Tag Archives: Top 5

Top 5 of 2020

11 Jan

Though not a lot of good things came out of 2020, one of them was that I had more time for reading than I otherwise would have. I was able to read some amazing books this year and I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on them and celebrate the books that brought me joy during such a difficult year.

5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The only non-fiction book to grace my list this year, Brown renewed my love for historical sportsbooks. I was fascinated with how he interlaced the story of the Washington crew team and Nazi Germany. His writing was engaging and he found a unique topic that might not have been something I researched without prompting but which I was fully engaged in by the end. My book club really enjoyed this one as well.

4. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides. This one was a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve read a few Eugenides books before and loved some, hated others. So I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into this one. I was completely swept away by the voice and the storytelling. The girls are fascinating and with the title, you knew something horrible was going to happen eventually and the sense of dread overhung the entire story in a fascinating way. I was also touched that it took place in Metro Detroit, my hometown. I just had to watch the movie soon after and felt it was a very faithful and well-done adaptation.

3. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. This was my first Buddy Read with my reading buddy and we both really enjoyed it. Patchett has become one of my favorite authors after I’ve enjoyed the last few books of hers that I’ve read. I loved the sibling relationship in this one and Maeve was an amazing character. I thought Patchett did an amazing job of following the siblings for a lot of their life and unraveling how twisted their lives had been as children. This book started an awesome reading partnership that I’ve really valued through the lockdown.

2. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I picked this book off from a ‘Recommended’ shelf at a bookstore in Atlanta over a year ago. I read the first chapter while I was there and then changed gears to something else before returning to it on audio this year. The story was engaging and had a lot of layers to it that blended into a really touching story. I loved Yale and his friends were some of the better-developed characters I read about this year. I love when I get to learn about a historical event through fiction and the AIDS crisis is something I don’t know too much about. This was a really powerful novel.

1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I met Lee before I read her book so I was excited about the signed copy I already had when my book club picked this title. I was completely blown away by this book. I fell in love with the characters and sympathized with them through their lives and hardships. The writing was beautiful and graceful. I feared at first that the number of characters would keep me from being able to enjoy the novel as I tried to keep them straight but I didn’t struggle with it like I thought I would. They were each unique and really enjoyable. My book club read this one and really enjoyed it as well.

It was a wonderful year for books, even if it wasn’t the year we expected. I hope you all enjoyed some great books this year, too. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Top 5 Books of 2019

14 Jan

This is difficult every year but I love doing a Top 5 for the year. I realize this rarely aligns with books I gave a 5 Star rating to. More so, these are books that have stayed with me since I read them and which I want to recommend to random strangers because they’re that good. So, with full bias, here are my Top 5 Books of 2019.

#5: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

It should be no surprise that I have a memoir on this list. I adore memoirs and I adore Trevor Noah so this was bound to be a winning combination for me. I listened to the audio for this book and it was one of the best audio experiences I’ve had. Noah narrates it himself and he’s able to demonstrate his mastery of many languages by reading in each of them. His ability to blend into new cultures is part of what made him successful. I remember listening to this audiobook during a long run I did leading up to my Half Ironman. I was in North Carolina for my brother’s MBA graduation and it was the morning we flew out. I did a ten-mile run and enjoyed every step of it because of this delightful audiobook.

#4: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

My first Sepetys read and not my last! I was blown away by this book. The amazing narration helped for sure, but the book itself was well written with an amazing cast of characters and an intricate plot that kept me reading as much as possible until the very end. Josie was an amazing main character and the setting was so well drawn that I want to go back to New Orleans to explore it more. This book inspired me to read another Sepetys book and while I didn’t enjoy it as much, I’ll keep pushing on to find some more of her books that I enjoy as much as this one.

#3: Simon vs. The Homo Sapien’s Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I’d heard a lot of good things about this book so I was nervous that when I started it, it would fall flat of the high expectations I’d built up. I was thrilled when it lived up to the hype for me! I loved the voice Albertalli gave Simon, it felt very true to me and reminded me of high school. She captured the misfit feeling and the horribleness that is puberty wonderfully and gave us Simon’s amazing voice to tell us about it. I listened to this book on audio as well and the narration was great. I remember listening to it as I drove to and from swimming State Meet and sitting in the parking lot waiting for the last chapter to wrap up before I went to swim my events.

#2: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Another book that took me completely by surprise. I decided to listen to this one just to get a new time period for my When Are You Reading? Challenge and finish out 2019. I fell in love with Monty and his internal turmoil and his star-crossed love and I was hooked. I can’t wait to continue on with this adorable series and see what happens next with Felicity. I listened to this one recently so this may be a case of recency bias. It made my new (longer) commute to work seem like a breeze.

And finally…

#1: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

A book club pick success! I loved the mystery of this book and the way it dealt with a tragedy. The characters were forced into situations they never thought they’d be in and there was a big struggle between love and money that I thought was wonderfully done. I loved figuring out who was responsible and liked the pacing of this one a lot. My husband and I listened to this on audio driving to and from Christmas last year. We didn’t finish it until early January. It’s stuck with me ever since.

A few trends this year I didn’t anticipate. I loved YA and I was able to get through some good YA. I don’t read as much YA as I probably should, seeing as I write in the genre. But when I have, I’ve really liked it. I’m not surprised to see a memoir here and I’m glad to see a book club pick, something I wouldn’t have enjoyed if it wasn’t for the club. I also noticed that I have a ton of audiobooks this year! In fact, they were all audiobooks. With my active lifestyle, audio is sometimes the only way I can get through the books I want to read so I’m not surprised it’s taken over my list in a major way this year.

I look forward to more amazing books in 2020! Have you read any of these? Any of them also make your top list for 2019?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Top Five Books of 2018

20 Dec

This will be my last ‘real’ post of the year so I thought I’d end with a bit of a summary. I went through the books I’ve read this year and pulled out five that seemed to stand out to me. I’ll count backwards to my best book of the year.

#5: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

I didn’t expect to put a YA on this list as I read so few, but this one grabbed me. I liked the voice once I got used to it and even if I didn’t agree with the character, the book explained how he became the man he was. I liked that.

#4: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

I love a good memoir and to me, Jacobs is the king of memoirs. He’s funny and informative all at once and I adored every second of this book. I’m excited to have one of his in the wings to read should I ever need a pick-me-up.

#3: Ordinary Grace by William Ken Krueger

This book was just wonderful. I loved the writing and the story captured me early on. I was sucked in and never let go and I wish I could read it again for the first time.

#2: That Night by Chevy Stevens

It may be the novelty of finding a good mystery but I really enjoyed this book. It was well paced and kept me guessing right until the end. It was wonderful for long falls runs, too!

#1: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Yay for a book club pick! Two made this list which shows the power of book clubs. This novel was fast paced and kept me reading well past the time I should have shut off the light. It was twisted and logical at the same time and I both cared about and hated the main character. It was a great mystery.

And there we have it! I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for me and what books I’ll have on the list then. Any thoughts on these winners?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!