2019 – in books

It feels weird to be writing 2019 review posts a week into the new year, but there you have it. Today it’s my year in reading, so without further ado, here we go.

How many books did I read?

According to Goodreads, so far this year I’ve read 109 books – although there were others that didn’t make it to Goodreads. 

Yes, that’s a lot of reading, but I read most afternoons for an hour after I log off from the day job – it’s the equivalent to the time I used to spend reading on the bus and helps me switch my brain out of corporate and into creative. I also read every night before I go to sleep. I read books instead of magazines at the hairdressers, at the beach, lying in or beside the pool. Plus, this year I’ve had a couple of long-haul flights (during which I sleep precisely zero hours) and spent a reasonable amount of time in airports waiting for delayed flights to and from Sydney. It adds up.

And the ones that didn’t make it to Goodreads? Mostly genre romances that were devoured in an hour or so and are sweet but guilty pleasures – like vegemite and cheese on white bread with butter.

The longest book?

Ok, I’m not great with commitment, so averaged around 300 pages per book. The longest book I read was Sheila Flanagan’s Anyone But Him at 640 pages and was, in my humble opinion, about 150 pages too long for the story and a good edit wouldn’t have gone astray. 

The shortest was My Dining Hell: Twenty Ways To Have a Lousy Night Out by Jay Rayner. At 63 pages it was a collection of some of his review articles.

Any new series?

Absolutely. There was Tracey Alvarez’s Stewart Island series, Janet Elizabeth Henderson’s Invertary series, and Faith Martin’s Oxford narrowboat series starring Detective Inspector Hillary Greene.

Additions to favourite series?

The wait was finally over for a new instalment in Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series when The Spotted Dog was released. 

I was also sad to see the end of Debbie Johnson’s Comfort Food Café series with A Wedding At The Comfort Food Café.

Series I missed this year?

Nope. All good.

Thanks for the recommendation…

I rely on my book blogger friend Debbish for additions to my to-be-read pile, and she certainly didn’t let me down in 2019. Sammy from The Annoyed Thyroid was also a reliable source of reading recommendations as were the bookstagrammers I follow on Instagram.

Stand out reads?

I was obviously feeling very generous this year as I handed out 5 stars to 26 reads. I’m not a great critic – if I’ve really enjoyed something it will get the marks from me. As for my favourites out of this list? That’s a tad tougher. 

In no particular order here are my top ten…and, spoiler alert, some of these I only gave 4 stars to, but they’ve stayed with me.

  • Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan
  • The Triumphs of Grace Atherton, Anstey Harris
  • The House of Silk, Anthony Horowitz
  • Christmas Pudding, Nancy Mitford
  • Ellie and the Harp Maker, Hazel Prior
  • Mother of Pearl, Angela Savage
  • One More Croissant For the Road, Felicity Cloake
  • Midnight Chicken And Other Recipes Worth Living For, Ella Risbridger
  • The Magnificent Mrs Mayhew, Millie Johnson
  • The Last Adventure of Napoleon Sunshine, Pascal Ruter

Three books that I didn’t give 5 stars to at the time of reading remained in my head for way longer than many that did get the extra star. Each challenged me in different ways and while I couldn’t say that I enjoyed reading them they were excellent… so maybe my star system based on enjoyment isn’t necessarily a good one. 

  • The Orchardist’s Daughter, Karen Viggers
  • Crossing The Lines, Sulari Gentill
  • The Other Half Of Augusta Hope, Joanna Glen

Special mention…

A special call-out to indie friends who released fabulous books in 2019:

Jodi Gibson – The Memories We Hide

Samantha Wood – Under Ten Thousand Stars

Nicki Edwards – Second Chance Christmas

Any books adapted into a movie?

I tend not to read blockbusters – in much the same way that I tend not to watch anything nominated for an Oscar. I’m a bit of a reverse snob in this way. This means that often I don’t watch movie adaptations. This year, however, there was Crazy Rich Asians – which I loved as much as I did the movie.

One book that should be adapted into a movie is Ella Risbridger’s Midnight Chicken and Other Recipes Worth Living For. While this is a cookbook, it’s also a love story and a story about love – and it’s more fabulous than I can say. I reviewed it here.


Over the last couple of years, I’ve been reading more non-fiction than I had previously. This year was no different with foodie /travel offerings by Jay Rayner, Tom Parker Bowles and Felicity Cloake. I also laughed out loud at Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules For Life.

Craft books read?

No, not this year.

Any business books?


What about cookbooks?

Of course! Purchases and gifts this year were:

  • Greenfeast, Nigel Slater
  • How To Eat A Peach, Diana Henry
  • Taverna, Georgina Hayden
  • Great British Adventure, James Martin
  • The Roasting Tin, Rukmini Iyer
  • French Adventure, James Martin
  • A Change of Appetite, Diana Henry
  • Simple, Diana Henry
  • Secret France, Rick Stein*
  • From Oven To Table, Diana Henry*
  • The Fortnum & Mason Cookbook, Tom Parker Bowles

I made a pact with myself in July that my reward for every 5 kgs lost I’d buy myself a cookbook. Those marked with * are reward books. I’ll do the same in 2020…

Festive Reads

  • Christmas at the Beach Cafe, Lucy Diamond
  • Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop, Jenny Colgan
  • The Christmas Surprise, Jenny Colgan
  • The Christmas Wish, Tilly Tennant
  • Second Chance Christmas, Nicki Edwards
  • A Wedding in December, Sarah Morgan
  • The Christmas Wish List, Heidi Swain
  • The Christmas Party, Carole Matthews
  • Christmas Cakes & Mistletoe Nights, Carole Matthews
  • Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, Jenny Colgan
  • One Day in December, Josie Silver
  • The Perfect Present, Karen Swan
  • Christmas at Tiffanys, Karen Swan
  • Cupcakes For Christmas, Kate Hewitt
  • The Christmas Sisters, Sarah Morgan
  • The Christmas Party, Karen Swan
  • It Happened on Christmas Eve, Kirsty Greenwood
  • Christmas Pudding, Nancy Mitford


I have some more non-fiction on my to-be-read pile and a couple of cookbooks that need to be actually read rather than flicked through. 

Book-related resolutions?

I actually intend to read less this year – and write more.

I have books on my bookshelf – both physical and virtual – that are crying out for attention and yet last year (and the year before and the year before that and…you get the idea) spent the equivalent of a very good holiday on books and music. I intend to work my way through some of these this year. And yes, I said all of this last year too! Anyways I’ll revisit my progress (and my willpower) at the end of March. Oh, exceptions to this rule are: 

  • Books bought at airports which everyone knows don’t count. 
  • Reward cookbooks for each 5kgs lost

It goes without saying that if you decide to take on this challenge it will be with the exception of buying my books.

In 2020 I’ll be featuring a cookbook a month to review and feature a recipe from – sort of like a virtual cookbook club. I have some other ideas regarding this too but need to get these straight in my head before I tell you about it.

What about you? Any favourites? Recommendations?

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

12 thoughts

  1. Happy New Year, Jo! That’s a fantastic number of books read. I’ll check with my library to see if I can borrow some of your top ten books. I read 62 in 2019 mostly before bed and not during the day, nor when I traveled. I currently have enough books to last me through January. Happy reading and writing to you throughout 2020!

  2. I’m soooo impressed you read this much! I have a goal to read 10 new books in one year! That’s about all I can shoot for. I love to read, but I don’t do it as often as I would like. Cheers to you!

    1. Weirdly I intend to read less this year…and write more. I tend to use books as an escape mechanism from real life & this year is more about getting real.

  3. What a refreshing idea to review a cookbook and feature a recipe from the book!! Can’t wait to read your reviews. I generally get recipe ideas from Pinterest but occasionally pull out my old cookbooks to find something new to try. Years ago my mom bought me several years of Taste of Home magazine. I so enjoyed that publication. So many good recipes.

    1. I’m such a cookbook queen but love finding new ideas in magazines as well. So many recipes, so little time!

  4. I have tried I really have but fiction that I loved now eludes me. I am blaming my totally unromantic soul…and age. Some stories I loved are just now ‘believable’ and yet I loved Boy Swallows Universe because I suspect of the connection I made on line and in person with Trent Dalton.

    I read memoirs and biographies but more than anything I LISTEN via Audible and right now Clare Bowditch (who I knew vaguely was a singer) has captivated me with her memoir. Her story of dealing with anxiety via the same lady Dr Claire Weekes whose works helped me truly got me too. I wish I could escape with stories but they seem to need to be true ones these days.

    You do an amazing job with this review and page. Congratulations.

    Thank you for joining in the first #lifethisweek in 2020. So glad you did. Next week’s optional prompt is 2/51 Good News 13.1.2020. Looking forward to seeing you link up again. Cheers, Denyse.

    1. I haven’t read Claire’s memoir, but I’ve heard some podcasts where she’s talked about it. I used to really enjoy her music and find her quite inspirational.

  5. Lordy lord – 109!! I’m lucky to read one at the moment. I seem to spend my whole life on the computer writing or wasting time instead. Grrrrr – must try harder. Might make that an aim for 2020 – read more books. I’ve taken a photo of your top 10 for reference.

    1. My aim is actually to read less this year – and write more. I tend to use reading as an escape/ almost self-medicating thing for when I’m stressed.

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