The Best Books I Read (and Loved!) in 2019
It’s been a few years since I’ve done a year-end book list, and I don’t know why…because talking about the books we’ve read is so much fun! At the end of this post, I’d love for you to leave a comment with some (or all!) of your favorite reads of 2019.
But before I share my list, a quick note on quality over quantity. 😉
At the beginning of this year, I set my goal on Goodreads to read 40 books and surpassed my goal by reading 52. Not bad!
Maybe that number seems high—you feel accomplished reading 10 books all year! Or maybe you cruise through 80 or 90 books and my number seems fairly small and insignificant. We all have different lives that allow for different reading times.
Reading is not a competition. No matter how many books you plow through in a year, I always want to encourage you to read consistently and intentionally. Quality over quantity!
In fact, reading 3 books well (that you thoroughly enjoy and particularly with non-fiction, implement) is a hundred times better than reading 50 books you barely remember.
Alright! Now that my little pep talk is out of the way, I’m thrilled to share some of my favorite books with you, including historical memoirs, a delightful time-travel series, and productivity books that will motivate you for 2020.
Get your To-Be-Read List ready—I have some incredible recommendations coming up!
5-Star Reads of 2019
If I’m going to give a book five stars, the story needs to be one I can’t put down OR the scenes/experiences should move me emotionally—so much so that I’m thinking about the book long after the final page.
These are the books I highly recommend and think everyone should add to their Want to Read list!
Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill
As a fan of The Lost Girl on Astor Street, I could not wait for Stephanie to publish her latest novel. Filled to the brim with well-written prose, the author gives you an inside look into the haunting (and historically accurate) events of the Japanese internment, but she does so through the eyes of fictional characters. I would only skip this book if you struggle with emotional scenes.
Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
I highly recommend every business owner (no matter how big or small) have a copy of this book on their shelves! Donald shares his high-converting formula to show potential clients why they should care about what you have to offer them. Hint: You’ll see the most success when you treat people as the hero and position yourself as their guide.
The River of Time Series by Lisa T. Bergren
Two books out of this five-book series made it onto my 5-star list. I could not put them down … and then I didn’t want the story to end! This series follows two girls who fall through a time-portal into the middle of a medieval battle scene. Sound a little far-fetched? Maybe. But I guarantee you’ll want to relive these scenes over and over again.
The Lacemaker by Laura Frantz
Laura is such a beautiful writer. Truly! I’ve enjoyed all her books, but this one especially. After losing her home and accused of being a spy for the British, Liberty isn’t sure where her true roots lie—with her Loyalist family, or with the dashing Patriot who is slowly stealing her heart.
The Remnant Chronicles by Mary Pearson
Two of the three books in this series also landed on my 5-star list. Usually I’m able to predict an ending, but not in this series, especially in the first book, Kiss of Deception! Who will win Lia’s heart? The Prince or the Assassin? And who will she choose in the end?
I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers
Everyone in America should read this book. Really! Written by both a Democrat and Republican, these two ladies share what it really means to have a productive conversation around civil discourse. I think about all the practical takeaways often when I encounter those who disagree with each other—in person and online.
Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis
This thru-hike account on the Appalachian Trail was SO much better than A Walk in the Woods! Jennifer (trail name: Odyssa) records her adventure section by section including all the obstacles and surprises she experiences along the way. I was so inspired by her grit and determination and felt like I was traveling alongside her, except one major difference: I could experience everything through her eyes from the comfort of my couch.
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
This book is the best primer you’ll find on the Enneagram, the most insightful personality framework I’ve ever experienced! I reference this book regularly to understand myself and other people better.
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
This is another riveting, yet heart-wrenching story based on true events—one that follows the life of a teenage boy who helped Jews escape out of Italy, then became a driver for one of Adolf Hitler’s most powerful Nazi commanders. Warning: there are some disturbing scenes in this book as well.
Educated by Tara Westover
Tara openly shares her story in this beautiful memoir about how she grew up in a survivalist family who refused to send their children to hospitals–or to school. As a result, Tara never stepped foot inside a classroom until she was 17, but she later earned her PhD. Her story weaves a delicate balance of truth and respect, and above all, proves that no matter your past—no matter your education—you have the power to change your future.
Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin
This is an excellent resource! Jen Wilkin does an exceptional job explaining how to study the Bible for ourselves BEFORE picking up commentaries, listening to podcasts on the passage, etc. My biggest takeaway: It is crucial to understand who God is (and the bigger picture of what the Bible has to say) in order to correctly interpret its meaning for us.
The Grace Year by Kim Liggett
My sister gifted this YA Dystopian novel to me for Christmas and I read it in two days! In this Handmaid’s Tale meets Hunger Games storyline, you’ll get an inside look into what 16-year old girls do when left alone on an island for one year…their grace year.
4-Star Reads of 2019
A 4-star rating means the book was pretty good and had some interesting takeaways, but it wasn’t one I would gush over to a friend.
- Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz
- Three Wishes by Lisa T. Bergren
- Four Winds by Lisa T. Bergren
- The Minimalist Way by Erica Layne
- Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews
- Embers of Love by Tracie Peterson
- The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz
- Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup
- A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV by Alyssa Padgett
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
- A Loyal Heart by Jody Hedlund
- In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
- Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus
- Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean Sasson
- Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
- Love Story by Karen Kingsbury
3-Star Reads of 2019
A 3-star review is not terrible, but to me, it means a book is easily forgettable. I can take them or leave them.
- The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer
- The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
- Eat that Frog! by Brian Tracy
- A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden
- Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
- Love Unexpected by Jody Hedlund
- Summer of Promise by Amanda Cabot
- The Colonel’s Lady by Laura Frantz
- Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler
- Bourne by Lisa T. Bergren
- Tributary by Lisa T. Bergren
- Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael Ghiglieri
- Shadow off Night by Deborah Harkness
- How to Write Copy that Sells by Ray Edwards
- The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
- A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. Whtie
- Finding Father Christmas & Engaging Father Christmas by Robin Jones Gunn
2-Star Reads of 2019
A book with a 2-star rating means I had to force myself to finish it. The first book on this list took me months to plow through! The second one did not wow me at all.
- The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Side Note: Surprisingly, I had no 1-star reads or did-not-finish titles this year! But I’m never afraid to stop reading a book if it doesn’t live up to the hype and isn’t worth the time I’d invest in finishing it. So this is me giving you permission to do the same!
If you’re curious, I track all of my books on Goodreads so I can see my progress toward my reading goal (and house all of my many lists!), but this year I also used a printable from The Brainbook Printable Library to be more intentional about the types of books I read! I loved filling in my “bookshelf” after finishing each book.
I hope you enjoy picking up some of these books yourselves, especially if our literary styles are a match made in heaven! You also might be interested in How to Know What to Read Next (Every Time).
What was your favorite book from 2019?
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I also really enjoyed Beneath a Scarlet Sky and Educated from your list! Some of my favorites I read this year were Before We Were Yours, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Where the Crawdads Sing, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Looking forward to the Grace Year from your list! Happy New Year!
That’s a great list Jessica! Here’s to a 2020 full of more books. 😁
If you like American history, I really enjoyed “George Washington’s Secret Six.” It is non-fiction account of Washington’s spies during the Revolutionary War. Being a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), I found it fascinating. I had never known about these men and women who were instrumental in our winning the war.
So this is going on my list because….SPIES! I love stories about espionage. Thanks so much for the recommendation.