Favorite Books of 2019

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2019 was an incredible year for reading + books! I managed to read just over 50 books this year, and goodness were there some truly exceptional books that I read this year. It always hard to narrow down my very favorites from the year, as there are so many great books out there! My library queue is already full of books that I want to read in 2020, and here’s a look back at some 2019 reads:

My top favorite books of 2019:

Other wonderful, notable books from 2019 that I loved:

  • The Alice Network
  • The Dutch House
  • Daisy Jones and the Six
  • The Lost Girls of Paris
  • The Secrets We Kept
  • Becoming
  • When We Left Cuba
  • Station Eleven
  • The Road Back to You
  • Love and Ruin
  • Lilac Girls
  • The Coddling of the American Mind
  • The Book of Essie
  • Save Me the Plums
  • The Last Days of Night
  • A Man Called Ove
  • The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living
  • Bel Canto
  • From Scratch
  • A Well-Behaved Woman
  • A Single Thread

I would highly, highly recommend any and all of the above books and thoroughly enjoyed each of them. And can I also give a quick shout-out to the library?! Y’all, I’ve loved the library since I was a little girl (I’ve been an avid reader and library-lover my entire life), and I can’t sing the praises of the public library enough. I’ve checked out almost countless books in my lifetime, and there’s such a happy feeling that washes over me the moment I step foot inside a library. Free books at your fingertips? Yes, please! If you don’t have a local library card or if you rarely use yours, please do yourself a favor and use it regularly!

Oh! And some dear friends and I started a book club this year! I’m not sure why it took me so long to start a book club here in Raleigh (though my articles club has been ongoing for over four years), and I had missed my DC book club so much. But this past year, we finally launched a Raleigh book club, and it’s become the highlight of every month. Many of the books on the above lists are ones we’ve read or will read next year in book club, and there’s little I love more than gathering with friends to discuss books, the characters, the stories, and the themes over great food and wine! If you’re local and would be interested in joining us, just shoot me a message — we’d love to have you.

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Looking for more on books?! You can read a ton more previous blog posts of mine about books: my favorite books ever, all things bookslet’s talk about booksbest books of 2014best books of 2013the South’s best books and authors, and plenty more in my blog’s archives!

I’d love to hear: what’s the book that stands out to you most from this past year? Which book was your very favorite recent read? I’d love to know!

Shaul Family Year in Review 2019

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The Shaul Family
established 2017

2019 Highlights:

  • Our family trip out west!! My cousin got married at the end of September in Red River, New Mexico, and we decided to make it an epic vacation while we were already out west for it! We’d never been to New Mexico or Arizona before, and I cannot even put into words how incredible, beautiful, awe-inspiring, and fun our 10 days in New Mexico and Arizona were. Y’all, the Grand Canyon is spectacular!!! Some day I’ll get around to writing a lot more about our trip, but I’ll try to write a quick recap here: every person on my mom’s side of the family was able to be there for the wedding weekend, which was amazing. We all spent a couple days in Albuquerque together (the Sandia Tram and marvelous views from the top are a must, as was Old Town!) and then spent a few days in the beautiful mountains of Red River, NM for the wedding with all of our family! It was so special celebrating their wedding right along the river and enjoying time with our extended family. Then my mom and dad, my sister and her husband, and the two of us continued our roadtrip adventure (all 6 of us in one minivan for almost 10 days!) and thoroughly enjoyed Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, toured many beautiful adobe churches, stopped in Winslow, Arizona (“standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see…”), and headed to the Grand Canyon for three magical days! It was stunning in every way and left me speechless on more than one occasion! We gaped at the majesty of the expansive canyon, walked and hiked a ton, did a fossil tour, went to lots of lookout points, enjoyed majestic sunrises and sunsets, stared in wonder at the heavens and the countless stars each night, and enjoyed every minute of the spectacular views. I can’t wait to return one day! Then we headed to beautiful Sedona, Arizona (the Chapel of the Holy Cross is stunning!) and Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona. What a beautiful state!! I can’t rave enough about the incredible, unique beauty (so different from the east coast) of the southwest, all of the laughs/views/conversations/memories, and treasured time with family. It was the most amazing trip in every way!
  • The happiest, most exciting news of all: we’re going to be an aunt and uncle (again!) in the next couple months!!!! We’re all overjoyed about the upcoming arrival of a sweet niece or nephew (they’re waiting to find out the gender!), and I’m over the moon ecstatic to be an aunt!!
  • Lots of amazing family time throughout the year! We don’t have any family living here in Raleigh, so we are very intentional about traveling to visit our family, whom we love dearly. We always look forward to our annual week at the beach with the Shauls, and it was such a special, relaxing, wonderful week together in the Outer Banks! Our nephew and niece are 6 and 4, which are such fun ages — they’re so cute and great to be around, and we soak up our time at Aunt Steph and Uncle Rob. We also just had an epic Thanksgiving week in Charlotte with my family! The six of us had a few wonderful, quiet days enjoying Thanksgiving, and then my sweet Grandma flew in and wholly surprised us!! She hasn’t flown since 2004, and though we visit her in Ohio as often as possible, I never thought I’d see her in North Carolina again! What an epic, amazing surprise — and lots of happy tears. Then my mom and I threw my sister her baby shower!! We are so, so beyond ecstatic to welcome a little one into the family in a few weeks, and it was the most special, joyful morning celebrating Bridgette and their sweet baby on the way. That little one is so incredibly loved already, and we it was so wonderful celebrating this happy addition with a tea party themed baby shower. And to top it all off, we threw my mom an epic surprise 60th birthday party that same night!! My dad, sister, and I had been conspiring for a year to pull off her birthday party, and we were able to celebrate my amazing mama with so many friends who adore her! It was also so wonderful having my grandma and some marvelous relatives in town for both celebrations — we are truly blessed.
  • We also love when our family comes to visit us! My sister and brother-in-law came to celebrate my birthday weekend, Rob’s parents visited us for Easter and again in October, and my parents came to visit us a few times, too. They’re all the best, and we’ve made good use of our guest room this year. It’s the best being with our families!
  • On a similar note, we’ve hosted countless friends and family in our house this year (a serious dream of mine!), and we are so thankful for the memories already created and the people who have filled our home! We threw big parties for the 4th of July, Halloween, and hosted two Friendsgivings (and we have a few Christmas soirees coming up, too). There’s little more fulfilling and heart warming to me than filling our home with dear friends. We’ve also had dozens of dinner parties, brunches at home, and game nights with our friends, and this year has been filled with so much laughter, happy memories, and wonderful community.
  • I’m about to kick off my seventh year of Stephanie Shaul Events (my six year anniversary of launching SSE is in January!), which is still a little surreal for me! 2019 was another really amazing year overall for my work, and I feel incredibly fortunate that this once-dream of mine has really blossomed and supported me/us for so long now. I adore the couples and families that I’ve gotten to work with, and I also really value the flexibility that owning my own business has given me.
  • After a very busy 2018 in terms of life changes (buying our house and Rob switching his career to become a real estate broker), our goal for 2019 was for as few life changes as possible! We still absolutely adore our house (the high ceilings and tall windows! the deck! the lake!) and also love working from home together. Rob had several closings this year, loves his real estate firm, and is excited for what’s in store for 2020 with work. (Let me know if you are local and need a real estate broker!)
  • Despite many amazing memories this year, there were a fair share of challenges and harder moments. But through it all, we’re deeply grateful for our faith and the hope that we have in Him, our marriage and love for one another, and truly wonderful families and friends.
  • Rob and I celebrated our second anniversary with a long weekend in Charleston! Charleston is one of my favorite places in the world, and it was so special introducing Charleston to Rob and spending so much quality time together. We walked through so much of beautiful Charleston, ambling throughout the charming Southern streets, admiring the gorgeous homes, smelling the blooming wisteria, and popping in and out of shops and cafes. We also ate so many incredible meals (truly some of the best meals of our lives!), walked on the beach (the off season is amazing!), reminisced on our second year of marriage, and enjoyed a sunny weekend away together.
  • We love our church, Vintage! We’ve been members for almost three years now, serve together on the welcome/greeting and communion team, and are leaders in our weekly community group. We have loved the friendships formed in our community group and sharing life with these friends, and we’re so grateful for our church home.
  • I started a book club and also celebrated four years of our articles club! You know reading is such a vital part of my life, as is community with other women. My monthly book club and articles club are both highlights of each month, for sure! I am thankful for the kind, thoughtful, wise ladies in each of these groups and have learned so much from each of them! Rob has been enjoying lots of football and recording his fantasy football podcast, and he and the guys often get together for poker nights and/or football, as well.

2019 Travel Highlights:

Grand Canyon/New Mexico/Arizona

many trips to Charlotte to visit my family and many trips to both Dayton, OH + Columbus, OH to visit both sides of our families

Charleston for our 2nd anniversary, Charlottesville x2, the Outer Banks for our annual Shaul family beach week, a couple girls weekends for me for reunions/bachelorettes (Oriental/New Bern, Chapel Hill, and Charlottesville), Washington DC + Leesburg, VA + Baltimore for back to back weddings, Carolina Beach, Holden Beach, Stone Mountain/Winston-Salem, Asheboro, and Pinehurst!

2019 Figures:

  • Trips taken: 25 (slightly more than last year!)
  • Books read (by me): 54 (slightly more than last year!)
  • Blog posts written: 50 (slightly more than last year!)
  • Fantasy football leagues: 5 (1 for me, 4 for Rob)
  • Guests we’ve hosted overnight in our house: 9
  • Dinner parties and/or game nights hosted: 43
  • Big holiday parties we hosted: 4th of July, Halloween, two Friendsgivings, Christmas
  • Family/friend weddings: 6 (all out of town!)
  • Weddings planned: 10

Favorite second year of marriage memories:

all of our trips with each other, going to see Aladdin at DPAC, day trips to the beach and to the mountains, cooking dinners together and trying many new, delicious recipes this year (Rob loves surprising me with recipes he’s researched!), visiting wineries and breweries, hosting friends for game nights, lots of long conversations and laughter on the couch, double dates, going on walks around our neighborhood and local greenways, serving together at church, Sundays spent watching football, enjoying Shaul family Christmas traditions, and celebrating our third married Christmas!

Thank you for your love and support, friends! I hope your 2019 was filled with joyful memories with loved ones. Wishing you and yours a love-filled year ahead!

Looking back at our 2018 year in review!