Books I Loved in 2019

Charlotte Kaufman
Jan 1 · 7 min read

It’s the end of the year and I, like many, have been reflecting on the books I read and loved this year.

A few notes on this end-of-year list:

  • These are not solely books that were published in 2019, they are books I read in 2019.
  • I make no distinction between listening to an audiobook or reading an e-book or hard copy, it’s all reading to me.
  • I read, and liked, more books than this. I can’t include them all. This is a roundup where I can talk about my favorites and those that stood out for specific reasons.

Top Three Books I Read in 2019

Mother Winter, a Feminist Memoir, by Sophia Shalmiyev.

Shalmiyev’s Mother Winter is a stunning work of art. Her intertwining of the sharp and the biting, of the beauty and the banality of everyday life, leaves you wanting to grab a passerby and say, “Here look, at this passage!” — so you can experience it in tandem. This was not a book I read in one sitting. Instead, I waited until I had alone time to savor it in pieces. I often felt like I was walking into a museum to sit in front of a masterpiece. This is a book I will re-read for the rest of my life.

The Patternist Series, by Octavia Butler.

I started reading Butler’s work in 2016 when I discovered the Parable of the Sower. Since then, I’ve almost completed reading the entire Butler canon (with only Fledgling and her short stories remaining.) Since discovering her work, Octavia Butler has become my favorite author of all time — I cannot recommend her work enough. The Patternist series will leave you forever changed (as will all her books.) If you need further encouragement Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions is developing the series for Amazon Prime Video, with Nnedi Okorafor and Wanuri Kahiu to co-write the series. More here.

Every Single Book by Mary Karr

Once I picked up Karr’s first book, The Liars’ Club, I couldn’t stop. I proceeded forward with Cherry, then Lit, and finished with her incredible, The Art of Memoir. In 2019, I soaked myself in all things Mary Karr and now I constantly hear her voice in my head as if she’s narrating my own life. If you enjoy non-boring memoir, read Mary Karr. I also highly encourage you to listen to her audiobooks because she narrates them herself so you get the full effect with her west Texas drawl.

Authors I Fell in Love With

Pam Houston

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, is the first book I’ve read of Pam Houston’s and it won’t be the last. I love a memoir with layers, and Deep Creek is exactly that. It’s not just a book about the 2013 West Fork Fire that almost burned down her ranch (a ranch she bought at 31 years old, with no previous ranching experiencing, and with only 5% down), nor is it just a memoir about land and how it can heal a person. Deep Creek contains many threads — this is a story about her as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and her conflicted relationship with her parents. It’s both an anthem and guidebook of hope for survivors as well as a beautiful and painful ode to the loss of the natural world — all themes I can relate to on a deeply personal level.

Sexism, Racism, and the Way Forward

Over and over again, I’m drawn to books on these topics. Here are four I read this year and recommend:


Books that Soothe the Survivalist Streak in Me

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — and Why, by Amanda Ripley. I was riveted to Ripley’s analysis of how humans respond to disasters and how we can respond better when disaster befalls us. As someone who survived being rescued at sea, I gained so much insight into my own responses during and after the rescue. If you want to know a better way to handle anything horrible scenario that may happen to you, read this book.

Books That Inspired Me

In life, we’re always closer to the edge than we care to admit, never guaranteed our next breath, never sure of what will follow this moment. ~ Caroline Van Hemert, The Sun is a Compass.

The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds, by Caroline Van Hemert. In this book Van Hemert describes the adventures, perils, and exhilaration of trekking, paddling, swimming, skiing and other human-powered methods, of crossing 4,000 miles of Alaskan wilderness. Readers looking for an inspiring adventure story need look no further than this book. The Sun is a Compass also just won the 2019 Banff Adventure Travel Award.

Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, Big Magic came out in 2015 and yes, it took me until 2019 to read it. Gilbert’s book on her take of the creative process and how to kindle it will absolutely motivate you to get creating too.


Erotica

The Hungry Jungle: A Witch Planet! Picaresque, by Sheridan Goodluck (alias). If you haven’t started reading erotica yet, it’s time you started. I haven’t giggled this hard while also being turned on in a long time. And good news, book two, The Lion, The Witch, and the Woodsman, was just released!


Thrillers

The Nowhere Child, by Christian White and The Butterfly Girl, by Rene Denfield.

Both White and Denfields’s books are suspenseful, dark, and gripping and they deftly avoid the sometimes voyeuristic feel that can happen in crime story novels.


Authors I Follow

Brené Brown.I read all of Brown’s books. You should too. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, came out this year and was wonderful.

Rebecca Solnit (mentioned above). Solnit’s most recent book, Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters, came out this year, but make sure you check out her complete canon Haymarket Books has a Rebecca Solnit collection here. She is the author of Men Explain Things to Me, among other amazing books as well.

I Read Poetry and You Should Too

The Breath Between, an Invitation to Mystery and Joy, by Bethany Lee. While I’m not a massive poetry consumer, I read and loved Lee’s book. Her words envelop you like a beautiful, healing hug. I immediately re-read it once I got to the end to soak it in again.


I LOVE Y.A.

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor.

Children of Blood and Bone, book 1 of the Legacy of Orisha series, by Tomi Adeyami.

Loved them both! Looking forward to reading the next books in each series.

Books for Writers

The Byline Bible: Get Published in Five Weeks, by Susan Shapiro. I read Shapiro’s book, used her suggestions, and six weeks later (not quite five!) I was published in HuffPost with this piece.

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder.


What Books Did You Love This Year?

I’d love to hear the books that rocked your world in 2019. Tell me your recommendations.


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Charlotte Kaufman

Written by

Founder of Women Who Sail. Writer. Represented by Aemilia Phillips & David Patterson of Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. | She/Her | charlottekaufman.com

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