My Top Reads of 2019

I read 41 books this year, 16 were non-fiction, 25 were fiction. There were so many I enjoyed, but these were my favorites.


Words of Radiance (Stormlight #2) – Brandon Sanderson


It is no exaggeration to say that the Stormlight Archive is one of the biggest things happening in Epic Fantasy right now. If you like thick doorstopper tomes, you really cannot beat this series. The plot and world building are incredible, and the world of Roshar is populated by complex and fascinating characters. I can’t recommend this series enough, and things just get better and better as the story goes on.



Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo


This contemporary fantasy combines two things I never knew I wanted: Yale secret societies and dark magic. Combine that with a badass heroine with a complicated past, in the vein of Lizbeth Salander or Jessica Jones, and you have one of the best new books of the year. Don’t believe me? It was the Goodreads Choice Winner for Fantasy, and it deserved it. Looking forward to more in this series.



The Crimson Queen – Alec Hutson


Hutson combines the boy-from-a-village-who-goes-on-a-journey trope, and takes it in some fantastic new directions, which makes it feel familiar yet very fresh. Combine that with rich language, a vivid setting, a mysterious sorceress, and a delightfully devious goddess, and you have the beginning of an outstanding trilogy. And the audiobook is excellent too.



Honorable Mentions: 

Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Unsouled – Will Wight

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer



Educated – Tara Westover 


Westover’s story of growing up in a radical fundamentalist home in rural Idaho was the biggest surprise of the year for me. I read it in three days. Which is very fast for me during the school year. I couldn’t put it down. She is a remarkable person and writer, and she has an incredible story to tell. My only complaint is that the cover does not do it justice. It looks like a teacher book, but it is about family, survival, radical beliefs, and the power of learning to think for yourself. This is my Book of the Year.


The Power of Myth – Joseph Campbell


In the realms of mythology and religion, few people had more impact in the 20th century than Joseph Campbell. This book is essentially an uncut transcript of the Bill Moyers’ interview that aired on PBS in the 80s. It is incredibly deep and fascinating, as Campbell and Moyers discuss the big common ideas shared by humanity over the millennia. The PBS special is great viewing, but there is even more to digest in book form.



The Push – Tommy Caldwell


Arguably the best big wall rock climber in the world, Caldwell recounts his career up through his historic ascent of the Dawn Wall on El Capitan, which had been previously thought to be unclimbable. Caldwell is one of the hardest working athletes out there, but he also has much to say about life, love, family, and navigating the boundaries between risk and adventure.




Honorable Mentions:

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Alone on the Wall – Alex Honnold

A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson

No Impact Man – Colin Beavan




My Top Reads for 2018

I read 37 books this year, 19 were non-fiction, 18 were fiction. There were so many I enjoyed, but these were my five star reads.



Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a letter to his son, this memoir offers an honest depiction of race in 21st century America. Toni Morrison calls it required reading, and I would agree. One of the most important books for Americans at the present moment.



Night – Elie Wiesel

This Holocaust account offers a short, brutal view of life in the camps. Wiesel’s simple prose makes these heart-wrenching scenes even more impactful. A stark reminder of where discriminatory and dehumanizing rhetoric leads.



Thanks, Obama – David Litt

This hilarious insider’s view of the Obama White House will give you nostalgia for what the Presidency used to be. Litt’s casual, self-deprecating style offers many laugh-out-loud moments, as an Obama fanboy joins the White House staff and discovers the complicated nature of US politics.



I’m Still Here – Austin Channing Brown

A Black woman, named so she would appear white and male on a future resume, chronicles her experiences growing up in a world made for whiteness. From casual racism and sexism in the workplace to a horrific plantation tour that includes Black college students being asked to pick cotton, this book packs a punch.



image.pngThe Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson

This epic fantasy contains some of the best world-building in any fantasy novel, following the stories of a slave, a knight-lord, and a young scholar in the midst of a years-long war triggered by a mysterious assassination involving a power that has been lost to the world. This massive book is filled with intrigue and is just plain fun.



The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien

I finally actually read The Lord of the Rings, and while The Two Towers left much to be desired for me, The Return of the King was thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. The Ring is destroyed, and Sam carries Frodo up Mt. Doom. What else do you need to know?



Red Rising – Pierce Brown

This blockbuster sci-fi, about a slave who rises to become a warrior in order to avenge his murdered wife, was nearly impossible to put down. While it borrows some obvious elements from Hunger Games, the action is excellently rendered and the characters are unpredictable and fun to watch.



Exit West – Mohsin Hamid

A uniquely relevant novel about a pair of young lovers as they flee a war-torn nation in search of a new life. This short novel could have easily been 600 pages, but the succinct prose and short scenes manage to pack even more power as Sayid and Nadia journey through mysterious doorways and face tragedy and trials as refugees.



image.pngYour Inner Fish – Neil Shubin

A paleontologist, who discovered a ‘missing link’ between sea and land animals, traces back the evolutionary origins of the human body through fossils, an adventure to the Arctic, and genetics. A surprisingly accessible introduction to how we know what we know about evolution.


image.pngInspired – Rachel Held Evans

A popular liberal Christian writer tackles the ancient text at the core of her complicated faith experience. Evans uses scholarly research, narrative prose, and personal stories to share her journey wrestling with how an ancient collection of texts (all-too-frequently misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused) can still be useful in an age of science and social awakening.



The Future of Humanity – Michio Kaku

A speculative exploration of how humanity may move from Earth to Mars, and even interstellar travel. Kaku tackles many theoretical solutions to the problems humanity will likely face as we move beyond our own world in a fascinating and accessible way. It’s hard not to be hopeful and excited for the future.


Some Other Honorable Mentions (not 5 star, but very enjoyable):

  • Pet Sematary – Stephen King
  • Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut
  • Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  • Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown
  • Billions and Billions – Carl Sagan