My Very Late 2019 Book Review Post

Already 2 months into 2020, and I still have yet to give an update on my 2019 reads. As usual, reading was important to me as I made my way through that tunultuous year. I only managed 51 titles in total, largely because of my opting to take on James Michener’s epic Chesapeake because it was published in 1979. More about that in the upcoming favorites list.

As noted, I read 51 books in total: only 7 nonfiction/memoirs, more than a usual helping of historical fiction, and a lot of sci-fi with unusual perspectives. In addition, I always try to make sure I read books from those considered underrepresented; women, racial/ethnic minorities, and even some with disabilities. Only 15 of my chosen reads were by men, and altogether about 20 came from the other two mentioned categories. I just like the broad sense of one’s world that can be gained by deliberately selecting from varied backgrounds.

Every year, I set the ambitious goal of keeping a table of and rating any book I complete. And every year I fail. I have, however, tracked all 51 reads and the dates on which I completed them. I will place the entire list at the end of this entry if you wish to see it, but will put up here a list of my top ten favorites with little blurbs for your quick consumption.

  1. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
    Even better with the former first lady reading it, this book reveals interesting insights not only on her and Barack’s rise, but also her family life, with so much of it sounding familiar to me.
  2. On The Come Up, by Angie Thomas
    Her follow-up to The Hate U Give, it takes place in the same universe and involves a female teen using rap to “come up” in a world of gangs and poverty.
  3. Where The Crawdad Sings, by Delia Owens
    I enjoyed this, because it was set on the NC coast during the 60s and 70s, though admittedly not in a place I’ve ever known of. “Marsh girl” has to survive and learn to fight for herself.
  4. The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan
    I like this kids book especially in audio, the first in a series that introduces Egyptian mythology in a fun way: dad traveling to England, people jumping out of cats, and siblings teaming up to save the world.
  5. Cemetery Road, By Greg Iles
    As always by this author, the quintessential Southern novel, great for the baking days of June. Mississippi: tangled love, death, small-town gossip, it has it all.
  6. WashingtonBlack, by Esi Edugyan
    This book starts out being about slavery, and becomes so much more. Master lets one of his smartest slaves go with his brother, and they embark on wild adventures into the sea, sky, and the great North.
  7. Solitude, by Dean M. Cole
    Called “Dimension Space for a reason, but it does not become immediately apparent. Last couple on earth first must meet, then try to unwind a disaster to revive humanity.
  8. The Shadow Lands, by Elizabeth Kostova
    Bulgaria in the modern and the past, shines a light on events there during and after World War II as a woman tries to return luggage. Told in Kostova’s slightly rambly but amazing style.
  9. Chesapeake, by James Michener
    Set in the region of its name, this 1000+ page tome explores a slice of American history from 1588 to 1979. Traces maybe 3 main families.
  10. Fountains of Silence, by Ruta Sepetys
    A rare book about life under Franco in Spain, with an American teen-aged photographer falling in love with a Spanish woman and following her into her life of challenge.

(Shameless plug: if you want to see my mini-reviews as they emerge, follow me on Twitter [Opens In a New Window] ). That’s just a snippet of what I enjoyed last year. Some fun reads, but many that makes one think. Certainly we already have many of those coming in 2020. Below, I will place my entire, unadorned list. If you do not care to look, then you have completed this entry. Hope you find something new.

2019 Book List
Becoming, Michelle Obama (1/1-1/15)
Tailspin, Sandra Brown (1/1-1/29)
Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton (1/1-1/21)
Verses for the Dead, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, (1/21-2/1)
Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver (1/21-2/11)
On The Come Up, Angie Thomas (2/8-2/19)
Not A Sound, Heather Gudenkauf (2/13-2/28
Adrift, Tami Ashcraft (2/20-2/26)
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens 2/26-3/9
The Wife, Alafair Burke )3/1-3/30)
The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan (3/9-3/20
The Liar’s Child, Carla Buckley 3/12-4/4
The Rising Sea, Clive Cussler (3/20-4/9)
Daisy Jones and The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid (3/29-4/8)
Hidden Figures, Margot Shetterly (4/4-5/3)
Severance, Ling Ma (4/10-4/23)
Run Away, Harlan Coben (4/17-5/17)
More Than Words, Jill Santopolo (4/23-5/3)
Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi (4/30-5/15)
Cold Waters, Debbie Herbert 5/5-5/15)
Ocean Country, Liz Cunningham (5/16-6/16)
The Mystery of Alice, Lee Bacon (5/16-5/22))
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein (5/18-6/12)
Cemetery Road, Greg Iles (5/23-6/15)
This Fallen Prey, Kelley Armstrong )6/13-7/7)
Night of Miracles, Elizabeth Berg (6/16-6/28)
Recursion, Blake Crouch (6/17-6/27)
The Other Americans, Laila Lalami (6/28-7/10)
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan (6/30-7/25)
The Monkey Idol, K.D. McNiven (7/8-7/31)
The Dreamers, Karen Thompson Walker (7/11-7/25)
Gemina, Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (7/26-8/15)
Never Have I Ever, Joshilyn Jackson (7/30-8/12)
DC Trip, Sara Benincasa (8/1-8/16)
It’s Not What It Looks Like, Molly Burke (8/11-8/19)
Solitude, Dean M. Cole (8/16-9/5)
Conscious, Annaka Harris (8/17-8/28)
The Never Game, Jeffry Deaver (8/20-9/14)
The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova (8/29-9/22)
Multitude, Dean M. Cole (9/6-9/29)
The Friends We Keep, Jane Green (9/22-10/7)
The Secrets We Kept, Lara Prescott (9/29-10/16)
Chesapeake, James Michener (9/29-1/13)
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane (10/17-10/26)
The Supermarket, Bobby Hall (10/27-11/1)
Born to Fly, Steve Sheinkin (11/2-11/7)
Lady in the Lake, Laura Lippman (11/7-11/18)
The Last Astronaut, David Wellington (11/18-11/28)
Fountains of Silence, Ruta Sepetys (11/29-12/12)
Blind spot, Brenda Novak (12/12-12/25)
Scarred, Sarah Edmondson (12/26-1/9)

ValDayVersary: On Leaving Newly Wed Status Behind

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you are or have been married, or I suppose even if in a long-term relationship, you and your partner have probably developed an insider language. A collection of words that mean something only to you, or that do exist in other contexts but not with the same connotation. For example, my wife and I have demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, a concept that originated from pressing the button. It’s… a long story. But it brings us much amusement.

But my favorite word creation is ValDayVersary, a combination of Valentine’s Day, her birthday, and our anniversary, which all happen to fall within days of each other. When I first proposed this idea, she of course said “You better not wrap all of that into one day. I want all three celebrations!” And naturally, that’s what it has turned into: a two-month reveling in our relationship and all we have that kicks off each year. It really sets a tone that can carry us forward through all kinds of craziness, the likes of which we discover as we encounter unusual obstacles.

I think this kind of creativity is key to surviving and thriving in a partnership that one expects to last for a life time. Though I certainly don’t know everything yet, as our newlywed status ends I feel that I am now qualified to give some advice in how to work with your significant other in a way that hopefully both of you find pleasing.

First and foremost, as the Wesley Snipes character said in White Men Can’t Jump, “listen to the woman”. To be more inclusive, listen to the “other half”. People will let you know, either directly or indirectly, what they want. Especially in the beginning, she would sometimes say “You should buy me some flowers or something tangible to express your love for me”. I didn’t take this the wrong way, understanding that it was a way to get a newbie like me who had never been in such a sustained connection, to understand the basic expectations. As time has gone on I don’t have to be told these things, as I absolutely want to do them. The indirect hints take more attention, as she might say “I sure could use a new bag,” or “it’s been a while since we’ve had a meal out together”. Of course not everything is material in nature, as usually the most valuable thing you can give of yourself is your time. Just be aware and pay attention to what the person is saying in that regard, as I discovered on wrapping up year 1 that I had missed some subtle cues that led to missed chances to connect.

Speaking of, for me at least a very important element is to make each other laugh a lot. Life serves up enough challenges to cause anyone to crumple from the weight of it. We work together to conquer these challenges, but whenever we have the chance and are up to it we enjoy joking around with each other both verbally and physically. And to me at least, that has rapidly increased the sense of bonded purpose between the both of us.

I do not know what awaits us going forward, but I am becoming more excited as experience and age education us on how to not only deal with whatever life serves, but also to have a lot of fun while doing it. Here’s to your laughs, language, and love. I find it hard to believe that it has already been five years since that first Valentine’s Day when we met, and our origin story really kicked into gear. (Funny side note, as I wrote that, Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” came on as I was writing this part). What do you remember of the beginning of your relationship? Have you developed any strange language between the two of you?