Top 5 Reads of 2019

This was a weird reading year for me. For most of the year, books fell off my priority list as I got caught up in work, relationships, travel, and video games, and so from January through October I read a grand whopping total of 3 books. 3!!! I must’ve started at least a dozen others, but those 3 were the only ones I managed to finish in their entirety.

And then mid-November rolled around and I realized – damn, I haven’t read in a while and really miss it, and this is the least reading I’ve done in years! Suddenly the bug came rushing back and before you know it, here we are a month later and I’ve read 11 books in the past four weeks. Motivation is such an amazing force. I feel a little abashed calling myself a reader and book blogger when I’ve read just 14 books this year, but everyone has their down years so here’s one of mine.

I thought about it some more though and also realized that a big part of why I wasn’t reading anymore was that I was being really selective with what I did read, which was basically only literature and classics. And while I love the classics, I was getting really burned out on them, so this past month has been me loosening up with my book choices and learning that “fun”, easy reads aren’t any less valuable – in fact, it’s probably what I need the most after years of working my way through lists of the classics. I’m not sure when I became such a book snob but I’m definitely out to correct it, and I’m glad I became aware of it and can start enjoying more types of books out there.

Anyway, the best 5 books I read this year!

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Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant–and that her lover is married–she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters–strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis–survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Wow, I intensely loved this book. When I finished, my first thought was that it reminded me of Yanagihara’s A Little Life in its scope of following a few individuals over the course of their lives – but that’s where the similarities end. Whereas A Little Life is glorified misery porn (and I say this as someone who loved that book too), Pachinko is quietly hopeful and uplifting. Whereas A Little Life left me bawling on my bed for a solid half hour after finishing, Pachinko made me feel introspective and ancient and wise, having experienced the gamut of human emotion within its pages.

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