Books Read 2019

For me, reading is how I find my rhythm. I start reading and, like meditating, my mind is taken elsewhere and cleared. I put myself outside of my interior world/thoughts and am reminded about all the other big and small things in life.

This year, I set a new personal record for myself at 95 books. I had a goal of 100, but I really like goals where falling short isn’t failure.

In addition to working through my existing book collection, I read books especially from Georgia (due to our visit), Russia (because of the influence on Georgia ), Burma (because we considered going there), Vietnam (visited), Thailand (visited) and Cambodia (visited). We went to Laos last minute, but even before we didn’t think we were visiting there, I couldn’t find any literature at all translated to English. Vietnam had the most translated literature, so you can see the number of books from Vietnam proportionally higher.

Here are the books I read in 2019.

1. Runaway by Alice Munro *****
2. Bread and Ashes: A Walk through the Mountains of Georgia by Tony Anderson **** Georgia
3. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande *****
4. The Funeral Party by Ludmila Ulitskaya **** Russia (but in US)
5. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens ****
6. The Making of the Georgian Nation by Ronald Gregor Suny **** Georgia
7. Mother by Maxim Gorky ***** Russia
8. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty ****
9. A Woman In Bed by Anna Finger ****
10. My Struggle Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard *****
11. The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis ****
12. Apricot Jam by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn **** Russia
13. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo ****
14. The Girl with the Pearl Earring ****
15. Indignation by Philip Roth *****
16. The End of the Novel of Love by Vivian Gornick *****
17. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman *****
18. Black Swans by Eve Babitz *****
19. In Search of the Miraculous by P.D. Ouspensky ***
20. A Private View by Anita Brookner *****
21. Beartown by Frederik Backman *****
22. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternack ***** Russia
23. Us Against You by Fredrik Backman *****
24. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger *****
25. Stories I Stole by Wendell Steavenson **** Georgia
26. The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir *****
27. Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction by J.S. Salinger *****
28. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro ****
29. The Castle by Frank Kafka *****
30. Burmese Days by George Orwell ***** Burma
31. Serendipities: Language and Lunacy by Umberto Eco ****
32. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh ***** Burma
33. Let the Great World Spin by Colin McCann ****
34. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell *****
35. In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende *****
36. Fraud by Anita Brookner *****
37. Death In Venice by Thomas Mann *****
38. Monday or Tuesday by Virginia Woolf *****
39. Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami *****
40. The Trial by Franz Kafka *****
41. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera *****
42. Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson *****
43. Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin ***** Burma
44. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker ***** Burma
45. The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oats *****
46. Yogi Philosophy and Oriental Occultism by Yogi Rakacharaka ****
47. The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow *****
48. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles ****
49. In the Woods by Tana French *****
50. Into the Magic Shop by James R Doty ****
51. Mythologies by Roland Barthes *****
52. From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey by Pascal Khoi Thwe ***** Burma
53. Sexus by Henry Miller *****
54. Perfect Hostage by Justin Wintle ***** Burma
55. Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao ***** S.Vietnam
56. First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung ***** Cambodia
57. Ru by Kim Thúy ***** Vietnam
58. Paradise of the Blind by Duong Thu Huong ***** N.Vietnam
59. Dispatches by Michael Herr ***** Vietnam
60. Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap ***** Thailand
61. The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship by David Whyte*****
62. Against the Flood by Ma Van Khang ***** N.Vietnam
63. The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam by Bao Ninh ***** N.Vietnam
64. Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim *****
65. The Book of Salt by Monique Truong **** Vietnam
66. A Woman of Angkor by John Burgess ***** Cambodia
67. Dumb Luck by Vū Trong Phung ***** Vietnam
68. A History of Thailand by Chris Baker and Padua Phongpaichit **** Thailand
69. One True Thing by Anna Quinlen *****
70. The Quiet American by Graham Greene ***** Vietnam
71. Where the Ashes Are by Nguyen Qui Duc ***** Vietnam
72. Four Reigns by M.R. Kukrit Pramoj ***** Thailand
73. The Sellout by Paul Beatty *****
74. A Dragon Apparent by Norman Lewis ***** Vietnam
75. Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad *** Thailand
76. Lucky Child by Loung Ung ***** Cambodia
77. When the War was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution by Elizabeth Becker ***** Cambodia
78. Novel Without a Name by Duong Thu Huong ***** N.Vietnam
79. The Sympathizer by Vietnam Thanh Nguyen ***** Vietnam
80. The Lotus and the Storm by Lan Cao ***** Vietnam
81. Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor ***** Cambodia
82. The Sacred Willow: flFour Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family by Duong Van Mai Elliott ***** Vietnam
83. No Man’s Land by Duong Thu Huong ***** N.Vietnam
84. Lulu in the Sky by Luong Ung ***** Cambodia
85. The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden ******
86. The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman ***
87. The Stranger by Albert Camus *****
88. Blindness: A Novel by Jose Saramago *****
89. Paper Wife by Laila Ibrahim *****
90. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler *****
91. Silas Mariner by George Elliott *****
92. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse *****
93. The Waiting Years by Fumicho Enchilada *****
94. How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan ****
95. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea by Mishima *****

Top 10 Books of the Year

1. The Funeral Party by Ludmila Ulitskaya

This book is hilarious. My favorite part is where dead Russian emigre Alik talks to a mourning friend group via tape. Priceless. :)

2. My Struggle Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Understand the rage this stuff gets. Read this in 2 days and if I didn’t have self-control, would have bought the remaining 5 right away and read them back to back. Writing like this is so wrong, but truly crosses a threshold/a barrier writers do not cross, making it irresistibly raw. What’s not (awfully) beautiful about that?

3. Indignation by Philip Roth

One of my favorite (if not my fave) of Roth’s. This one seemed to me a lot more fluid. Love the dichotomy between going to school (passionately arguing with the Dean/family/classmates/rules) and going off to war. Formalism is in many ways more excruciating to combat.

4. Black Swans by Eve Babitz

Absolutely incredible. Strangely made me want to go to LA, just to experience how she lived (not Hollywood though; still don’t want to go there :)). My favorite short story (wow!!) is in a hotel where the world is collapsing around 2 people, but they’re just having sex in room like something out of Tangiers and don’t notice.

5. The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

Absolutely captivating and attuned to the way a woman grapples, churns and takes responsibility for something she shouldn’t be responsible for – as a duty, as a sacrifice, as a cry for help.

6. Mythologies by Roland Barthes

“Myth is a type of speech. Innumerable other meanings of the word myth can be cited against this. But, I have tried to define things, not words.”

“Language is a form, it cannot possibly be realistic or unrealistic. All it can do is either be mythical or not, or perhaps, countermythical.”

7. One True Thing by Anna Quinlen

I love this sort of cleverness. She writes through all the depths of a mother/daughter and father/daughter relationship, which is of course the point and yet there’s a powerful plot line as well which illuminates the “depths.”

8. Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor

Somehow I get drawn into wretched history. The things I’ve read here made me think of Kolyma Tales. However, this is in a warmer climate. This book covers the mass genocide you’ve maybe faintly heard of. During the Khmer Rouge, 1/4 of Cambodia’s population died. Those alive suffered in ways you can read about here (there are even warnings), but will never forget.

9. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Two gods argue back and forth with each other over differing ways across centuries. Very much like a marriage – they learn to understand, accept and waver to understand things they may have otherwise felt complete (dis)approval toward.

10. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh

This beautiful Burmese book taking place over generations reminded me of House of Spirits. You watch the affects of politics and shifting family dynamics over time, death, life.

This list doesn’t include Unbearable Lightness of Being because that’s one of my top 5 books and I’ve read it over 10x.

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