Books I Read in 2019 (all 88 of them…)

I just realized my last book recommendations post was over a year ago! What the heck?! I swore I wrote a 2019 book recap post but alas, it appears I did not.

A friend recently demanded suggested that I write another book recommendation post, so here I go! I’m going to do a 2019 recap post first, and then I’ll do a post on the best books I’ve read this year (pandemic reading! yay!). Better late than never is my life motto today and always.

It looks like I read 88 books in 2019. 12 more than I read in 2018! I credit a healthy dose of insomnia and a lot of breastfeeding / newborn cuddling.

I acknowledge that this list isn’t *SUPER* helpful in determining what to read because I’m not including info about the books. There is no way I’m going to do summaries / recaps of all 88! However, if you’re looking for something to read, just peruse the lists of 5, 4, and 3 star books and pick one to read! The 4 and 5 star books are seriously really good. I’m including the authors in case those are helpful to you.

If you want a specific list of book recommendations, leave me a comment or DM me on Instagram.

The best books I read in 2019

Book Recommendations (From What I Read in 2019):

* Ranking system: 5 stars – I loved it and would recommend it to anyone who asked. 4 stars – It was worth reading but it wasn’t as life-changing as other books I read. 3 stars – I was entertained but I wouldn’t tell someone to go out of their way to read it. (In most cases, these are page-turner fiction books that I enjoyed but which didn’t leave a lasting impression on me.) 2 stars – I wouldn’t recommend it at all. 1 star – A complete waste of my time. In many cases I don’t finish/record 1 star books.

** Summaries of books taken from Amazon, because they do it better than I can.

*** Listed in no particular order within the ratings.

5 Stars

Tiger Woods (Jeff Benedict)

The #1 New York Times bestseller based on years of reporting and interviews with more than 250 people from every corner of Tiger Woods’s life—this “comprehensive, propulsive…and unsparing” (The New Yorker) biography is “an ambitious 360-degree portrait of golf’s most scrutinized figure…brimming with revealing details” (Golf Digest).

In 2009, Tiger Woods was the most famous athlete on the planet, a transcendent star of almost unfathomable fame and fortune living what appeared to be the perfect life. But it turned out he had been living a double life for years—one that exploded in the aftermath of a Thanksgiving night crash that exposed his serial infidelity and sent his personal and professional lives over a cliff. In this “searing biography of golf’s most blazing talent” (GOLF magazine), Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian dig deep behind the headlines to produce a richly reported answer to the question that has mystified millions of sports fans for nearly a decade: who is Tiger Woods, really?

Drawing on more than four hundred interviews with people from every corner of Woods’s life—many of whom have never spoken about him on the record before—Benedict and Keteyian construct a captivating psychological profile of a mixed race child programmed by an attention-grabbing father and the original Tiger Mom to be the “chosen one,” to change not just the game of golf, but the world as well. But at what cost? Benedict and Keteyian provide the starling answers in this definitive biography that is destined to linger in the minds of readers for years to come.

Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens)

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.

Born a Crime (Trevor Noah)

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Talking to Strangers (Malcolm Gladwell)

How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true? 

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed – scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout”. 

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world. 

East of Eden (John Steinbeck)

The masterpiece of Steinbeck’s later years, East of Eden is a work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love’s absence. Adapted for the 1955 film directed by Elia Kazan introducing James Dean and read by thousands as the book that brought Oprah’s Book Club back, East of Eden has remained vitally present in American culture for over half a century.

4 Stars

A Man In Full (Tom Wolfe)

Rush (Lisa Patton)

Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)

The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran)

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (Laura Markham)

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings (Laura Markham)

Dumplin’ (Julie Murphy)

Puddin’ (Julie Murphy)

How To Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind (Dana White)

The Secret Life of Violet Grant (Beatriz Williams)

The Perfect Couple (Elin Hilderbrand)

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret (Craig Brown)

The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss)

Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly)

The Stranger In The Woods (Michael Finkel)

Daisy Jones & The Six (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

Juliet’s School of Possibilities (Laura Vanderkam)

Small Fry (Lisa Brennan-Jobs)

Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer)

The Gown (Jennifer Robson)

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Lori Gottlieb)

Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie)

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman)

Ask Again, Yes (Mary Beth Keane)

123 Magic for Christian Parents (Thomas Phelan)

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland (Patrick Radden Keefe)

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog (Dave Barry)

Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor E Frankl)

Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)

3 Stars

All We Ever Wanted (Emily Giffin)

Chances Are… (Richard Russo)

Lost Roses (Martha Hall Kelly)

The Unhoneymooners (Christina Lauren)

Mrs Everything (Jennifer Weiner)

The Wife (Alafair Burke)

Nine Perfect Strangers (Liane Moriarty)

The Secrets of Midwives (Sally Hepworth)

The Last Time I Lied (Riley Sager)

The Kiss Quotient (Helen Hoang)

The Kind Worth Killing (Peter Swanson)

Home Front (Kristin Hannah)

Winter Garden (Kristin Hannah)

Camino Island (John Grisham)

All These Beautiful Strangers (Elizabeth Klehfoth)

Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

The Queen of Hearts (Kimmery Martin)

Inheritance (Dani Shapiro)

The Sisters Brothers (Patrick deWitt)

Tiny Little Thing (Beatriz Williams)

Along the Infinite Sea (Beatriz Williams)

Heartland (Sarah Smarsh)

The Postnatal Depletion Cure (Oscar Serrallach)

This Will Only Hurt A Little (Busy Philipps)

Listen to the Marriage (John Jay Osborn Jr)

The Hating Game (Sally Thorne)

One Day in December (Josie Silver)

Then She Was Gone (Lisa Jewell)

The Last Mrs Parrish (Liv Constantine)

Ugly Love (Colleen Hoover)

When All Is Said (Anne Griffin)

Save Me the Plums (Ruth Reichl)

The Last Romantics (Tara Conklin)

City of Girls (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Now That You Mention It (Kristan Higgins)

Miracle Creek (Angie Kim)

2 Stars

Unsheltered (Barbara Kingsolver)

Roomies (Christina Lauren)

Meet Cute (Helena Hunting)

Zero Day (Mark Russinovich)

The Peacock Emporium (Jojo Moyes)

99 Percent Mine (Sally Thorne)

The Wife (Meg Wolitzer)

The Dinner List (Rebecca Serle)

Maybe In Another Life (Taylor Jenkins Reid)

The Wife Between Us (Greer Hendricks)

Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)

A Spark of Light (Jodi Picoult)

All Your Perfects (Colleen Hoover)

The River (Peter Heller)

Never Have I Ever (Joshilyn Jackson)

1 Star

The Mister (E.L James)

Phew, I hope that at least gives you some reading inspiration until I release a new list of maybe-helpful recommendations! Instead of making ‘to read’ lists, I just add all of the books that look interesting to my library hold list directly. It helps that I now read almost exclusively on my Kindle so they get delivered to me without the library actually needing to be open. If you’re a Kindle user and aren’t using the app ‘Libby’, look into it, ASAP!

Happy Reading!

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Making changes, because Black Lives Matter

Life is heavy lately. I was already worn out by all things pandemic and now I’m grieving about all of the recent events (and hundreds of years of events) towards our Black community. There was yet another murder this weekend – another one! My brain is spinning because I want to do all of the things to educate myself, my children, and figure out what I can (realistically) do to help end systematic racism in our country (and world). It is such necessary work.

Here are some helpful resources I’ve found been directed to:

+ Podcasts which have done a great job about covering current events: Code SwitchPantsuit Politics, The Daily, First Name Basis

+ One of my favorite books of all time, which has changed the way I think about our justice system: Just Mercy

+ The book I read with our church group. It led to some good discussions: White Awake

+ Next on my to-read list because of all of the recommendations: White Fragility (although I have also heard that we should be buying/reading more books on racism by Black authors, and the author of this book is White)

+ Next on my to-watch list because it’s been highly recommended by friends: 13TH

+ The book I purchased for my kids because a friend said it was awesome: A Kids Book About Racism 

+ A great resource for parents (with very helpful book lists & articles) that is worth supporting via Patreon: The Conscious Kid  (their Instagram is also excellent with a lot of free resources)

+ How I’m purchasing books to support local businesses (specifically Semicolon in Chicago, Chicago’s only black-woman owned Bookstore): Bookshop

+ The organization I heard about when I read ‘Just Mercy’ years ago, and which I have been donating to ever since: Equal Justice Initiative

+ An article worth reading: When All Of This Is Over: On The Narrative Of Protest And Progress

+ A post on systemic racism (race & Christianity) by Tim Keller: Racism and Corporate Evil – A White Guy’s Perspective

While I know this list is far from complete, it’s my starting point and I hope it provides you with some ideas to keep moving forward! This movement is a marathon, not a sprint, and if every week we just do a bit more, we’ll get there. (There: equality. peace. permanent change. the end of systemic racism.)

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I’m good. We’re good.

Where I live (near Seattle) was among the first areas in the US to start social physically distancing, which means we’ve been doing this for almost two months. I honestly can’t believe it’s been that long!

A part of me is very over it, but a part of me is also enjoying the slowness of life right now.

Here’s what we’ve been doing:

+ Spending time outside. The girls go to nearby hiking trails or parks for a few hours every morning with Lilly (our au pair) while Tim and I work from home. I take the girls outside in the afternoons to bike ride around the neighborhood. If our friends are out around that time, we get to say hi and chat for a bit!

+ Playing games. We’ve been playing memory games which we all love. Honestly, even when I try my hardest I almost never win, which is what keeps it fun for me! (Sidenote: where did my memory go?! Am I just too distracted? Did having babies destroy my brain!? I am consistently beaten by a three year old!)

+ Gardening. I decided to convince myself that I love gardening as a hobby and it worked! I never ever ever EVER thought I’d enjoy gardening, but here we are. There is something very satisfying about weeding and pruning and nurturing my plants! Who would have thought?  I am now watching YouTube videos on how to prune every plant in our yard and am loving all of it. Times are weird, guys.

+ Connecting with friends. I’m so thankful for technology and the ability to see so many of our friends and family members through screens! Sure, it does not replace seeing each other in person, but it has allowed me to meet with Bible study groups, moms groups, my coworkers, and of course our family and friends who live both near and far away.

+ Baking. I currently have a sourdough bread starter on my counter. If you aren’t baking sourdough bread, are you even living during a pandemic?

+ Wearing whatever we want. I am currently wearing a ‘real’ shirt but pajama bottoms. I might put on real pants at some point today… but I might not! My girls, however, love getting dressed in their fanciest outfits or craziest clothes combos. I just let it all happen… tank tops in 50 degree weather? Sure. Fancy dresses for sitting around on the couch? Go for it. Winter coat and boots to ride bikes in the sunshine? Why not.

+ Talking to neighbors. Our neighbors are wonderful and we’ve been seeing them a bit more lately! I’ve mentioned this before, but I love sitting in the front yard while the girls play so that our neighbors see our family and will stop and say hello. It’s a great way to meet people with minimal effort. With so many people walking around these days (and no one being in a rush!), I’ve been able to have quite a few conversations with people I normally just wave to.

Whether you’re doing all of the things or just trying to survive during this chaos, I hope you’re well!

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Two Birthdays + Easter Celebrations

Dusting off the ol’ keyboard to write a blog post! Woohooo! Even though it seems like I should have all of this extra time to sit down and write (ha!) really my time has been completely taken up by work and trying to have fun with my girls and also surviving and ensuring my family keeps eating… you know, all of the things.

But the last few weeks have been extra busy because we have been CELEBRATING!

First, it was my birthday.

(Sidenote: do any of you remember a year ago when I was 39 weeks pregnant on my birthday and my OB wanted me to schedule the c-section and I couldn’t decide whether to do it right around my birthday or whether I should wait? It seems like yesterday! I ended up waiting until I was 40 weeks pregnant to have my c-section.) My birthday was (surprisingly!) just about perfect this year. First I woke up to the house being decorated by the girls. Blue streamers were everywhere and Clara and Isabelle were so proud of their handiwork. After a pancake breakfast I went urban hiking with my older two girls & Lilly (our au pair). There was minimal complaining and it was so nice to be out in some trees for a bit.

Then, in the afternoon Tim and I left for a “short” bike ride on the Burke Gilman Trail. If you don’t know me, let me tell you something about myself: Once I embark on something like a ‘short bike ride’ I just keep going and going because I love it so much and then before I know it we’re on a 23 mile bike ride. Tim said he knew this would happen because he quickly realized that I had no plan of where to turn around so he accepted the fact we’d pretty much just continue forever. He wasn’t wrong.

Once we finally returned from our journey we ordered out takeout from my favorite vegetarian restaurant (Cafe Flora) and the girls gave me handmade gifts they had crafted with Lilly’s help. It was just so sweet. Plus I got some gifts from loved ones and heard from a bunch of friends throughout the day. I felt very loved!

Then, a week later, it was Phoebe’s birthday!

We ate birthday pancakes. We blew up and played with balloons. We ate cake and ice cream. It was basically a very normal day, but special because my newborn turned ONE! I just can’t believe it. Although now when I look at her I realize she’s big and not quite that squishy baby I brought home from the hospital. The girls were oh-so-thrilled to be celebrating their little sister, which was so sweet to witness.

Finally, Easter!

Of course it was disappointing not being able to go to church and do an egg hunt with friends, but I love low key holidays so I thought the day went well! It was our first year hiding eggs in our own yard and Tim and I were unprepared, per usual. We filled those eggs with coins and old Halloween candy and we threw them around the yard the night before Easter. We had such a fun time hiding the eggs! Then the next morning we slept in, watched church in our pajamas, had an egg hunt in the backyard, ate salmon & scalloped potatoes & veggies for dinner, and I even whipped up some rosemary bread – because I was clearly feeling extra ambitious. I also tried and failed to get a family photo (multiple times throughout the day), so I may get everyone back in their holiday attire later this week to try again. We shall see. But everything else was relatively successful!

At this point I’m finding it helpful to focus on the celebrating we CAN do instead of thinking about what I COULD be doing in some alternate reality where we aren’t under a stay-at-home order. I’m trying to find the good and the FUN in every single day, and it’s been fun to have a few days of celebrations and holidays as an excuse to do some special activities.

I hope you’re each doing well! I’ll pop in soon to talk about the “physical distancing” life in general, but until then I hope you stay healthy and safe and sane and find some excuse for some fun and excitement!

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Adventuring with Kids: Skiing in Whistler

Late last month we spent five glorious days vacationing spending time in Whistler. It was our family + au pair (Lilly) and I think we finally have this ski vacation thing down. We’ve gone to Whistler for ski trips three times now (here’s a quick post from last time, 2 years ago), and Park City once.

Traveling to Whistler: How to Plan A Fun Ski Vacation With Young Kids

Here are some tips for you if you are planning a (winter) trip to Whistler with kids:

+ Plan ahead! Ski vacations aren’t the time to be spontaneous. I would look at your schedule and figure out how many days you want to ski and how many you want to just hang out in the snow and explore the area. Then I’d sign up for childcare (if needed).

Traveling to Whistler: How to Plan A Fun Ski Vacation With Young Kids

+ Take advantage of Whistler’s Childcare if your kid is over 18 months old for about $125 per day.

+ Take advantage of Whistler Babysitting if your kid is under 18 months old or if you have multiple kids. This year the rate is $20 per hour + $4 extra per hour per extra kid. This is a lot of money, for sure, but it’s a bit cheaper than putting two kids in Whistler’s childcare, which is what we would have had to do two years ago when Clara was 3 and Isabelle was almost-2.

+ Take advantage of the ski school program for kids over 3 years old. Both Isabelle and Clara did that this year and they had a blast. The 3-4 year olds spent some time on the mountain and some time inside reading and playing games. Clara (in the 5-6 year old class) spent all day on the mountain with a break for lunch. This program is about $200 per day (per kid).

Traveling to Whistler: How to Plan A Fun Ski Vacation With Young Kids

+ Stay at an Airbnb or Vrbo. With six of us on this trip we needed a bigger place with a kitchen, so we booked a place through Airbnb. (Use this link for a discount off your first trip!) I also always check Vrbo because a lot of times properties are listed through both places and it’s good to compare the fees and cancellation policies of both sites before deciding which one to book with.

+ Book a rental property should be near Creekside. This might be controversial, but I’m really glad we stayed near Creekside. This is because it was only a 5 minute drive to Whistler Village, but only about 20 seconds from the Creekside Village area, where there is a gondola and a ski school drop-off. Basically, it has everything you need without the long lines and reallllly long walk from parking to the mountain. Pro tip: if you have a roof box on your car, you qualify as an oversized vehicle and can park in the oversize lot parking spaces in the Creekside Village. It’s free!

+ Eat at Creekbread for the best pizza. We ordered takeout to avoid waiting for a table. I got mushroom pizza and it was amazing. Everyone should order their own pizza and then you have lunch or dinner for the next day, too! While we’re on the topic of food, make sure you stop by Bred at Creekside to get your daily latte and maybe a plant-based pastry or entire loaf of bread. It’s the cutest place and everything is delicious. Another (affordable!) place we love is Hunter Gather and for more of a splurge I like Crepe Montagne. My advice is always and forever to do takeout, because three kids (5 and under!) is a nightmare in a restaurant.

+ Rent your skis a day ahead of time. If you need to rent skis, reserve them online and pick them up after 3pm the day before you need them. You won’t get charged for the extra day and then you don’t need to wait precious ski time waiting in lines.

+ Head to the “Magic Chair” chairlift on Blackcomb Mountain with young skiers. It’s a slow, short lift for only beginners and it leads to a green run that anyone can do. Plus, it’s right by a lodge and parking lots 7 and 8 so it’s perfect for young families. We didn’t have to walk more than 10 feet with all of our gear, and at one point Tim and Phoebe sat in the lodge and waited for me and the other two girls while we were skiing a bit. Then when I needed help he ‘rescued’ us by just walking down the slope… it’s a seriously accessible place to learn to ski!

Traveling to Whistler: How to Plan A Fun Ski Vacation With Young Kids

+ Learn to ski on Whistler Mountain by the Olympic Chair area. The perk to this area is that you get to take the Whistler Village Gondola to the beginner’s area, and my kids love nothing more than a gondola ride! The cons are that the parking near Whistler mountain is far from the slopes so it is a HIKE before and after skiing. Then it just takes a while to get on the gondola and get to the beginner’s area. But once you’re there it’s awesome because there are multiple magic carpets and a slow, short lift to go a little further up the mountain. Plus, Clara and I could go further up the mountain and then ski down to the beginner’s area a few times while Tim and Isabelle hung out.

+ Check out Whistler Village – specifically the small sledding hill, ice skating rink, and Family Apres days (on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-6pm).  During the Family Apres days there are free snacks and hot chocolate, as well as some live kid-friendly music/entertainment which our girls were very into. My girls also loved the nearby playground. Bring your own sleds and skates and prepare to be out there a few hours! Luckily there are plenty of snack and coffee shops nearby so you can warm up if necessary.

+ Have fun! Once you’re on the mountain and everyone is where they’re supposed to be, have a blast! The hard part is all of the logistics, the easy part is skiing and having a blast with your family, creating memories you can all cherish!

Ski vacations with little kids can be intimidating, but we had a ton of fun! We took the kids skiing way more than we thought we would, because they kept wanting to get back out there! I loved that. We ended up skiing for 4 days total. Two days Tim and I went out together while the girls did ski school and the other days we skied together as a family. It was the perfect mix of fun, adventure, and family togetherness.

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