Sometime in the last few years I realized I was finishing books at a pace that truly alarmed me. I was always a voracious reader as a kid, and I grew up to be an editor, so the amount of reading (or lack thereof) I was doing ashamed me and frankly made me kind of sad.
Then I realized that 1) I spend most of my day reading at work (it just isn’t “fun” reading and I am usually fixing the writing), and 2) I was getting through the Outlander books, and at 1,000+ pages a pop, those aren’t exactly quick reads (though they are totally worth it).
Last year, inspired by my friend Katharine, I set a goal to read at least a book a month. A whole 12 books in a year does not sound like much. I finished at 13. I modestly bumped my goal for 2019 up to 15 this year, and in January, my friend Lindsay added me to her Google spreadsheet where a bunch of people track what they read and either recommend the book or don’t! I think of this as a book club without meetups or discussions; just a quick virtual way to get good ideas on what to read next, and I LOVE IT.
Motivated by Katharine and Lindsay and spurred on by the fact that I finished the final (so far) Outlander book early this year, I’ve been on a tear and have already hit my goal of 15 (in fact, I finished a 16th while working on this post)! In honor of reaching my goal and being well on my way to surpassing it, and because autumn is around the corner and autumn is a great time for reading, here’s a guide to the books I’ve read so far in 2019!
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander Series #8)
by Diana Gabaldon
Like I mentioned, the Outlander books are a bit lengthy, so to be honest, I couldn’t even tell you specifics about what happens in the eighth volume of Jamie and Claire’s saga versus what happened in the third…or fifth… So I’ll just let you reach the conclusion that if I gobbled up these bricks, they are all good books. I read a bit about Gabaldon at some point and found out she wrote the first one on a whim (just to see if she could write a novel), and I am endlessly impressed. She must be a genius. She has created a world of compelling and believable characters (gotta love a strong female lead), and she is a master storyteller, weaving a multigenerational tale through impeccably researched history, science, and cultures in several parts of the world during different time periods. I cannot wait until the ninth book comes out.
Bad with Money
by Gaby Dunn
I listen to a couple of Gaby Dunn’s podcasts, including one of the same name as her book, Bad with Money. Being someone who worries constantly that I am also “bad with money,” I find comfort in being able to laugh at the stories Dunn shares and tells with her various guests. Plus, I think women should be more transparent about money with each other than society wants us to be. I was particularly intrigued by Dunn’s interview with a financial therapist. So when this book published, I was excited to read it. While it was entertaining, for me, this book wasn’t as helpful as the podcast is. It is organized more or less by life stage, and figuring out how to pay for college and whether to take unpaid internships? Those ships have sailed.
The Wedding Date
by Jasmine Guillory
I heard Guillory on “Call Your Girlfriend” months ago when she came out with The Wedding Date, her first novel. I added it to my “to read” list, but wasn’t sure I’d actually read it, since romance isn’t a genre I typically lean toward. But it kept popping up on Instagram feeds and friends I trust were loving it, so feeling in need of some light escapism, I gave it a try and LOVED it. I’ve since realized “contemporary” romance isn’t the romance genre I thought of. The main character Alexa is super relatable, and this was a fun, hard-to-put-down, quick read from start to finish. In fact, thanks to The Wedding Date, I’ve been on quite the modern romance kick this year, as you may notice…
by Jasmine Guillory
If I’m being COMPLETELY honest, I didn’t find the characters in The Proposal to be as well developed as those in The Wedding Date and so the story was slightly less believable and engaging. BUT. Guillory delivered again with a light, enjoyable read, and I am not complaining. The Proposal is a spinoff from The Wedding Date, featuring the male lead’s best friend. While it wasn’t as good as her first, in my opinion, I was still happy to wrap myself up in the California world of Guillory’s characters.
The Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
After reading Guillory’s two books, Amazon kept recommending The Kiss Quotient to me, and this was another one I saw popping up on friends’ feeds all over the place. It’s another contemporary romance novel, but this one centers a Vietnamese-Swedish American male lead and a female lead with Aspberger’s syndrome. I know nothing about what it’s like to come from a Vietnamese family or to be on the autism spectrum, so it was refreshing to read a story written from this point of view. And like Guillory’s novels, this one was also a sweet little story that gave me a break from reality and ended my day on a happy note.
Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, & Rich People Problems
by Kevin Kwan
People have been singing the praises of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy for a while and I wanted to watch the movie that came out recently, so I broke my streak of reading only female writers to read these three gems. Like the Outlander novels, all three blend together into one highly entertaining story about the richest families in Singapore. These were so snarky, funny, and amusing. In fact, I wish there were more to the series. And I did watch the movie…as usual, the book was better. ;)
by Samantha Irby
I adore Samantha Irby’s writing. She is right up there with another one of my favorite essayists, Sloane Crosley. Like her later book of essays (which I read first), We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, the essays in Meaty were at times deeply moving and at other times had me laughing to the point of choking. If you like reading essays and you like laughing, definitely don’t sleep on this one.
by Christina Lauren
Since I’ve been on this romance kick, Amazon recommended The Unhoneymooners to me, written by a duo, Christina Lauren. Is there any better form of romantic comedy than when the two main characters hate each other and then fall passionately in love despite their best judgment? What a solid trope. And this one is set in a Hawaiian paradise which just made me want to go on vacation.
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
by Christina Lauren
Not wanting to stop the good vibes I felt from reading The Unhoneymooners, I randomly downloaded the next Christina Lauren book to pop up on my Amazon suggestions, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating. While this was a fun, quick read, I didn’t love it as much as I loved The Unhoneymooners (maybe because the characters liked each other from the start?). Josh felt flat to me as a character and Hazel was so “quirky,” she felt unrelatable. But I’ll still return to Christina Lauren books at some point because these are the essence of guilty pleasure reading.
by Colleen Hoover
On Katharine’s Instagram recommendations, I switched things up a bit to read Verity, a thriller. While I thought the protagonist kind of sucked and the love story was too underdeveloped to be believable, as a suspenseful mystery, this was unbeatable. I. COULD. NOT. PUT. IT. DOWN. And once I finished it? I still didn’t know what to think about the core mystery, leaving me thinking about it for days.
Conversations with Friends
by Sally Rooney
Lindsay recommended this one to me, mentioning that although it isn’t super core to the story, the main character has endometriosis. Add Sally Rooney to the above list of authors who completely dazzle me with their abilities. Rooney is an Irish writer and wrote Conversations with Friends in her early 20s, but holy shit, she must be like 50 times more wise and insightful than I ever was at that age. Conversations is a slice-of-life story about two college-age best friends who begin socializing with an older married couple. In it, Rooney masterfully develops the psyches of these four characters and creates dialogue between them in a way I’ve never seen done before that feels fresh and real.
by Sally Rooney
As you can imagine, having adored Conversations so much, I wanted to read Normal People, which came out recently, right away. While Conversations is written only from the perspective of the main character Frances, Normal People shifts back and forth between the two main characters, Marianne and Connell, bearing witness to their relationship beginning in high school and continuing throughout college. With a completely different story and completely different types of characters, Rooney manages to create infinitely dimensional characters whose story is both beautiful and wrenching.
Red, White, & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
I don’t think it is possible for me to praise this book enough. Like reading Hoang’s romance novel written from the perspective of an autistic character, I hadn’t ever read a romance novel written from the perspective of a queer character and I haven’t had that life experience. But it absolutely did not matter. I loved this book so hard. With a divorced female president who had two biracial children I SO WISHED THIS BOOK WAS REALITY, but aside from that, it was also incredibly witty and funny with a love story that left me feeling incredibly happy.
The Wedding Party
by Jasmine Guillory
I finished The Wedding Party while writing this post. Like The Proposal, this one isn’t quite as sparkling and wonderful as The Wedding Date, but also like The Proposal, I was totally along for the ride featuring a romance between two of Alexa’s best friends, and I’ll stay on the Guillory train for as long as she continues writing books.
What am I reading next? I’ve started Bad Blood by John Carreyrou about Elizabeth Holmes, who fooled a bunch of rich old men into investing in her blood testing company, Theranos (love a good scammer story). I’m also looking forward to reading Beating Endo, by my very own surgeon Dr. Irish Orbuch, as well as Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Into them? Not into them? Falling down the romance rabbit hole as well? Let me know in the comments section or on Instagram!