Monday, January 13, 2020

Boatloads of Books: The 2019 Book Wrap

It was a good year for reading. Last winter was long and cold; the summer ideal for finding a warm spot with a cool beverage and a good book. And no, I didn't finish all of these -- or even start a few -- but some of my favorites were in this group!

The totals? I topped my goal of 60 books with 62. And this year, I topped last year's page count -- in 2018 it was 16,785 and this year, 18,238, a good 1,500-plus pages.

The Top Fifteen (in no order) (others below by category)

The Gourmand's Way by Justin Spring -- This is at the top of the list. It covers six Americans who lived in France during or after WWII and whose writing on French cooking helped to bring it to the attention of mainstream America. included are Alice B. Toklas, Julia Child, Richard Olney, MFK Fisher and more. You'll learn plenty about cooking, wine, France and the lives of these remarkable individuals. Totally fascinating and a very well-written read!

Educated by Tara Westover -- This memoir has topped the NYT best seller list for months, with good reason. The author writes of her restrictive youth, schooled at home in an emotionally abusive situation by survivalist parents and traces her journey to study in Cambridge a PhD at Harvard. Completely fascinating.

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown -- Tina Brown name-drops with the best of them as she recounts her years editing Vanity Fair. In addition to the name recognition, it's a fascinating look at the major-magazine publishing industry. I'd be surprised if Brown has many (any?) friends left after this one but it sure is fun!

Becoming by Michele Obama -- The former First Lady delivers what is said to be the best selling memoir of all time, telling of her youth in Chicago, her college years, her relationship with Barack Obama and life in the White House. I loved her before; I am a total fan now.

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt -- This isn't an easy read but it's a good one for history fans. It  tells the story of how Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary and obsessive book hunter, saved the last copy of the Roman poet Lucretius's On the Nature of Things (On the Nature of Things) from near-terminal neglect in a German monastery, thus reintroducing important ideas that sparked the modern age.

Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes -- The creator of Downton Abbey turns his lens to the 1960s and a group of bright young things, one of whom, now dying, asks his former friend to find the woman who had his child forty years before. The book jumps back and forth in time as the story tells of this group of British socialites in the 60s and the present day.

The Gown by Jennifer Robson -- Historical fiction and fun for fans of the Royals. The plot focuses on two women who worked in Norman Hartnell's couture studios and were tasked with making the wedding gown for the Princess Elizabeth. A young woman goes on a quest to solve a mystery about her grandmother and discovers a secret.

The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown. Does Tina Brown have any friends left? I doubt it. But I learned a lot in this fascinating look at editing and publishing one of the nation's top magazines. She's a wonderful writer with a witty, wicked sense of humor and just the right amount of cattiness. This book is loads of fun!

Game Change by John Heileman and Mark Halperin -- This is an oldie and it tells the fascinating story of the 2008 election campaign from primaries to the presidential race with John McCain and Barack Obama. It's a wonderful inside look of presidential politics. The characters may have changed but it's worth a read in 2020.

Fashioning Art from Paper by Dennita Sewell -- This largely photo book is so gorgeous. Written to accompany the "Fashioning Art from Paper" exhibition of Isobelle De Borchgrave, it provides much information about the artist and her techniques.
The illustrations in Fashioning Art from Paper are stunning!

A Better Man by Louise Penny -- This is the most recent entry in the Inspector Gamache series, set in the (unfortunately) fictional village of Three Pines, with occasional visits to Montreal. In this one, Gamache, demoted after an incident in the previous book, tackles a murder in his own town while a potential flood threatens the lives of its residents.

Here Comes Trouble by Michael Moore -- Whether you like or dislike documentarian Michael Moore, you might well love this memoir that covers stories of the author's youth (and to some degree his later years.) Growing up in a small town near Flint, Michigan, Moore tells of a time past and a place long gone in many ways and how that -- and his family -- shaped his life and career.

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert -- Set in the 1940s and beyond, this novel follows a young woman who, after being kicked out of college, goes to live with her aunt, who runs a theatre in New York City. It's a coming of age story with a fun twist and engaging characters.

The Suspect by Fiona Barton -- I love Fiona Barton's books and in this case her lead character, journalist Kate, finds the story she's assigned to report hits far to close to home, taking her from London to Thailand, partly to report, partly to search for her missing son. Could he be involved in a double murder?

The Last Painting of Sara DeVos by Dominick Smith. Historical fiction set in three time periods -- 1600s Netherlands, late 1950s New York and Sydney in 2000. It follows the work of an artist, a collector and a forger-turned-curator in what is a combination detective and love story.

And finally, the best book I didn't read -- but looked at every single page!  Poured over, to be honest!

Truly, this seven-inch square book is one I treasure. Thanks, Rita of Sketchbook Wandering, for recommending it!

The Categories

The four categories are Memoir/Biography; Mystery; Fiction and Non-Fiction. Books are not listed by preference. Top Picks are highlighted with additional notes about some of the others.



A good category this year. In addition to those featuring in the top picks, "The Little Princesses," by Marion Crawford, was an endearing look at Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret by their governess (who was later shunned by the Royals for writing the book). "Victoria the Queen" and "King Edward VIII" were both heavy lifting but well written and certainly very interesting. "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating" was fascinating and "C'est La Vie" -- the story of a woman adjusting to a new life in Paris after the death of her husband, just fun.

Educated by Tara Westover
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown
Becoming by Michele Obama
King Edward VIII by Philip Ziegler
Royal Sisters by Anne Edwards
The Little Princesses by Marion Crawford
Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird
Here Comes Trouble by Michael Moore
Dancing with the Devil by Christopher Wilson
C'est La Vie by Suzy Gershman
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tara Bailey
Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri
French Milk by Lucy Knisley (graphic memoir)



This is my favorite genre so the list is long. You'll see several books by the same author here -- I like series. Louise Penny and Jacqueline Winspear never disappoint. New to me was Susan Hill, whose "Serrallier" mysteries are fantastic. Digging into the British Library series has been fun. These are classics from the 30s and 40s, often by writers you haven't heard of (and I wonder why not!). I discovered the wonderful Martin Walker's "Bruno" mysteries, set in Provence and revisited the fun 50s New York couple, Mr. and Mrs. North by Frances and Richard Lockridge. I love the Chief Inspector Maigret mysteries -- short and always good.

The Lockridge "Mr. and Mrs. North" mysteries were very vintage, from the cottage. And such fun!

The Emma Jameson "Blue" series started out good and drove me nuts near the end with great continuity errors (if you are going to set a street in London, make it in the location where it actually is! And get the character names right from book to book. It's the editor in me.)

Best of all, Ann Cleeves has a new series and a new detective, Matthew Venn, who is the "star" of "The Last Call." I look forward to more from her with this character.

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny
A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss
The Colour of Murder by Julian Symons
The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker
The Risk of Darkness by Susan Hill
The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill
The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes
The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill
The Incredible Crime by Lois Austen Leigh
Ice Blue by Emma Jameson
Blue Murder by Emma Jameson
Something Blue by Emma Jameson
Black and Blue by Emma Jameson
Blue Blooded by Emma Jameson
Dim Sum Dead by Jerilyn Farmer
The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear
Antidote to Venom by Freeman Wills Croft
Maigret and the Death of the Harbormaster -- Georges Simenon
The Case of the Borrowed Brunette -- Earl Stanley Gardner
Maigret and the Headless Corpse -- Georges Simenon
Maigret and the Good People of Montparnasse -- Georges Simenon
The Resistance Man by Martin Walker
Death Takes a Bow by Frances and Richard Lockridge
A Better Man by Louise Penny
Murder Comes First by Frances and Richard Lockridge
Death of an Angel by Frances and Richard Lockridge
Voyage into Violence by Frances and Richard Lockridge
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves
Murder Has Its Points by Frances and Richard Lockridge
A Murder is Suggested by Georges Simenon
Maigret's Doubts by Georges Simenon
The Suspect by Fiona Barton
The Mistletoe Murders by P.D. James
Silent Nights edited by Martin Edwards


I don't read a lot of fiction but those I read didn't, for the most part, disappoint. Four made my top list (above)

The Christmas Star -- Donna VanLiere
Paris by the Book by Liam Callanan
Past Imperfect - Julian Fellowes
The Gown - Jennifer Robson
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Last Painting of Sara DeVos

Non-Fiction and Miscellaneous


I adored this book. Avebury is officially on my England 2020 list!

I really loved the political books "Fear" and "Game Change" this year. And I was glad when blogger Mike Biles of A Bit About Britain compiled British history into "A Bit About Britain's History," which is a delightful read and scholarly (but not too scholarly). Susan Branch's "Vineyard Seasons" is a cookbook with stories that delights. "To the Manor Reborn" is a must for Anglophiles who can follow how Avebury Castle was restored by the BBC to several periods in which the home was occupied by various owners. This is history too but with a lot of design thrown in. Thanks, Jenny Woolf, English Travel Writer! Four star!

Fear by Bob Woodward
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
To the Manor Reborn by Sian Evans
Game Change by John Heileman and Mark Halperin
Fashioning Art from Paper by Dennita Sewell
The Gourmand's Way by Justin Spring
A Bit About Britain's History by Mike Biles
Not so Prim Rose  by Margot Shaw
Vineyard Seasons by Susan Branch

All in all, a good reading year. I've started 2020 with Ann Patchett's "The Dutch House." So far, so good!

Sharing with:   Let's Keep In Touch    /     Pink Saturday    


Valerie-Jael said...

You have read some good books in the course of the year. I still get through a lot of books, too, reading keeps me sane! Hugs, Valerie

Iris Flavia said...

Wow, those are a lot of books! I used to list mine, too, but somehow...
At the moment I still enjoy Big Bird - very well written and all the sketches are so cute!

Joyful said...

You read a very good number of books in 2019. Good for you! Although I've read a lot there are only two books on your list that we have in common "C'est La Vie" and "Becoming". I enjoyed them both. I see one book on your shelf that I'm going to look for very soon ("French Milk" because it sounds very charming. It reminds me of something I read long ago about Jackie O and her sister, Lee when they travelled to France and Jackie illustrated a book of their time there). I'll likely add others of your books along the way. Thanks for providing details of what you've read in 2019.

Blondie's Journal said...

I know this post took awhile to write and thank you for all of the great books you have suggested and reviewed. I've been such a sloth about reading and as much as I want to blame time on my phone, laptop and social media, it rests on myself and discipline in staying in tune with a long time passion-reading. I have a huge stack of books just waiting. I applaud you for your love of the written word!! I'm going to do better after reading your post!!

Jane 😘

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie
I remember your book wrap from last year, I already read a few and I found more books to add to my must read list. We enjoy the same kind of mysteries, Louise Penny and Ann Cleeves. I just found Susan Hill on my library ebook list, so now it is downloaded to my ereader. I am bookmarking this post so I can go back and check on some other books. I added Michele Obama's to my list to, I like her a lot. Thanks for sharing list! Enjoy your day, wishing you a great new week ahead!

My name is Erika. said...

Nice book selection Janie. I have read some of these, and some of these I have picked up but not yet read. Like Swerve. And Educated is quite the story, isn't it? I need to go check out that Gourmand's Way as that sounds really interesting. Did you have any books you started and didn't finish? I seemed to have 4 of those. I used to go all the way through them, but now I don't want to waste the time with so many good books out there. Happy Tuesday. Hugs-Erika

David M. Gascoigne, said...

You had a productive year of reading, Jeanie. I was going to do this kind of synopsis, and for the first time I had kept a list, but I realized that so much of my reading is non fiction, and some downright technical, that it would be a pretty boring list. I did re-read a few favourites after many years - East of Eden, The Sun Also Rises, and others - and a couple ox excellent new works, but in general my list would have induced insomnia, ennui and a vow not to "read the crap he does!"

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

And I say to you a deep thank you! I will be referring to this post as I visit my local library this winter. I just finished Penny's "A Better Man". Marathon read it in a day and a bit. She never disappoints and always makes me want to sit in that café and eat something. -Jenn

crackercrumblife said...

Oo those vintage mysteries sound fun!! And I need to read that Paris book you love so much. And The Manor Reborn book! I read The Bucolic Plague a few years back and loved it. It is about the men behind Beekman company, who brought an old farm in upstate New York back to life. It was so good!

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Good Morning Jeanie,
Such a rich collection of interesting novels! I do love a good mystery so I suppose the Vintage Mysteries needs to be on my list!
Writing this list down before I sign off.
Thanks again and I hope all is well in your neck of the woods!

60 Something said...

Thanks, again, for your yearly review. There are certainly some "must reads" for me in your lists. If I could only figure out a way to crochet and read at the same time, sigh.

La Table De Nana said...

Thank you for this I'll Pin to refer back to.You are a reader extraodinaire Jeanie!
My fave book this yr was Where The Crawdads Sing.
Many were soso for me.
I had Educated on my shelf and lost's on Hold yet again lol.

A Spark Of Light I never finished..mind you it was an audiobook while painting..audiobooks are hit or miss for me.
Thank you thank you!
I want that Rita book:)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

You had a wonderful year for reading! The weather was definitely conducive to reading - especially at the start of the year. It was a banner reading year for me, too! There are some books on your list that I haven't read that would be a good fit for me. I'll have to check out Winspear now that I'm through all the Penny books (hopefully another one will come out in the next 18 months, though - I will be so sad when that series ends!!!).

The Dutch House was so good! I hope you enjoyed it! I just read her first book - The Patron Saint of Liars. It was really really good. That woman can really write!!

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, thank you so much for the list of books that you read in 2019. My hubby and I love to read and are always looking for good recommendations. I see some must reads! Have a lovely day!

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

I don't know where you found the time to read all those books. I also loved, Educated, Becoming and Game Change. I've been looking for a new genre to try. I may pick around in your list. Thanks for sharing!

Victoria Zigler said...

Definitely sounds like you had a pretty good reading year.

Arti said...

Considering all the arts you created, fine dishes you'd cooked, all the travels, art classes, sales, it's amazing how you can squeeze in the time to read 62 books last year! Many of these I'm interested to read. And, as one always on the alert for book to movie adaptions, a few have been talked about here, and one at least I know: City of Girls film rights had been picked up by Warner Bros. already.

Karen said...

I loved Michelle's book too!.. and I love Susan Branch, Gladys Tabor, and Edie Clark for a simpler read. Thanks for some good suggestions! Next on my nightstand is The Huntress -

Polly said...

Well done Jeanie. I just about manage one a month :-)

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

That is a lot of interesting books! I'm interested in several. Happy reading in 2020!

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Wow, Jeanie - this post is impressive. I thank you for it. I will keep it and refer to it. I see many that look so interesting. Thank you again and I hope this finds you feeling better.

Barb said...

I love reading books, and I love book recommendations and book likes from others. So interesting to see your list, Jeanie. I have Educated as a sample on my Kindle. Must start it!

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Thanks for the great lists, Jeanie. I read a lot too but, no excuses, I mostly enjoy fiction and chic-fiction at that! I have been wanting to read Michelle Obama's book though, as I love her too, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. Thanks for the good review..Happy Week to you..xxoJudy

Crown and Cottage said...

I love to read as well and I see some favorites of mine. Happy reading in 2020!

NanaDiana said...

I love these book wrap ups and I can tell right away which ones I will read and which ones I will skip. I only wish I had more time to read....xo Diana

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I love book recommendations, Jeanie. I'm curious--do you get your books from the library or do you purchase them new or used? My book club likes historical fiction, and history, so many of the books I read this year were in that genre. Right now I'm reading The Spy and the Traitor. A fascinating true story about a Moscow KGB spy who became an asset for Britian's MI6, and was outed by a American CIA traitor---all very intriguing.
I also read Educated and Becoming and found them both very interesting.

anno said...

My favorite kind of post -- and what a great list! I'll definitely be borrowing some recommendations from here. The Gourmands' Way looks fascinating (and, judging by the cover photo, maybe angling for a movie deal? That's one I would love to see.) And the series by Ann Cleeves sounds like something I need to explore. I've got this page bookmarked; suspect it's one I'll return to often in the year to come.

Sami said...

Wow, that is a lot of books Jeanie.
I think I manage about 1 book a month, but I still work of course.
I have a pile of books awaiting to be read, some were gifts, other donations from the Buy Nothing group...
I also have the Michelle Obama book which I haven't read.
I enjoy Michael Moore's documentaries, we recently had a series of them on tv. said...

I love hearing what my friends are reading and hear their reviews. 62 books is quite an accomplishment Jeanie, great job! I have several of these on my Kindle, and must add the Vanity Fair Diaries, thanks!

Mae Travels said...

Remarkable list! I only read a few of the same books that you did, but I agree about Justin Spring's book and some of the others. I am not a lister of any type, so I have no idea at all how many books I read, or even what they were, except the ones that I posted on the blog.

Good reading in 2020!

best... mae at

GretchenJoanna said...

My goodness, that is a boatload! The one that most got my attention was The Gourmand's Way, because I've read so many of M.F.K. Fisher's books and was just looking longingly at them on the shelf this week... It would be nice to read about her in the context of other foodies.

R's Rue said...

Wow. Great job.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

While i didn't keep as detailed a record as you did with my 2019 reading, Jeanie, I will say that I did not recognize any of the ones I read on your list(s). That said, I found many of yours intriguing enough to make a note for future reads. Thanks for the brief synopsis on several.

Lynne said...

Thank you . . .
I can file this entire post under “Reading Possibilities, Jeanie! “
You READ girl, amazing.

Do you purchase books, library, both?
And what do you do with your books, can’t possibly keep them all . . .
I just donated a satchel full to my small library today . . .
And while I was there, I found a “new read” on the one dollar shelf . . .

So guess what I am doing in between sorting, organizing, purging!

Jean | said...

Jeanie, there are so many on this list I know I'd love!

Evi Erlinda said...

Hi Jeanie, these long list books encourage me to read more books in this year. My reading last year was very bad, just few books only :(
From your lists, I did read Becoming and Vineyard Seasons.

Happy reading, Jeanie.

Jenny Woolf said...

Glad you enjoyed the Avebury book! You've read a ton of books in the last year, wow!

Preppy Empty Nester said...

Jeanie... what a fabulous post. I bookmarked it. Do you have 36 hour days? How do you manage to come up with the most beautiful artwork and read all of those books? Do you ever sleep??? I loved The Gown so much. I just finished Dear Edward and loved it so much. Have a great weekend!!!

Anca said...

Well done! You've surpassed your goal and that's really great. Fab!

I read two books from your list, Educated and Becoming. I loved Educated and I loved Tara when I saw her in interviews on youtube. She is amazing. I had neutral feelings towards Obama, but after reading her book I can say I was dissappointed. She appears as racist a few times with comments about other people's skin colour when it makes no difference (dorm room colleagues or teacher).

Karen said...

Thank you for the reviews! I'm looking for something new to read. I ordered Julian Fellows book!

Carola Bartz said...

Your review of the books you read is always interesting and fun. I completely agree with you about getting locations and names right. Last year I read a book with the setting in Yosemite, a national park I know very well. The author, however, lives in North Carolina and obviously has never been to Yosemite - she used a map for the locations. It was incredible and annoyed me throughout the book. It actually motivated me to write my first book review online. Some of your books are on my list, but there were a ton I don't know. I recently started a new mystery series with the "heros" being a female Episcopal priest and a chief of police. Interesting combination. The descriptions sometimes are a bit long, but the story was good. Julia Spencer-Fleming, "In the Bleak Midwinter".

Lowcarb team member said...

Wow! This is a lot of books!
Great review and look back.

All the best Jan

Marilyn Miller said...

What a book list. I need to read Becoming for sure. City Girls is also on my list to read. I just finished reading The Dutch Wife. It was so sad and at time hard to read of WWII and brothels. Is that a new Susan Branch book, Vineyard Seasons? Is it about wine? The Last Painting of Sara DeVos sound fascinating, I love historical fiction. I think I will add that to my list. Thanks!

Tracy said...

WOW... you gobbled up a LOT of books, Jeanie! And your book posts are always a great FEAST!! :) ((HUGS))

Tracy said...

WOW... you gobbled up a LOT of books, Jeanie! And your book posts are always a great FEAST!! :) ((HUGS)) At the moment I'm reading Voices of the Turtledoves by Jeff Bach, a scholarly work that examines the mystical Christian community of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, which flourished for some years in Colonial Pennsylvania during the 1700's--fascinating!

carol@The Red Painted Cottage said...

I've been debating about Educated. It sounds like you enjoyed it.

William Kendall said...

Among the books I read last year was Becoming. A First Lady with class. Both of the Obamas are missed.

Sketchbook Wandering said...

I wish I could read the way you do!! I was most familiar with the illustrated books...Maybe this post will be a good guide for me to read more often...

Lisbeth @ The Content Reader said...

So many interesting books of different genres. I think I would like The Last Painting of Sara De Vos, have to look for it. Otherwise, I have only read two of the books you mention, or really only one. Just recently read Educated by Tara Westover. A fascinating book really loved it. I am still on audio with Becoming. It is interesting but far too detailed, and long. At least when you listen to it. I see you also have a Susan Hill. I loved the one I read, The Woman in Black.

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