Top Five Books Read in 2019

Most of the books I read in 2019 were unremarkable or just plain bad. I don’t even remember reading the first 10 or so because I was in and out of the hospital with my son and going through the postpartum haze. But there were a few notable ones (in no particular order):

  1. The Three and Day Four by Sarah Lotz. I cheated a little bit because these are two books in the same series, so I’m counting them as one. They were so absorbingly creepy, and the author had a different sort of writing style that sucked me in. I already wrote about them here and here.
  2. The Dogs of March by Ernest Hebert. I already wrote about it here. What else can I say? It’s a classic.
  3. Donnie Brasco by Joseph Pistone. This is a real-life account of an FBI agent’s undercover years as a member of the Italian Mafia. Yes, there’s a movie, but I highly doubt I ever see it. The book was fascinating from a psychological perspective. Pistone has balls of steel. Read the book to find out why!
  4. The First Confessor by Terry Goodkind. This one had its faults, but overall, it was a good solid fantasy novel. It is part of a series, but you don’t have to read the other books to understand what’s going on. Goodkind always gets hate from fantasy fans, and I’m not sure why. His worldbuilding makes a lot more sense, and his stories (to me) are much easier to get into.
  5. The Last Suppers by Mandy Mikulencak. Set in the South in the 1950s, this book was about a woman who works for a prison, preparing meals for the inmates. She’s got some crazy stuff in her backstory, but everything is resolved neatly and poignantly at the end. I can’t say exactly why I liked this book; it was just a good, entertaining story. The recipes and descriptions of food throughout will make you hungry, too.

Crazy Uncle Steve

Caution: This post may contain SPOILERS!

Ever since I had my son, reading books has not been quite the same experience as it was back when I was blissfully childless. I used to read all kinds of stuff where terrible things happened to children, and it didn’t really bother me much because, obviously, it’s just fiction. Now when I read about terrible things happening to children, my teeth are set on edge and my eyes fill with tears. Yes, it’s still just fiction, but after I had a child, something in me softened and it is very easily wounded. (Fellow parents, have you experienced the same thing?)

Anyway, so why did I want to read Stephen King’s The Institute when the plot involves children being brutally punished? Because I am a die-hard Stephen King fan. That is literally the only reason. That soft spot in my heart was repeatedly stabbed (or slapped or electrified by a zap-stick) by the horrors I read about in the book, and yet, I still kept reading because the plot was just that addictive.

I want to say I enjoyed the book, but I also didn’t enjoy it because of that. I also came to the uncomfortable conclusion that one of my favorite authors is getting a little crazy in his old age. He insulted President Trump not just once but four times, and a few of his other liberal viewpoints came out when politics didn’t have much to do with the book’s plot or the characters’ motivations. I just rolled my eyes, the way you would when one of your coworkers or family members makes a political statement you don’t quite agree with. OK, crazy Uncle Steve. I get it. You hate conservatives and wish Trump would jump out of a plane without wearing a parachute.

Also, I wondered what went through King’s head when he wrote some of the torture scenes. He’s written some gory, nauseating stuff before, but I don’t think he’s ever written about the misery of children at this level. I’m not sure the book would have been published if it had been written by someone else. (Similar to It. Had that sex scene in the sewer been written by anyone else, the book would never have seen the light of day.)

The Institute also contained a bit of hypocrisy. If King thinks guns are so terrible and bad, why did he have his protagonists use guns against the enemy? If King believes that torturing children is an awful, terrible thing (like any sane person would), then why does he also believe that abortion is OK? I don’t really want to know the answers to those questions, but it did make me worry about King’s mental health.

Will I read other books by crazy Uncle Steve? Of course. I’m a Constant Reader.

Reading with an 8-Month-Old

Before my son was born and in those hellish 3 months after he was born, I read to him. But it was like reading to a brick wall because all he cared about was eating, sleeping, and crying if he wasn’t having enough time doing the former two. Experts (I have no idea who these “experts” are) say that children should be read to as early and as often as possible, and I like reading, so I followed that advice. I literally read everything out loud to him, including parts of adult books I was reading. He didn’t even blink at some of the bloody scenes. Did I scar him for life? I’m not sure, but I guess it’s better to be scarred from a book than a movie.

Now that he’s 8 months old, the reading might be paying off. He’s actually somewhat interested in books. However, they have to be board books. If it’s any other kind of book, the first thing he tries to do is tear the pages out and eat them. Even lift-the-flap books are a bad choice because the second I look away, his gooey hands return to the flaps and try to rip them off. The next thing I know, the flap would be in his mouth and reduced to a pasty mush.

Most of the board books my son has are about farm animals and the noises they make. I don’t really understand why it’s so popular for kids to read about farm animals when they most likely will never live on a farm or visit one for any extended period of time. The most exposure they will get to farm animals is probably petting zoos at the state fair.

His favorite book of all time is My First Touch, Feel, and Play! which describes a bunch of anthropomorphic animals and their playtime, and parts of the book have different textures, so he can feel something besides paper as he attempts to destroy the book by pulling the flaps off (yes, this book has flaps). He seems to enjoy the textures, because he will run his hands over the book and stare at it, simultaneously coating the pages in drool.

I never thought reading could get more fun. I still don’t exactly understand how they learn by ripping books apart and chewing on the pages, but… whatever it takes, right? 🙂