Thursday, January 17, 2019

Best Books of 2018

According to GoodReads (where I log all my books), I read 67 books in 2018, surpassing my goal of 65. I set 70 as my goal for 2019 to give myself a challenge.

Here are my absolute MUST READ favorites from last year (books I happened to read in '18, not necessary published lat year), the ones I can't stop gushing about and recommending to everyone I meet:

1) Beartown and the sequel 2) Us Against Them by Frederik Backman. If I had to pick a favorite author, he would definitely be in the top 3. Both of these books shook me, made me cry and rage and laugh and feel. Backman has such a talent of exposing the raw humanity in everyone, in all its glory and horror.

3) The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton. If you haven't read Brian Stevenson's Just Mercy, read that first and then dig into this memoir by one of the unjustly imprisoned death row inmates he helped free. Unbelievably refreshing perspective and a great reminder that its not what happens TO us, but our response to the events in our lives that truly make us who we are.

4) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Oh man, I love this book so much, I'm smiling just thinking about it. Reading it felt like being surrounded by warmth & love & laughter. Like the smell, taste, and feel of goeey fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies.

5) We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a series of essays, most that Coates published in The Atlantic, from each of the Obama years. He speaks to the rise of Trump in a way that seems WAY more believable than the white-washed "Hillbilly Elegy", we just want jobs and upward mobility and love God & family nonsense that was being trotted out after the election. The essay on reparations I would consider a must-read for any American.

Seriously, read ALL these. But if you already have, or you want more, here is a brief and incomplete listing of some other 4/5 star books I read:

  • You Think It, I'll Say It. Curtis Sittenfeld. Collection of short stories, dealing astutely with marriage and middle age
  • Let Me Lie Clare Mackintosh. Creepy thriller, I didn't see the plot twist coming!
  • The Queen of Hearts Kimmery Martin. Not as cheesy as the title & cover would have you think, but definitely with some friend/love drama. She's a MD and writes what she knows, so the medical training part was spot on.
  • The Summer Before the War. Helen Simonson. Cute, heart-warming historical romance. 
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Kelly Barnhill. This surprised me, its a compelling and compact fantasy. 
  • I'll Be Your Blue Sky. Maria de los Santos. She's a cheesy guilty pleasure (Love Walked In is still my fave) and some of our favorite characters (Teo, Claire) from previous books make cameos here.
  • An American Marriage. Tayari Jones. Complicated---would make a great book club pick. The subject is compelling though I didn't really know who to root for, the characters were not likable. 
  • Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Tom Hanks. Yes, that Tom Hanks. Short stories are a nice break from long epic historical dramas, and these had a good mix of entertaining and serious (and it was fun to try and find the typewriter theme in each one).
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman. This almost made my favorites, I won't give away the plot twist, but it is both raw and heartwarming. 
  • Pachinko. Min Jin Lee. Sweeping epic family drama of the type I love. 
  • The Book that Matters Most. Ann Hood. Way more serious (and sad!) than the title and cover led me to expect.
  • Her Fearful Symmetry. Audrey Niffenegger. Weird. Delightfully weird.
  • The Power. Naomi Alderman. Also weird---but in an extremely kill the patriarchy, empowering kind of way!
  • The Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead. I learned a lot, and it was an engaging read. 
  • Behold the Dreamers. Imbolo Mbue. Realistic take on the immigrant experience.
  • I'll Give You the Sun. Jandy Nelson. YA novel that gripped my heart
  • The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women. Kate Moore. I can't believe I didn't know about this, its fascinating (and heart-wrenching)
  • Educated. Tara Westover. This memoir made a big splash for a reason---proving that truth can be stranger and fiction, and a reminder that you have NO IDEA how a person got to where they are today---don't make assumptions.
  • The Golem and The Jinni Helene Wecker. Really original, haven't read anything like it. 
  • The Light of the World. Elizabeth Alexander. Touching memoir after her husband's sudden death. 
  • The Bluest Eye. Toni Morrison. Oh this was gut-wrenching. I saw the play at our local theater and read the book in preparation for it...really tough subject matters told through the words of a child, which make it so so powerful. 
  • Sourdough. Robin Sloane. Quirky, cute, happy ending.
  • I Let You Go. Claire MacKintosh. Also creepy thriller that I didn't anticipate the plot twist.
  • Buck: A Memoir. MK Asante. Like, "Educated" but in the Philly 'hood.
  • What Is Not Yours is Not Yours. Helen Oyeyemi. I may have been the only one in our book club to enjoy this, it was SO WEIRD, full of magical realism. The language and imagery captivated me.
  • The Sun is Also a Star. Nicola Yoon. YA novel, immigrant experience.
  • Greenglass House Kate Milford. YA or even children's mystery that I will share with my boys.
  • Young Jane Young. Gabrielle Zevin. Empowering story of a woman reinventing herself after a very public set-back.
  • Little Fires Everyone. Celeste Ng. All is not perfect in suburbia, this dramatic tale was a page-turner!
  • Norwegian Wood. Haruki Murakami. Oh so sad and lovely. 
  • Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Important read and his writing style is beautiful.
Ok, whoa, that took forever. I need to go to monthly or at least seasonal updates because that was rough. I hope at least some of you find something new to try from this list, and if you do, let me know how you liked it! 


  1. I am hoping to do a books post on my blog sometime soonish. You've convinced me to add Beartown to my library holds. I keep seeing it mentioned by Modern Mrs. Darcy but hadn't yet committed to it.

    From your list, I also read in 2018:
    Just Mercy
    We Were Eight Years in Power (and Between the World and Me)
    You Think It, I'll Say It
    An American Marriage
    The Radium Girls
    The Light of the World

    Of those I think Ta-Nehisi Coates is going to stick with me the longest. I listened to both books as audiobooks (he reads Between the World and Me himself).

    I hope you have a great reading experience in 2019! Hopefully my list will give you some new options (and now I'll have to write it!).

    1. Girl, I can't find your blog!!! I really want to read your books post!

  2. Adding the Sun Does Shine to my list for this year! I loved a lot of these other ones, including both Coates books, An American Marriage, Little Fires everywhere, Educated, Behold the Dreamers, You think it I'll say it, Underground Railroad, and Pachinko. I think I'm with the majority of your book club on NOT liking What is Not Yours is Not Yours.

    Based on what it seems is your taste, i think you'd really like The Leavers by Lisa Ko, Her Body and Other Parties, Everything Here is Beautiful, Home Fire, the Friend, Stay with Me, the Female Persuasion, That Kind of Mother, and Friday Black.

  3. We both really liked Greenglass House.

  4. We have some overlapping reads. I LOVED Little Fires Everywhere. I listened to about half of We Were Eight Years in Power and then I just stopped (I think the problem was the audio, more than Coates' arguments...the reader drove me crazy. I will say I've read enough of Coates on paper that I find him somewhat predictable, albeit important.)

    If you haven't, I'd highly recommend Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (it's Margaret Atwood for the 21st century). Meg Wolitzer (really, anything) is another favorite contemporary fiction writer of mine. And in the required--but challenging for many reasons-- reading for all Americans: Claudia Rankine's Citizen.

  5. Loved Eleanor Oliphant. Wish I had more time to read for fun. Godddam fellowship and studying for boards!

    1. Also going to add -- Read All We Ever Wanted by Emily Griffin, which I enjoyed. Have been planning to read Little Fires Everywhere for some time, and everyone seems to love it. Maybe will prioritize it for my next vacation!

  6. Great list! Some of these were also some of my top reads from 2017/2018 (Beartown, Behold the Dreamers, Little Fires, Pachinko...) and I added a few to my TBR list on GoodReads (Buck, The Book That Matters Most and Queen of Hearts). Thanks!

  7. 67 books! That's incredible. (Last year was my worst reading year ever.) And I'm going to bookmark your list, because I need inspiration.

  8. Here from Turia's blog... I read 27 books in 2018, and I was blown away by "Educated" -- I thought it was the best thing I read last year. :) And I think "Beartown is going to be my next read, so I'm glad to read your enthusiastic recommendation on that one! :)