Top Ten Books of 2019

The Testaments was my favorite book in 2019

Goodreads says I read 158 books on my Kindle in 2019. I also read some print books, two I can think of right now: Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, my #1 pick. So I read at least 160 books in 2019. I know, it’s an addiction. Here’s the list, starting with a tie for #10.

~ 10 ~ Daisy Jones & the Six was great fun fiction, but TRAVELING WILBURYS, the biography, was equally endearing, with the added benefit of being true. If you love music, musicians, and Behind the Music type hijinks, these books are asking you to pick them up.

~ 9 ~ Sunset Beach MARY KAY ANDREWS. A fun novel by one of my favorite authors of escapist fiction. Set in a place I know and love well, this humorous caper has a good mix of mystery and romance.

~ 8 ~ This Messy Magnificent Life GENEEN ROTH. Roth’s latest memoir veers away from her “catastrophe and how she handles it” pattern. I really liked those, too. Among other things she has survived the San Francisco earthquake and being taken for every last dime by Bernie Madoff. But those were earlier books. This one sees Roth determined to write a book not of misfortune, but joy. She does it so well.

~ 7 ~ Americanah CHIMANANDA NGOZI ADICHIE. This novel was a book club pick or I never would have tackled it. Which is why I love my book club. I loved the autofiction feel of this novel about an adventurous Nigerian woman who comes to the US for college and discovers she is black. She knew her skin color, of course, but it wasn’t an issue until she encountered the racism around every corner in America. It’s not as simplistic as it sounds. I’m white, and I found myself learning about Nigeria and an America white folks may not detect. Unconscious (as well as deliberate) white prejudices and ignorance about the daily lives of black people were lessons I needed to read. Oh, and the main character is sassy. Also smart and struggling with love.

~ 6 ~ I Remember Nothing NORA EPHRON. This is a book of personal essays that will make you laugh at your old self, boomer. I was worrying about death, googled “books to make me feel better about death” and this popped up first in my search! Fresh air and typical Ephron wit.

~ 5 ~ Witch Elm TANA FRENCH. My favorite crime writer. Every one of her books is superior in every way: language, plot, character. I’ll be rereading all her novels in 2020!

~ 4 ~ Three Women LISA TADDEO. Non-fiction about three very different women and how they handle sexual trauma. Like a husband who is unapologetically without a sex drive! Get used to it, he kind of tells his wife. And she’s got a kid. She feels trapped in this loveless marriage. Whaddaya think happens when high school boyfriend suddenly comes around? Sad and so good. Women break my heart. Especially young women like the girl who has an affair with her teacher. Oh I was so angry with him and I just wanted to hug her after what the trial and her town did to her!!

~ 3 ~ Florida LAUREN GROFF. Well, she’s an amazing writer. I suffer from sincere sentence envy when I read her. These are short stories about the weird and wonderful land I call my second home.

~ 2 ~ Maybe You Should Talk to Someone LORI GOTTLIEB. Author is a psychologist but this is not self-help in the traditional sense. Lori’s long-time boyfriend abruptly leaves her and her son. She’d been thinking wedding and he was thinking…I don’t know. FUCK him. She falls apart but keeps seeing patients and folds their stories into her own. Everybody hurts. But somehow by the end of the book, better moods rise. I’m making it sound trite but it’s not. I cried more than once. And the Hollywood super agent who was so rude and withholding during therapy…well…honestly, you should read this.

~ 1 ~ The Testaments MARGARET ATWOOD. I never saw the Hulu show of the Handmaid’s Tale. I did read the book when published in 1985 and watched the film with Natasha Richardson and heart-stopping handsome Aidan Quinn in 1989. I never thought Atwood would do a sequel but I’m so happy she did. I read all her novels and story collections and poetry. I buy them in hardcover the day they are published. And this did not disappoint. Really, really great. I am going to reread Stone Mattress next. I think that’s the name of the book. It’s the name of one of my favorite stories in that collection anyway. The other one I have read over and over is “Torch the Dusties.” I could rave on but needless to say I love this author. She can do no wrong.

When I’m 64

All of my adult life, I have been collecting my favorite books and authors, promising myself I’d read them all again when I retired. Some day in the distant future. When I was old.

BTW, I don’t give the word “old” a negative connotation. It’s a place the lucky ones will all arrive at one day. At 64, I have arrived. Old is a place that you can’t really pack for…how was I to know in 1975 that there would be a little electronic book called the Kindle that stole my heart and helped my eyes? I have as many books saved on the Kindle as I do on my shelves. And I won’t need a van to move my Kindle to Florida. It fits in my purse.

I’m a planner. That plans often go awry is a lesson learned. I’ve gained mental flexibility as I’ve aged. When Al retires and we begin living on a “fixed” income, I’ll slow down my book buying (something Kindle makes far too easy!) and read again all those books I’ve loved before. I’m looking forward to it, but now I wonder if the book and the time of life have more to do with reading pleasure than I’d previously considered. Soon, I’ll find out.

My ideas about what to do in retirement are not for everyone. Some other surprising things I’ve done are completely change my diet and let my hair grey naturally. The diet makes me feel so much better and coloring my hair made my scalp burn as I got older. So I adapted my way of doing things. Now after completely reloading my pantry with nuts and seeds and coconut, two or three times a week I’m batch-cooking healthy foods that contain no sugar or wheat. If you would have told me this just eight weeks ago, I would have said no way.

Now when my body yells at me, I take the approach of “well, I’ll try this new thing.” It’s working out just fine. I don’t even miss bread. Or pasta. I kind of miss pizza, but everybody has gluten-free pizza these days. I made fudge this weekend. I used Swerve instead of sugar. Swerve does not raise blood sugar like other artificial sweeteners. It was a test and for my delicate tummy, Swerve did not pass. I made peanut butter cookies with Swerve, too. Al liked both sweet treats and didn’t have any digestive issues. But he doesn’t have problems with sugar, either. Next time I’ll try brown rice syrup, which my body tolerates better.

As for the hair, it is finally growing out to a longer length. Not sure if I’ll like it this way, but it will be easy to put in a ponytail in Florida and, as I get older, I am all about easy.

Reading & Listening

I just listened to a woman read the opening from A Paris Notebook, my first novel from The Wild Rose Press. She’s fabulous. She’s hired! When my publisher hooked up with Amazon to offer TWRP authors a shot at Audible, I was right on it. 30% of people now listen to their books as much as read them.

Not many people read novels. It’s a tiny percentage of the reading public, most prefer non-fiction. It used to be the only people who read poetry were poets (and me). Let’s hope that’s never true for novelists. I know there are a zillion of us out there. And then some of them, like prolific Nora Roberts, write hundreds of (really good) books spanning their careers. I just finished Year One by The Nora and loved it. She’s written 200 books which just plugging in a few numbers I figure must be something like 5 books a year. So a book in 2.5 months. How does she do it?

This is a bit of a shaggy post. Lots of people are talking about the book by Michael Wolff that claims our current president acts like a child, doesn’t read and doesn’t listen. I feel bad for Trump. It’s so clear that he needs approval so he puff himself up with praise (mostly inaccurate) at every opportunity. I wince when I read things like “I’m a genius, and, like, mentally healthy, too.” That was a paraphrase, not a quote. But he did use the word genius to describe himself on Twitter.

I bet Nora Roberts wouldn’t do that. Neither would Oprah, who I hear may be mulling a White House race in 2020. If Trump runs again, we could call it the Celebrity Election. I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I like Oprah but I also like my Presidents to know how government works. I want them to know foreign policy. I bet she would do some homework before taking office. Because at least Oprah reads. She’s a really good listener, too.

Lost My Crown & Other Lines

Isn’t this cover photo lovely? What a gorgeous veil. Like a crown. And gorgeous like Alice Hoffman’s writing. She writes like velvet. See, I write that sentence and it lays there. She would write. “Her words are pinned like bright stars on a deep blue velvet sky.”

Why can’t I write like that? Oh, wait. I can. I just don’t bother. Until I read someone like Hoffman who is a master on the sentence level, on the word level, on the vowel level. Honestly. Read her. The new one is The Marriage of Opposites and the story is just as captivating as the prose.

It’s so important for writers to read really good writing. No matter your genre, reach for the greats. I love my thrillers and my rom coms but sometimes you just have to go deep to reach high. Hoffman will inspire you to do that.

Meanwhile I really did lose my crown. Luckily it is only temporary and even more fortuitously my dentist is seeing me as an emergency at 10 am in the morning. Meanwhile I am eating a banana on one side of my mouth and sipping a coconut rum drink from a straw. This is all Hoffman’s influence. Her story takes place on the island of rum and bananas and coconuts…St Thomas in the nineteenth century.

My husband is away for the weekend and this whole tooth thing just has me feeling reckless drinking rum in the late afternoon all alone reading a really good book. Life could be worse, even minus the crown.

Ardent Desire

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” These are Mr. Darcy’s first words of an unsuccessful (but not due to these particular words) proposal to Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice, from Jane Austen, my favorite author. Writ by heart, no less, because my books are in chaos and I can’t lay my hands on Bartlett’s Quotations, let alone any of my copies of Pride & Prejudice.

In recalling this line, I want to read the book again now, as I have many summers for many years. Maybe time for a Kindle copy? Or mayhap watch my beloved BBC DVD version? Yes. Ah, Mr. Firth fine in all his splendid wet white shirtness.

Why so wild for P&P on this August day when my horoscope says to go out to play?

It’s the books. Well, the room I keep the books in. I’m having it painted (hence, the chaos) and the color is Ardent Coral. Does a word, a single word from a beloved book, really inspire a week’s worth of book cleaning, furniture moving and visits to the paint shop?

Why, yes, yes, it does. Ardently.

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