52 Books I Read in 2019, Charted

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

Now that 2019 is over, it’s time for my annual look back at my year in books. Man, there was so much great new fiction and nonfiction this year, and many titles remain on my “to read” list, which have rolled over to 2020. My favorites represent a mix of 2019-released books and modern classics. I struggled to prune it to ten, because I loved SO MUCH of what I read:

Book I Did NOT Like: The New Me, by Halle Butler, even though this was well-reviewed by critics. I think it was too nihilistic for me.

I didn’t have any new reading objectives this year. I tried to keep 52 books, stay committed to my book club and keep prioritizing works by women and people of color.

Picking ‘Em: Generally, I pick books by simply reading authors I already like, i.e. Roth, Jamison and Shteyngart. I also read books that publicists send me* that look different or interesting — this year, a poetry book on surveillance, Swedish lit and a lovely graphic novel by my friend Malaka. The bulk of my reading list represents recommendations from friends. It felt like a fiction-heavy year, but the data surprised me.

I spent a month in a sling and a lot of that month proned out after my shoulder injury, so that led to a burst in reading time. I also read a lot on planes, so when I was on planes more, I seemed to enjoy more reading.

Reading Habits

I still read on my Kindle, to which I really need to attach a tracking device, because I turn places upside down looking for my Kindle WAAAAY too much. As a regular habit, I try to read a chapter or a unit (story, essay etc) in a collection of a book when I first wake up in the morning, instead of first checking my phone upon waking. I binge-read a lot on planes (when I’m not watching terrible movies), in cabs and while getting pedicures.

If you’re curious, here’s my full 2019 book list.

Previous Years in Reading

2018 | 2017

Credit to Nicole Zhu, a friend and fellow book-lover who inspired me to start the 52/52 challenge a few years ago. We finally hung out, in Atlanta in August, and spent hours talking about books we read! A dream. And big thanks to my perpetually grumpy-yet-weirdly-generous spouse, Matty, who made this post’s dynamic charts in Python this year, a first for him. The code behind this is available, so you can do this with YOUR reading data. too.

*This is a perk of being an NPR journalist/host. Free, new books get mailed to you all the time by publicists.

2 thoughts on “52 Books I Read in 2019, Charted

  1. I love this list (and graphs/classification/tips), just as I did last year:-)! Incendiaries was by far the fastest and arguably the best got me last year (the [much less] fast and equally good was Grant by Ron Chernow). I’m also interested to see The Intoxication – if I remember this is really recovery material (?) – although a great read. I also loved to hear how and when you read – plane/travel is how I do most of mine too. Did you happen to read ‘Where the Crawford Sing’? I couldn’t put this down either and I believe it’s a debut (at least fictional debut) from a 70 year old – talk about amazing and inspiring!

    1. Thanks! The Intoxication is about the author’s alcoholism and her recovery journey but also, a lot more. It ended up opening up in ways beyond the recovery story, plus her writing is smooth and beautiful. Did not read “Where the Crawdad Sing” though in my long string of different types of pets I had as a child, I did also have pet crawdads, and they slept in a little makeshift tank near the head of my bed. One morning there were giant egg sacks on one of my crawdad’s hips and I realized I was about to have dozens of crawdads. That was a long non-sequitur. Sorry.

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