2019 reading challenge

2019 Reading Challenge: A Most Unusual Year of Reading

This is my seventh year of completing the Goodread’s Reading Challenge! Otherwise known as the 2019 reading challenge.

I initially started this challenge out with 35 books, but seeing as how things got derailed this year, I reduced it to 30 at some point.

This was a strange year of reading for me. I drew from a lot of random sources, and grief affected my reading ability in strange (but apparently normal) ways. It got a whole lot harder to concentrate, and so I erred in the favour of chick lit and lighter reads. (Or tried to, kinda.)

As always, thanks to Perpetual Page Turner for this survey!

My 2019 Reading List

  • The Son of a Certain Woman – Wayne Johnston
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende
  • Educated – Tara Westover
  • You Are a Badass at Making Money – Jen Sincero
  • An Irreverent Curiosity – David Farley
  • The Dutch Wife – Ellen Keith
  • A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
  • Survivor: The Triumph of an Ordinary Man in the Khmer Rouge Genocide – Chum Mey
  • A Tale For the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
  • West Against the Wind – Liza Ketchum
  • The Story of Bobby O’Malley – Wayne Johnston
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
  • Late Nights on Air – Elizabeth Hay
  • Ten Years a Nomad – Matt Kepnes
  • The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking – Matt Kepnes
  • The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
  • Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants – Lee Goldberg
  • The Boat People – Sharon Bala
  • The Cloud Garden – Tom Hart Dyke, Paul Winder
  • Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club – Megan Gail Coles
  • The Mermaid Chair – Sue Monk Kidd
  • Half Broke Horses – Jeanette Walls
  • It’s OK That You’re Not OK – Megan Devine
  • Fly Away – Kristin Hannah
  • A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab 
  • Daisy Jones & The Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier
  • Chicken Soup For the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

1. Best Book You Read In 2019?

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay. I actually didn’t read anything in 2019 that blew my mind, to be honest, but this book was by far the most beautiful thing I’ve read. I have a strong desire to visit the Arctic now.

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls is a close runner-up though (if not a tie). Lily (the main character) was one of my favourite characters of the year.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I mean, I LOVED it, but I guess I over-hyped it in my head. Considering the volume of positive reviews it received, I figured I’d be book hungover for weeks.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier.

When Mom died I found tons and tons of her notes scattered around the house with her “to-read” lists written on them. I started keeping track of them, so I could read all the books she never did. Jamaica Inn was one of them, I assume because Rebecca was her favourite all-time book.

I LOVED it. Du Maurier is referred to as a “romantic novelist” but her writing is so dark and creepy and WONDERFUL. Plus Mary is one of my favourite all-time female heroines. She’s not the fainting “I-have-the-vapours” type of typical English lit.

Otherwise, West Against the Wind. I wanted something light to read during a visit home and Mom gave me this totally random short novel about a young woman headed west across the U.S. during the gold rush times. It was such an endearing tale, I think I read it in one sitting.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine. This became my grief bible. It’s about how to grieve in a world that doesn’t understand grief, and it is amazing. I gifted it to so many people, and then I joined Devine’s “Write Your Grief” course.

I have dog-eared the pages, highlighted meaningful passages, and whispered “YES!” so many times while reading this. It’s all about learning how to carry your grief with you and acknowledging the fact that it’s not something you can simply recover from.

5. Best series you started in 2019? Best Sequel of 2019? Best Series Ender of 2019?

The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab. I haven’t read anything from the fantasy genre in a LONG, long time. I loved the first book in this series, A Darker Shade of Magic, and I’m now reading the other two.

My friend Maggie suggested that I follow V.E. Schwab on Twitter and Instagram, just because she’s so gosh-darned delightful. She was right. I feel like Schwab is a friend.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2019?

Daphne du Maurier. Thank you, Mom.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero. Tbh, the author can be a little over the top at first, but I loved how this book challenged my perception of money and “selling out.” It encourages people to look at wealth not as a bad thing, but as an opportunity.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Dutch Wife by Ellen Keith. I read it in one day, sitting in a hammock on an island off the coast of Cambodia.

9. Book You Read In 2019 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

You are a Badass at Making Money. This book really fired me up in 2019, and I kept a fun “money journal” for a few months later. A coincidence that I bought my house around the same time? Yeah, probably. But still.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2019?

The Nightingale.

11. Most memorable character of 2019?

Mary from Jamaica Inn or Lily Casey Smith from Half Broke Horses. Clearly I have a thing for strong female leads.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2019?

Late Nights On Air. Every word about the Arctic tundra was poetry. I related so much of it to Newfoundland. My heart ached.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2019?

It’s OK That You’re Not OK. It has changed how I handle grief entirely.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2019 to finally read? 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. Just because it’s EVERYWHERE.

I found the writing style to be more bro-ish than I typically like, but the concept is excellent. Plus I met Mark Manson at TravelCon and adored him. He’s an A+ guy.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2019?

Outside, the air had a certain smell, sweet, from wood smoke, and pure, from the cold. The snow, so dry and brittle underfoot, sounded like fingernails screeching on a blackboard, but rhymic, evocative, fascinating: the most northern of sounds. You’re breaking my back, you’re breaking my back squealed the snow as he trod upon it. – Late Nights On Air

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2019?

Shortest – Survivor: The Triumph of an Ordinary Man in the Khmer Rouge Genocide (108 pages). I picked this book up for $10 in Cambodia after meeting the author.

Longest – The Son of a Certain Woman (448 pages).

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

(Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

Maybe Daisy Jones & The Six, but not for the reason you think. I was about 100 pages into this book before my roommate was all like, “Isn’t it funny that Renee [our mutual friend] thought this book was non-fiction?” I HAD NO IDEA. TOTALLY FOOLED. I even Googled the band to see if I could find their music and was perplexed when I couldn’t get any results. I’M A DINGBAT.

A Tale For the Time Being. Ok, it didn’t really shock me, but I LOVED this book (I gave it five stars) and thought the ending was surprising and lovely. A neat little package.

18. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Definitely Vianne and her sister, Isabelle, from The Nightingale.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2019 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

It’s actually kinda bananas how much I loved this book because I typically don’t like anything Hemingway wrote. But this was straight-up poetry. I read it on bus rides and train rides around Asia and felt a strong pull back to Paris the entire time.

20. Best Book You Read In 2019 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.

Ten Years a Nomad by Matt Kepnes. The “peer pressure” being my boss. :) He shared an excerpt from his book with me, in case you’re interested. I’ve been working with Matt for YEARS and was very pleasantly surprised by how candid and honest this memoir is.

21. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2019?

Is it weird to be attracted to a magic man like Kell in A Darker Shade of Magic? Anyway, it happened. He has two different coloured eyes, for godssake. Plus he’s dark and brooding.

22. Best 2019 debut you read?

Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club. I believe I will read this book again someday when I’m in a better frame of mind because it was horribly depressing in my current state. Girl can write, though. Seriously.

Fun fact: I randomly stayed with the author’s mother on my road trip to the Northern Peninsula. The world is small.

23. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Late Nights On Air. For that Canadian tundra. Mm.

Fantasy wise, obviously A Darker Shade of Magic.

24. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

An Irreverent Curiosity is delightfully quirky. It’s literally about the hunt for Jesus’s foreskin in a remote town in Italy. David Farley is an entertaining travel writer, and I laughed out loud a lot while reading this book.

25. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2019?

It’s OK That You’re Not Ok. I could only read this book in dribs and drabs because I cried so often. Haha.

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah. I expected a LOT from this book because of how incredibly well written The Nightingale is. After Mom died, I thought I’d do some lighter reading, and picked up this book because it looked like a typical “chick lit” thing. OH MY GOD NOT SO!!!!! The whole plot revolves around a mother’s death and the aftermath, and there is NO LIGHTNESS WHATSOEVER. It’s seriously hard to believe this is the same author. I mean, The Nightingale is about WWII and the Nazi occupation in France, and yet somehow it was still lighter than this book.

26. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

West Against the Wind. Literally the most adorable book on the planet. Again, thanks, Mom.

27. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

Fly Away, as explained in #25.

28. Most Unique Book You Read In 2019?

Daisy Jones & The Six. The whole book is written in an interview form, but it’s captivating.

29. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Cloud Garden. Two young backpackers from the U.K. decide it’d be an adventure to traverse a section of The Darien Gap, despite knowing the extreme risks, and then predictably get captured by FARC guerillas and held hostage for nine months.


30. Book You’re Most Excited About For 2020?

I have an ENORMOUS stack of books next to my bed, but Michelle Obama’s Becoming is at the top of my to-read list. I’m just waiting for a price drop. ;)

Tell me! What did you read in 2019? What was your absolute favourite book? I want my bedside stack to grow high enough to eclipse the sun.

  • January 09 2020

    OK I am ABSOLUTELY writing up my own post for this – what a fantastic idea!! I managed 33 books in 2019 (and have high hopes to top that for 2020) but it was such a good reading year that documenting it on the blog makes so much sense.

    Also Megan Devine’s book is still on my TBR pile so I’m glad you found it so helpful :) I’d love to know what her course is like!
    Flora recently posted…One Day in Palma de Mallorca | Free Things to Do on This Spanish Island

    • January 14 2020

      OH please read it and let me know what you think!!! I loved the writing course but I don’t think it was the right time for me to participate. Too fresh. At the end there’s a big support group for alumni, and while it’s so nice to have a place to word vomit my grief, it’s really overwhelming. So so so so much tragedy and heartache.

  • January 09 2020

    I always love these roundups so much. Thanks for sharing! Added a few to my giant TBR.

    • January 14 2020

      YAY!!! So glad!

  • January 13 2020

    Candice! Great post as always. You will love Becoming, I bought it for my mom then stole it. Best books of 2019 – Forgiveness (Mark Sakamoto); The Testaments/Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood, duh, and also I can’t believe it took me this long to read the Handmaid’s Tale!); The Disappeared (Kim Echlin); The Vegetarian (Han Kang). Also, this is a bit of a cheat because I technically read it in 2020, but Ayiti by Roxane Gay is a phenomenal collection of short stories that you will polish off in a few hours.

    • January 14 2020

      Ooooh ADDING TO MY LIST! Thanks!! Have you watched The Handmaid’s Tale yet? Not as good as the book (never is) but still amazing

  • February 05 2020

    Glad I enjoyed the post! Keep on :)
    Abdou recently posted…Hello world!

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