What I Read in January

(Related: Can you believe it’s already the end of January? For once, this month flew by for me…)

A few years ago I tried setting a goal for reading a certain number of books. I ended up hating it because — well, because I already loved reading books. Adding an otherwise arbitrary numerical goal made it feel less like a hobby and more like a challenge.

I have enough goals I want to reach; there’s no reason to make my go-to downtime activity one of them. So, I no longer care about how many books I read. I just read books because I love reading books.

All this said… I read five-and-a-half books in January (plus a few chapters of another one I ended up returning to the library due to time). Simply because I read books, and this is what happened. I can already tell that February’s reading log will be lighter, but I’m beyond okay with that, because my purpose here is to read, and that’s it.

This year, I’m going to write about the books I read at the end of each month. So for this first installment, I’m giving you a short, ten-peso thought about each one, lest this post itself become a novel.

Here are the books I read in January 2019.

1. One Day in December, by Josie Silver

This lighthearted read, if not a little predictable and cliché, follows Laurie and a decade of her relationships with Jack, Sarah, and Oscar, and how their lives and secrets interact with each other.

I got this novel as a free selection in December from Book-of-the-Month (I ordered a few gifts from them), and it fit the bill for what I was after: an easy read during a chill break. I powered through this novel in the first few days of January, while I was still off work and the kids were home from school.

3 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Amazon | B&N | Indie


2. Your Best Year Ever, by Michael Hyatt

Michael and his team sent me this book over the holidays (along with a lovely card from his family), and I’m glad they did. His podcast became a regular listen for me once he added his daughter, Megan, as co-host, and though I don’t agree with everything he says, I do find his wisdom useful.

In this book (my first foray into non-fiction after an almost year-long break), Michael shares research-driven advice for setting and achieving goals. My biggest takeaway was the importance of naming your “why” for each goal, lest it become a random aspiration that’s not really applicable to you (something I teach in Like Your Life). A good, broad-brushstroke read to start off the year.

4 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Amazon | B&N | Indie


3. Christmas Eve, 1914, by Charles Olivier

I have an Audible subscription, which means I can choose two Audible Originals per month — this was one of my selections for December, but I didn’t press play until literally the last day of Christmastide (January 5). I listened to it as I packed up declarations, and as a one-hour, 13-minute story, it was a very quick “read.” 

It was a genuinely compelling audio drama based on a true story I already knew a bit about (when both sides on the Western Front during World War I stop fighting on Christmas Eve). Audible Originals are well-produced, with a full cast, sound effects (mostly non-cheesy or distracting), and solid performances. I can see this one being an annual listen for me.

5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️| Audible


4. 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff

Another novel I listened to via audiobook, this has been on my TBR list for years. Based on real-life letters sent back and forth across the Atlantic over two decades, this charming story follows a cranky New York woman and a courteous middle-class Englishman bookseller. He finds her hard-to-locate books on her wish list; she sends her thanks, life updates, and at the beginning of their correspondence, much-loved care packages for post-war London survival.

I found the book utterly charming, and its sudden end brought legit tears to my eyes as I fought traffic during my errand-running. Very glad I chose the audio version.

5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Audible | Amazon | B&N | Indie


5. Atomic Habits, by James Clear

Easily my favorite book of the month, I’m saving the best for last. James Clear asserts that if you’re having trouble changing your habits, the problem is your system, not you. He systematically shows how we fall to the level of our systems, we don’t rise to the level of our goals.

Clear distills the concept of behaviors, goals, and habits — things often over-complicated by tons of modern Thought Gurus™ — into applicable behavior systems. I started applying some of his suggestions before I even finished the book, and several weeks later, I’m still motivated and focused. I’d say that’s a first for the end of January for me.

I listened first on audiobook, but I enjoyed it so much I also bought it in hardback. I plan to re-read this soon, and it’ll probably affect some of what I teach. Fan-diddly-astic.

5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ | Audible | Amazon | B&N | Indie


6. Bonus: Watership Down, by Richard Adams

This is our family’s current read-aloud, but I’m not counting it fully yet because we’re only a few chapters in. I honestly read it last when I was a kid, so I don’t remember much (other than being slightly traumatized). So far, everyone’s engrossed, from the 8-year-old to the teenager.

Amazon | B&N | Indie


I’m already well in to my next books, which I’ll share at the end of February. So, I’d love to hear from you: What was your favorite read in January? Got any suggestions?

p.s. – In the next podcast episode this Friday, I’ll dive a bit more into how I read — and I chat with Andrea about her thoughts on anxiety. It’s a good one!

Reading Time:

4 minutes

 

 

 

43 Comments

  1. Tara

    My favorite read for January…
    How to break up with your phone by Catherine Price.
    In aligning with my goals this year this book was a great kick starter for helpful tips and solid research for the reader. If you are looking to bring more balance to your life with technology… Would definitely recommend.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve heard that’s a great one! Thanks for sharing, Tara.

    • Trina

      On a similar note, I just started Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford. This concept of balancing your tech use in your life is SO important these days.

  2. Andrea

    I finally figured out how to get audiobooks from my library and listened to Murder on the Orient Express, narrated by Dan Stevens. Stevens is a phenomenal reader and a master of accents!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      1. Orient Express is on my TBR list, and 2. I LOVE Dan Stevens — so this info is gold! Thanks so much, Andrea.

  3. Andrea Debbink

    I think I forgot to mention this when we chatted, but an audiobook I’m enjoying this month is “The Diary of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell. I tend to like books about bookstores so I was glad to hear your recommendation of “84, Charing Cross Road.” Adding it to my audiobook list! 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve heard good things about that book!

  4. Kendra

    I’m a huge reader, averaging around 15 books per month (though one of my goals for 2019 is to read less, but better). I’m looking forward to reading more book reviews from you, Tsh! I have Atomic Habits queued up on my Kindle, waiting for me to finish up a few library and book club books first. The best book I read this month was Once Upon a River, by Diane Setterfield—picked up, because last month I was swept away by her Thirteenth Tale. I also just finished Lysa Terkeurst’s latest, which was was phenomenal.

  5. Kim

    In January:
    Kingdom of the Blind
    Educated
    New Celtic Monasticism

    and I started Circe, but haven’t finished it yet.

  6. Holly D

    My favorite finished books this month were I’ll be Your Blue Sky by Marisa De Los Santos (I loved the way this story looked at home and family and some of it even took place on my home turf) and A Jane Austen Education : How six novels taught me about love, friendship, and the things that really matter by William Deresiewicz (I’m a sucker for anything Jane Austen and this exploration of themes in her books was a fun memoir on how they impacted the author’s life)

    You mentioned Your Best Year Ever was your first non fiction in almost a year. Did you have a specific need to step away from non fiction for a while? I’m curious how you balance your types of reading choices.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      You know, it wasn’t any formal decision — it was just what I felt I needed at the time. I often feel like I learn and grow just as much (if not more) through good storytelling, and I felt a bit tired of all the prescription in my life. I just wanted to immerse myself in stories. And so, I did. For several years. 😉

  7. Ronda

    so many good suggestions my tbr pile just got bigger.

  8. Ms E

    I understand resisting the urge to goal-set for books. I’m a sucker for Goodreads, but I find myself hustling to finish so I can keep chalking up my Goodreads mark. Eek.
    Bang up start to the year here: The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey by Suzanne Stabile; Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center; The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty; and Less by Andrew Sean Greer (lovely book that won the Pulitzer and I’m surprised by that, but every word is so spot-on good so maybe that?). Love knowing about 84, Charing Cross Road. Added it to my list!

  9. April Best

    I have Atomic Habits on my bedside table and just moved it to the top! This month I read An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor — it was so meditative, beautifully written and a great book to start the new year. 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      That’s a lovely book, April!

  10. Nina

    SO random– I also read 84, Charing Cross Road, which is really an old book. I LOVED it so much. I keep thinking about it.

    • Cathie

      I absolutely adored this book. This is one of the few books that I’ve read after watching the movie, which is also wonderful. One of my all-time favorite books!

  11. Chris

    I really enjoyed “The Last Train to Istanbul” by Ayse Kulin. I loved this novel’s unique perspective (at least to me) of Turkey during WWII. I suspect you would enjoy it, especially given your time in Turkey. 🙂

    P.S. Love this type of post! I always enjoy book suggestions.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ooh, I’m now adding that to my TBR list! Sounds right up my alley. Thanks, Chris.

  12. Bethany

    I read the second two installment books in the Crazy Rich Asians series and while they are not the type of books I normally read they were an enjoyable fluffy break from my world and made me grateful once again that I’m not rich. Read Beorn the Proud aloud with my kids it was a good story but hard to read aloud. Also have a bunch of books partway through: The Dyslexic Advantage which is sooooo wonderful so far. Prayer That Works by Jill Brisco. I just love her. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger. He is one of my favorite writers, trying to make it last longer haha. We have been listening to Dragon Rider on Audible and almost done. Whole family is loving it. I’ve read part of Factfullness by Hans Rosling but waiting for my turn again from the library as it’s on hold.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I can’t wait to dig into Virgil Wander! Enger’s way with words is haunting.

  13. Lisa

    The War that Saved my Life

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      My daughter read that last year and said it’s so good!

  14. Devi

    I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – LOVED it. I couldn’t put it down, great characters, lovely plot, lots of interesting themes. I loved the way she pays attention to mother daughter relationships.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I want to read this, too! Gah, so many good books out there.

    • Cathie

      I listened to this one, and was a little disappointed by the ending.

  15. Cathy Froment

    The Underground Girls of Kabul, Jenny Nordburg
    *Insight into the Afghanistan culture
    My Grandmother sends her Regards and Apologies, Fredrik Backman
    *Written from an “almost” 8 year old girl’s view.
    The Year of Less, Cait Flanders
    *Minimalist encouragement
    The Sewing Machine, Natalie Fergie
    *Following a few generations connected by the machine.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve heard amazing things about that Backman book. He’s a great storyteller.

  16. Alicia

    Is it cheating if I pick two?! I read Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island (which I’ve had on my list forever since I heard you mention it on The Simple Show). It was such a fun read, not to mention that it gave me a 100 new little nooks to put on my UK travel list! I think my husband could say he quasi-read this book because I read so many funny parts out loud to him?It was also super interesting to compare and contrast my own experience living as a foreigner in the UK. And for my second pick, I read Becoming by Michelle Obama, which I thought would be an interesting read but I was surprised by how story-driven it was, how relatable it was and how well written it was. I just thoroughly enjoyed it and think it will be one of my top picks this year. Both of these books left me with such a satisfied feeling (albeit in different ways) as I turned the last page which is my highest book praise ?. PS – I love the idea of these monthly book lists?I’m looking forward to checking in with them!?

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve got Becoming in my Audible library, so I’m looking forward to digging in! And yes, Bryson is a MASTER storyteller, so you read a great one, Alicia!

  17. Rebekah Crabtree

    My favorite book in January was Northland, about the US/Canadian Border. So much history I never knew, also I learned so much about my own state, Maine (Dawnland) that I never knew either. I love books that move between a present day adventure and retelling a place’s story. I have heard a lot about Atomic Habits and I’m currently #11 on the waitlist for the one copy my library has. I’m currently reading Pachinko, a novel set about a Korean family and its convincing me to read more novels in 2019

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve heard lovely things about Pachinko, but I’ve never heard of Northland! Sounds really good (I love history).

  18. Chantel

    I love book lists, so excited you are going to do this every month! My favorite book from January was And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman. I have yet to read any of his other books that people praise so much but this one is a short novella (67 pages and it has pictures interspersed) of an old man explaining to his grandson that he has Alzheimer’s. It took me 45 minutes to read and I had tears streaming down my cheeks at the end and now I am recommending it to everyone. I hope you pick this one up!

    I’m going to check out 84, Charing Cross Road because it sounds very Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie-esq to me.

    Can’t wait to read next month’s round up!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Oh my goodness, that Backman novella sounds like a tearjerker, indeed! He’s so good. And you’re right, Chantel, Charing Cross does have a Potato Peel-esque-ness about it, being epistolary and all. Not quite the same in that it’s nonfiction vs. fiction, but still a great story nonetheless.

  19. Melissa H

    Great book list! I adored “84, Charing Cross Road” as well and the sequel is equally charming. It’s called “The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street” and follows her visit to London. As someone who loves London, I bet you would enjoy it!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      So she finally went! I’m so glad to hear. I’ll have to check it out!

  20. Nicole Bennett

    I really want to read 84, Charing Cross Road but my library doesn’t have it! I guess I need to buy it soon because I keep hearing how great it is and it looks right up my alley.

  21. Amber Safford

    How do you keep track of your TBR list?

    • Alicen

      This is what I want to know! Mine just grows endlessly!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Honestly? GoodReads + my personal Amazon wish list + my library account’s wish list. Here’s my GR account, but I’m not social there or anything so I’m a complete bore to follow. 😉 But it is where I track what I read and toss in TBR stuff (which I’m not always current on).

  22. Aimee

    My favorite read in January was Garlic & Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by former NYT food critic, Ruth Reichl. Delightfully funny but profound at the same time, the writing is beautiful, and I feel like my appreciation and thoughtfulness about the food I’m eating has gone way up after drinking in her prose.

  23. Cheryl

    My favourite was “Women Talking” by Miriam Toews. It’s about 8 women in a Mennonite colony who hold secret meetings to decide what to do after a large number of the women and girls were raped by men in their community. While the nature of their circumstances is dark (& based on true events), the conversations of the women are often wry & humourous. It’s a story of women at the mercy of the men in a patriarchal community (the women are illiterate, don’t the speak the language of the country they live in, have never been outside the community, the men make all the decisions and they are expected to obey) doing something radical — claiming their identities & their power &, at times, questioning their religion & faith. A few years ago I read another of her books, All My Puny Sorrows, and loved it as well.

  24. Sophia

    Thanks for the recs! My top two for this year so far are Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult and When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi.

Get the weekly email called 5 Quick Things,

where Tsh shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)

You’ll also get an excerpt from her latest book, At Home in the World, a memoir about the school year her family backpacked around the world.