all of my 2019 book recommendations

All year long, I’ve made a weekly book recommendation when kicking off the weekend open thread. These aren’t work-related books; they’re just books I love and think everyone else should read. Sometimes they’re books that I’m in the middle of reading, and other times they’re just long-standing favorites.

Here’s the complete list of what I’ve recommended this year (maybe in time for holiday gift-shopping!). I’ve bolded my favorites of the favorites.

Please note: I make a commission if you use these links.

The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, by Diana B. Henriques, the New York Times business correspondent who covered the scandal as it unfolded. Utterly engrossing and reads like a novel.

Severance, by Ling Ma. Alternating between flashbacks and present day, this is the story of Candace Chen, one of the few to survive after a plague wipes out most of the population. It’s got office politics, zombies, and shades of Station Eleven.

Educated, by Tara Westover. I read this under duress because people kept telling me to, but I found I couldn’t put it down. It’s a memoir about being raised in a isolated, survivalist home in rural Idaho, being allowed neither school nor doctors, with a family in denial about her violent brother, and eventually choosing a different life, including earning a doctorate from Cambridge.

The Awkward Age, by Francesca Segal, about a merged family that merges in unplanned ways.

The Darlings, by Cristina Alger. I’ve been reading obsessively about Bernie Madoff (and eyeing everyone I know with suspicion), and this is a fictionalized account of a couple whose lives intersect with a similar scandal. If you, like me, start to feel like you’re living in the world of the book you’re reading, you will feel very, very rich while you read this.

Late in the Day, by Tessa Hadley. Two close-knit married couples unravel when one of the husbands dies unexpectedly. That sounds horribly depressing but somehow it’s not? The Washington Post called it “romantic comedy pulled by a hearse” and said, “The whole grief-steeped story should be as fun as a dirge, but instead it feels effervescent — lit not with mockery but with the energy of Hadley’s attention, her sensitivity to the abiding comedy of human desire.”

Seven Days of Us, by Francesca Hornak. A family is forced to spend a week in quarantine together at Christmas. It’s tense, it’s funny, and it does not go quite smoothly.

The Banker’s Wife, by Cristina Alger. A banker’s plane goes down under suspicious circumstances on its way to Geneva, and his wife is left trying unravel what happened. You will stay up late reading this.

The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer. It’s a fictionalized account of photographer/model Lee Miller’s relationship with Surrealist Man Ray in 1930s Paris, and I was skeptical that I’d like it but I was totally engrossed. It’s about love and art and imperfection and figuring out what you have to say.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. Drop whatever you are reading and read this instead. It’s the story of the massive fraud perpetrated by Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, and it is fascinating. Also, there is terrible management on every single page. Seriously, it is amazing and you must read it immediately.

Daisy Jones and the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid — the fictitious oral history of a band in the 70s. It’s like the written version of watching a “Behind the Music” special but with more drama and more humor. I loved it.

The Italian Teacher, by Tom Rachman. It’s about a terrible, infuriating father and the mark he makes on the son who longs to connect with him. It’s also about art and legacy and rivalry.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, a strangely engrossing account of the staff of an English-language newspaper in Rome and how their lives intertwine.

Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie. Two American university professors on research trips to London each get drawn into life-altering relationships with others. It won the Pulitzer in 1985.

Normal People, by Sally Rooney. It’s the story of an on-again, off-again relationship that starts in high school and continues into college, taking different forms as the two people themselves do. I actually think Conversations with Friends was better, but I will read anything Sally Rooney writes from this day until the end of days.

Having discovered Alison Lurie, I’m now reading everything she’s written, most recently Truth and Consequences, which is about two academics’ marriage, their affairs, and a bad back.

Lights All Night Long, by Lydia Fitzpatrick. An exchange student from Russia spends a year in America after a tragedy befalls his family at home.

The Farm, by Joanne Ramos. It’s about a luxury baby surrogate business and gets into class, race, inequality, and motherhood in interesting and disturbing ways.

The Mother-in-Law, by Sally Hepworth, in which the mysterious death of a family matriarch causes all sorts of relationships and secrets to unravel. This is not my usual fare, but I quite enjoyed it.

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun, by Dana Reinhardt. Family dysfunction and vacations gone horribly wrong — two of my favorite genres! Very enjoyable in a beachy way.

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai, about a group of friends during the early stages of the AIDS crisis. I loved it so much. The first half was good, and the second half made it one of my favorite books of all time. You will cry multiple times. Probably my favorite book this year.

Ask again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane. The saga of two very different neighboring families, and how they intersect in ways both tragic and loving.

Crampton Hodnet, by Barbara Pym, recommended by a commenter last weekend. A paid companion to an elderly spinster finds novelty when a handsome clergyman moves in as a boarder. Scandals abound, and it’s a delight!

The Body in Question, by Jill Ciment, about two sequestered jurors drawn to each other during the trial they’re on.

Chasing Cosby: The Downfall of America’s Dad, by Nicole Weisensee Egan. He’s even worse than you already knew.

The Expatriates, by Janice Y. K. Lee, about three American women living in Hong Kong, and how their lives intersect in surprising ways. I sometimes find that when a story changes what character it’s following from chapter to chapter, it’s disappointing when your time with one character gets interrupted for one you’re less interested in. But you’ll be invested in and attached to all three women in this book.

Supper Club, by Lara Williams. Two women create a subversive supper club where they indulge in ways they didn’t predict. It’s about friendship and food and the space you take up, and it’s dark and smart and funny and moving and I loved it.

Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner. Sprawling over seven decades, this is the story of two very different sisters and how they change as the world, and especially women, change. A long family saga wins again!

The Floating Feldmans, by Elyssa Friedland. The matriarch of a squabbling family turns 70 and decides to take the whole family (kids, spouses, and grandkids) on a cruise. Things do not go according to plan.

Reading Behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian, by Jill Grunenwald. A while back I did an interview with commenter Oryx about her time working as a prison librarian, and this is her book — with far more details about the experience. It’s fascinating.

The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo. A wonderfully long family saga in which four daughters struggle in the shadow of what they think is their parents’ effortlessly happy marriage.

Reasons to be Cheerful, by Nina Stibbe. I don’t know how to describe this book. On the surface it’s about an 18-year-old who moves out, takes a job as a dental assistant, and starts becoming an adult. But I don’t know how to describe it in a way that will do it justice; it’s hilarious and charming and I loved it very much.

The Dearly Beloved, by Cara Wall. The story of two ministers leading the same church and the women who marry them. It’s more about marriage and friendship than it is about religion, but faith is a theme and a question throughout.

City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. A 19-year-old gets expelled from Vassar in 1940 and is sent to live with her black sheep aunt who runs a theater in New York City. She befriends showgirls, discovers men, and figures out how she wants to live her life. I quite enjoyed it.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stadal. I am a huge fan of his Kitchens of the Great Midwest (until stumbling across his photo recently, I thought he was a woman because he writes women so well). Anyway: pies, breweries, family drama.

The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott. It’s a novel but it’s based on real events surrounding the publication of Doctor Zhivago, including the women who helped the CIA smuggle it out of the Soviet Union, publish it, and sneak it back in. It’s a sort of literary spy story.

Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor. An older woman moves into the Claremont Hotel and befriends a young writer who agrees to pose as her grandson. There’s dark humor in it, but it’s more poignant than funny.

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett. It’s about a brother and sister who are kicked out of their family home by their stepmother and how that reverberates over decades.

Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes. A recent widow whose grief is complicated gets to know a baseball player whose arm stopped working and things must be worked out. It’s a little light and fluffy, and sometimes that is exactly what you want.

Lust & Wonder, by Augusten Burroughs. It’s either his third or his six memoir, depending on how you count them. The first covered his awful childhood, the second covered his alcoholism, and this one is about his path to his husband.

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA, by Amaryllis Fox. This is a memoir about her time undercover for the CIA, and OMG it is fascinating, especially the details around how she was trained, how her cover was created (and costumed), and how she did her job.

The Dreamers, by Karen Thompson Walker. A college student falls asleep and can’t be roused — and what seems to be a virus spread through the town, leaving people seemingly permanently asleep, while others struggle to deal with the outbreak. That sounds like horror, but it’s not; it’s strangely and beautifully done.

Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson. A 20something woman whose life hasn’t gone as planned moves to Tennessee to help take care of her friend’s twins, who their politician dad wants kept out of the public eye because they happen to burst into flames whenever they get upset. One of my favorite books of the year!

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta. Millions of people vanish all at once, in what may or may not be the Rapture, and those left behind struggle to figure out a path forward.

The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption, by Barbara Bisantz Raymond. This is the horrifying true story of a woman in the first half of the 20th century who openly kidnapped hundreds of children and sold them to wealthy adoptive parents.

Know My Name, by Chanel Miller. This is by the woman who was assaulted by Brock Turner, and she’s an extraordinary writer and an extraordinary person.

Be Frank With Me, by Julia Claiborne Johnson. Assigned to be an assistant to a reclusive literary icon, the protagonist instead ends up as the full-time companion to the author’s precocious nine-year-old son. Slate summarized it as three “three … eccentrics in an estate made of glass trying not to kill each other.”

And if you’re looking for more, here are my lists of book recommendations from 2018 … from 2017 … from 2016 … and from 2015.

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{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. Majnoona*

    For some reason I have been reading mostly dystopian novels since 2016 and I really enjoyed Severance – happy to see it on the list (and it also reminded me of Station 11 but I couldn’t remember the name of that book til now, so thanks)

    1. Flyleaf*

      I’d add Yoko Ogawa’s “The Memory Police” to my list of dystopian novels that I enjoyed in 2019. It drew me in quickly, and was chilling in how it showed a government chipping away at the foundation of what a society is made of. I hadn’t heard of it before the English translation was published this year, but it came out 25 years ago in Japan.

    2. Mimi Me*

      I just read a book that bills itself as a feminist dystopian novel. It’s called “The Water Cure” bu Sophie Mackintosh. I don’t know about it being a true dystopian novel or even a true feminist novel, but I have to say it sucked me in. I couldn’t put it down and I ended the book feeling slightly unsettled.

  2. Daniel*

    I put Daisy Jones and the Six on my Christmas list! Thanks for that recommendation.

    And I really have to carve out some time to read Bad Blood.

    1. banzo_bean*

      I did the audiobook through audible for daisy jones. It’s got an allstar ensemble cast reading it including Judy Greer. I really enjoyed it!

    2. Marny*

      Bad Blood is amazing. I think my jaw dropped early on and stayed dropped for the rest of the book. And it’s a fast read.

    3. Margali*

      Both excellent books, and the audiobook of Daisy Jones and the Six is my favorite I have listened to all year!

    4. Sue*

      Agree Bad Blood is fascinating. And strongly agree on Daisy Jones on audiobook, they did a great job with it.

    5. MJ*

      Got Bad Blood from the library – my Christmas reading. Looking forward to reading it after hearing about it here previously.

    6. Escalating Eris*

      Just finished Bad Blood. What a wild ride! It’s fascinating how some people are so charming and charismatic that they can get people to believe anything. And the few who aren’t taken in are marginalised or smeared.

  3. Artemesia*

    FWIW Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont was made into a charming movie starring Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend about 15 years ago. Well worth dialing up.

  4. 8DaysAWeek*

    Love this. Thank you!!
    I just started Bad Blood this week. I think my jaw was on the floor even before the official Chapter 1. My AAM alarm bells have been going off on just about every sentence. I am only on pg 20 or so and it is maddening that this could happen. Especially since I work in the same industry.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Bad Blood is the most fascinating, *infuriating* story I have read in a long, long time. (So of course I’m planning to read the Bernie Madoff book next.)

    2. starsaphire*

      I bought this on Alison’s recommendation, and I literally was up all night reading it.

      The awful horror/thrill each time I recognized a building or a restaurant or a shop the author was describing just kept bringing home, “This was right under our noses.”

      I just now bought the Georgia Tann book too; I can’t wait to get my vacation read on!

  5. Lana Kane*

    The Leftovers sounds interesting – adding it!

    If you like audiobooks, I just finished listening to Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, narrated by Tom Hanks. I loved the book, and Tom Hanks did a *phenomenal* job (of course). I think he really brought the narrator to life.

    1. banzo_bean*

      I’m in the middle of it now, see below comment. I love him reading it! I did Daisy Jones and the Six and Judy Greer plays one of the parts.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      I loved The Leftovers. Also see my comment below about the HBO series, which I enjoyed as much as the book.

  6. banzo_bean*

    I have been listening to the Dutch House after you recommendation a few weeks ago. It’s read by Tom Hanks- and it’s a great listen/read.

  7. Sarah*

    I have now added substantially to my library hold list. I have read several of these on your recommendation, and they have all been hits. I’m looking forward to more!

  8. Marny*

    Allison, Based on your list, I think you’d really like Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill about how NBC handled (or didn’t handle) reporting the Weinstein story. It reads like a spy novel and still manages to be funny in parts despite the outrageous and horrifying subject matter.

      1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        Whoops, didn’t mean that as a reply. Although I will say I have Catch and Kill on hold at my library, and I’m listening to the podcast.

  9. Antilles*

    Are some of the links showing up bold while others are not? Or is that just quirkiness on my computer’s end? Or is it intentional and there’s meaning to it?

  10. Jack Russell Terrier*

    Barbara Pym is a delight. There’s a wonderful Barbara Pym Society at St. Hilda’s which I helped found. I find that when I’m going through a turbulent time, if I re-read one of her books it helps!

    1. fposte*

      I discovered earlier this year that there’s a watchable if very VCR-made copy of Miss Pym’s Day Out, about her 1977 nomination for the Booker Prize and starring Patricia Routledge, on YouTube, which is delightful.

        1. fposte*

          I hadn’t known about it until recently, and I’m so glad it did her justice. (At one point I was hoping to make a quilt based on one of those amazing Jacqueline Schuman covers.)

  11. I second that emotion*

    I’m listening to Nothing to See Here now, and I thank you for this recommendation! It’s such a compelling story!

  12. Ann Furthermore*

    I read Normal People, and while I liked the story, I could not get past the author’s choice to not use any quotation marks for dialogue. I spent almost as much time figuring out who was speaking as I did actually reading the book. It really grated on me.

    I read The Leftovers, and then also watched the HBO series. Highly recommend. It’s weird and strange, but I really enjoyed it. After the last episode (which is up there with my favorite series finales), I read an article about how Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta disagreed about how to end the series. Tom Perotta wanted to leave the ending ambiguous, but Damon Lindelof didn’t as he was still stinging from the backlash over how he and JJ Abrams decided to end Lost. To avoid any spoilers, I won’t go into any more details, other than to say that they came up with what I thought was an absolutely ingenious compromise that worked for the viewer no matter what they thought about the events leading up to and included in the finale, and whether they were true or not.

    And…Daisy Jones and the Six was fabulous. Loved it.

    Thanks for these recommendations! I’ve read a few but there are others that I’ll be putting onto my 2020 reading list.

    1. WellRed*

      I tried to read a book with no quotation marks. Couldn’t do it and frankly, don’t understand the point. What’s it supposed to accomplish in a literary sense?

          1. banzo_bean*

            It really depends on the book for me, and the way the rest of the narrative/dialog is structured. I’ve read books were it’s done successfully (The Round House) and others were it wasn’t.

            I read Wolf Hall a few years ago and had a lot of problems understanding who “he” referred to in the dialog since nearly all the characters are male. Apparently despite the awards the book won this was a common frustration and was fixed in the sequel. Let’s hope Sally Rooney takes the same approach to criticism.

  13. MissBliss*

    Am I misremembering, or didn’t you recently recommend The Baby Thief about Georgia Tann and her crimes? It’s a great book that illustrates an issue not many people are familiar with, so I wanted to bring it up!

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        And if you haven’t read Before We Were Yours, it’s a fantastic fictionalization of the same horrific scheme.

  14. Pacey1927*

    The author of “Daisy Jones” also has a book called “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” which is my favorite book read this year although it came out in 2017. I can’t recommend this one strongly enough to EVERYONE.

  15. Formica Dinette*

    Thank you! I’m Going Through Some Shit right now, and I see some books in your recs that sound like they’ll help me get through it.

  16. Allypopx*

    Is “Reasons to be Cheerful” part of a series or is Goodreads just trying to make my life difficult?

  17. AngryAngryAlice*

    I’m EXTREMELY excited that you posted this list because I’m going through a phase where I have a somewhat narrow and very specific taste in books, and most of your recs line up PERFECTLY with my interests atm. Thanks for posting, Alison!

    (Also, it looks like 2020 is the year I become obsessed with Bernie Madoff…..)

  18. JB*

    I can’t believe I read the names Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor on a contemporary list of book suggestions! Two undeservedly obscure and wonderful writers–huge favorites who I re- and re-re-read all the time. Thank you for spreading the word!

    1. Escalating Eris*

      Sorry if anyone else has already mentioned this, but I highly recommend Elizabeth Taylor’s The Soul of Kindness. It’s a masterful study of self deception.

  19. Kate*

    Alison, your book recommendations are one of my favorite parts of the site! Almost every week I order your recommendation from the library. We have very similar taste–I’ve only not enjoyed a few of your choices, but I appreciate the breadth of your recommendations and how much you are able to read in what must be a very busy job. Many thanks for making it easier for me to be a voracious reader! I just finished and loved Fleishman Is In Trouble, by NYT journalist Taffy Brodesser-Akner (it’s her first novel.)

  20. Bookworm*

    Thank you for these recommendations!!

    My in-laws have a book challenge each year where we read books that fulfill 10 categories — for example this year the categories are:
    By it’s cover
    Has a foreign word in the title
    Book you bought/recieved last year but never read
    Graphic Novel Style (can be nonfiction)
    Comedy
    Controversial Subject Matter
    Start a book when it’s NYT #1
    From another family member’s list last year
    Alternate History
    An Author’s Debut Book

    If anyone has any books they love that fulfill any of these categories I’d love to hear them! (Especially a book with a foreign word in the title, I’m having trouble finding one)

    1. Bookworm*

      Also, I loved “Kitchens of the Great Midwest” too! So I’m adding “Lager Queen of Minnesota” to my list.

    2. RS*

      Foreign word in title options:
      -Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore (comedy/trippy)
      -Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (weird/modern fantasy – hard to place in a genre)
      -Accelerando by Charles Stross (very challenging but mind-blowing science fiction)
      -Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (fun, easy, female-centric – totally lovable)

      Graphic novel:
      -Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
      -Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (she of the Bechdel Test fame)

      Debut book:
      -The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
      -The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

      Both of the debut novels are beautiful, heart-breaking American novels with incredible prose.

      1. LunaLena*

        Oooh, I second Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I picked it up at random at the library because it sounded interesting, and I found it to be really entertaining and charming.

        Graphic Novel – if you haven’t read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series yet, I definitely recommend it. He also wrote a prequel called Overture a couple of years ago. If you don’t want to read an entire series, I recommend starting with The Dream Hunters, which was a one-off Sandman fairy tale that is separate from the main series. There are two versions, one with illustrations by renowned Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano, and one in a graphic novel format that was drawn by frequent Gaiman-collaborator P. Craig Russell. Neil Gaiman has a lot of other stories that were turned into graphic novels with gorgeous artwork as well, including Stardust (drawn by Charles Vess) and Snow, Glass, Apples, which was a re-imagining of Snow White.

        Debut novel and/or Controversial: The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, about a pair of fraternal twins in the Indian countryside where loving someone outside of your caste is prohibited.

        Debut novel: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Pratchett is my all-time favorite author and I recommend him to everyone I can. The Color of Magic (written in 1983) is definitely the weakest of the Discworld novels, but it’s a good introduction to his world. If you like it, definitely read the rest of the books (in chronological order, if you can. Discworld distinctly evolves as time goes on). You won’t be disappointed.

        Controversial: A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett. The book is a collection of essays that Pratchett wrote over the years, including the ones on the subject of euthanasia, which he wrote after he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

        Comedy: Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler. I love Aisha Tyler for being a tall, black, female comedian who is beautiful, smart, funny, classy, and unapologetically nerdy. The book is an autobiographical look at how doing embarrassing things like burning down the kitchen because she wanted to eat fresh french fries after school helped shape her as a person.

        Hope this helps!

    3. Kate*

      Bel Canto is both foreign and a debut novel IIRC.
      How is Punjabi foreign? What else are you supposed to call that language/people when you’re speaking English?

  21. Karina*

    I truly appreciate all of these recommendations. I often wonder how Allison has the time to even read ONE book a year! Allison, are you human? How can you run this website, seemingly 24/7 and read this many books as well? Do you ever sleep?

  22. JustaTech*

    Oh, Bad Blood. Far and away the most infuriating book I’ve read in a long time (but in a good way). I work with human blood (differently than what they’re trying to do) so I was screaming at the “science” the whole time. But the management stuff!
    Excellent bookends for that book are the HBO documentary about the same subject called “The Inventor” and the Netflix documentary about the Fyre Festival. You wouldn’t think music festivals would have anything to do with medical companies, but both of the CEOs have this ability to project some kind of reality distortion field that makes the utterly impossible seem totally normal. It’s really kind of scary.

    1. Scarlet2*

      I second both documentaries. They both illustrate the huge issue with the culture of “nothing is impossible”, “aim big”, “no negativity” that seems to dominate in a lot of start-ups. They were fascinating in a watching-a-train-wreck-in-slo-mo kind of way.

      1. JustaTech*

        The way that start-up culture has permeated into the larger business culture is kind of scary in some ways. I work in a highly regulated industry (medicine) while many of my friends work in software/tech and it is amazing/horrifying how cavalier their companies can be about things like laws and regulations.
        That “move fast and make mistakes” culture works fine in things like software, but as soon as people’s lives are on the line (medicine, aviation, etc) you’ve got to slow down and be careful. It’s one thing when the software crashes, it’s another thing entirely when the airplane crashes.

  23. Bee*

    I’m so surprised to see that Alison preferred Conversations with Friends to Normal People! That does seems to be the general consensus but I thought Normal People was way better.

  24. Maggie*

    Bad Blood is my favorite book I read this year and it might be one of my favorite books ever. The story is so crazy, it could have been fiction. I also LOVED Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald which is about the Enron scandal.

  25. JEB*

    Thanks for this! We seem to have very similar taste in books so I always look forward to your recommendations!

  26. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

    I’m curious why you listed The Mother-in-Law as unusual for you? From the brief descriptions it seems similar to a lot of the others (character-driven dramas about complicated family relationships).

  27. Bostonian*

    did you read all of these this year?! How do you find time to run a blog AND read so much? I’m simply happy to have gotten through 3 books of the A Song of Ice and Fire series :-/

    Oh, I’m definitely adding Bad Blood to my list. I’ve also heard that Educated is FANTASTIC.

    1. Michigander*

      Educated is so good. I just finished listening to the audiobook available for free through my public library via the Overdrive app.

  28. Silvertongue*

    I read a bunch of these books thanks to Book of the Month club, but I lost my mind over NOTHING TO SEE HERE. It’s amazing, so excited to see it on this list! Best book I read this year hands down.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      I’m noting that this is by the same author as The Family Fang – which I loved reading and just last month saw the movie on HBO (that was made a while ago but never saw it at the movie theater).

  29. Daniel*

    Oh man, any advice on how to read more books? I try to read daily but am a pretty slow reader. Adding “Lager Queen” to my list.

    My recommended book this year is Automatic Eve – imagine Blade Runner set in samurai-era Japan.

    1. Allypopx*

      “Don’t be in grad school” is my best advice haha I think I’ve read like two for-pleasure books this year.

      1. Platypus Enthusiast*

        Seconding the grad school part- I have so many books that have piled up since I was in grad school, that I haven’t caught up on even after graduating. What worked for me is audiobooks- there’s not enough time in my day for me to sit and read as much as I’d like to, so listening to them has been a good compromise.

    2. Lucette Kensack*

      I read a LOT. Switching to an e-reader made a huge difference in how many books I read. This is because:

      First, the big one: I do nearly all my reading from the library, and eliminating the step of having to GO to the library to get books has kept me reading so much more.

      Second: It’s so small and compact that I can take it everywhere. And if I forget it I can use my phone’s reader app.

      Third: I can read after my husband falls asleep. The light from the e-reader doesn’t bother him in the way that the bedside lamp used to.

  30. Librarian of many hats*

    I am both grateful for all of these recommendations and concerned about how much longer they will make my already very, very lengthy “to-read” list. So many books so little time!

  31. It’s All Good*

    So excited. I’ve read a few on your list and agree completely with your reviews. My Request List at the library was empty and now it has 12 books! A few books are on the shelf, so looking forward to a reading weekend. And one will be my Xmas gift to myself that I will buy through your link.

  32. Meredith*

    The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption is the true story that the book Before We Were Yours is based on. I wasn’t thrilled with the latter, but it was also a popular read last year/this year.

  33. Steelej10*

    Great list. I added several to my list as well. I’m curious if there were any books this year that you really didn’t like.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! I didn’t like Fleishman is in Trouble as much as everyone else, and I’m about to give up on Anybody, which has a cool premise but which I can’t get into. And there have been others this year — I’ve had a harder time finding stuff I really like this year than in most years, for some reason.

  34. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Like Allison I read before bed every night to relax – and sometimes stay up too late reading. I appreciate these lists so much! I loved Bad Blood (I’ve met some of the people involved,had friends working at Theranos, and one of their attorneys tried to recruit me during a charity event). I nominate Sunny Balwani for the Worst and Most Evil Manager of the Decade award. The only thing he didn’t do as the ultimate bad boss was run someone over with his Lamborghini or his Porsche. I’m currently reading The Mother-in-Law. It’s very good. I enjoyed The Seven Lives of Evelyn Hugo that was recommended above. Happy reading everyone – it’s a real break from workplace stress.

  35. Daisy-dog*

    I’m going to make reading more books a resolution for 2020. I go through cycles with reading, but it has now just completely fallen out of my routine – in part because I never know what to look for at the library. Maybe 12 new books is a reasonable goal for me and this list looks great!

  36. What the What*

    Alison is like Wonder Woman. She has time to write an amazing blog, answer reader letters, AND have time to read. I think there’s a full time management job in there, too. I admire her drive and energy!

  37. Ms. Mad Scientist*

    Alison, thank you SO MUCH for doing the book recs every week. I read The Great Believers on your recommendation, and absolutely loved it.

  38. double spicy*

    I love your book recommendations, and I added many more of these to my list of books to read! I already read and enjoyed Educated, Bad Blood, Daisy Jones and the Six, The Italian Teacher, The Imperfectionists, The Farm, Supper Club, City of Girls, and Evvie Drake Starts Over.

  39. Mimi Me*

    I read “The Mother-in-law”. I really liked it. It was not at all what I thought it was going to be. The book jacket gave me a different feel, but I wasn’t disappointed with how it turned out.

  40. PDB*

    I went to grade school with Elizabeth Holmes’ father-upper crust grade school, still around, nation wide rep. I sill see many of my classmates and we’re all baffled.

  41. PushyBroad*

    I read A LOT and all kinds of things, but I’ll throw a suggestion in the ring, if anyone is interested in some good crime fiction. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit I am friends with this author, as we went to Auburn together, but I don’t think my bias plays any part in this recommendation, since every book in the nine volume series has hit the NYT best seller list without my input. :-)

    The Quinn Colson series by Ace Atkins does for rural Mississippi what James Lee Burke does for Cajun Louisiana and Craig Johnson does for Wyoming. An Army Ranger comes home to Tibbehah County, Mississippi for the funeral of his uncle, who had been Sheriff, and discovers that things are not as he remembered. As someone from a tiny Alabama town of 4000 people, I can attest to the fact that Ace captures the denizens of the Deep South perfectly. So every time y’all read something ridiculous and say “No way are these people like that. No way do they think this way…” I guarantee you I could take you home with me and show you a former classmate or (lord help me) a second cousin that could have been lifted from those pages: the rich, the poor, the goodhearted, the corrupt, the honest, the crooked, and the downright evil. (And the bammer fans, who could fall in any of those categories. War Eagle!) The books are set in real time, with current events figuring in to the story lines. No Sir Galahad complex for Quinn either – he is as flawed as the rest of the characters, and I LOVE reality in a protagonist.

    Book one is The Ranger. Bias aside, I can not recommend these books enough. If you like Greg Iles, you will think these are amazing. Happy reading!!!

  42. Book Lover*

    Thank you for putting your book recs in! I feel like I read a lot (1 or 2 books a week) and am still amazed at how much you read! The fact that these are your weekly favourites and not just your weekly reads; amazing!
    I’ve picked up some great books from your recs!

  43. Midge*

    YESSSS. One of the self care projects I am looking forward to partaking in during my time off over the week of Christmas and Hanukkah* is filling out my to-read list for 2020. I never end the year having faithfully followed my annual reading list, but it’s a wonderful starting point, and I remember from last year that we have similar taste. I haven’t read any of the books on your list this year, but I bet I would enjoy most of them.

    * And how amazing is it for those of us who celebrate both and/or have that week off from work that Hanukkah sits so perfectly on the weekends and week surrounding Christmas this year? I wish it were like this every year, though obviously that’s not how Hanukkah works. So much more pleasant to not have to fit our daily observance around busy work and school stuff. I plan to do A LOT of reading.

  44. Eirene*

    I just finished The Secrets We Kept two days ago! I’ve admittedly never read Doctor Zhivago and knew nothing about Boris Pasternak, and I found the alternating POVs between “West” and “East” — and the alternating POVs within those two divisions — enhanced the story rather than distracted from it.

  45. molly*

    Alison, we had a lot of overlap in our reading this year! I also loved The Great Believers, Mrs. Everything, and The Lager Queen of Minnesota. I also read and absolutely loved The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna and Pachinko. Both are multi-generational family sagas. I could not put either down, learned so much about two cultures different from my own, and continue to think about the issues raised. You might also like the Jane Smiley Trilogy, The Last Hundred Years. It’s a commitment, but I read it a few years ago and still think about the story and characters regularly.

    That said, I think I am the only person who did not love Normal People. Everyone I know who read it just raves about it, but I could not get past the inane level of detail about things irrelevant to the story, and the inability of those two characters to just TALK to one another. It drove me crazy. Those who loved it, what did I miss??

  46. WineNot*

    I listened to Great Believers and basically bawled my eyes out every single time I got in the car. I will never stop actually reading books and having that be my main and favorite method of taking a book in, but I LOVED listening to Great Believers. It really brought Yale’s character, and everyone else’s, to life in a way that your imagination struggles to do. I didn’t realize you gave book recommendations, so I can’t wait to follow along from now on!

  47. Not Elizabeth Holmes*

    My boss and I recently bonded over discovering that we (1) had both read and loved Bad Blood and (2) both use the mantra, “at least it’s not Theranos,” to get through the hardest days at our health care startup.

    (Really, our company is nothing like Theranos. We’re actually delivering the service that we promise to clients, and generally doing it well. And I sometimes question the judgment of our executive team but they are neither delusional nor psychopathic.)

  48. Jennifer*

    I just finished Educated on audio book and can’t stop thinking about it! A great follow-up/wrap-up to it is Oprah’s interview with her which can be found on her Super Soul Sunday podcast. It really tied up some of the loose ends and I loved getting to hear how Tara is doing now that the book has been out and is a best seller.

  49. Cari*

    Reading Behind Bars!! I gave it a starred review in Booklist. Jill and I have the exact same birthday and both live and work in Northeast Ohio, and we have never met. One day we will.

  50. motherofdragons*

    This is so awesome, thank you! As a mother of twins, I feel obligated to read Nothing to See Here as soon as possible.

  51. anon for once*

    I really need to start reading actual books again. I did get through Bad Blood, though, and it was so great! Frustrating yet very entertaining. I love a good scandal, so the book probably resonated with me for the same reasons that I read this blog. Also, I work for a corporate governance org, so we talk about Theranos a lot here. Also also, Tyler Schultz (one of the whistleblowers) came and spoke at our annual conference about it!

    1. anon for once*

      *came and spoke about it at our annual conference. The whole conference was not about Theranos lol.

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