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One Reader’s Picks for the Best Books from Last Year

By Susan Belding January 08, 2020 Lifestyle

As an avid reader, I am always looking for recommendations. That’s why I put together this list of my 5-star books from 2019. If you haven’t read them, you are missing out on some great novels! Towards the end, I’ve also listed two fabulous non-fiction titles. Enjoy!

Where the Crawdads Sing

In Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens tells the story of a young girl left as an orphan at age 8 in the N. Carolina coastal woods. Alienated from the townspeople as white trash and nicknamed “Marsh Girl,” she manages to find love, fame, and fulfillment.

The writing is a little strange, but don’t let that put you off. This is a great story that culminates in a murder trial with a shocking twist. Don’t miss it!

The Rules of Magic

Alice Hoffman offered a prequel to the 1990 novel Practical Magic, which told the story of the Owens sisters. Coming from a long lineage of cursed women, their misfortunes began way back in the day when Maria Owens was charged with witchcraft in Salem in 1620.

While the earlier novel tells the story of two beautiful Owens women who still abide in that seaside town, The Rules of Magic meets the reader with their three young relatives, two nieces and a nephew, and how each learns to deal – or not – with their strange heritage.

Set to become an HBO-series, this is a well-told, quirky, exciting tale, and I enjoyed it better than the earlier book.

The Summer Wives

The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams is a great story about the haves and have-nots sharing an island off the coast of New England during the 1930s through the 60s.

A young woman, reeling from the death of her father during WW II, joins her mother, new step-father, and his free-wheeling daughter on the island and is thrust into an unfamiliar world of high-class living that the wealthy enjoy during their summers is this idyllic setting.

In stark contrast are the lives of the locals, mostly fishermen and their families, who are dependent on these summer people all the while disdainful of them. Murder, love, betrayal, and coming of age are all parts of this fascinating look at the gamut of human emotions.

City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love continues her superior writing in City of Girls, a story about a young woman who, at 19, finds herself in NYC. It’s 1940 and living with her eccentric Aunt Peg – after being kicked out of Vassar and nearly disowned by her wealthy parents – is a daily adventure for Vivian.

She explores the city and learns much about herself and how to live her life to the fullest. As Viv puts it, “Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.”

Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid allows the reader to re-live the 60s and 70s through the eyes of Daisy, a reckless and free-spirited teen with the voice of an angel. She eventually joins a band and embraces the life of a fearless rocker, along with the highs and lows that accompany that lifestyle.

The band eventually breaks up, and this book “reveals the secret” of why the break-up happened. Although the story is fictitious, one can’t help Googling to see if this band really existed!

The Giver of Stars

Jojo Moyes released a new book last October. The Giver of Stars is set against the harsh Kentucky landscape during the 1940s.

Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with the idea of the Packhorse Libraries, which employed women to travel on horseback around the backwoods, delivering and retrieving books during this time of rebuilding America during the Great Depression.

The story revolves around a young English woman, Alice, who has just married the son of the local mine-owner. She is having trouble adjusting to her stifling new life and finds herself bewildered at the turn her marriage has taken.

She joins four other women, each one different from the rest yet all seeking some form of solace and refuge in their new adventure of sharing their love for reading with the town’s rural residents. The story is gripping and powerful, and you’ll be counting your lucky stars that Moyes wrote this novel.

For the non-fiction lover, here are a couple of offerings I can recommend.

The First Conspiracy

The First Conspiracy – The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington by Brad Meltzer and John Mensch is a fascinating look at how our first president nearly didn’t survive the end of the Revolutionary War.

This intriguing story is better than any novel, revealing to the reader the plot twists that prove, “truth is stranger than fiction.” We learn about the counter-intelligence community that Washington founded, credited with becoming today’s CIA, as well as a great deal about our founding father’s character.

After reading this wonderful saga about a previously untold series of events in our history, it is a foregone conclusion that America would not have had a chance at its freedom if not for George Washington. A fabulous read about our first American hero.

In Pieces

In Pieces is Sally Field’s memoir. It becomes clear that one theme from her childhood influenced Fields throughout her life until she finally managed to free herself from its terrible grips.

Although we often think of her as Gidget and The Flying Nun, this personal look at her life and career is a reminder of the many roles she played and the outstanding actress she was and still is.

There is much more to Ms. Fields than an adorable smile and a fling with Burt Reynolds, and this book is worth reading to learn more about her admirable character, her strength, and her resilience.

Which 2019 releases became your favorites? Have you read any of the titles shared in this article? Let’s have a bookish conversation!

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The Author

Sue Belding is an author, retired teacher, and entrepreneur. She loves to write and is currently working on an autobiography for her grandchildren – upon their request! With an interest in exploring health and wellness trends, Sue never runs out of topics for blogging. She divides her time between Florida and Vermont.

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