{reading} favorite books read in 2019

Now that that it's December already (how?!) I've been spending a lot of time frantically preparing for Christmas reflecting on the year. I took some time to look at all the books I've read (current count is 86) and decided on a few favorites. Here is my list.

{favorite non-fiction} Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. As a child I was obsessed with horses, reading books like The Saddle Club series and watching the movie National Velvet over and over. This story took me back to my horse-girl roots, but in a grown up way, telling the true story of a horse who inspired a nation, as well as the owner, trainer, and jockeys who helped make him great. I adored this story.

{favorite fiction} The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. I can't tell you why this book has stuck with me like it has--there's nothing ground-breaking or sensational about it, but I loved every moment of reading it. See my review here. My close second in this category is The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne, which I read back in February and still think about (review here).

{favorite audio} Becoming by Michelle Obama. I mean, do I even need to explain this one? Listening to Michelle Obama narrate her smart, well-written memoir was just the best. (Original review here.)

{favorite essays} I Miss You When I Blink by Laura Philpott. I don't read a lot of books in essay format, but this was delightful. It's honest, funny, and insightful, and I found myself nodding along with so much of Philpott's observations about her life. I read a library version but should have purchased a copy, as it's one I'd like to go back and re-visit.

{favorite dysfunctional family} Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane. That deserves its own category, right? I loved this story of two families who are neighbors and friends, and how one event changes their lives and their friendship forever. It sounds dramatic, but really it's a story of relationships and forgiveness.

{favorite "worth the hype"} Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. When I heard that this was an oral history of a fictional seventies rock band, I did not for one second think I wanted to read it, or that I would love it. After multiple people expressed a similar opinion, yet stated that they did read and love it, I decided to give it a try. I could not put this book down, and I found myself caring more deeply about this fictional band than I thought possible. Sometimes the hype is wrong. Not this time.

{favorite YA} Heroine by Mindy McGinnis. This was a tough book to read, about a teenage girl--star athlete and good student--who becomes an addict after a car accident. Although it's fiction, it helped me put a face to the opioid crisis, and McGinnis did a great job of showing how addiction goes beyond stereotypes, age, and class. This was a gut-wrenching book that stuck with me for a long time. (My review here.)

{favorite parenting book} How to be a Happier Parent by K. J. Dell'Antonia. Parenting books tend to be hit or miss for me. I keep reaching for them, because my children (especially the sassy three year-old) keep reminding me that I have A LOT of learning to do when it comes to parenting. Yet too often I find the advice irrelevant, obvious, or just not applicable to my daily life. However this one is different, with its focus on how I can make changes in myself as a parent, rather than strategies for improving my child's behavior. See my review here, but if you're looking for a good parenting book that offers a refreshing perspective, pick this one up.

Tell me, what were your favorites from this year? 

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. 

{listening} podcast addict

I just talked about audio books, and I do enjoy those, but what's streaming through my AirPods more often than audio books are podcasts. I am completely addicted to podcasts, and it feels like the rest of the world is too, because I keep finding more to listen to. Here are a few of my current favorites.

{listening lately}

Before Breakfast. This is a short, daily podcast with time-management guru Laura Vanderkam. I read and enjoyed her book I Know How She Does it, so when I found out she had a podcast I had to check it out. It is a quick listen--around 5 minutes--and each day she talks about a time management strategy or tip for living more intentionally. Her topics are broad, but to me this podcast is geared toward working moms/working women.

A Beautiful Mess. I have been reading A Beautiful Mess the blog for years, so when I heard they had a podcast I couldn't click "subscribe" fast enough. Elsie and Emma, the sisters behind the blog and brand, chat about everything from home decor to personality types. I love the casual, conversational style, and so far I have enjoyed every episode I've heard.

One Great Book. This one is from Anne Bogel, of Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and What Should I Read Next? podcast. In this short podcast, Anne discusses one book from her shelves and why she thinks it is "one great book." You know I can't resist adding to my TBR list.

Didn't I Just Feed You? This podcast is hosted by two moms and food editors and it's all about feeding your family. They share a lot of great tips and I love their episode themes, like leftovers, cooking for a crowd, and school lunch packing ideas.

1619. Four hundred years ago, a ship carrying over 20 enslaved Africans landed in what was then the English colony of Virginia. This 6-episode podcast series explores how that fateful landing broadly and irreversibly impacted the United States. This one is a departure from what I typically listen to, but it's been excellent so far.

10 Things to Tell You. This one is hosted by Laura Tremaine, who I first listened to when she was a cohost on the Sorta Awesome podcast (another favorite). Each episode has a theme, and Laura shares 10 things about that theme and encourages her listeners to share their responses as well. My favorite episodes are her book episodes, but she's done many other interesting ones as well, and I like her mix of lighthearted and deeper subjects.

Are there any podcasts you love that I should add to my list? 

{eating} a few favorite muffins

I'm very routine oriented, and yet, paradoxically, I also need a lot of variety in my life. I wish I were one of those people who could eat the same (healthy, of course) breakfast day after day and be satisfied. But I love avocado toast and smoothie bowls as much as the next millennial, but after a week of that for breakfast I need a break.

For quite a while now, muffins have been my favorite breakfast go-to. They give me the best of both worlds: I can change up the muffin recipe each week for some variety, but I still get the quick, simple breakfast that a weekday demands.

Here are a few muffin recipes I've been loving lately:

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

{muffin round-up}

  • Power Breakfast Muffins from Life According to Steph - These are my go-to when I'm feeling stuck in a breakfast rut. My whole family loves these, although I make a few without chocolate chips to satisfy Violet (what a weirdo). 
  • Banana Maple Muffins from Boys Ahoy - These are simple and light, and the maple syrup makes them just a little different from your traditional banana muffin
  • Banana Muffins from Brown Eyed Baker - Don't let the "banana" in the name fool you, these are not the healthiest muffins. But when I'm in the mood for that classic banana bread flavor, in muffin form, these can't be beat. 
  • Make-Ahead Bran Muffins from Mel's Kitchen Cafe - These may not be the most exciting variety, but something about these bran muffins with just a hint of sweetness, topped with a little butter... yum. Also, this recipe makes a TON and the batter can hang out in the fridge for weeks. (Mel purposefully made the recipe that way.) Sometimes I make them all and freeze half, other times I just make what I need for the week and keep the batter in an airtight container in the fridge. 
  • Whole Wheat Coffee Cake Muffins from How Sweet Eats - Despite the whole wheat flour, the addition of the (delicious) cinnamon sugar streusel topping on these muffins makes them a little indulgent. But sometimes, that's just what you need. 
  • Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Muffins from I Heart Eating - This one is the newest addition to my round-up, one I tried after seeing Anne share it. The oatmeal gives these a really dense, hearty texture, but in a delicious--not tough--way. They are sweet but not overly so, and I just love them. 

As you can tell, I'm a muffin addict, so I would love to hear some of your favorites as well. Share your favorites below! 

{reading} good on audio

I've gotten into a habit of listening to audio books in the evening while I do mindless tasks like laundry, post-shower skincare, and other non-thinking activities. I've found that memoirs are my go-to for audio books, and even more so if they're read by the author. Occasionally I'll listen to fiction, but usually only if I hear the audio version specifically recommended.

Here are a few I listened to recently that were particularly good on audio.

{Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle} Read by Glennon Doyle herself, this was like listening to a good friend. A good friend who happens to be a superb writer and can tell a story about learning to love and accept herself with raw honesty and just the right amount of emotion. My rating: 4/5 stars

{Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan} I heard excellent things about the audio version of this middle-grade novel, and it did not disappoint. It begins with a mysterious tale of a boy named Otto, three sisters, a witch, and a harmonica. Music, specifically Otto's harmonica, carries the rest of the story forward and ties the separate tales together. We meet three other children, all of whom are facing tremendous challenges, yet who discover the joy of music and share it with that same harmonica. It is a beautiful story, and the audio version captures it (and the music within it) perfectly. My rating: 4/5 stars

{Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain} I've been a fan of Bourdain's since I first saw him on the Food Network in its early years. I found his irreverence and sense of adventure so appealing--such a contrast to my planning, rule-following ways. I was heartbroken when I heard about his death, and yet I'm thankful he left behind a legacy of great work, including this honest memoir about restaurant life (that he narrates himself on the audio version). It is funny and fascinating. As someone who loves to cook but wouldn't dream of trying to hack it in a restaurant kitchen, I loved immersing myself in that life as I listened. My rating: 4/5 stars

Do you listen to audio books? Have you listened to any good ones lately? 

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.