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.

Image result for jessica fletcher

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!

Image result for happy new year 2020

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 2

I read twelve books in 2018 that I really liked. Female authors are heavily represented in this list. I know I said in the last post that one male author would make an appearance on this list, but I decided at the last minute to add a few more books, so there are actually two and a half men. The half is because of Charles Todd, who is actually a mother/son writing team.

So here they are, in kind of an eclectic arrangement.

The two novels that had the most interesting structures to go along with their stories were

I loved the way Louisa Hall got into the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer.


I know everyone was talking about this book last year. I avoided it for a while because of all the hype, worried that it wouldn’t live up to it. I liked it, especially Saunders’s style.

Two other works of historical fiction I really liked were

A lovely take on the civil rights movement.

Transcription: A Novel by [Atkinson, Kate]

Nice World War II spy drama, though the twist didn’t quite work for me.

My two favorite family stories were

Stunning characters.


I have to admit I picked up Lee’s book for its brilliant cover, but I stayed for the story.

The rest of my favorites were the latest installments in mystery series that I follow.

Paretsky is still at the top of her game.

The most chilling title of the year.

The Maisie Dobbs series keeps getting better because of Winspear’s excellent work with character development.

Ian Rutledge is still a favorite character.

I never not want to know what Peter Ash is up to.

Ah, that little village.

Up next, nonfiction of 2018.