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2019 Outside My Comfort Zone

by Laura Burk on 2020-01-09T12:00:14-05:00 in What To Read | Comments

According to Goodreads, I’ve read 85 books in 2019. There was a time when I’d read a book a day, but now, with a family and a full time job, I’m very satisfied that I still manage to make books a priority. I have pretty eclectic taste, but my year in review consists mainly of mysteries and thrillers, teen fiction, a fair number of memoirs, a bit of literary fiction, and nonfiction, mainly about science and medicine. 

At this time of year, “Best of 2019” lists are everywhere, and many of those titles are on the list of books I finished this year. But as I looked over my list, a few titles jumped out at me. These books were outliers, not fitting neatly into my usual tastes. Some of them were recommended by friends, colleagues or library patrons. Some passed through my hands while I was cataloging or emptying the book return. Some came from the media: magazines, online, and even an episode of This American Life.

In all cases, these books were some of my most memorable reads of 2019. 


A novel about a movie star? No thanks. But after the 4,175th person said, “You HAVE to read this book!” I finally caved. Following the arc of Evelyn Hugo’s career, and spanning the mid to late 20th century, from New York to Hollywood, this book pulled me in, and I finished it in two days.
Abby Jimenez was a winner on Cupcake Wars and has several successful bakeries. When one of her cakes went viral, her humor had me hooked. I was excited to hear that she had a three-book deal, but a little disappointed to find out that they were romances--not my usual cup of tea. I pre-ordered the book anyway; she’s wickedly funny and I’d read her grocery list.
I was not disappointed. I’m already looking forward to her next book, The Happy Ever After Playlist, due in April

After I rediscovered the pleasure of lighter reading, I followed The Friend Zone with Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins and My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren. I’m keeping these authors in mind for the next time I need a relaxing escape or a literary palate cleanser, because I still love books about the darkest sides of humanity. 


This was a seriously dark book. The epitome of Southern Gothic. It was not at all what I expected, even after reading the flap copy, but it was gripping and ominous and terrifying in ways I don’t usually experience.
Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
This book has inspired me to look for more international titles.I try to read diversely, but I still default to English speaking writers. It’s great when a really good book gets wide acclaim in translation. It was a little challenging not to be familiar with the geography and the culture, but novels are my favorite way to start learning.

Cover Art Wake, Siren by Nina MacLaughlin 
Thanks to Nora Mulligan for suggesting this one. It’s a collection of the stories of Ovid's Metamorphoses, retold from the point of view of the women, both mortal and immortal. They are haunting from this perspective.

I don’t know what my 2020 list will look like, and I don’t have any particular reading goals, but I’m hoping to remember the rewards of reading outside my comfort zone.


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