Best Books I’ve read in 2019

Boy read, boy like books, boy write about books.

I had a number of goals to achieve in 2019, one of them was to read 24 books, this doesn’t include technical books for work or reading through the Bible. So I wanted to keep track of my reading in a place other than GoodReads, which does a good job at compiling a list, but that’s about it.

So because I only read good books, more on that later, I thought this would be a good place to remember the enjoyment I’ve had reading these titles.

At the end of the year, once I’ve hit my goal, I’m going to come back and rank the best of the books that I’ve read. Until then, I plan on compiling the list of books that I’ve read and a short review and description.

Rogue: An American Ghost Thriller — July

As usual, I’m a sucker for short J. B. Turner book. This time he’s trying out a new character, Nathan Stone, and it works. The overall premise is that this guy is like an assassination extraordinaire. Super human, new face, hitman. It works, it’s short, and a nice change of pace for the summer.

Hard Hit (A Jon Reznick Thriller Book 6) 4/5 — June

In the context of “hard hitting” American masculine infused action books, these are great. The 4/5 rating is against other books like Tom Clancy and novels that make the testosterone action book into a 700 page marathon, when it should just be a couple hundred pages.

When I want some simple, predictable plot lines with a good action hero, Jon Reznick books are the way to go. It knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be something else.

Sharp Objects 4.5/5 — May

I can’t rate most of the books I read 5/5 can I? I think it’s just that I’m only about 35ish books back into reading the last couple of years so I’m hitting the bright spots in the literary world.

Anyways, Sharp Objects is another Gillian Flynn book, that makes three this year, and it’s an incredibly interesting book about anguish, grief, and living in the past. This is the type of book that probably has different thematic elements for different types of people who read it.

I enjoyed this book much more than Flynn’s Dark Places, but slightly less than Gone Girl. Flynn’s pacing is one of the most enjoyable of the authors that I read often. Although this book didn’t have as many of the side characters to follow as her other works, this book still flows really well. You spent the entire book looking through Camille’s eyes, and the world she sees is heartbreaking. It’s your classic reporter goes home to investigate murder story, but strays away from the stereotypes about those stories and shoves them in your face.

Big Little Lies 4/5 — May

This book was nothing like I expected. Frankly, I picked it up because I knew the HBO series was well thought of, and usually, books that are made into HBO series are great books. This book was great, just not in the way I expected.

This book certainly wasn’t written for someone like me. Although I did enjoy the dramatic nature and real-life aspects of the book. The twist the book took at the end was everything I could have hoped for. Genuinely, one of the best twists I’ve experienced in a book. Totally sniped me, never even thought about it or theorized it was a possibility. An incredibly enjoyable book with a satisfying payoff.

Us Against You 5/5 — April

Fredrik Backman’s books are some of the most touching and powerful I’ve read. A Man Called Ove, Beartown, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, and now Us Against You are all beautiful. I wrote more about Backman below when I read My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry.

Us Against You is the followup to Beartown, a tough to describe journey about a little town that loves hockey. But it’s so much more. It’s about privilege and power, love and the simple effect a game can have. The powerful story it centers and swivels on is the rape of Maya Anderson by the star of the hockey team Kevin. Us Against You, is the aftermath to what happens to the town once Kevin moves away.

There are a plethora of characters to follow but it becomes easy. I struggle to explain this book because if you just make it simple it sounds like a shallow character drama. However, it’s so much more, and if you’ve read Backman before, you know what I’m talking about.

The Border 4/5 — March

I had a really difficult time evaluating this book. The final chapter in Don Winslow’s the Power of the Dog series is a complex book to appreciate. The first two books in this series were much more simple to parse through thematically. Winslow takes a character in Art Keller that felt concluded in the Cartel and expounds on him in an incredibly strange way.

Early on when it becomes clear that Keller is going to be running the DEA I almost put the book down, the Kindle down more specifically. It seemed like such a ridiculous route for Winslow to take with Keller. If you know Keller from the first two books, it's ridiculous to suggest he would take a bureaucratic position like the head of the DEA. While I still don’t get the overall direction that this book initially took, I leaned into it early on and enjoyed the ride.

One of the most endearing parts of Winslow’s writing in this series is the side journeys we take with different characters that show the impact of the larger story on smaller segments of the population. The side characters especially shined in this book wherein I wasn’t so interested in Keller’s development.

The glaring part of this book that felt weird was the Trumpian character. Early on I thought Winslow was just going to dunk on Trump for the fool he is, but turned Dennison as a character into a somewhat necessary part of the book. It still felt somewhat forced. Although I’d say I don’t know how to have a conversation, or book, about the border without bringing him into it.

This book wasn’t what I expected. I was somewhat disappointed by that, but at the end of the day, Winslow is a fantastic storyteller. He’s still on my list of people who I’ll participate in anything they create.

The Cartel 5/5 — March

Don Winslow is an amazing and transformative author. His books always make me think and take all of my attention. The Cartel is a lengthy, necessary, and brutal dive into the world of the drug cartels and the “war on drugs”. It’s the follow-up to The Power of the Dog and tells a plethora of stories from the world of the drug cartels revolving around many characters, but focusing on Art Keller.

This was the second time I’ve read this book. The main reason I came back to it is the release of the finale to the trilogy by Don Winslow, The Border, which came out in February.

The Cartel is at times a weary and frustrating read. The content can be a downer and frankly brutal, but the story feels so much bigger in the way Winslow writes it that you can’t stop reading. I can only hope The Border is the same way.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry 5/5 — February

I love books written by Fredrik Backman. A Man Called Ove and Beartown are his two pinnacle books from a popularity standpoint, and they’re both excellent books that are 5/5’s.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is another amazing example of Backman putting you somewhere unexpected. This time instead of a grumpy old man or a small town in the middle of nowhere, it’s a young girl who loses her hero.

In this case, the hero is her grandmother and she spends the entire book discovering more about her. I really don’t have the words to describe Backman’s writing style. To call it zany would be offensive, but it is a different sort of writing that is both different and somehow entirely relatable. A wonderfully emotional story that has more heart then I would’ve ever expected.

The Martian 4.5/5 — February

I really don’t want to be the pretentious guy that says the book is better than the movie, so I’m not going to be. The book and the movie are vastly different when it comes to the Martian. They’re both incredible, but I understand after reading the book why they made more cinematic choices with the movie.

The book is much more scientific then I expected. There are legitimate discussions around the technicalities of the survival and all that good stuff. The movie is basically like “Hey I made poopoo potatoes”. The books spends time going over the how and why the poopoo potatoes came into play.

An entertaining and methodical book. The opposite of a stressful read despite the predicament Mark is in.

Gone Girl 5/5 — January

There are few books I’ve read that can pull you into a world as thoroughly as Gone Girl can. What I really enjoyed about this book was the manner in which it was written. Each chapter switches off between the perspectives of Nick and Amy. Nick’s perspectives are written in present tense and we get the joy of reading Amy’s in the past tense in her diary.

The book itself is split into three, I think, sections that split the story up. It was an incredibly clean read. By that I mean it wasn’t confusing at all in its narrative structure or the story it was telling.

Dark Places 3/5 — January

I was not a huge fan of Dark Places. Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects was checked out at the library, yes I use the library for my Kindle. So I decided to check out Dark Places.

To be clear, it was a well-written book, I just didn’t enjoy the read at all. The story was captivating, but man it was a dreary and pretty dark story. I was invested in the story overall and that’s the only reason I carried on.

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