommate a few years ago and just needed a good reread a couple of months ago. Gobbled it up once more and loved it all over again.
I can’t count how many times I’ve read Caps for Sale with my nieces over Skype this year 🙂 I have a limited collection of picture books to read to them, and when I give them the choice, they usually choose this one. “You monkeys, you!” For the toddlers in your life, I recommend this one!
- Longest Book: My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie. I don’t actually know the number of pages, since I listened to the audio version. However, the audio version is just over 23 hours. It took me about three different times of checking it out on Hoopla to finish it. But it became an “I have to finish it. I’ve gotten this far!” type of a challenge for me. Definitely a fascinating read. Definitely an adult read. Definitely a long read.
- A Classic: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – when a friend quoted this book in conversation, I decided to give it another try. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. However, I was drawn to reading it more than the fantasy books I’d checked out for my post-surgery recovery time, so there must be something to it. It was a thought-provoking read. However, I just don’t understand why so many classics have deranged/crazy people and lots of abuse and/or trauma in them. If anyone can explain that to me, I’m willing to listen.
- Books in Spanish! This was a huge victory for me. I finished two books in Spanish this year for the first time ever, and am working on a couple more. One was La Mujer, Arma Secreta de Dios which my women’s small group is reading at church. The other was Fríndel (a children’s chapter book) by Andrew Clements, translated into Spanish. I finished both a couple of nights ago.
What were your favorite or notable reads in 2019? Or what is one of your favorite books in general? I’m always looking for my next great read, and I’m putting together my list for the 2020 reading challenge. Comment below to share your favorite(s) of 2019!