Always be Reading
I’m happy to say that I read more this year than I have in the last few years. Even more exciting, I read more than my usual historical nonfiction novels (although I read a few of those). One thing I know I’m always looking for book recommendations, so I decided to share what some of my favorite reads were in 2019. I think I have a good variety of genres and novels in this list.
Note 1: Not all these books were published in 2019.
Note 2: This post may contain affiliate links.
The Nerd Novel
- Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray: I know that my Star Wars love is showing, but I thought this was a great prequel to The Phantom Menace. I find it really unfortunate that we only had Qui-Gon Jinn for one movie, and I enjoy more media on him. It was also interesting to look at Qui-Gon’s relationships as a Padawan with Dooku and as a Master to Obi-Wan. The Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan dynamic is also fascinating as they are such different characters, and I kind of liked that they didn’t have the perfect relationship and struggled. I did find it hard to believe that Qui-Gon was ever offered a seat on the Jedi Council, as in The Phantom Menace Obi-Wan makes a comment that Qui-Gon would be on the Council if he ever listened to the Council. So a little bit of canon contradictions. I felt that there was really good character development throughout the novel, so props on that. It was also interesting comparing how Obi-Wan was with Qui-Gon compared to Anakin because those two have many similarities. I don’t think I’ve read a Claudia Gray novel that I didn’t enjoy, and she hits the mark again. If you enjoy the prequels or the characters of Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, or even Dooku, this is a must-read.
The One That Left Me Wanting More
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: So this was published seven years before I was born in 1985, I had heard of it, I knew it was on Hulu, and I finally just had a whim to read it. It was so good and so frustrating! The ending drove me nuts, and I needed to know more. I still need to. I have some questions on how the entire situation happened, like what was going on in the rest of the world, how did the country just let this happen? But I also tend to overthink things. I really wanted to dive into the world of Gilead and understand it. But maybe there is no understanding it. It was really captivating and only took me a couple of days to finish because I couldn’t put it down. The sequel, The Testaments, is on my “To Be Read” pile, and I can’t wait.
The Horror Novel
- The Shining by Stephen King: A classic from 1977 with a famous movie spawned from it that I also recently decided to pick up. I’m not really a horror movie type of person, so I never read horror books. But some other works by Stephen King – and convincing by friends – made me think I should finally pick up one of his novels, and I wasn’t disappointed. I love his writing style, I love his use of language. He just lets loose yet is still so precise within his plan. As a writer, it’s fascinating to read. But it was also an enjoyable book that I needed to know how it ended. I read this in the middle of summer, and the setting is so dismal that it made me feel like it wasn’t summer. I distinctly remember reading it outside on a beautiful day and having a chill. That’s how good King is.
- Report from Ground Zero by Dennis Smith: This was probably one of the most gut-wrenching books I’ve ever read. It is various stories of different individuals during 9/11 operations, and boy, is it rough. There are several accounts of the final moments of responders, and it is really hard to read. But I think that it is an important read to recognize what happened during 9/11. It really shows the nitty-gritty of what happened. There are many different accounts throughout different points in time for the operations. It is heartbreaking and heart wrenching, but a very necessary read.
A Story of Football and Math
- Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Footballby John Urschel: The story of a kid-turned Penn Stater-also while being a math whiz-turned NFL player-turned mathematics PhD candidate. How is that not fascinating? How different can you get? Each chapter alternated between a football perspective and math perspective which was pretty good, although the math was way over my head. Urschel also played football for Penn State during the Jerry Sandusky scandal and ultimately played for coaches Paterno, O’Brien, and Franklin. Fun fact – he was also a teammate of a friend of mine. But this was a very decisive and challenging period for Penn State football, and the players had to go through more than they signed up for. So, as a Penn State alum, it was an interesting read, but I would have enjoyed it regardless as it is such an engaging story of the differences – and similarities – between living a life of football and mathematics. If you’re a sports fan, a math/academics fan, or both, this is a must-read.
- Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan: I love economics. I’m a huge fan of the Freakonomics books by Stephen J. Dunbar and Steve Levitt (I also recommend their podcast). This is a basic, simplified understanding of economics if you don’t have much of a background in it. As A.P. Econ was a long time ago, it was good to revisit. He has also written Naked Statistics (I know nothing about statistics) and Naked Money (I’m just interested) that I also plan on reading.
Honing My Writing Skills
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: This is the Stephen King book that led me to reading another Stephen King novel. I love reading about writing, which I admit is kind of weird. But it was very entertaining to read about King’s life and experience, and it was also filled with great writing anecdotes and advice. Again, his distinctive style is present throughout, and I really enjoy reading it. Probably the best book on writing that I have ever read.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama: I’m not an Obama diehard. I also don’t dislike them. I just don’t really have a strong opinion about them either way. But this was a really insightful read, and I felt as if I had a much better understanding of the former First Lady. I also felt that she was a very relatable person. She didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in her mouth by any means, and she worked hard for her accomplishments. Obama seemed very “normal” who just happened to marry someone who was a bit of an overachiever and persona kind of exploded. It also looked into different events of the Obama administration, missteps, and accomplishments. My favorite part was when she said she agreed to Barack Obama running for president when she did because she didn’t think he had any chance of winning. I love that she admitted that, and boy did that backfire.
Learning About Law
- Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law by Preet Bharara: This just might be my favorite book of 2019. It is an examination of our legal system by a former federal prosecutor in New York. He looks at different cases as examples and defines the flaws within the system. It is very articulate and well-written. Here’s what I wrote on my Goodreads account:
- “I loved this book! I couldn’t put it down. I thought it was a unique take on explaining the justice system without feeling overwhelmed by legal mumbo-jumbo. This book kept me engaged. I hope he writes more.”
And that’s it summed up pretty much. Bharara also has a Twitter account that is really interesting. And he was once fired by Donald Trump. This was a New York Times Bestseller, and honestly, it is just phenomenal. I believe good writing is concise, this is concise writing. He also doesn’t use fancy legal jargon. It is very educational, and anyone interested in learning more about the law should read it.
The One That Creeped Me Out
- Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Crime Unit by John E. Douglas, Mark Olshaker: So…I began reading this because of the Netflix show Mindhunter. Everyone was talking about it, and my nerdy self wanted to read the book before watching the show. And then the book freaked me out in a way that I didn’t want to watch the show. That’s not to say it isn’t a good book – it is. But usually it takes a lot to gross me out or truly disturb me – and this did it. Special Agent John Douglas went after some nasty and evil people, real scum of the Earth. And I don’t know how he kept it together. As the book tells, he very nearly worked himself to death, and his work was a major factor in his marriage falling apart so it’s not like he walked away from the job unaffected. Again, it’s engaging. I couldn’t put it down. But reading it was enough for me; I didn’t need to watch the TV show afterwards. The book put together enough of a picture for me.
Book I wanted to love but couldn’t: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse: My Star Wars obsession is showing again. But this book was considered a prequel to Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (it’s this week, people!) and I was really excited for it, especially once I learned fan-favorite from the Original Trilogy Wedge Antilles was going to be in it. While an easy and quick read, I felt that it was trying to do too much in too short of a time. I think there were five different plots going on. I don’t feel like any of them got the attention they needed to flourish. It felt very rushed, and I found it difficult to really care about new characters and their stories. This was definitely a disappointment.
I hope you enjoyed my 2019 favorite reads! Hopefully, you may find a book to read from this list. I’d love to know what you read in 2019 – I’m always looking for a reading recommendation!