You are going to notice right away that my "Best of 2019" list isn't nearly as long as my counterparts. Honestly, 2019 was just not a great year of reading for me. I read a lot of books, but there just weren't a ton that really stood out to me. However, the ones that I did read, made a huge impact. I will say that I have read way more non-fiction this year than I have in other years AND OVER HALF (!) of the books on my list are non-fiction! My fingers are crossed for a more successful 2020 in reading. Without further adieu, here are my six favorite books of 2019.
Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy - Wow. This book is one of the most impactful books I have ever read. What I loved about this book is Stevenson's ability to tell important stories about death row inmates while giving readers actionable steps that can be taken to advocate for people like Walter McMillian, a death row inmate who spent decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. Jen and I went to see the new movie and it was a moving adaptation. I recommend both. Check out our discussion on the book from our June 2019 Book Club Episode. This book is one of the best books I have ever read.
Beth Macy's Dopesick - Here is another non-fiction book that really knocked my socks off. Dopesick examines the opioid crisis in America, focusing on Appalachia and poor, rural communities along the I-81 corridor in Virginia and neighboring states. This book hit very close to home for me because many of these heartbreaking stories take place in towns very close to my hometown. Macy's book made me examine the way I view addiction and the role our capitalist market has had in the addiction crisis. The role of Big Pharma in this epidemic is staggering. The stories Macy intertwines into the facts about addiction and opioids in America are ones that will not be forgotten.
John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies -The Heart' Invisible Furies was one of Jen's pick for me in Episode 79. What I found in this book, as a reader, is a beautiful story of a life. We follow Cyril, the main character and narrator of the book, as he navigates a difficult upbringing in Ireland, a young adulthood coming to terms with his sexuality and what that means in the place where he lives, and ultimately the trials he encounters as he makes his way through his adult years. This book is ripe with friendships, complicated relationships, heartache, joy, and all the things in between. I loved it so much. I just wanted to hug it when I was done. It is definitely one of my top five favorite books of all time.
John Carreyrou's Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - This ripped-from-the-headlines novel follows John Carreyrou, a then investigative journalist for the The Wall Street Journal, as he investigates Theranos, a Silicon Valley Startup that skyrocketed to fame in 2014 for its revolutionary innovations in blood testing and its notorious leader, Elizabeth Holmes. This is a fascinating story of power, greed, and what happens when people become complicit in perpetuating lies.
Tracey Garvis Graves's The Girl He Used to Know - This book is told in first person in alternating perspectives, in alternating timelines. First, we meet Annika. It is 2001 in Chicago and she runs into her college boyfriend, Jonathan, who she has never quite gotten over. Jonathan, the other voice in the book, is a divorcé working a high stress job in finance. When Annika runs into Jonathan in a chance encounter at the market and finds out they have been living in walking distance of each other for years, they begin a tentative relationship to rekindle what they once had. This is a book that came for me at exactly the right moment, and I zipped right through it.
Nick Bilton's American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road - Okay. This is the last non-fiction, I promise. This book tells the tale of Ross Ulbricht, a twenty-six year old Texan who subscribed to libertarian values, who created a website on the deep web (Don’t worry--I knew very little about the deep web going in, it is not necessary to know anything about it.) that created a virtual free market for the drug (and other illegal items) trade. Think--Amazon.com for drugs and illegal contraband. What is very appealing about this narrative is that we, as readers, get a bird’s eye view of the whole rise and fall of the Silk Road (the name of Ross’s website). Not only do we learn about Ross’s story and his motivations, we also learn about the government agencies involved in the investigation surrounding the Silk Road. And it is quite a tale.
Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.
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