I can’t believe it but the first month of 2019 is in the books already (no pun intended)! I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year. I feel energized and like I’m on a good run of books to power me through another month. I am experiencing a bit of a library backup at the moment, which isn’t helping me work through my TBR pile, but I’m hoping to be free to explore some of those TBR titles I prioritized for this 2019 very soon.
How I Did
I finished seven books in January. If I keep up this pace, I will read 84 books in 2019, which would be far and away the most books I’ve read in a single year since I started keeping track. I am not, however, confident that I’ll manage to match this pace every month. January benefited from some time off at the beginning of the month thanks to the holidays and four different flights that helped me get through some of the books I was reading more quickly than I might have otherwise. But we’ll see.
As for my reading goals for 2019, the pertinent goals are that I want to read more books by female authors than male and that I want to read more LGBT books that deal with the LBT portion since that’s a weak spot of mine.
Well, I whiffed the LGBT goal because not a single book that I read in January qualifies as LBT or even G. But I have some books lined up for February and beyond that should help me do better on this one in the coming months.
But here’s some good news: every single one of the seven books I finished in January was written by women (!). That gives me a great head start on reading more books by female authors than male in 2019. It actually started as an accident–I was halfway through January before I added the goal about female authors and it just so happened that I was already halfway through the month with only female authors, so I just leaned into it.
What I Read
Here’s my ranking of the seven books I finished in January, from worst to best:
7. The Western Wind, by Samantha Harvey. To be fair, there’s no book that I absolutely disliked from this month. It’s just that something has to be on the bottom, and there was something about the structure of this book that I really didn’t like. Set in 1491, Western Wind follows John Reve, the local priest for a small town named Oakham. Days before Lent, the town’s wealthiest resident, Tom Newman, was swept away in the river and has died. The story is told backwards, from the fourth day after the incident back to the day it happens, and is supposed to tease out details as to whether or not Newman’s death was an accident, a suicide, or a murder along the way. The problem is, in order to make the backwards structure work, Harvey chooses to misrepresent things that happen on day four. When I got to the ending (which is the beginning), I immediately wanted to go back to the beginning (which is the ending) to see if it worked both ways. It doesn’t. And for that reason, I just can’t get behind this book, although Harvey is a very skilled writer.
6. Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan. I tried so hard to like this book and I just felt overwhelmingly meh about it. You can see my full review for more on that.
5. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. This was the first book I finished in 2019, and although I had some issues with the way Mandel structures the book, I did enjoy it. I’m also glad that I can finally cross it off my TBR list. You can see my full review for more on this one.
4. Notorious RBG, by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik. Maybe I’m biased by my love of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but I will never tire of hearing stories about her life and work. It’s a little difficult reading this now because it was published in 2015 and speculates that Hillary Clinton would be the next president–moments like that are like a kick in the teeth, but the book is well put together otherwise and a great read for RBG fans like myself.
3. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I actually gave this book, which is the text of a TED Talk Adichie gave on feminism, 5 stars on Goodreads, so technically it should be one slot higher on this list. But since the book is so slight, I feel like I can’t in good conscience put it above the other two books I read this month. I love it, but it really only hints at things, and I enjoyed it enough that I was disappointed when I came to the end so quickly. If there’s ever an expanded version, I’ll be all about it.
2. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, by Rebecca Traister. Parts of this book, about the ways in which female anger has alternately been a revolutionary force in society and deliberately squashed in order to halt progress, feel like an echo chamber if you are already inclined to agree with it like me. But in this political climate, I really needed that affirmation, and there is enough new information that I also feel like I came away enlightened. It’s the perfect balance.
1. Becoming, by Michelle Obama. In a way this was another gimme because I adore Michelle Obama, but I was genuinely surprised by the depth of what she is willing to offer in her book and by how much it inspired me to face the rest of the year. It was the perfect read for the start of a new year and I can’t recommend it enough. Full review here.