I read a lot this year. These are the best books I read in 2019 to add to your 2020 reading list-- plus a Reading Challenge for Christian Women! | Intentional By Grace.com

The Best Books I Read in 2019 (to Add to Your 2020 Reading List)

Reading is one of those things that I prioritize every year, and 2019 was no different. In this post I’m sharing the best books I read in 2019 plus some adjustments I’m making in my reading life in 2020.

For the last several years, I have set the goal to read 70 books in one year. For two years straight, I tried and failed to reach this number.

So, last year, I decided to give myself a break and set my goal at one book a week. Fifty-two books seemed doable, but still challenging. Surely I could reach that goal, right?

Silly as it sounds, I needed a year where my Goodreads account said, “You’ve completed your goal!” I needed a win. So 52 books it was…

Well, you wouldn’t believe it, but in 2019, I read 72 books! I finally reached that goal of 70 books in one year, and I didn’t even try for it.

I don’t know what this tells me except maybe releasing the pressure is what I needed.

I read a lot this year. These are the best books I read in 2019 to add to your 2020 reading list-- plus a Reading Challenge for Christian Women! | IntentionalByGrace.com

Anyway, in a lot of ways, I really grew as a reader in 2019, but I can’t say it was my best reading year ever.

Sure, I read over 70 books, but honestly, I was underwhelmed most of the year by the books I read.

On a scale from 1 to 5, I’d give this reading year a 3 star. Just sort of so-so.

As a reader, this is a bit disappointing, but also as a reader, I know that sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

In 2020, I’m going to be making some adjustments in my reading life.

I learned this year that reading more doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m reading better.

I don’t want another 3 star year in 2020, so here are some adjustments I’m making:

  • Be quick to close a book and move on if it’s not jiving with me. There are too many books in the sea to get bogged down in books that just aren’t for me.
  • Read more fiction than nonfiction. I need a break from all the self-help in the world. I want to fall in love with reading again.
  • Prioritize wonder and delight and stories that will make me feel something. I want to walk in someone else’s shoes and be changed. If it’s not going to help me love others more, I’m shutting it.
  • Go to the bookstore more. This is just fun, and it helps me remember why I love reading. Plus my kids love it, and it’s always special time with them.
  • Read only 1-2 books at a time. I tend to spread myself too thin. This year, I’m going to limit the number of books I have open at one time. I think this will help tremendously.

Even though it was a 3-star year, that doesn’t mean every book I read was a 3-star. There were some gems mined out of the sea of publishing that I must share with you. The following books are worth adding to your reading list this year.

I read a lot this year. These are the best books I read in 2019 to add to your 2020 reading list-- plus a Reading Challenge for Christian Women! | IntentionalByGrace.com

The Best Books I Read in 2019

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Unoffendable by Brant Hansen

The idea that we are not entitled to our anger is a pretty radical idea. Brant Hansen makes the case that “righteous anger” is a myth, a myth that we should reconsider quickly as Christians. I picked up this book at the start of 2019 because I wanted to grow in “being less sensitive.” This book certainly challenged my way of thinking, and in the end this was my most recommended book in 2019. Few other books will challenge your way of thinking more than this one.

Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson

Wow! This book was not at all what I expected. I actually listened to this one on ChristianAudio as we traveled to see family, so as Hannah was meandering her story through The Blue Ridge Parkway, I was actually riding on the very same Parkway. It wasn’t planned, but it was certainly a wonderful “coincidence.” Humble Roots is part theology of the incarnation and part stroll through nature. It’s a poignant book about cultivating humility in your life, but I guarantee you that it’s not what you are expecting a book on humility to be about.

The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni

I almost didn’t read this one because I don’t consider my family a “frantic family.” However, my husband loves anything and everything by Patrick Lencioni, and he recommended I read this book. I’m so glad I did! After consulting with businesses on how to make businesses better for years, Patrick turns his sights to the most important organization in anyone’s life – the family. It’s written fable style which means it’s not a dry “teaching book,” but it’s also very, very practical and applicable. I’ve even applied the tactics to my own personal life to help me achieve goals and stay focused on things that matter.

Grace is Greater by Kyle Idleman

This was another one that I listened to on ChristianAudio. Grace is Greater takes us past our hang-ups toward an understanding of grace that is bigger than our mistakes, failures, desire for revenge, or any other seemingly impossible situations. This book is all about heart transformation for gospel application. If you’ve been hurt by others, or you’ve been the one doing the hurting, you’ll appreciate the perspective of grace Kyle shares in this book. I’m thinking I’ll be re-reading this one in 2020.

Girls’ Club by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson

I couldn’t put this one down. I even tried not to like it because I fear I’m fan-girling the Clarksons a bit too much. But y’all, when you share truth, joy, and beauty like these women…it’s a gift. I loved how practical this book was on cultivating relationships with others. I especially loved how they defined friendship and even taught on different kinds of relationships we will want to cultivate. Not all relationships are created the same, and not everyone is a bosom friend. This is okay! In a world where we define our friends by numbers on a screen, this is a healthy, helpful book for all women (young and old alike).

Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry

This was another ChristianAudio book, so I actually listened to Jackie Hill Perry read this to me. I adore her Spoken Word, so listening to her tell her own story was a treat. Jackie grew up fatherless and experienced gender confusion well into her adult years. This is one of those books you read in order to understand, to hope, or be made new.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

When I finished this book, I closed it and just sat there for several minutes trying to decide if I needed to let out a good cry or not. My husband tried to speak but I just placed my hand up and said, “Wait. Not now.” I didn’t talk the rest of the night. This book elicited such deep emotion from me that I’m still not sure I’m ready to fully finish processing it. Gary Schmidt wove a masterful tale of a boy who endured abuse and hardship, betrayal and loss while gathering invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival. This one will stick with you. And when my boys are older, I’ll assign this one to them as mandatory reading.

Join the 2020 Intentional By Grace Reading Challenge

I can’t wait to read with you this year!

I want to see you grow and I have created this Reading Challenge to do that, challenge you. We’ve even got a FREE printable pack to help you keep track of your reading and give you ideas for categories on books to read.

Join us for the 2020 Reading Challenge and join a group of women who will inspire you and spur you on throughout the year.

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What were your favorite books of 2019?

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  1. Way to go on reaching your goal. I finished the year with 166 books. Honestly, I am thinking that in 2020 I don’t want to read as much. One of my goals is to read what is on my shelves. I enjoy “Best books lists.” I enjoy seeing if I have read any of those books and also looking for recommendations. I recently blogged about my Best in 2019. https://asheleadsisjoy.com/the-best-books-of-2019/

  2. Awesome write up. I totally agree quality over quantity. But quantity will get me in the right track. Thanks for sharing your heart. I’m still only going for 13 right now. But I have a brain tumor and other challenges. I will post my list later today.

  3. Awesome writing and I Totten agree quality over quantity. But quantity will help me get on track this year. I am so happy I joined this group. I am still only doing 13 books but I have a brain tumor and some other challenges.

  4. An author I discovered and really enjoyed this year was Elizabeth Goudge. Our library had some of her books, but they are available at christianbook.com, too. I really was touched by The Rosemary Tree because I really resonated with one of the main characters, but it may not be as meaningful to others.

    Also Julie Roys’ Book, Redeeming the Feminine Soul, was thought provoking.

  5. You might consider putting “Love Anyway” by Jeremy Courtney. Definitely a read that will make you feel something!

  6. I read over 160 books in 2019. I am thinking I might need to reduce that but we will see. I am working to read books on my shelves. I love the “Best Books” lists. I enjoy seeing what books I have read — I have read Humble Roots and it is an excellent book. I also look for recommendations. This is a great list. I recently blogged about my best books from 2019.

  7. I recommend the following fiction authors: Jan Karon, Janice Cantore, Lis Wiehl, Terri Blackstock, Francine Rivers, Sarah Loudin Thomas, the mystery series of Irene Hannon, to name just a few. 🙂

    Thank you for your recommendations! I have added them to my wishlist of books to read.


    1. Thank you for these! Finding fiction worth reading is a challenge, which is why I always end up in the children’s section. haha! I will check out some of these authors. Francine Rivers is one of my favorites!

  8. Leigh Ann, this was an excellent article. I read several of the titles you recommended. I also loved your thoughts on reading in general, and specifically, on reading fiction. I actually did what you suggested this year and it was such a blessing. I still read plenty of nonfiction, but I also read a lot of fiction. I was reading for grandchildren, (as you know), but I also read just for the sheer joy of enjoying fun and well-written stories. Even dead tired I was able to read a page or two of a book before I went to bed, and found myself looking forward to the next chapter of each book. Thank you for your commitment to reading and for the great titles you recommend. Between your insights and the comments of others on your Reading challenge page, I have been so blessed and encouraged. I oversee our church library, and we are doing a Growing in Faith Reading Challenge for 2020 which was, in part as a result of being a part of your reading challenge. Along with good nonfiction, our goal is to help readers discern biblical principles, actions for life and spiritual lessons in quality fiction. So, we are already implementing your challenges. Thank you.