One of the most important activities in becoming a good writer is to be an active reader. Books which didn’t make a great impression on me slipped my mind, but thanks to an accessible Kindle and Audible library, my own bookshelf and an online history of books checked out of my library, I’ve compiled a list of the 33 books I’ve read this year. I’d say it’s an impressive list. The fact that I plowed through this many titles while working full time and getting over 40,000 words written for my own novel made for a productive year. My favorites for each category are starred.
Books Read for My “Book Ends” Book Club – great suggestions by all the hostesses this year followed by lively discussions, and yes, yummy appetizers and soothing glasses of wine. Looking forward to more great selections for 2019 and treasured evenings with our group. Several of us have been in the club for over 20 years!!!
JAN: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. A contemporary take on suburban life rocked by underlying dysfunctional families which keep them together and tear them apart.
*FEB: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. A favorite author delivers another winner in which she again draws upon the mother-daughter relationship. A powerful story with rich history of the Chinese tea trade. See also Books Carry You Away.
*MAR: Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. Despite a few parallels with Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, this psychological thriller pulls you in, engages the reader throughout the story with despicable characters and keeps you guessing until the very end. See also Certified.
APR: A special outing. A group of us went to dinner and then to a local appearance and reading by Lisa See. Always interesting to hear the back story of a book’s plotline and exciting to learn about Ms. See’s upcoming release in March 2019, The Island of Sea Women. Sounds like another winner in the wings. Also looking forward to another Asian based novel up for our Feb 2019 read: Pachinko.
MAY: The Brave by Nicholas Evans. A glimpse into 1950’s Hollywood and the rise of television told through the eyes of a young boy. Provoking family drama entwining multiple generations of a British family.
*JUN: Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. A non-fiction account of the 1936 US men’s crew team and their rise to Gold from the wilds of Washington state during the Great Depression. A lengthy read, but worth it. I had read it before, but listened to it on Audible for a refresh to prepare for my turn as hostess. See also Pulling Together.
JUL: Off month for summer schedules.
*AUG: The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve. Despite living in MA my entire life, I never knew a wildfire ravaged the Maine coastline in 1947. At the core of the story, relationships are burnt and lit driven by their pasts, and their futures. See also Destination Unknown #historicalfiction
*SEP: Beneath the Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. While there has been a recent avalanche of WWII novels, Sullivan gets my vote for introducing us to the real-life story of a member of the Italian resistance. Knowing the book is based on the first-hand retelling of Pino Lella’s work in the resistance and first love as a impressionable 18 year old makes the book all the more fascinating. Looking forward to hearing the story again through Audible to share it with Jim for our drive south. #historicalfiction
OCT: Monster – The Story of a Young Mary Shelley by Mark Arnold. The backstory on how and why a young woman of privileged means in the early 1800’s could write a novel like Frankenstein. Which comes first? Creativity or madness? Does one drive the other? #historicalfiction
NOV: Switch by Geoff Visgilio. A blizzard in NH kept me home, but I joined our meeting via Skype (thank you Mary W) to meet and hear the author who attended. Excited to learn he is also a Wheaton alum and self-published. A fast-paced quick read which also explores the intimacy of a relationship gone bad.
DEC: The 13th Gift – A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. Somehow I missed the sub-title when I first started reading. I thought the story was a sweet, light Christmas story – a printed version of a Hallmark movie. My opinion of the story soared when I realized it is autobiographical and the events in the book help us all find the good in others and neighborly care.
Books Read for Research – a combination of fiction and non-fiction. In no particular order with those starred as recommendations for general enjoyment.
- House of Mirth by Edith Wharton – ugh, so long and verbose!
- Murder at Astor Place by Victoria Thompson – Hallmark Channel mystery-esque
- Bachelor Girl by Kim van Alkamade – interesting read if you like baseball, too. See also The “New Woman”
- Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin* – silent film stars and the script writers of early Hollywood. Benjamin is a prolific historical fiction writer – love everything I’ve read of hers.
- As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner* – excellent presentation from multiple POVs dealing with an event less covered in novels and news, the Spanish Flu epidemic. See also Part I: Done
- Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz – YA, connected with the author in a FB group, listened to on Audible, good read for young teen girls
- An Irish Country Practice by Patrick Taylor – another entry for a Hallmark Channel serial, see also Introducing Daniel Breen
- I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon – a bit choppy writing the story in reverse but the ending was worth the roller-coaster
- Germantown in the Civil War
- Out of the Dead House
- A New and Untried Course
- Sympathy & Science
- Send Us a Lady Doctor
Books Read for Me – squeezed in a few “unassigned” pleasure books by listening to some of them on Audible during a fall filled with work travel. Is listening to a book, still reading? In no particular order with those starred as recommendations.
- How to Land a Dream Job If Your Dad Doesn’t Own the Team by Rob Thompson – a close friend from my time with Disney and an inspiration to pursue writing and self publishing
- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – after loving The Nightingale and Winter Garden, I found Hannah’s latest release too long and drawn out and can’t quite grasp the hoopla and accolades. See also Parallel Lines. #historicalfiction
- Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman – a mystery which pushed the envelope on believability which hurt the overall storyline
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens*- many similarities to The Great Alone, but much more enjoyable from a first-time fiction author. Great insights and translations of a setting defining a plot and character development. See also Parallel Lines
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – admitting to the fact I never read the book until I saw it featured on the PBS series, The Great American Read. See also Adventures in Writing
- Work It! by Carrie Kerpen – another friend from my time with Disney and an inspiration to pursue writing. See also Books Carry You Away
- Educated by Tara Westover* – in the same vein as The Glass Castle, an autobiographical rags to riches story when the riches come in the form of education
- Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate* – moving story based on facts surrounding poverty-stricken families in TN in the late 1930s woven with present-day political family power and intrigue. #historicalfiction
- Monticello: A Daughter and Her Father by Sally Cabot Gunning* – fictional account based on letters, research and visits to Monticello to tell the story of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter, Martha. See also The Writer, The Laborer #historicalfiction
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell* – my all time favorite I re-read again to share at my writers’ retreat. I loved hearing one of my fellow attendees, a gentleman from Georgia remark, “Or as it’s known in Georgia, the King James Bible” and to see it was voted as a finalist in The Great American Read, coming in #6 on the Top 100 list. See also #GreatReadPBS #historicalfiction
Finally, I abandoned two books this year, a rarity for me. Once I start a book, I want to finish it, but these didn’t hold my interest, including one which also made the top five of The Great American Read, Pride and Prejudice. The other was The Weight of Ink. Both dragged on forever. I gave them a good shot getting through at least the first quarter but had to bail.
How many of these have you read? Do we share any favorites? I’d love to hear your recommendations to build my TBR (to be read) list for 2019.
If you haven’t signed up to follow this blog yet, please do. I’ll be posting more book recommendations in 2019 along with updates on the progress of my historical fiction.
Thank you for reading this post. I invite you to follow my blog and join me on my journey toward writing my first historical fiction. More information in the Novel Synopsis. You can sign up from this page with the pop-up, or send me a note through the CONTACT page and I can email you an invitation to follow.