My Favorite Books of 2019

Good news, I smoked my Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge. I set the bar at 30 books and am currently parked at 37…with a little over a day to go and only a few short pages left in number 38. Without further ado, here’s my Favorite Books 2019 list. Well, not a list per se but highlights over various forms and genres. Happy Reading in 2020!

Not my bookshelf. / Photo by Nick Vidal-Hall via Flickr

Favorite Books 2019

Short Stories

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

My review:

Perfect short stories starring a rogues’ gallery of eccentric, bizarre, and/or disturbed characters.

I also highly recommend Moshfegh’s novels My Year of Rest and Relaxation as well as Eileen.

Evening in Paradise: More Stories by Lucia Berlin

Add Berlin to the list authors criminally under-appreciated/neglected during her lifetime. Astonishing short stories about the border, family, poverty, race, class, Chile, and assorted American cities. Unflinching, raw, visceral. Knowing.

Death in Midsummer and Other Stories by Yukio Mishima

These are stories to linger over and get lost in. They took me to worlds and settings where I had little to no experience, yet felt utterly invested.

Series of Books

My Favorite Books of 2019Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk

Astonishing books about an author (Faye) going about the business of her personal and professional life, and the people she meets along the way. The author/protagonist will, say, be on a plane and start speaking with someone and they will take over with a memorable narrative. With Cusk/Faye chiming in with pointed comments and questions directing the person to open up further or take their tale in surprising/unexpected directions. The covers are amazing.

The Ripliad by Patricia Highsmith

Ok, that’s not the official title but I did read all five of Highsmith’s books about Tom Ripley. What made it memorable was I did so as part of a reading group at Brooklyn’s The Center For Fiction. It was a treat to meet every few weeks with a small group of book nerds and a moderator (Managing Editor of Crime Reads, Dwyer Murphy) for stimulating and entertaining discussion. The Center has really good beer and a few natty wines in the cafe, too! (Also: Valpolicella and Venice.)

[If you want to read an update of The Talented Mr. Ripley for the Instagram age, check out Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton. “Lies and Lees.“]

Non Fiction

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber

This is an important book about the insidiousness and fear driving modern corporate personnel structure, and the psychological impact it has in very specific and subtle ways on how people live their lives both in and out of the workplace. Bullshit Jobs is the dictionary definition of provocative.

The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser

Holy shit, do you know how vitally important sand is to everything we take for granted in our post-industrial society? Glass, concrete, computer chips? And (SPOILER ALERT) we’re running out of it. Huh? (Also: Champagne and Doritos.)

My Own Devices: True Stories from the Road on Music, Science, and Senseless Love by Dessa

On a whim I went to see rapper/writer Dessa speak at WORD, my beloved local bookstore. She talked about her book of essays/memoir and was funny, charming, and prescient. Even her slide show was cool! It was a portentous harbinger for reading My Own Devices. To call Dessa inquisitive and curious is an understatement. Reading her essays about trying to fall out of love via understanding how the/her brain works, and the lengths she goes to test her theories, prove astonishingly fascinating from a scientific standpoint and extremely moving from an emotional one.

Made Me Sob (More Than Once)

Little by Edward Carey

Why it did is between me and my therapist but there are so many heartbreaking moments in the life of Little, an orphan with a great talent for wax sculpture. Why are people so awful?

Best Two Books I Read This Year

My Favorite Books of 2019Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

You bet what first got my attention was the Daniel Clowes cover. And have you seen the episode of Drunk History* regarding the origin of the novel? I can’t believe Shelley was 18 when she wrote this. My review:

Wow, we have been completely misled by Hollywood and pop culture about Frankenstein. The book, the doctor, and his creation. His monster is no big green lunk with bolts coming out of his neck. (He may be more sinister looking, actually.) And the good Doctor is no “He’s Alive!” exaggeration.

I dare say this book is Romantic, with a capital “R.” Much of the book takes place in mountains, lakes, and on the coast. The descriptions of the natural world are quite beautiful. Amidst these scenes of the natural world, we are privy to the turbulent thoughts in Dr. Frankenstein’s mind regarding the aftermath of his actions.

And the book deftly asks, what responsibility does Dr. Frankenstein take for his creation? What does he owe the monster? How is he supposed to live in the world? The chapters narrated by the monster are astonishing, as he learns about language, the written word, and human relationships. It’s also quite heartbreaking. The reader see-saws back and forth between sympathy for the creature and disdain for his horrific violence.

The scene with both Frankenstein and his monster and very memorable, as are the monster’s last words (kind of like a soliloquy) at the end of the book. To think Shelley was a teenager when she wrote this book makes it even more astonishing. This book is a masterpiece.

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

My review:

I absolutely loved the main character in this book, Selin. Her inner and outer dialogues rang true in a way I haven’t experienced with many characters. Anxious, sly, and relatable. I also really enjoyed her encounters with Ivan, the fellow student she’s in love with.

The Idiot also has a cast of supporting and minor characters who are memorable and keenly observed, even those making a brief appearance.

What’s on your Favorite Books 2019 list? Let me know in the comments.

*Here ya go:

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Spain vs. France

January 5, 2020 (Sun): We stocked up on a couple of European wines before a proposed 100% tariff goes into effect. Swing by the shop to try these moderately priced wines while they are still moderately priced. 2015 Intorchia Vignemie  $9 Perriconne This Sicilian Red varietal has distinct notes[...]

2019 Winery of the Year… Pomum-Cellars Vinateria Idilico

Seattle PI
December 28, 2019

For a few years now, I have been selecting a winery that I believe deserves the distinction as my winery of the year. The criteria are simple, great wines that show quality, typicity and personality. Around a year or so ago, I was introduced to the Idilico wines. Not long after falling in love with these Spanish varietal influenced wines, I realized that they were the sister winery to Pomum Cellars.

I have always been a fan of the Pomum wines and to find out the two were connected by the same winemaker made sense. Both the Idilico and Pomum wines are top-notch examples of the quality of wines that come out of Washington State. All the Idilico wines are made from Spanish varietals sourced from top vineyards in Yakima Valley. Pomum Cellars features wines from more traditional Washington State grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling and Chardonnay as well as Tempranillo a varietal that winemaker Javier Alfonso is quite passionate about. I had a chance to talk with Javier on the phone prior to publishing this article and his passion for producing pure expressions of the fruit of Washington State was very evident. Read the entire article on The Seattle PI.

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A New Champagne Bar, and 4 Other Wine-Tasting Room Openings Around Seattle

Seattle Times
December 27, 2019

DeLille Cellars

One of the most ambitious tasting rooms to debut in Woodinville in recent years, this acclaimed Bordeaux-style winery has expanded in the old three-story Redhook Brewery plant. The main floor, capacity 100, is open to the public, though a reservation system is set up to avoid overcrowding. The upper two floors are for wine club members and include a wine library boasting 1,235 bottles. There are also a 64-seat rooftop bar, private tasting rooms and a fireplace on the top floor. DeLille’s signature red, D2, is much loved, but don’t miss the winery’s Chaleur Blanc. At $35, it’s one of the best values for white Bordeaux-style blends you can find in the United States. Food and wine pairings are offered Fridays through Sundays, and by next spring, the staff will start hosting wine tours. Also, DeLille will have a new neighbor come March when Sparkman Cellars moves into the Redhook building.

14300 N.E. 145th St., Suite 101, Woodinville; 425-489-0544, delillecellars.com

Maryhill Tasting Room

This popular Columbia Gorge winery makes it debut in the Eastside market with its fourth and largest tasting room to date, located in a renovated 10,000-square-foot space in the Hollywood Schoolhouse in Woodinville. Check out its 2016 Cabernet Franc, which made our 25 Top Northwest Wines list in 2019. For food, there are shared plates, including crabcakes and other seafood, along with sandwiches.

14810 N.E. 145th St., #A, Woodinville; 425-481-7925, maryhillwinery.com/Visit/Woodinville

View the entire article and list on The Seattle Times.

 

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Best of 2019: Readers’ Choice Poll Winners

Seattle Magazine
December 2019

The results of the “Best of 2019: Reader’s Choice Poll” are in! We are very proud to feature the Woodinville winners below. View the entire list on Seattle Magazine.

Best Outdoor Concert Venue
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
Woodinville

Best Wine-tasting Room
Alexandria Nicole Cellars
Woodinville

Best Wine Country Resort
Willows Lodge
Woodinville

Best Northwest Wine-tasting Region
Woodinville

 

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Wine Reviews: Weekly Mini Round-Up For December 30, 2019

I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
 
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!

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