Compiling this list often feels like a chore, but there are some books on my list I think everyone should read, so I will continue to release this each year. I'll add the caveat that I re-read a LOT of books this year and I glommed onto a lot of new authors and series, so the variety of my overall list isn't great. But my top 10 books come from different genres.
10. Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum
This is a fictional YA account of a 9/11 survivor, Baby Hope, whose picture became immortalized as a symbol of hope and perseverance after the Twin Towers fell. But now that Baby Hope is a teenager, can she live up to everyone's expectations? Her story intersects with Noah, whose father appears in the background of the Baby Hope picture, and he's been searching his whole life to find out what happened. This was a fairly interesting read because of the 9/11 and human interest twist, even if a slightly formulaic YA novel.
9. Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
I'm such a sucker for stories about inspirational teachers who impact the lives of their students. This is the first book of the Mr. Terupt trilogy. Jorie's class read this in 5th grade, and she asked me to read it, too. I only read the first two books (because the third isn't on my digital library yet), but I enjoyed them. They're written for a middle-grades crowd, and they're a book I would recommend if I were still teaching (unlike most YA lit these days). I believe the second and third books explore some slightly more mature themes (nothing crazy, but a little hormonal stuff that may have been slightly beyond what I expected).
8. The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
I read all of Smith's YA books all in a row, and I probably could have picked any of them for this list. I enjoyed her characterization and the different locations that she used. I thought her relationships were honest, and the books were fairly clean for YA.
7. The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen
I'll throw all my YA at the end of this year's list. Does that mean my tastes are finally maturing? Or is it just because YA has become so trashy and steered towards shock value that I didn't have many I could even include? Maybe some of both. I have read a lot of Dessen, and most of her books are just okay. But this novel was pretty entertaining. I loved the concept of the main character, Emma Saylor, finding herself in this big family that she'd never really known before and learning how the story of her past shapes the story of her future.
6. Montana Rescue series by Susan May Warren
Okay, I've been devouring Susan May Warren the last couple months. I swore off YA novels back in October because so many just aren't good, and I discovered these Christian search and rescue books. I started by reading her Christiansen Family series, then read the Deep Haven books, then the Montana Rescue, and now I'm tearing through Team Hope. Montana Rescue was my favorite, and I've learned about search and rescue, backcountry snowboarding, smokejumping, and so many other things that I would never intentionally read. But it's all so fascinating!
5. The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
There was no way I could let my 2019 book list slip by without urging you to read a book on the enneagram. This actually isn't my favorite book on it, and I have more on my list that I'm dying to read, but this is the enneagram starter kit book. This book gives the best overall description of the structure of the enneagram, the point of it all, and on each of the nine types. If you've been at all curious, start here. It's a quick and easy read, and Cron and Stabile share enough stories to keep it entertaining. And you may learn something about yourself and those around you! If you DO read it for the first time, please, please reach out and tell me what number you are!
4. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
This book is comedian Trevor Noah's memoir about growing up in South Africa shortly after Apartheid. It was sort of marketed as a book for teens, but I don't have any idea why. I was fascinated by this story. It is a good show of his humor, but it also had very painful and difficult parts. Noah's life was not easy, and I had very little knowledge of Apartheid and South Africa in general before reading this. I highly recommend.
3. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
You know what I did have a lot of knowledge of? The Holocaust. But this novel, based on the true life story of the real tattooist of Auschwitz and Birkenau, was still haunting and amazing to read. It wasn't an easy read emotionally, but there was enough hope and redemption to keep me going until the end.
2. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
I read this immediately after The Tattooist of Auschwitz and I do NOT recommend doing that. This is another equally heavy book. In fact, it was much harder for me to read because I think we've all somewhat detached ourselves from Holocaust books because it's become just a part of "history." But this fictional account of what happened during the 1930s-50s right here in America is horrific. Why didn't we know about this? Why was it allowed to persist for so long? And tiny spoiler alert: there is enough redemption at the end of this to make it bearable.
1. If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
I had to end with this because it was the book that spoke most directly to my heart this year. Ivey is a pastor's wife and speaker from Austin, TX. Her heart is to help others, especially women, find healing in their stories, which echoes the desires of my own heart. This is her raw and honest story of journeying through growing up Christian, choosing her own way, and finding her way back to the wholeness that can only be found in Jesus. It reads like a story and isn't preachy.
Have you read any of these? Are you adding any to your list? Let me know!