5 of the Best Books We’ve Read So Far This Year

BOOM! It’s July and that means we’re officially half way through 2019. My “reading goals” this year were to read more books by non-American authors, and particularly more books by French writers; to read more from diverse authors and to read at least two books a month. I set out 30 as the ideal number of books I would like to have read in 2019 since that’s just slightly over two a month. And guess what!? I just finished my 28th books (We Kissed Them With Rain by Futhi Ntshingila) so I think I’ll easily crush that goal 😉

Here’s a little summary of what I’ve been reading, some trends if you will, and the 5 books that have stood out so far.

Books by Diverse Authors

So far, I have read twelve books by diverse authors. In addition to books I already mentioned in this post, I read Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan; The Farm by Joanne Ramos; We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates (audio book); Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires and We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irb (audiobook). That last one was not my favourite…

Books by Foreign Authors

We Kiss Them with Rain by Futhi Ntshingila (South Africa) and My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Nigeria) were wild quick reads and I loved both of those.

I had more mixed feelings about North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah. He’s Somali novelist though he lives in Norway where the story takes place. Finally I did squeeze in a French book: Ta deuxième vie commence quand tu comprends que tu n’en as qu’une by Raphaëlle Giordano. It was cute. And I definitely need to read more books in French the second half of the year!

Getting to Know DEMs (aka political memoirs)

The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have books and I’m trying to read as many of them as I can, in the order that I can get them at the library. So far, I’ve listened to Cory Booker’s United; Pete Buttigieg’s Shortest Way Home and Kirsten Gillibrand’s Off the Sidelines.

They’ve all been snoozers, though Mayor Pete’s book was the best written of the bunch (you can tell he was a literature major at Harvard!) And yes, so far I’ve been able to get these as audiobook from the DC Public Library which is great since the candidates are reading their own work. Unfortunately, once I’m off the waitlist from Kamala Harris’ The Truths We Hold I will have to start getting hard copies since that’s all my library has for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro. That’s a bummer because I was really looking forward to Bernie screaming his words at me!

Speaking of presidents…. 

I read three memoirs written by former presidential aides: Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump by Dan Pfeiffer (Obama’s former communications director and current co-host of Pod Save America); From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein (she was Obama’s stenographer) and Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims. I found Beck’s book surprisingly entertaining and fun and thought the other two were duds.

… and speaking of memoirs

So I’ve read a LOT of memoirs in 2019 it seems. In addition to the six books I’ve already mentioned I also read:

  1. Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
  2. This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps **
  3. Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
  4. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
  5. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  6. We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union **
  7. Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh **
  8. Educated by Tara Westover

3 of those were audiobooks (as noted by the **) and I loved all of those except Small Fry. It came with such great reviews, I was definitely  disappointed. I loved all of the other books.

Educated, Heavy and Notes from a Young Black Chef are probably three of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Essays and Short Stories 
Essays have been my sweet spot this year, especially when I’m running. I *love* mixing it up and getting both the audiobook and hard copy versions of this type of book so I can go back and forth between the two. Read a few chapters here and there, listen to a few more during my runs. That’s really worked out for me. I Miss you when I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott is one I actually wish I had done in audio/hard cover but read exclusively. Otherwise, The View from Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior was an absolute stand out in this category for me as was Heads of the Colored People (short stories).
So if I had to pick just 5…
  1. Educated. Shocker. Like all of America I devoured this novel and loved it. I got to discuss it in my bookclub too which was interesting.
  2. Heads of the Colored People. Nafissa Thompson-Spires’s debut short story collection was the DC Public Library’s pick for DC Reads, its literacy program that promotes reading for pleasure through citywide celebrations over one book in May. I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up and I was pleasantly surprised. My only regret is that I couldn’t make it to any of the talks with the authors or discussions that were organized around the city.
  3. The View From Flyover Country: Essays by Sarah Kendzior.
  4. Notes from a Young Black Chef. I’ve read a fair amount of chef’s memoirs and they tend to be even more blend than political memoirs. Kwame’s book is absolutely an exception to that rule and I highly recommend to check it out.
  5. My Sister, the Serial Killer. Sometimes you just need a quirky, fun read and that one is just that.
Tell me about what you’ve been reading so far? Anything I should add to my reading list? As I mentioned, I’m eagerly awaiting Senator Harris’ book and until then Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala and The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai are next on my bookshelf… 
ps: I’m looking to do these updates more frequently. But until the next one, are you on goodreads? Here’s a link to my profile, let’s be book friends!