52 Books to Read in 2019

There are days when I feel I am addicted to reading.  I write long bucket lists of books to read and wonder if I will ever get to them.  My house is filled with books of various genres that I either intend to read or read once and feel a need to keep around.  Although my goal is always to read a book a week, I sometimes feel as if I will never truly make a dent in my wish list until I’m 80 and house bound.  Still, I value reading, and I want to show my daughter that reading is important by setting a good example.  I want to improve my mind by reading both fiction and non-fiction, great works and fun works, classics and new books.

This post contains affiliate links. I post links to each of these books at Amazon.com so that you can learn more about the book, author, and related books.  We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Too Busy to Read?

What if you feel like you’re too busy to read any books in 2019 let alone 52?  Try audiobooks!  You can usually find a large selection of audio books at your local library.  Or try out Amazon’s Audible!  With a free trial, you can listen to two audio books.  Then pick out a few audio books each month to listen to!  Most of the books on this list are available free with audible!

Here are 52 books I hope to read in 2019 broken out by category.  I generally read one book from each category at a time, rotating so that I don’t get bogged down in too much of the same thing:

Presidential Biographies

I decided a long time ago to read a biography of every single U.S. President.  And after I became a Jeopardy fanatic, I realized I should also probably read biographies of Vice Presidents and First Ladies.  But let’s take this one thing at a time.

I like to read the biographies in order (although I somehow skipped and have read books on Truman, Reagan, and George W. Bush).  What this creates is a sort of layering effect that helps me solidify my understanding of history and how events work together.  For instance, your book about Washington obviously covers the Revolution.  Then the book on Adams does, too.  But Jefferson was a young man in the Revolution, and he had a lot of life to live afterwards!  Each book gives you a little extra U.S. history while reminding you what you read in the last book.  I recommend this approach for anyone who really wants to dive into U.S. History.

But one can only take so much of presidential biographies, especially considering they tend to be so long.  I bounded through the first eight presidents which also happen to be the ones whose names I had memorized.  Then I read about William Henry Harrison, the 30 Days President, and now I am on to completely new ground.

Presidents for 2019

In 2019 I will be learning about those muddled years between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln, the time period that history books skip over to get to the “interesting parts.”  With any luck, I’ll get to read about the great Abraham Lincoln and then dive into another oft-skipped over part of U.S. History – Reconstruction.

  • John Tyler – A president of many firsts.  He was the first vice president to become president after a sitting president died in office.  In fact, at the time that Harrison died, people didn’t know if the vice president became president or simply acted as such.  Another first: he was the first president to become a traitor to his country.  When the Civil War hit, he joined with the south and voted for Virginia to secede from the Union. Check
  • James Polk – Known as the first “dark horse” candidate for president, he practically fell into office after Tyler’s administration was such a nightmare.  He chose to be a one-term president, and so he had a lot to get done in those four years: annexing California through the Mexican-American War, finalizing the border between Washington state and Canada, lowering the tariff, and creating a central treasury.  Those were his four goals going into the office, and he accomplished all four. Check
  • Zachary Taylor
  • Millard Fillmore
  • Franklin Pierce
  • James Buchanan
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Ulysses S. Grant

Recommended Biographies:

  • George WashingtonWillard Sterne Randall wrote well researched biographies of Washington, Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Ethan Allen, and Benedict Arnold.  He’s a great go-to author for books about the French and Indian War through the War of 1812.  After you’ve read this book, check out George Washington’s Mount Vernon!
  • John Adams – If you ever want to know about a topic in history and David McCullough has a book about it, read that one!  They are long, but they are easy to read and keep your interest.  Have a long car trip?  Try listening to the John Adams biography free with a trial of Amazon’s Audible.
  • Andrew Jackson – Despite being on the $20 bill, Jackson could be seen as a controversial President, due to his relationship with slavery and the Native Americans.  Author H.W. Brands provides an honest and critical look at him while also explaining what was going on in the national mindset that caused him to take the stances he did.
  • Harry Truman – David McCullough’s Truman biography is over 1,000 pages long!  Why bother with War and Peace when you can add this to your list of accomplishments?  The Truman book is a truly great biography because it speaks to such recent history, and yet Harry Truman is really not a controversial political figure anymore.  (As a side story, I was reading this book during the 2016 election, and I actually predicted some similarities between 2016 and the famous 1948 election!)  Again, this book is free with an Audible Trial.  Listen to it in the car on the way down to visit the Truman Library in Independence, MO – a great road trip worth taking!

Great British Book List

I don’t actually know the name of the list, but it was some survey taken in Great Britain that compiled 200 great books to read in a life time.  What I liked about the list was that it asked real people instead of relying on some academic definition.  I don’t know what to expect from these books, but I’m curious and willing to give them a try.

  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer – In looking this up, I just discovered that this is a series, and that Disney is planning to make a movie out of it!  That bodes well for it (although I tried A Wrinkle In Time this year, and I wasn’t hooked enough to pursue reading the other books or watching the movie).
  • The BFG by Roald Dahl – I loved books by Roald Dahl as a child, and it was nice to enjoy this one again.  As an adult, I was able to read it in one sitting.  Check
  • The Twits by Roald Dahl
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens – It should be on everyone’s bucket list to read a complete Charles Dickens in their lifetime, but I’ll have to read most of the stories when I’m 80 and bedridden.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – I find it important to read an insanely long Russian novel every now and then to keep my Tolstoys and Dostoevskys straight.  The book is about a poor man who tries to get out of debt by murdering a moneylender.  It doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but I do like mysteries and crime solving books, so perhaps this will also keep me on my toes!
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – I worked through 100 Years of Solitude last winter when I was still allowed to read while eating my meals.  With less time for reading, I’m not sure what to expect out of another book by Garcia Marquez.
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding – Most of my peers read this book, about a group of boys shipwrecked on an island, in high school.  I hope that means it’s easy and entertaining reading!
  • Ulysses by James Joyce – Ulysses is the Latin name of Odysseus, and this book promises to include some parallels to the Odyssey.  Keeping with Greek metaphors, James Joyce and his works have always been my Achilles heel when watching Jeopardy.  Hopefully reading this book will help me answer more questions!
  • Holes by Louis Sachar – Growing up, I was a huge fan of Sachar’s Wayside School series, and I have high hopes for him in this book as well.

Great Works

Then there are the so-called “classics” that you see on book lists in high school.  Someone somewhere decided these are the books worth studying.  I compiled a list of books I heard as the answers on Jeopardy and books that are referenced in other books.  (For instance, C.S. Lewis seems so cultured, I am interested in reading the books that helped shape his understanding of the world.  In other words, the books that were commonly taught in British prep schools around the turn of the century).

  • Aristotle – Ethics, Metaphysics, Poetry – I’m really looking forward to my first dive into the Greek classics.  Ethics is one of Aristotle’s most famous works, but I am also interested in reading his writings on Metaphysics and Poetry.
  • G.K. Chesterton – Lepanto – Chesterton is often described as a sort of Catholic C.S. Lewis.  I have read a few of his works and had a hard time elevating them to that status.  Still, I’m willing to give him a try.  I’m looking forward to learning about an important historical battle, but I’m worried that the book is written in verse, which I don’t usually care for.
  • Dickens – David Copperfield
  • Dionysius – Roman Antiquities – At 825 pages, this book may be a test of my willpower!  On the other hand, I’ve been fascinated about ancient Rome recently.  If it’s an easy read, it shouldn’t be too hard to get through, but I might have to devote more than a week to it!
  • Ralph Ellison – Invisible Man – The biography of an African American man growing up in pre-Civil Rights south.  His stories are entertaining to read and get you thinking.  Check
  • Rudyard Kipling – Stalky and Co.
  • Jack London – Call of the Wild
  • Henry David Thoreau – Civil Disobedience – All I remember about Thoreau is that he was a favorite subject in my 11th Grade American Literature classes.  Considering that I hated pretty much every book they made me read that year, I’m not sure what to expect from him!  But I’ll give him a second chance.
  • Lew Wallace – Ben Hur – I’m really looking forward to reading this classic.  I’ve been fascinated by the early Roman Empire, and I love how Wallace connects the tale to the story of Jesus!
  • H.G. Wells – The Invisible Man

Bible Study

I would like to take a deep dive into each book of the Bible – learn about the authors, the historical setting, and the lessons that can be learned from it.  So in addition to reading the Bible, I plan to use a commentary or study guide to help me in my journey.  One thing I hope to do is get a new Study Bible.  Although my current Bible has a lot of commentary, it really doesn’t present it in a user friendly way.

  • Matthew – I found a good study guide from Ignatius online.  Or I can listen to a free podcast about Matthew.  I think that would still count as reading a book, because I would be reading the actual gospel at the same time!
  • Genesis – Ignatius also offers a study guide on Genesis.  It will be interesting to see how I feel about this brand of study guide, since my intention is to go through the entire Bible this way!
  • Exodus – I decided to skip Genesis, because I’ve recently been through it on my own.  Instead, our Bible Study read the book of Exodus.  Frankly, my Study Bible has more than enough content without needing a separate commentary.  Check
  • 1-2 Thessalonians – I decided that I want to approach the New Testament in the order they were written.  Apparently 1 Thessalonians was written about the year 50 and is about as early as they get.

Religious Books

When I do my daily Bible study, I also read snippets out of religious books that sustain me.  This is honestly the best way I connect to God and receive the encouragement I need to try to be a better person.

  • Anselm of Canterbury the Major Works – A long time ago I set out to read one book by each of the “Doctors of the Church.”  These are the saints that the church has given special status for their knowledge and learning.  I started the book a while back, but his theology is so intellectual, you have to be willing to pay attention when you read it!
  • C.S. Lewis – The Dark Tower – I read through all of C.S. Lewis’ works about 10 years ago, and now it’s time for another refresher.  While the next two books are going to be great additions to my Bible study, this book is actually just some works of science fiction!
  • C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity – This is one of C.S. Lewis’s trademark books!  In it, he breaks down Christianity to something that people from all denominations can understand and get behind.  It’s inspiring to refresh yourself on what you believe and why.  It’s encouraging to see that we have more in common than not.  And it’s a great tool to help explain your faith to those who don’t believe.
  • C.S. Lewis – Miracles – I made it through this book early in the year.  It was so refreshing to be reading C.S. Lewis again!  I love how he outlines his argument and attempts to resolve every counter-point against it.  The book title is almost deceptive.  He spends most of the book arguing more about the existence of a God than of miracles themselves.  He also dives into whether or not God would create miracles, given that He exists.  Finally, he talks about the “Grand Miracle” – Jesus’ incarnation.  So don’t expect him to visit all the miracles in the Bible and give some sort of percentage of whether or not they actually happened or not.  Check
  • The Birth of the Church by Ivor J. Davidson – This was the second time I read this book.  I loved reading about all the little progressions the church made from the time of Acts to Constantine.  At one point, the book outlines a Eucharistic Prayer from the year 200, and it is almost word-for-word the same as the intro we currently use!  I realized how hard it was to be a Christian when the church first began and how lucky we are to have the legacy of the early church fathers to help us understand the theological significance of every little aspect of our faith.  Check
  • The Fourth Cup by Scott Hahn – This book promises to be a well-written look into the meaning and symbolism of the Last Supper and what Jesus’ death on the cross really means for us.
  • The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis – This is a devotional book, not a book to be read straight through.
  • Utopia by St. Thomas More – I’m a little ashamed it’s taken me this long in my life to get to this book!  First of all, I’m inspired by Thomas More’s story of courage in the face of persecution.  Second, I’m an anglophile, so I love the idea of a great saint coming out of England.  But I decided now may be a good time to read about his views on how to create a perfect society.  I know it can never be done, but our world is so dysfunctional!  It would be great to get some perspective.

Fun Books

As I mentioned previously, my favorite genre is fiction.  I tend to go through these books faster than one per week, and they can be kind of dangerous as a stay at home mom.  I sit down to read a chapter or two, and I end up finishing the book!

  • B-E is for…by Sue Grafton – I have always wanted to read this “Alphabet” Mystery series.  I read the first book, A Is for Alibi this week.  It was a highly entertaining book, even if the plot didn’t make sense in some places.  In addition, it’s a high PG-13 rating!  I was a little surprised and disappointed by the amount of cursing and sex in the book.  If you are a fan of TV Detective shows, this feels like reading one of those.  I figure I have room in my book schedule next year to get through another four of these books.
    • B is for Burglar – I can’t say that the novel centered around a burglar or burglary, but this was a good read!  A search for a missing person dives into a much more sinister crime.  Check
  • Susanna Calkins – I fell in love with Susanna Calkins when I read her series of Restoration England Mysteries.  It seems she has changed scenes and is going to be writing about 1920’s Chicago (another fun topic) with a book due out in April!
  • The Two Mrs. Abbots by D.E. Stevenson – One year for Christmas, my husband gave me Miss Buncle’s Book.  I can’t explain the genre – it’s not exactly romance, but it’s not really anything else either.  It’s a fun story about an aspiring author whose book sets a whole town on its head.  The next year, my husband gave me the second book in the series.  This final book in the series did not disappoint.  It was a delightful love story, set during World War II, with quirky little anecdotes and winding paths to keep you interested.  Check
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes – I’m an avid Sherlock Holmes fan, and although I love to read non-canonical mysteries by authors who continue to bring the detective to life, I also like to go back and read the originals every now and then.  This year my library has challenged me to read various types of books including a series of short stories.  I can’t think of any series of short stories better than Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries!  Check
  • Crazy Rich Asians – I’ve been seeing the previews for this movie, and it looks pretty cute!  I don’t know what to expect from this book as far as how clean it is, but they always say the book is better than the movie, so I think I’ll just read that!   I changed my mind on this book after seeing the movie.  The movie was great, but I’m not sure I need to read the entire book.  Obviously, I’ll be finding another great book to take its place.
  • The Power of Positive Thinking – This is a nod to my mom, the world’s greatest optimist!  I know that sometimes I can get bogged down in the little things.  I’m melancholic by nature, and so I hope to brush up on some skills to stay positive!

Fill in the Blank

And, of course, there are the books that I plan to read that I don’t even know about!  I need to keep realistic expectations and not let myself get bogged down with finishing a specific reading list.  We read for fun – there’s no test!  I’ll fill this list in as the year goes on.  Please leave a comment below to let me know what you would suggest!


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