My 2019 Nonfiction Reading

For my final installment of reviewing my 2019 reading, I turn to nonfiction. I don’t keep a tally of how many nonfiction books I read in a given year because there are simply too many of them.

(photo via LitHub)

Between research for my own writing and all the books I’m assigned to review for a national book publishing magazine, I think my study always looks like that photo above. It’s a real treat when I get to read a work of nonfiction just because I want to.

From 2019, three really stand out–so much that I find myself thinking about them from time to time.

Saidiya Hartman’s lovely prose, flawless research, and imaginative approach make this history of the lives of young black women unforgettable.

If you’re inclined to write this off as another rehash of the Jack the Ripper story, don’t. Hallie Rubenhold’s focus on the five murdered women makes for a fascinating look at the lives of English women in the late 19th century and a compelling¬† examination of the city of London.

Stephanie Jones-Rogers’s revelation of white women’s participation in the institution of slavery is stunning.

If nonfiction is your thing, consider joining the Nonfiction Fans discussion group on Facebook. I’m one of the co-moderators.

Here’s hoping 2020 is a great reading year for everyone!


2019 Reading Continued: Mystery Series

When I looked back on my 2019 reading, I was a bit surprised to see how many mystery series I keep up with.

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For me, the best of them demonstrate interesting character development over time and have vivid settings. These were my favorites.

I’ve sung the praises of the Maisie Dobbs series before, especially with Winspear’s willingness to throw lots of changes at Maisie and make them all work out.

The American Agent: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by [Winspear, Jacqueline]

Confession: I haven’t read all the Harry Potter books. But I’ve never missed an installment of “Robert Galbraith”‘s Cormoran Strike series.

Lethal White (Cormoran Strike Book 4) by [Galbraith, Robert]

Another confession. I can take or leave Jack Reacher (who has been compared to Petrie’s main character, though I’ll read one of Lee Child’s books if I happen across it at the library and usually enjoy it), but I always make sure to pick up Petrie’s latest about Iraq war veteran Peter Ash.

Oh, how I will miss Bernie Gunther. The late Philip Kerr created a truly memorable character.

Next, I’ll wrap up with a look at nonfiction.


Novels I Liked in 2019

In addition to the six favorites from yesterday’s post, there were six novels I liked. All were written by women, though not all were necessarily published in 2019.

Image result for sally field you like me

I admired the interweaving of women’s rights history and Hollywood history.

On the evils of slavery.

A compelling tale of how the bonds of friendship stretch during trying times.

What happens to children when their mother goes away?

Sharp rather than laugh-out-loud funny, this is a clever portrayal of modern marriage.

Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel by [Brodesser-Akner, Taffy]

So many people love this book, and I found it intriguing.

Coming tomorrow, novels from my favorite mystery series.

My Favorite Novels of 2019

Welcome to 2020!

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This is the time of year when I think about my reading of the past year. In 2019, I read about 64 books. These are the ones, both fiction and nonfiction, I recorded on Goodreads and don’t include books I read for my reviewing gig or for research.

It felt like another odd reading year, mostly because it seemed like I was writing all the time. (My book on Dr. Mary Walker comes out in June, and I’m already headlong into the next one, a biography of Dale Evans.) It’s also probably because, once again, I don’t have the traditional “top ten” list. I’ve got six. (Next up will be a list of novels I liked, rather than loved, and that’s longer.)

Some observations and reminders. These are my favorites of 2019 but it doesn’t mean they were published in 2019. Female authors still outnumber male authors, and I haven’t done so well with diverse voices this time around.

So, in no particular order, my 2019 favorites:

Beautifully written, this will take most readers into a totally unfamiliar world.

A stunning portrait of Nazi-occupied France, this is based on the activities of Varian Fry’s rescue network.

Also based on real events, Whitehead delivers an absorbing account of the wide ranging destructiveness of racism.

A poignant tale of four orphans struggling through the Great Depression.

A modern classic western. With camels.

A sweeping, multi-generational family saga–I passed it by several times on the library’s new book shelf and am so glad I finally gave it a chance.


What I Read in 2018, Part 3

Happy 2019 everyone! I wish you all good things in the new year.

Image result for 2019

To finish up reviewing my 2018 year in reading, I turn to my favorite nonfiction books. Remember, these are books I read in 2018, though they may not have been published that year. Mostly absent from this list are the books I read for discussions on Nonfiction Fans on Facebook. (If you read a lot of narrative nonfiction, please join us over there. It’s a great group.) I have to learn to keep better track of those books.

Most of the nonfiction listed below is historical and most are written by women. Here they are, in the order in which I read them:

Gay writes beautifully about difficult topics.

A page-turning historical mystery.

A first-rate historical biography.

I hate cold weather but can’t get enough of stories about polar exploration. And in case you’ve missed Shapiro’s book, it’s now out in paperback.

A fascinating story, though I wish it had been more tightly edited.

The historical story of Barbara Follett was particularly interesting.

Reading this is the best way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women.

This is a beautiful book. Anyone who loves books and libraries will want to read it.

A highly readable account of the history of Jamestown.

Another fascinating book for book lovers, this one focuses on the history of paper.

Now, on to more books.