Did you finish the 2019 Reading Challenge? With a book for every week, here are all 52 books I read this year for my 2019 Reading Challenge.
With the year wrapping up, let’s take a look back at the 2019 Reading Challenge.
I was amazed at the warm reception I received for my first ever reading challenge. Honestly, I thought I might be the only one crazy enough to want to do 52 different categories. Apparently not.
However, I think I was the only one insane enough to attempt to do the Reading Challenge in order. I started off fine in the first half of the year, then struggled in the next half. Finally, I gave up on the absurd numerical order part.
Although my 2019 reading list contains over 170 books, by November, I realized I hadn’t finished several of the categories. How embarrassing would that be not to finish my own Reading Challenge?
Thus, I rearranged my December to-read list, and I can now proudly say that like many of you, I finished the Pingel Sisters/ Booklist Queen 2019 Reading Challenge.
Here are all 52 books I selected this year. I would love to hear what books you picked for your reading challenge.
Now, it’s time to do it all over again. The Booklist Queen 2020 Reading Challenge starts on January 1st with 52 new categories.
2019 Reading Challenge Update
1. A Book With More Than 500 Pages
I can’t tell you how glad I am that I chose The Forgotten Garden to kick off my 2019 Reading Challenge. I will just say I love how Kate Morton peeled away layers of revelations to finally get the overarching mystery – how did a little girl end up on a boat to Australia.
2. Book You Haven’t Read By An Author You Love
J. K. Rowling
I’ve read all of J. K. Rowling’s other books, so I thought I would give The Casual Vacancy a chance. Honestly, I almost didn’t finish it. Without the magic of Harry Potter and the mystery of the Comoran Strike detective series, this novel fell flat. I will admit, it did not end in the way I expected, but I still don’t feel like it overcame its dull premise. I suggest skipping this one.
3. Goodreads Winner 2018
I’d heard such mixed reviews about Circe that I knew I had to read it myself. I can see why other people love it, but I had such a hard time getting into it. Miller does a good job giving a nuanced view of the characters from Greek mythology, and she makes the myths a bit more accessible to the modern reader. For myself, I think part of my problem is that I just prefer reading the original source material.
4. You Can Read in a Day
I’m not sure why I chose this book for the “Read in a Day” category instead of as a book that will make you cry. This short classic was easy to fit into one day – though I was left emotionally wrecked for the rest of the day. The real question is, do I dare to watch the movie now?
5. Book About a Difficult Topic
I was combing through my to-read list on Goodreads for a good choice for a difficult topic when I spotted Still Alice. Frankly, I’ve been meaning to read it for 4 years. Many of my readers love Lisa Genova, and for good reason. She left me wracked by her tale of a woman going through early-onset Alzheimer’s.
6. Recommended by a Friend
Chris Bohjalian’s historical fiction novel describes the horrifying genocide of Armenians during World War I. Recent college graduate Elizabeth Endicott travels to Aleppo, Syria, with her father to deliver aid to the Armenians. Living at the American consulate and working in the hospital, she comes in first-hand contact with the suffering Armenians. There she befriends Armen, a young Armenian engineer whose wife and daughter were killed in the forced march across the desert. Overall, the story is good and extremely informative about an oft-forgotten part of history. However, be aware that the story is extremely slow-building so this book is not for everyone
7. Book That Will Make You Cry
Whenever I started reading a book described as a tear-jerker, I always assume that knowing it is going to be sad will stop me from crying. Well, that didn’t work out for me. Jeff Zentner does an excellent job of writing coming-into-adulthood teen dramas. In this tear-jerker, a high school senior deals with the death of his three best friends who died in a car accident because they were replying to his text.
8. Book Published in 2009
My ski instructor recommended this book to me!. While I don’t ever anticipate being a manager, much less a manager of a gigantic company like Pixar, I enjoyed Ed Catmull’s book. The first part is more biographical – about Catmull’s background and the history of Pixar. The second half is classic managerial advice – more big ideas than concrete steps. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but if you like business books, it’s worth a read.
9. Book Becoming Movie in 2019
A. J. Baime
I wrote a whole post about books becoming movies in 2019, so I was incredibly psyched about this category. At first, I was going to read The Knife of Never Letting Go, but then it needed major editing and had its premiere canceled. Finally, I decided to try the nonfiction account of Ford and Ferrari’s battle to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in the 1960s. Even though I am not at all a car person, I find this account fascinating and loved the movie as well.
10. A Genre You Don’t Usually Read
N. K. Jemisin
Though in recent years, I’ve started reading much more young adult fantasy, I’ve always had a hard time with adult fantasy books. For a genre I don’t usually read, I decided I should try out N. K. Jemisin’s hit Broken Earth series. Amazingly enough, all three books in her trilogy earned the Hugo Award for Best Novel. The story was just too much for me – strange relationships, bizarre creatures, and tons of questions left unexplained.
11. Children’s Classic
Laura Ingalls Wilder
My grandmother loved watching The Little House on the Prairie, so I watched plenty of episodes growing up. However, I never got around to reading the books, even though she gifted me a copy when I was younger. This month, I decided to give them a try, and I’m so glad I did. Reading about how Ingalls’s family lived so long ago is fascinating. This classic children’s book is one I will have to read to my kids.
12. Cover With Your Favorite Color
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s psychological thriller The Wife Between Us was a huge hit in 2018. Consequently, I wanted to try their latest thriller about a girl participating in a psychological study. Desperate for cash, Jessica Farris agrees to go beyond the typical survey and participate in a study with Dr. Shields. But as Dr. Shields starts to ask more and more of her, Jessica realizes that Dr. Shields has her own hidden agenda. Overall, while entertaining, this thriller fell a bit flat for me.
13. Bought at the Thrift Store
I had heard this title praised a few years ago, so when I saw it at my local thrift store in excellent condition, I snatched it up. The plot follows Lo Blacklock, a travel writer sent to cover a luxury cruise through Norway’s fjords. When she thinks she witnesses a murder, Lo becomes enthralled in figuring out what happened to the woman in Cabin 10. I found this psychological thriller a quick fun read that kept me wanting more.
14. Young Adult Fiction
Early this year, I fell in love with Jeff Zentner’s first two novels and was surprised to see he had another book publishing in 2019. Despite the horrible title and cover, I decided to give it a try. In his latest book release, high school seniors and best friends Delia and Josie are the hosts of the local cable show Midnite Matinee. To sum it up, it was awful. Between stilted dialogue, annoying protagonists and strange plotlines, this entire novel was a train wreck.
15-17. Three Books in a Trilogy
Way back before the dawn of time, Sophocles was a Greek playwright famous for his tragedies. Of all his surviving works, he is best known for his three plays about Oedipus – Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. In case your Greek references are a little rusty, Oedipus was a man who, without realizing it, murders his father and marries his mother. Of the three plays, Oedipus the King and Antigone are worth reading; they are the epitome of Greek tragedy. On the other hand, Oedipus at Colonus is completely forgettable and adds no value to the series.
18. Dystopian Novel
What if all women suddenly developed the power of sparking electricity with their hands? How would that ability change the balance of power in the world? Naomi Alderman does a good job of setting up this dystopian scenario. Her narrative follows several individuals who see opportunity in the shifting times and manage to change the world, not always for better. While I thought the story was well-written, I just couldn’t quite fall in love. Yet, I can fully understand why others would. Just be warned, there is quite a bit of language and violence in this story.
19. Award-Winning Book
Thirteen-year-old Jojo is trying to figure out life as a half-white half-black teen in Mississippi. When his family learns his father is being released from prison, his mom Leonie, a struggling drug addict, packs up Jojo and his little sister for a drive up to the state penitentiary where Jojo encounters the ghost of a boy who was killed as an inmate. Combining a dysfunctional family character study with a haunting ghost story, Sing, Unburied, Sing has won rave reviews from critics. What impressed me most was how much everything about the book was expertly crafted to convey the story that Ward wanted to tell, not necessarily the story you wanted to read.
20. A Book From the Rory Gilmore Challenge
Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical work shows protagonist Esther Greenwood’s mental breakdown and eventual recovery after a stay in an asylum. Although I appreciated the book for discussing mental illness in a period where people swept it under the rug, I never really connected with the story.
21. Published the Decade Before You Were Born
‘Salem’s Lot was the second book Stephen King ever published, after Carrie. He depicts the tale of Ben Mears, a writer returning to a town of his childhood to write his next book. As a boy, he had a supernatural experience in a haunted house in Jerusalem’s Lot and thinks it would be a great inspiration. Though as he starts his book about the power of evil, strange happenings start to take over the small Maine town. Though I don’t expect to read many more horror books, I was impressed with how well Stephen King can set a scene. He draws you into the setting and mood and perfectly portrays the overwhelming dread as the impossible becomes all too real.
22. Historical Fiction from your Favorite Time Period
In a story inspired by true events, Grace Healy discovers an abandoned suitcase in Grand Central Station in 1946. Inside she finds a dozen photographs of different women. Grace soon learns that these 12 women were sent as couriers and radio operators in occupied Europe during the war. Now she is determined to learn the truth about what happened to these brave women. Though the premise had potential, Jenoff failed to fulfill it. Her love stories were weak and nonsensical, while her protagonist Grace felt rather one-dimensional.
23. Classic You’ve Never Read
A classic coming-of-age story that has enchanted readers for decades, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn chronicles young teen Francie Nolan as she grows up in the slums of Brooklyn. Covering poverty and the American dream, Betty Smith’s masterpiece points out the struggles of the poor families of the early 20th century. Yet, the enduring message of this classic book is one of hope for the future. I quickly fell in love with Smith’s endearing novel and loved learning about life in Brooklyn was like a century ago.
24. A Book That Will Keep You Up All Night
One night, famous painter Alicia Berenson shoots her husband in the face 5 times, and then never utters another word again. Now criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber is determined to get the truth from this silent patient while his own life is falling apart. I was hoping this psychological thriller would be one of those gripping books that keep you up all night. Overall, I struggled to connect, maybe because I disliked Theo’s character so much. Despite that, the twist at the end was extremely well done, and I can see why this book got lots of attention this year.
25. 2018 Bestseller
In 1946, a war hero kills the local pastor for no apparent reason and refuses to talk about his motive. Honestly, just skip to the last chapter to find out why – nothing in the middle is worth reading. Actually, just skip it altogether. I hated this book so much that when I got his newest book The Guardians from the library, I ended up returning it without reading it to avoid a similar disaster.
26. Nonfiction Book About Science
David M. Oshinksky
For decades, Americans were gripped by fear every summer during polio season. Oshinsky lays out the fascinating history of polio research, the founding of the March of Dimes and the creation of the Salk and Sabin vaccines. A great mixture of science and history makes this a must-read in my opinion.
27. An Audiobook
Blogger Ruth Soukup tells of her journey from over-consumption to frugality. Even better, Soukup lays out specific details to help you live well and spend less through time management, smarter grocery shopping and more. Note: She does take a religious tone throughout the text.
28. Set in Your Home State
Sharon M. Draper
One week at her mom’s. One week at her dad’s. Not only is Isabella’s life split in half by her parents’ divorce, but also she feels as if her own identity is divided in two. Half-white and half-black, Isabella’s split custody parallels her split racial identity. Sharon M. Draper’s middle-grade bestseller explores Isabella’s need to figure out how a blended girl bridges the gap in a world full of duality. Not nearly as light-hearted as the pink striped color suggests, Blended is a more serious discussion on important topics for kids today – divorce, racial profiling, and blended families. A great explanation of Black Lives Matter for middle schoolers.
29. You Once Started But Never Finished
We all know diseases can spread like wildfire, hitting that tipping point that spurs it from outbreak to epidemic. Yet, so can ideas, trends, and social behaviors. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explores the causes of such phenomena. Gladwell is a master of storytelling, taking interesting events and statistics and weaving them all together in fascinating new ways. From Paul Revere’s midnight ride to the Micronesian suicide rate, Gladwell shows how small ideas can change the world with just the right factors to create the tipping point.
30. With a One Word Title
The best science fiction always starts with what if, and Recursion plays the what-if scenario perfectly. America has fallen victim to False Memory Syndrome – a disease where victims are driven mad by memories of a life they never lived … or have they? It’s up to NYPD cop Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith to figure out how to stop this epidemic, even as reality is shifting all around them. You’ll have a hard time putting this one down. It takes about a third of the novel to figure out what is going on, and then you buckle in for a wild ride as you deal with the shifting of reality.
31. A Fairy Tale Retelling
Sarah J. Maas
In her popular series, Sarah J Maas introduces you to Feyre, a teenage girl turned huntress doing all she can to provide for her poor yet ungrateful family. After she kills a faerie disguised as a wolf, Feyre is taken to an enchanted land run by her captor, a powerful man who can turn into a beast. Maas starts the story as a typical Beauty and the Beast retelling but transforms it into her own original work. Be aware, though the book reads like your typical YA fantasy, a few descriptive sex scenes push it solidly up into adult fantasy. A good read for anyone who loves The Cruel Prince or Graceling and wants a more adult romance.
32. Celebrity Book Club Pick
Eleven-year-old Ren is given one final task when his master dies: to find his master’s severed finger and return it, in the next 49 days, or his master’s soul will be doomed to wander the earth. From there, his story will mingle with dance hall girl Ji Lin who has found the finger, all while a tiger stalks the town. Mixing Chinese folklore and superstition with historical fiction, Choo brings the time period to life in this beautifully written and imaginative story. I felt completely swept away into the slight mysticism of the story.
33. A Book You Read in High School
In high school, I first read (and loved) Mitch Albom’s simple tale of the death of amusement park maintenance worker Eddie. Curious to see what I thought about it now, I picked it up again while on vacation. The verdict – it did nothing for me this time around.
34. Business or Personal Finance Book
The father of the self-help/personal finance genre, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is practically the basis of every self-help book you’ve ever read. Yet, a modern reader finds so much lacking in the writing style, so I suggest skipping this one.
35. Autobiography or Memoir
Elizabeth Willard Thames
Another blogger memoir, Elizabeth Willard Thames tells of her family’s path to financial independence. Since I also dream of one day being financially independent, I hoped to find tips I could apply to my family’s life. More memoir than practical advice, I found that nothing her family did easily applies to me.
36. Book Set in Another Country
My neighborhood book club read this chronicle of life in North Korea, and we sure did have plenty to chat about. It’s hard to imagine a dictatorship right out of dystopian fiction could be alive and well right in our modern world. Then you learn about North Korea, and you realize it’s not so impossible after all.
37. Reread a Favorite Book
J. K. Rowling
Every few years, I reread the Harry Potter series, and I swear each time my favorite book changes. This time, The Goblet of Fire earned the top spot. With thrilling adventures and the rebirth of Lord Voldemort, the fourth book in the series kept me enthralled from start to finish.
38. Book by a Local Author
Stephen R. Covey
Yawn. That’s about all I have to say about Stephen R. Covey’s well-known work. It may have been groundbreaking when it was written, but today all his concepts are widely accepted. Plus, modern texts are not written in such dull managerial terms.
39. Banned Book
J. K. Rowling
If you’ve ever looked at a list of banned books, you’ll know that Harry Potter always makes the list. I’m always shocked to hear people object to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Frankly, it’s a masterpiece of children’s literature and will be read for decades to come.
40. Narrative Nonfiction
A master of narrative nonfiction, Erik Larson turns his attention to the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Larson expertly interweaves two parallel storylines. The first is that of Daniel H. Burnham, the architect and mastermind of the fair. On the other hand, at the same time in Chicago lurked the serial killer Henry H. Holmes, a pharmacist intent on building his own type of fairgrounds – a torture chamber full of every imaginable horror. By contrasting the lives of these two figures, Larson presents a startling juxtaposition of American history.
41. On Your To-Read List the Longest
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Almost six years is a long time to spend on a to-read list, so I finally got around to reading this modern classic. All I can say is: What took me so long? Set in post-World War II Spain, Daniel receives a copy of the only surviving copy of the book, The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Then Daniel embarks on a quest to discover more of Carax’s history, which many would rather be left concealed.
42. A Book About Travel
In 1925, legendary explorer Percy Fawcett entered the Amazon to find a rumored lost city he called Z, never to return. Grann recounts Fawcett’s spectacular history and seems to have possibly solved his mysterious disappearance. A fascinating look at a historical mystery I had never heard about.
43. Popular Book You’ve Never Read
The cantankerous old Swede Ove just wants to be left in peace so he can commit suicide, but his pesky neighbors keep getting in the way. A heartwarming tale that I found downright hilarious will be a book club favorite for years to come.
44. True Crime
Known for bringing nonfiction to life, Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side, Moneyball, and The Big Short, tackled Wall Street in his fascinating 2014 bestseller Flash Boys. As the United States stock market switched from human traders to a computerized system, a whole complex network formed. A system that rigged the whole stock market, taking billions of dollars out of the economy and placing them into the pockets of high-frequency traders – the people technologically savvy enough to game the system. Lewis tells the story of Brad Katsuyama, a man who set out to figure out what was wrong with the market and how, if possible, it could be fixed. Lewis does an excellent job keeping the story interesting while exploring a highly technical subject in a way normal readers can understand.
45. Nonfiction Bestseller
Imagine a Silicon Valley startup that raised insane amounts of money all based on a gigantic fraud. It sounds like a fictional thriller, but it is the actual true story of the company Theranos. Investigative journalist John Carreyrou’s expose of Elizabeth Holmes’s company is eye-opening and perfectly timed since she’s currently on trial.
46. Science Fiction Novel
Margaret Atwood’s famous dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published over 30 years ago and has a recent resurgence in popularity thanks to the new Hulu tv series. Now, Atwood has published a sequel, set fifteen years after the events of the first book. Although the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead still rules, it’s power is beginning to slip. Following three women as they try to fight against the system, the novel feels like a made for tv movie, which it probably is. Given that she can’t recapture the shock factor of the first book, Atwood aims to please with more action, an updated feel and a look at the inner workings of Gilead.
47. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read
Stephen E. Ambrose
The thrilling account of Easy Company, a unit of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army is one of my favorite World War 2 books. The book gets its title from the Shakespeare quote, “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” Instead of following one man’s journey, the cast of characters winds in and out as men come and go from the company due to reassignment, injury, and death. Stephen Ambrose’s powerful book is a remarkable look at the everyday men who became legends.
48. Recommended by a Local Librarian
Retired expert detective Hercule Poirot embarks on a relaxing vacation to Egypt. Among his fellow passengers is Linnet Ridgeway, one of the wealthiest women in England, who is on her honeymoon with her husband Simon Doyle. Yet all his not bliss for the happy couple, as they have been followed by a vengeful Jacqueline de Belleforte, Linnet’s former best friend and Simon’s former fiance. Add in a cast of suspicious characters and a murder and you get the perfect recipe for an Agatha Christie mystery. Just so you know, Death on the Nile is one of the books becoming movies in 2020.
49. 2019 New Release
Known for taking on almost forgotten historical settings, Sepetys tackles another dark period of history. Despite its fascist dictatorship a Francisco Franco, Spain continues to allure tourists in the late 1950s. Ready to embrace his mother’s Heritage through photography, Texan Daniel Matheson arrives in Madrid full of hope. When he meets Ana, one of the hotel maids, his life irrevocably changes. Although marketing as young adult, Ruta Sepetys mixes family drama, love and heartbreak into a fascinating historical setting that adults will love just as much.
50. The First Book in a Series
I’d never read L’Engle’s beloved children’s fantasy, and I wish I had left it at that. The story tells of Meg and Charles Wallace embarking through a wrinkle in time on a quest to find their missing father. There they meet a dark force intent on subjugating them to its will. You might cherish it, but I just thought it was weird.
51. Prettiest cover
In 1862, a group of young artists summer together at Birchwood Manor to enjoy a season of join creative endeavors. Instead, they are left with the murder of a young woman and the disappearance of another along with an irreplaceable heirloom. In modern times, archivist Elodie Winslow discovers a haunting photograph of a young woman. Her search for the truth of the past leads her into a forgotten history and a journey through time. Although I love Kate Morton’s books, this one was rather hard to follow.
52. An Inspirational Story
After surviving Auschwitz, sixteen-year-old Cilka finds herself convicted for collaborating with the enemy. Consequently, she is sentenced to a Siberian gulag where the horrors start all over again. Yet there she meets a doctor who helps her find a purpose in her suffering by caring for the injured of the camp. A tale of love and hope even in the most desperate circumstances, Cilka’s Journey is a fictional work based on a true story. Although technically a sequel, Cilka’s Journey can easily be read as a standalone novel. The story perfectly hits all the correct emotional notes – not overly depressing or emotional, but still conveying the remarkable nature of Cilka’s life. A great story that makes me desperate to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
What books did you read for the 2019 Reading Challenge?