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The Top 10 Books I Read in 2019

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Want to know what my Top Favorite Books were that I read in 2019? In this post, I share my Top 10 Favorite Books from 2019.

I set a goal to finish 80 books in 2019 and a second goal that 40 of those books would be books I already own. I ended up only finishing 65 books and reading 20 books I already owned. But I read and listened to some great books, so I’m going to call that a win — even if I fell short of my goal!

This was my first year to use GoodReads to track my reading. You all were right! It is really motivational to see my progress and to have a one-stop place to see all the books I read + my star rating of them.

Of the 65 books I read in 2019, I picked 10 favorites. These were the 10 that impacted me the most, that I enjoyed the most, that resonated with me deeply, and/or are the ones that I will carry lessons from for years to come.

#1: Deep Work

This book is actually one I had planned to read in 2018, but I’m really glad I saved it for the beginning of 2019 because it was the perfect book to kick off the year.

Deep Work is a little more scholarly than most books I read, but I’m so happy I stuck with it because it really challenged me to think of how I’m approaching life and work and whether I’m investing time every day in what the author refers to as “deep work” — that kind of work that is meaningful and really makes a difference.

In this book, Cal Newport encourages you to have periods every day where you are completely offline and not distracted by all of the hustle and bustle of life to allow for this “deep work”.

If you struggle to focus or get things done, if you wish you could be more structured in your day, or you’d like to look back on your week and guarantee that you devoted time to work that matters, I’d definitely recommend reading Deep Work.

Note: I was privileged to have Cal Newport on my podcast. You can hear our interview here.

#2: Eat Cake, Be Brave

I listened to this book on the Libby app for free and I loved hearing this in the author’s voice. I felt like it made the book come alive and seem so much more authentic.

The author, Melissa Radke, has gone through so much in her life from weight struggles, to infertility, to infidelity, to losing a child, to rejection. And almost all women will be able to relate in some way to her story and her bravery will inspired you.

I found myself want to jump up and down and yell “preach it” as I was listening… and I’m not even a very charismatic sort of person. I loved the book so much that I ended up buying a copy from Amazon after I finished listening to it since I wanted to have it in my library so I could re-read parts of it and loan it out to others.

Note: I was honored to have Melissa Radke on my podcast. You can listen to our interview here.

A photo of Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors, a book I finished in February

#3: Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a blog reader. And then I put it on my list of 40 books I plan to read — and so many of you commented and said I MUST read it right away so I bumped it to the top of the list.

The subtitle for the book is How Less Than Perfect Parents Can Raise (Kind of) Great KidsI love that… because it feels like it’s actually doable and not like a book that is going to make me feel like I’m just not measuring up as a mom.

Jami’s humor and candidness in this book was a breathe of fresh air to me. Her writing is so down-to-earth, so raw, and so real. She makes you feel less alone, but she also does such a good job of pointing you to Jesus and encouraging you to lean in and love your kids — even when it’s really hard.

If you are looking for a parenting book that isn’t about formulas or perfection and doesn’t make you feel like you need to overhaul your schedule and life and chore charts in order to be a better mom, definitely check out Sacred Ground, Sticky Floors.

This book reads more like a memoir, but it’s packed with powerful truths, too.

Note: I loved getting to have Jami Amerine on my podcast. You can listen to our interview here

#4: Killing Lincoln

If you’ve listened to The Crystal Paine Show this past year, you know that Jesse and I both really enjoyed this book this past year. (Jesse read it first and his review of it on the podcast intrigued me! So I ended up downloading it on Libby.)

While I thought I was pretty familiar with the Lincoln assassination, this book brings history to life. I learned so many intriguing details that I never knew before. Plus, having more historical context made the story so much more compelling.

From what I could tell, it was very well-researched and historically accurate. I appreciated that it didn’t seem politically motivated/biased but just very facts-based. If you enjoy history, this is a must-read/must-listen.

A big thank you to Jesse for inspiring me to listen to this one!

#5: Killing Kennedy

After listening to Killing Lincoln and really finding it fascinating, I added this one to my list to listen to it (I got it free from the Libby app.)

It was really good, as well, and I learned so many details of history that I didn’t know. I will say that it did have some details that were definitely not appropriate for young ears. (Jesse and I were listening to it while on a road trip and had to turn it off since the kids were in the car!)

As I said with Killing Lincoln, “I learned so many intriguing details that I never knew before. Plus, having more historical context made the story so much more compelling.

From what I could tell, it was very well-researched and historically accurate. I appreciated that it didn’t seem politically motivated/biased but just very facts-based. If you enjoy history, this is a must-read/must-listen.”

Before We Were Yours

#6: Before We Were Yours

This was one of those books that I couldn’t stop talking about. Many of you told me you thought I should read it as soon as possible and you were so right.

It’s the tragic and true story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage scandals and how they played out in the lives of the children who actually went through this horrific experience.

Truth be told, I had never heard of these scandals before listening to this book — and I live in Tennessee! I have asked multiple people who live here and they haven’t heard of it either.

It’s heart-wrenching and horrible and I think a powerful reminder of how money can cause people to make terrible decisions that can hurt people in devastating ways.

The book is well-written and engaging and appears to be very well-researched historical fiction. It is also the beautiful story of sibling love and how trauma and devastation doesn’t have to define your future.

Note: There are a lot of situations in the book when it comes to abuse that could be very triggering to people, depending upon your life experience and trauma. The book doesn’t give nitty-gritty details, but it’s enough that it could be very triggering.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

#7: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I read this book a number of years ago and loved it. Then, I watched the Netflix movie they did based upon the book.

Well, after watching the movie and enjoying it, I realized I couldn’t remember enough about the book to compare the movie and the book. So, in an uncharacteristic move, I decided to read the book again.

Only this time, I listened to it (thanks to getting the audiobook for free from the Libby app). I loved that the audiobook is narrated by multiple voices. It’s so well done.

And I ultimately decided that the book is great, the movie is good, and the audiobook is very well done. So I highly recommend all three.

By the way, this novel is written entirely in the form of letters and telegrams. Considering that this book and Dear Mr. Knightley are two of my top favorite books and both are written in letter form, apparently I’m a big fan of that style of writing!

A photo of Everybody, Always by Bob Goff

#8: Everybody, Always

I got an email a recently from a woman who told me she has followed me online for a long time, but she’s been too scared to write in because she knows I’m a Christian and she’s afraid of what I might think of her since she’s so different than me. She felt I wouldn’t want to associate with her because of her choices, beliefs, and lifestyle.

My heart broke when I read her words. And it made me really stop and examine my heart. Am I oozing with Jesus’ love — for ALL people?

Or am I just loving those people who are most like me, who have the same beliefs or viewpoints, or who I most relate to?

If I’m truly following Jesus, I’m not just going to be hanging out with people who are like me. I’m going to be spending a lot of time with those who are on the fringes, those who are often overlooked, and those who are very different than me.

If I say I’m following Jesus, but I’m unwilling to love those who are different than me, those who have hurt me, and those who are hard to love, I’m not truly following Jesus.

Thanks to Bob Goff for how he inspired me through his book Love Everybody, Always. While I don’t agree with all of his theology, I do 100% agree with his heart for challenging us to love others much more wholeheartedly!

My favorite quote: “If following Jesus doesn’t lead you to the poor, the lonely, and the isolated, you’re not following Jesus.”

#9: The Day the World Came to Town

I first found this when I was going through books that were available to read for free as part of the Kindle Unlimited deal. I mentioned it on one of my posts and a number of you highly recommended that I read this.

You all were right! This book is the moving story of how Newfoundland opened their hearts and homes to thousands of passengers whose planes were diverted on 9/11.

It’s a beautiful story and I think it’s worth reading. The author weaves a lot of different stories and perspectives throughout the book, but I felt like he did a great job of helping you keep everything straight.

Etched in Sand by Regina Calcaterra, a book I finished in February

#10: Etched in Sand

My sister recommended that I read this book… and she basically never fails me with her book recommendations! This book is the true story of five siblings who survived a pretty horrific childhood of abuse.

This book is sad and honest and has a lot of crass language in it. However, it was a really insightful look into the foster care system from the perspective of a child. It displays so clearly that there are no easy solutions or quick fixes and that we who haven’t experienced what these kids have experienced truly have no idea what it would be like to walk in their shoes.

My heart hurt so much for the heavy weight of guilt that the author carried around because of feeling like she didn’t protect her younger sister — even though she tried so hard to do so and took many blows and beatings from her abusive mother in order to protect her siblings.

This is a sad and haunting story and it might be too difficult for some to read. I’m grateful to have read it because it gave me fresh eyes of compassion for others who are hurting and for friends who have experienced abuse and abandonment in their childhood and how much it likely has wounded them emotionally.

What were YOUR favorite books from 2019? Any books you really think I should read in 2020? I’d love to hear! Tell us in the comments!

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51 Comments

  • Bethany Page says:

    Of the 80 books I read this year, my highest recommendation is Rachael Denhollander’s memoir, “What is a Girl Worth?” It is excellent and I recommend it to anyone (trigger warning for sexual abuse).

  • Yvette says:

    With All Due Respect by Nikki R. Haley (love the audio version – she reads it herself)

    Born Again by Charles Colson

  • April says:

    LISTEN!: Helping Your Child Manage Their Emotions Kindle Edition
    by Brandys Evans

    The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma Paperback – September 8, 2015
    by Bessel van der Kolk M.D. (Author)

    Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion, Updated Edition (Books)
    George J. Thompson, Jerry B. Jenkins, William Morrow Company

    Parents Take Heart: How to Save Your Sanity and Build Rewarding Relationships: An Actionable Guide to Mindful and Wholehearted Parenting (Kindle Books)
    Rynne, Ren Lea

    How to End the Autism Epidemic (Books)
    Handley, J.B.

    Breaking the Power of the Mask: Discovering Healing, Freedom, and Joy on Your Journey with God (Kindle Books)
    Jones, Jocelyn

    Augustus Caesar’s World (Books)
    Genevieve Foster, Beautiful Feet Books

    A Tale of Two Sides: A Novel on Vaccines and Disease (Books)
    John Phillip Ryan MD

    The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) Paperback – December 7, 2012
    by Hal Elrod

    I’m STILL a Keeper (Books)
    Lincoln, Ray W

    John Adams
    by David McCullough

  • Ann says:

    Educated by Tara Westover is my #1 book of the 2010 decade….

    • I read that last year. So many feelings over that book because of my background and many people I knew who were in somewhat similar situations.

      • Mavis says:

        I read this book a few months ago, but am I missing something? Did you have a similar background?
        I just read Quench (non-fiction) and I highly recommend it!

        • Yes, I’m not sure if you’ve listened to the podcasts Jesse and I did sharing our story, but there were many similarities with her story and the culture/community we were raised in. So some of the emotions and struggles she outlines hit very close to home.

    • Bethany says:

      This was definitely one of the most gripping books I read last year.

    • Thank you for sharing!!

      • Jennifer Brown says:

        Crystal, I just wanted to clarify. Before We Were Yours is the story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage, which operated out of Memphis, TN. It is a horrific story, and I am glad it is being brought to light. However, the Tennessee Children’s Home, headquartered in Spring Hill, TN has provided residential care to children for 110 years. It is a Christian organization that is state licensed and accredited. Unfortunately, the names are similar. Thank you!

  • Joanne Price says:

    You should read
    The FOREVER TALES by Biff Price…a heavenly adventure
    *The Forest at the End of the World
    *The Ocean at the Edge of Forever
    *The Mountain of the King

  • Jody says:

    Happy New Year Crystal! I always look forward to your end of the year posts. I just got back to reading more in the past few months now that my youngest is 16 months and his sleep is somewhat more regulated. As result I haven’t read a lot this year but I read a couple really life/perspective changing books.

    I’m currently reading Hold Onto Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld. Its an excellent book about the power of our kids being attached to us as parents vs their attachment being peer oriented. It’s making so much sense to me of things that went awry with me when I was younger and giving me relief and clarity as a parent. Definitely recommend.

    The next book that had a huge impact for me this year is “Can’t Steal My Joy” by Bekah Bowman. This book has been one of the most life impacting books I have ever read. It is the journey of Bekah as she and her family journeyed and are journeying through the loss of their first son, Titus, to Battens disease and the diagnosis of their second son with the same fatal disease. That sounds like a heavy read BUT the truth and insight Bekah shares leaves the reader feeling very victorious to face their own battles of brokenness no matter what they are. Bekah was so transparent in sharing the depth of what her family has experienced and lifted the veil for others to see how one can be at the door of utter despair and still choose Joy. I highly highly recommend it.

    • Wow! Those sound like such great books!! Thank you for sharing!

      • Jody says:

        Thank you for all the great books you’ve led me too!

        To answer your question from the post I think these are books you really should read 😉 Both make me think of you, Hold Onto Your Kids with the inspiration you share here to be very present with our kids and especially Can’t Steal My Joy made me think of you and the message of choosing joy despite circumstances. I hope you read them! If I had to say which to read first it’d be Cant Steal My Joy.

        Looking forward to the rest of the end of the year posts! I read your 2019 goal recap and it was such a faithbuilder to see in order how things took place for you guys this year. Praying for many continued blessings for your family in 2020.

  • Tessa W says:

    I’m currently reading In Fields of Grace by Tessa Afshar. It is historical fiction based on the Biblical story of Ruth. I had read Pearl in the Sand (about Rahab) years ago so I snatched this one up when it was free on kindle a few weeks ago. It has brought me to tears and so moved me and helped me relate so much more to Ruth’s story! The writing style reminds me of Francine Rivers. I love the books that put you right into the Bible like that! That’s my favorite fiction book this year.

    My favorite nonfiction was The Possiblity Mom by Lisa Canning. So encouraging and such an awesome resources that I’ve referred to many times since it came out earlier this year.

    I’ve had Deep Work on my list to read for a while now. Maybe 2020 is the year I finally get to it!

  • Shawnee says:

    Thanks for your recommendations. The best book I read in 2019 was Fervent. I wanted to learn about praying and being more intentional in my prayer life. It challenged me and really helped me grow.

  • Honey says:

    I, too, am listening to the Killing ____ series and it is great!! Just finished Killing the SS.

  • Jamie says:

    We Must Be Brave was so good. And The One Thing made a big impact on my life.

  • Brynn says:

    I really enjoyed Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian Meditation in Focus, by Sarah Geringer: It really refreshed the way I did my Bible/prayer time.

    My favorite fiction this year was Vincent in Wonderland, by C.E. White: A fantastic spinoff of Alice in Wonderland.

    And lastly The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield, really spurred me to kick my own butt in my blogging and I’ve been consistent with my writing since reading this book. Note: it does have a little language that I wasn’t expecting, but he is brutally honest.

  • Ashish Kumar says:

    I enjoyed reading about those books. All books are completely new for me. And, sounds like a great recommendation for the year 2020. My interest is mostly historical and motivational books. So, I hope to pick a few of them and start the new year reading those books. Thank you

  • Michele Hayes says:

    The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman and Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly were my 2 favorites

  • Annette says:

    I enjoyed “the great alone”

  • Julie says:

    I’ve read your #7 pick and enjoyed it. I am currently reading The Long Flight Home by Alan Hlad. It is also set during WW II and tells the story of how carrier pigeons were used by the British to aid in the fight against the Germans. So far it’s a pretty good read.

    I read your #9 pick awhile ago and enjoyed it too. It’s hard to believe that all air travel stopped on 9/11/01 and it was a couple of days before it resumed. That was remarkable what the people of Newfoundland did for stranded air travelers!

  • Julie says:

    Thanks for sharing!! I was just browsing our local online library system looking for more “good reads”. Also, I too have been enjoying Bill O’Reilly’s killing series that I discovered by accident browsing on “Libby”. Another one I enjoyed was Legends & Lies: The Real West by Bill O’Reilly and David Fisher.

  • Karen says:

    Just finished “The Last Train to London” by Meg Waite Clayton, a novel on a real life event during WWll. It details the transportation of children and babes from Nazi controlled lands to the Netherlands and England. Very touching! I greatly enjoyed The book “Texas Ice and Pocket Mice”. It is an easy read of a 95 yr old’s life history, all short episodes of his life’s many adventures. Available only on Amazon.

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