We’re already well into 2020, and I realize I’ve not yet posted my previous year’s reading list. My mind has been elsewhere the past couple months (we recently moved house and found out we’re expecting our first child later later this year!), hence this less-than-punctual post. But, better late than never.
All the books I finished reading in 2019:
Circe by Madeline Miller (book club)
Lullaby by Leila Slimani (friend loan)
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (friend loan)
The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy (book club; friend loan)
Becoming by Michelle Obama (book club)
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Less by Andrew Sean Greer (book club; friend loan)
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (book club)
The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway (book club)
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (book club; library loan)
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
Rabbit, Run by John Updike (book club)
The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (book club)
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (friend loan)
Paradise Lost by John Milton (book club)
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (friend loan)
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (book club; library loan)
Good Omens by Terry Prachett & Neil Gaiman (library loan)
The Library Book by Susan Orlean (book club)
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Pet Sematary by Stephen King (book club)
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (book club)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (book club)
Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, et al
The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter (book club)
Between the two book clubs that I regularly attend, I tackled a lot of Greek myth and epic poetry last year. My classics club kicked off 2019 with a new translation of The Odyssey (which I finished in December 2018), before tackling Beowulf, Dante and Milton.
I won’t lie– these books were challenging, and I didn’t love all of them. However, I always found something to appreciate in each text. And surprisingly, these are the books I found myself thinking about the most throughout the year. The age, scope and enduring popularity of these stories have shaped Western culture in ways I couldn’t truly appreciate without reading them. Whether it’s finding an allusion to Milton in a contemporary novel or an unexpected pop culture reference to Dante, the fingerprints of these poems are seemingly everywhere I look.
Greek mythology had a special significance for me last year, as I was lucky enough to visit Greece for the first time. Circe was my favorite of these novels. Madeline Miller brings life and nuance to the goddess/nymph/witch Circe, a character that often gets scant (and mostly negative) attention in her various incarnations.
Other books I highly recommend are The Library Book (warm nostalgia and optimism for library lovers), Bad Blood (for Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos saga obsessives), and Less (a wandering traveller with seemingly worse luck than Odysseus).
There were a few books on the above list that I did not enjoy. Always a bummer to have wasted reading time on stories that end with a fizzle, but I’m still willing to gamble on books I might otherwise ignore.
If you’re not that type of person, then I might suggest skipping The Hunt for Red October (not bad per se– especially if submarines are your thing– but save yourself time and watch the movie instead), The Pisces (I’d had high hopes for this one, but it ended strangely and with no real resolution), and Rabbit, Run (an award-winning classic yes, but perhaps one that could be cut from the American literary canon).
Looking forward to in 2020
My classics book club is devoting the entire year to women writers. Since we’ve already covered some of literature’s big names (Alcott, Allende, Austen, Bronte, Lee, Plath, Woolf, etc.), our selections this year include a few names I’m unfamiliar with, which I find very exciting!
I causally dropped that I’m having a baby this year in the intro, meaning another goal of mine is to whittle down my To Be Read pile before the due date. No easy task, but I’ve already managed to read four books this year (and only one had to do with pregnancy and birth!). Crossing my fingers that I can keep up that pace for at least a few more months.
As always, you can follow my reading progress on Goodreads. Despite life getting even busier this year, I’m still looking for book recommendations, so please keep sharing!