My 2019 Bookshelf

Sunday, January 19, 2020

my favorite book browsing buddy // photo creds to katie, our favorite photographer on earth. ♥

2019 can be marked as the year that I fell back in love with reading.

Growing up, I always loved to read. I've been obsessed with stories for as long as I can remember, and I think that my biggest dream will always be to sell a novel. I was lucky enough to grow up in a home with no shortage of books, and my childhood was filled with stories.

I didn't realize how drastically my five-books-a-week streak had shifted until my senior year of high school. While my elementary school records were pretty impossible to keep up with as life got crazier, I still managed to read on a fairly consistent basis throughout high school. Freshman year fed my classic literature obsession, sophomore year was all things Harry Potter, and junior year lent itself to a lot of Mary Higgins Clark novels. To this day, I still have a fantasy book on my shelf that I started in January of my senior year and never finished. I don't know if I ever will, which can't be blamed on the book in the slightest, but instead on the fact that I think a part of me just doesn't want to know how it ends at this point.

I can only beat myself up so much for the reading drought of senior year, because it was simply a season of other things. But somehow, the drought turned into a habit, and my freshman year of college wasn't much better. Reading kept getting thrown lower and lower on the totem pole. I still loved it, but I couldn't convince myself of the "value" of it. It didn't feel "productive" enough, so I wouldn't let myself. I threw myself into other things, leaving my bookshelf to gather dust.

It really wasn't until this past spring that I let myself fall back in love with reading again. On a whim, two weeks before finals, I picked up a sweet romance book that I'd been eyeing and slipped it into my bag on my way out the door. Later that day, I found myself with some free time in between classes and opened it up.

Within 24 hours, the book was finished and I was back.

- - - - -

One of my favorite parts of the blogosphere each December/January is reading everyone's reading recaps of the year. I always keep my Goodreads open in the next tab, and love adding new recommendations to my TBR (which is so infinitely long. it's eating me. help.). So, this year, I decided to join in. :-) Obviously this isn't a comprehensive list of all of the books that I read in 2019, but just some of my favorites. ♥

Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum

Sometimes I get asked to review books for work (I do social media management/event work for a local indie bookstore), and this was one of those books. I have to admit that I didn't have super high hopes going in, but I really enjoyed it overall. Hope and Other Punchlines tells the story of Abbi Hope, a teenage girl who has been living in the shadow of an iconic photo that was taken of her as a baby during the 9/11 attacks. Desperate to be someone besides "Baby Hope", she tries to give herself one perfect summer...until she meets Noah Stern, who's stupidly charming and has reasons of his own for being obsessed with that fateful day. Through a bit of blackmail, he drags her into his scheme to uncover the truth about each person in the Baby Hope photo. It's a heartwarming story of love, resilience, and lots of gummy bears that reminds you that hope is always within your grasp.


Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith

Here's where the reading kick finally came into play, in the last week of April when I should have been doing so many things besides reading a romance novel. Gotta say though, no regrets.

Field Notes on Love is basically the novel equivalent of a rom-com. Recently dumped Hugo, a British teenager desperate to figure out what he wants to do with his life, finds himself with an extra ticket for a train trip across America, a trip he was supposed to take with his longtime girlfriend, Margaret Campbell. Problem? The ticket is non-transferrable, and Hugo doesn't exactly have a litany of friends named Margaret Campbell. And so he creates an internet listing, for any Margaret Campbell up for an adventure.

Enter Mae - an aspiring filmmaker who's ready to go out on a limb. When she responds to Hugo's listing, she has no idea what to expect - but she's ready to give it a try, and in the process finds the inspiration that she's been so desperate for.

It's a sweet book, funny and heartwarming. It's a book about adventure and family and finding your place in the world. Jennifer Smith has a fun, quirky style that I always love when I just need a break from the stress (as you'll see by how many of her books made it onto this list).


100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

You know that there was no way I was writing up a post about the books of 2019 without mentioning 100 Days of Sunlight. I will forever be obsessed with this one. You may have already seen my post about this beautiful debut novel, but if not, let me fill you in.

100 Days of Sunlight tells the story of teenage blogger Tessa Dickenson. After Tessa is involved in a car accident, she finds herself completely blind. Doctors have hope that her sight will return in a little over three months, but for the time being, Tessa is trapped in a world of darkness. She's bitter and doesn't know how to cope with this new way of life. She's no longer able to write, and she doesn't see how life can hold any beauty for her any longer. 


Enter Weston Ludovico. When Tessa's grandparents place an ad for someone to come and help Tessa maintain her poetry blog while she is without her sight, amputee Weston decides that he just might be the right person for the job. He gets what Tessa is going through even when she feels like no one does, and thinks that he can help her. His one condition? Tessa can't know that he lost his legs. 

Slowly, Weston coaxes Tessa out of the darkness she's trapped herself in, far darker than any blindness. But when Tessa's sight slowly begins to return, is Weston ready to be seen?

I love this book I love this book I love this book. It is everything I could want in a novel, written by one of the most incredible humans on this earth. At its very core, it is a book about hope and light and falling but getting back up again. It's about strength and about sunlight, and about realizing that your only real limitation in life is yourself. I can honestly say that I've never read a book as hopeful as 100 Days of Sunlight, and that is without a doubt my favorite thing about it. If you're in a place right now where you feel like you're running out of options, or that things are never going to get better, or that you don't know how to pick yourself back up - this is the book for you.

(It also has the most precious hate to love romance, the cutest small town setting, and involves waffles and polaroids and summertime adventures. It's an absolute blessing of a book and I need you to read it right now.) 

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini

You knew that you couldn't have a book-related post from me without World War II fiction. Resistance Women tells the story of three women and the roles that they played in trying to take down the Nazis in WWII era Berlin. What I really liked about this one is that most of the book actually took place prior to the war, so you could see how it all built up. The differing perspectives take you everywhere from an American woman living in Germany, German natives of both high and low classes, and a Jewish woman caught in the midst of the Nazi rise. It's not an easy read - my longest book of the year at over 600 pages, and so many different storylines that it can be hard to keep track, and it starts off a bit slow. But once it gets going - hang on, because you are in for a ride. It was genuine and raw and heartbreaking, and gives you a really unique look into such a devastating time.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Oh look, another WWII book! This one was majorly hyped both online and at the store, and I was so excited to finally get my hands on a copy. It didn't disappoint. It tells the breathtaking true story of Lale, a Slovakian Jew forced to work as the TΓ€toweirer of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. It's a beautiful story about one of the darkest places in human history, and it's incredible to read about the sacrifice, love, and strength of the people imprisoned there. It's one of those books that blows you away because it feels so impossible that it could all be true.


The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

This is quite possibly my favorite book of the year. I grabbed it on a whim at work one day, and brought it with me on a day trip, which was probably a horrible idea, because I couldn't focus on anything else but this book. The Stationery Shop is a story of love amidst revolution, of family, relationships, upheaval, and hope. It takes place in Iran, and is beautifully evocative in its description of the setting and of the culture. The characters are as real as old friends, and the book is so well-written that you'll never want to put it down. There just are not enough words for this book. It is brilliant and it is poignant and it is beautiful and it is heartbreaking. It is stunning in its intricacy, the story haunting and heartwrenching. It made me want to cry, which, if you know me, says a lot right there. Painfully realistic, with a thread of hope and the amazement that everything always seems to come full circle in the end. I couldn't get enough of it. It's already back in the stack of books on my nightstand, begging for a reread. Seriously - read. this. book.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

I told you that you'd find a lot of Jennifer Smith books sprinkled throughout this recap. :-) I have to say that out of all of her books that I read over the year, this was probably my favorite. It is just so, so good. It tells the story of Hadley and Oliver, two teenagers struggling through the difficulty and mess of family who, due to a missed flight, end up navigating the chaos of JFK and an overnight flight to London together.

As the synopsis says, who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Jennifer Smith really did a beautiful job with this book. It takes place over a 24 hour period, and while normally I hate "insta-love", the story just flowed so naturally. The characters were so developed and nuanced, the story intelligent. I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

Resurgence by K.A. Emmons

This is another one that you've definitely heard me scream about already, but it's time for round two, because this book is just too good.

The final book installment in The Blood Race trilogy (OR SO WE WERE TOLD), Resurgence is one of the best finale books I've ever read. I typically find myself disappointed with the endings to series, but this book could not have been more perfect. Seeing each character's arc come to a close was bittersweet, like saying goodbye to an old friend. But they were just woven together so brilliantly. The whole book itself was a work of brilliance, really. It completely exceeded my expectations. The allegory and themes were stunning, and I love that every single person who reads it is going to get a little something different out of it. I already want to read it again, and you definitely need to pick it up, too.


If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher

The first nonfiction favorite of the year!! You all know by now that I love Hannah Brencher, and I was so excited to dive into her first book after receiving it as a birthday gift this summer.

If you don't know, Hannah is the creator of More Love Letters, a nonprofit organization that specializes in sending bundles of love letters to people who need a reminder of love and of hope. If You Find This Letter tells the story of how a lonely season in New York City turned Hannah's life upside down, and sparked a movement that's impacted so many people.

Hannah has the most comfortable writing style, and I love her ability to make you laugh and punch you in the heart within the same paragraph. It's impossible not to relate to her as she navigates the ups and downs of unknowns after college. I will forever read anything that she writes, and this book most certainly did not disappoint.


The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

I read a lot of historical fiction, but this quickly climbed to the top of my favorites list. The majority of WWII fiction revolves around the camps, but this gave a new perspective - the kindertransports system, run by Truus, a woman unable to bear children herself who is determined to get all of the Jewish children safely out of Austria. It's one of those rare books with multiple storylines that keeps you engrossed in every single page, and leaves you in awe of the people who fought not only for their own lives, but for the lives of every single person that they possibly could. This book will keep you hooked until the final page, and will make you hold the kids in your life a bit more tightly.


Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris

I still remember the day that I happened upon this book. I was going through a pile of ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) and the bookstore, logging them in the computer system, when I grabbed this one out of the stack. The cover intrigued me, and the author's name was familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. Naturally, I flipped it over to read the synopsis, only to be met by the words, "From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz... "

I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty sure that I squealed. As I mentioned earlier, I loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz, and up until that point I had no idea that a sequel was even in the works. A very happy surprise, indeed. :-)

I ended up devouring all 400 pages of this book on a long car ride, and while I have to say that I didn't love it quite as much as The Tattooist of Auschwitz, it really was an incredible story, made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that, again, it was true. 

The book follows Cilka, a young girl who was forced into sleeping with an Auschwitz commandant in order to survive. When Auschwitz is liberated, it appears that she is finally free - until she's charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy (despite the fact that it was rape), and is sent to a prison camp in Siberia. 

Cilka's Journey follows her life in Siberia, and her struggle for survival. It's a gutting book, and while I didn't think it was quite as well-written as Morris's first, it's such an important, poignant story. 

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker

It had been a while since I'd read a middle grade book, but I snagged an ARC of this one at work and fell in love. It's a sweet story that takes place in SoHo in the 80's, and revolves Olympia, a twelve-year-old girl who doesn't know what to do when her dad disappears and her mom won't get out of bed. It's a story filled to the brim with art, so vividly written that I felt like the book was bursting with color. And I loved how perfectly written Olympia's voice was - it had all of the honest charm of a twelve-year-old, and at the same time was so poignant and profound. It's a beautiful story of family, friendship, mental health, creativity, and love, and it made me very grateful that I dove back into middle grade.

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

What happens when two of the unluckiest kids in the world suddenly win the lottery?

Windfall is the story of Alice and Teddy, best friends who haven't had the easiest time in life. Alice's parents died just a year apart from each other when she was a child, and Teddy's dad walked out, leaving his family to deal with his gambling debts. So when Alice buys Teddy a winning lottery ticket for his birthday, it seems like the luckiest thing in the world - until suddenly, all of the change doesn't feel quite so lucky.

I loved Alice and Teddy's friendship. It was so genuine and sweet. The character dynamics in this book were wonderful. Windfall is a book about family, and what that looks like when it has to take a new shape. It's about luck and love, about growing up and finding your place. It was a really sweet book, a quick read that I loved.


Come Matter Here by Hannah Brencher 

I will never stop singing the praises of Come Matter Here. This book.

If I could give everyone in the world a copy of it, I would. Full of all of the wisdom that Hannah Brencher so beautifully shares, Come Matter Here is about staying where your feet are. it's about intentionality and doing hard things and not letting fear write your story. It's about figuring out what home really is, and finding the people who pick you up from the airport. It's about relationship - with God, and with the people that He gives us to love and to fight for.

I had to keep a notebook with me the entire time that I was reading this book, because it is just so. dang. good. Hannah is the queen of truth bombs, and I just want to tattoo this entire book on my heart and on my walls. No matter where you are in life, I promise, this book holds something for you. Read it. Read it. Read it.

- - - - -

Books are a special form of magic, I think. I finished up my second of the year last night - Little Women. It had been far too long since I'd visited the March sisters, and all of the hype for the movie made me want to dive back into their world. 

The reading kick isn't going to be slowing down anytime soon, either. This semester, I'm taking a Young Adult Lit class, and we have a project that involves reading 25 books of our choice over the course of the semester. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly intimidated, but for the most part I am just so incredibly excited. So if you have any recommendations to send my way for that, please do! I have a lot of reading to do. :-)

What about you? What were your favorite reads of 2019? Did we have any of the same favorites? What are you looking forward to diving into in 2020? Let's have allll the bookish chats in the comments below! 

11 comments:

  1. BOOKS!!!! I have yet to read any of these but I am adding some to my TBR! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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      Delete
  2. I've only read one book out of all of these: 100 Days of Sunlight (I LOVED it, haha)!! All of the rest of these novels sounds so precious... The Stationery Shop and Come Matter Here really intrigued me. :) Thanks for all the lovely book recs! <333

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  3. I want to pick up so many of these, they sound like really good reads! ♡

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  4. My TBR just expanded by several sizes. (Like literally. Every single book I haven't read from this list is on my TBR now). So excited to dive into these! <3

    (we should do a buddy read sometime!)
    Hanne || losingthebusyness.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have already made a list for 2020, but now I want to add more to it! *resists temptation*
    All in all, I’d say we did pretty good reading the same books. 4/14! I was going to read “If You Find this Letter” but then “Come Matter Here” came out and I was like, “I really think I need this message first.”

    I’m excited to maybe squeeze in “The Stationary Shop” this year! I love books set in the Middle East.

    xoxo
    k.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love hearing about how people fell back in love with reading! I have to check out all the books you mentioned that I haven't read. Happy reading in 2020!

    ReplyDelete
  7. BRB ADDING ALL OF THESE TO MY TBR FOR 2020 😍
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    WHAT'S THAT CRYING SOBBING PILE IN THE CORNER?? OH IT'S JUST ME, AFTER READING WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT 100 DAYS

    πŸ˜­πŸ’–πŸ˜­πŸ’–πŸ˜­πŸ’–
    love you sO FREAKING MUCH

    xxAbbie

    ReplyDelete
  8. I NEED A LOVE SPELL THAT WILL MANIFEST WITHIN 24 HOURS CONTACT (DR JUMBA ) HE HIS THE BEST LOVE SPELL CASTER WHO HELPED ME RESTORE HAPPINESS BACK TO MY RELATIONSHIP 
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    website :  http://wiccalovespelltools.website2.me/ 
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    ReplyDelete
  9. It was nice hearing from you. It has been a long time. I,too love historical novels. I would highly recommend "MY DEAR HAMILTON" also "AMERICA'S FIRST DAUGHTER". Some of my favorite books I read in 2019 are: "Saint Katherine Drexel Friend Of The Oppressed","Murder IN An Irish Village","Good Saint Joseph","The Hedge School","Killing The SS","The Saint Patrick's Day Parade","Dear Harp Of My Country","Adventures Of The NorthWoods" books 1-10,"Wives and Daughters","Jennie McGrady Mysteries" books 1-5,"The Matchmakers Of Huckleberry Hill" books 1-9.
    Marilyn

    ReplyDelete
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