Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

January 20, 2020

The Best Books I Read in 2019.

     In 2019 I completed my resolution of reading 52 books- one book per week! I read a good mix of fiction and non-fiction throughout the year. A few of the books I read were awful, a lot were decent, and some were absolutely wonderful- the type of books that stay with you and that you can't help but recommend to everyone you know.

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     I'm an avid user of Goodreads (follow me here!), and for today's blog post I wanted to round-up all of my 2019 books that I gave a 5-star rating to. Despite the fact that I love reading and also love checking out book reviews on other blogs... I don't particularly love writing book reviews myself. 😅I feel like I either write too much about the book that I give the whole plot away, or I write too little that it's super vague haha! But anyways, I still like to round-up my favorite books once a year from what I read in the previous year. Everything below is listed in the orders that I read them:

2019 Best Fiction Reads
*The Beach Club by Elin Hilderbrand - This is actually Elin's very first novel, published back in 2000. It follows the staff and guests of a Nantucket beach resort during one summer. The characters all have very intriguing backstories, and I was very captivated by this book! Parts of it didn't end as I expected, but I loved it nonetheless. This is truly an ideal beach read!
*The Guilded Life of Mathilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst - All of the books on this list are my favorites of the year... but this one would've made my top three favorites, maybe even favorite book of all. I loved this book! I read it all in one day- it was so good I couldn't put it down. This book follows the story of Thomas Clearey, a 20-something investigative journalist who has recently moved to LA. Researching story for work brings him into the lives of some of Hollywood's elite, and through his new connections he ends up meeting a mysterious young woman named Mathilda, who he begins a forbidden romance with. This book reminds me of a modern day Great Gatsby story, and it was captivating until the last page.
*Rush by Lisa Patton - Another one of my top three favorite books of the year! This book tells the story of sorority recruitment at Ole Miss (with a fictional sorority) from three perspectives: an alumni parent, a freshman going through recruitment, and the sorority's longtime housekeeper. It's a heartwarming story that also touches on some more serious themes, and I fell in love with all of the characters. Reading this book made me very nostalgic for my college years and sorority experience, and honestly reading it was a driving factor in me being inspired to start volunteering with ADPi as an alum!
*The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah - I'd heard only amazing things about this book from other bloggers who had read and reviewed it, and it didn't disappoint when I finally read it. This is a very serious and thought provoking novel that follows the journeys of two French sisters during WWII. There is definitely some heavy content in this book- but I think sometimes it's important to read more serious books about real life events, such as WWII. But as difficult as the subject matter in this book is, it's beautifully written and the storyline is incredible.
*Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton - I didn't really know what to expect with this book, but it ended up being so awesome! It tells the story of a Cuban-American writer who travels to her late grandmother's home of Cuba for the first time. Her life ends up being transformed by this journey to her family's origin country, as things are very different than she expects. There is also an unexpected romance involved too! I honestly didn't know much about Cuba before reading this book- I had no idea how difficult things had been for the Cuban people during the many decades where Cuba and the US didn't have good relations. This is is a great read for many reasons!
*Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak - I think this is the only thriller that I gave five stars to this year. I do enjoy thrillers, but one has to be really good for me to consider the storyline perfect. This one was! Necessary People is about a young college grad named Violet, who takes a job as a producer at a major cable news network in New York City. She doesn't come from a loving family or great background, so the fact she's able to land a job like this after college is especially inspiring. The problem is that Violet's college best friend also moves to the city so they can be roommates, and their friendship quickly turns toxic. While I was captivated by this book from the beginning, it took a big turn that I was not expecting which made it even more addictive to keep reading. I really hope there is a movie made about this book- I think it would be excellent!
*Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts - Since finishing Where the Heart Is, I read two of Billie Letts's other books following. Those were okay, but this one was definitely my favorite! Where the Heart Is tells the story of a teenager named Novalee Nation, who is pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend at a Walmart in rural Oklahoma. She does what she has to for surviving, and begins secretly living inside the Walmart. She eventually is discovered but decides to still make this small Oklahoma town the place she wants to raise her child. This is truly a beautifully written story that also really captures the poverty and culture of rural America so well. A movie was made about this book back in 2000! I remember seeing some of it on TV years ago, but I really want to watch it in full now that I've loved the book. I think fans of Where the Crawdads Sing would really like this book. (I did read Where the Crawdads Sing in 2019 as well and liked it! I gave it four stars, so it didn't make this blog post.)
*The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand - I read a lot of Elin Hilderbrand books in 2019- they're really fun beach reads and perfect especially to enjoy in summer. But The Perfect Couple might go down as my favorite book of hers ever, and I think this would round out my absolute three favorite books for 2019. This book tells the story of the unexpected death of a maid-of-honor that happens overnight before one of Nantucket's most exclusive weddings of the summer. The book is told through the perspective of many different characters at the wedding: the bride and her mom, the groom and his parents, the best man, the police investigating the murder, and more guests too! This is another one that I'd really love to see a movie made about.

2019 Best Non-Fiction Reads
*Driving Miss Norma: An Inspirational Story About What Really Matters at the End of Life by Tim Bauerschmidt - This is one of the most feel good books I've ever read! A few years ago, Tim and his wife dedicated a year to allowing Tim's aging mother to see the entire US. She had never traveled much in her life previously, and she wanted to see all the sights of her country before an illness overtook her. I loved reading about the road trip adventures that the family went on, and this book really allowed me to think about how our country handles aging and the elderly normally.
*The Light Within Me by Ainsley Earhardt - After reading this book, Ainsley Eearhardt has become one of my biggest career role models! If you're not familiar with Ainsley, she's currently 1/3 of Fox & Friends on Fox News. I loved reading about her humble upbringings, and how her faith has always been a cornerstone of her life- getting her through her demanding early career years, getting divorced, and a season of infertility before her daughter was born! Ainsley is also an Alpha Delta Pi alum and I loved reading about her sorority experience! This isn't related to how I enjoyed the book- but Ainsley is also drop dead gorgeous and I always love her outfits that she wears on TV.
*One Heart at a Time by Delilah - Delilah the radio host is without a doubt my biggest career role model. I grew up listening to her show, and she really made me fall in love with radio and believe in my dream of being on-air! She's written a few books, but this is her most recent and the only one I've read so far. She shares lots of inspiring stories from her career in this book, but also shares honest thoughts on life after one of her sons committed suicide, and how important her charitable work is to her. So happy to add this one to my shelf!
*The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow - I found this book randomly at my local library and totally judged it by the cover (the cover looked interesting)- this is a time when that paid off! This book tells the story of 11 women who have remained best friends since childhood. The book was written 10 years ago, but as of that time the women were still prioritizing friendships with each other, and making time for meet-ups across the country each year! I've shared this before on the blog, but I really struggled with making lasting friendships in high school. I honestly didn't even really have close friends at all until the end of sophomore year. Today, I only really keep in touch with two people from high school- my best friend Julia and a guy friend. Reading the story of these women was like getting to experience high school how I'd always hoped it would be, but in a really heartwarming way. If you love tales of female friendship this book is definitely for you.

     Those are all of my five-star books from 2019! I feel lucky to have found so many great ones. I'd love to know your favorite reads of last year so that I can add them to my 2020 reading list!

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese

1 comment

  1. I need to start reading more ! I am going to try some of these. They sound great.


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