Best Books I Read in 2018

Best Books Read in 2018
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Book lists, book stacks, book bags, book shelves… I love a life papered thoroughly with scintillating words and fascinating ideas.  It’s my favorite form of self care.

2018 was a year filled with old book friends and some enthralling new book discoveries!  Read on to hear what book surprised me, what book gave me a hangover, what book disappointed me, and some reading goals I have for 2019.  Then, comment below with your own favorite titles from 2018!

Best Books Read in 2018

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Books I Loved Re-Reading:

Hamlet, William Shakespeare  and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

I re-read all of Hamlet early in 2018 in preparation for an incredible theater experience.  Benedict Cumberbatch is Hamlet in the National Theater Live performance.  Recorded during 1 live stage theater production, it is rarely shown in movie theaters and is impossible to see otherwise.  If there is ever a showing anywhere near you, it is an absolute must see!   It not only is one of my favorite reading moments from 2018 (because, duh, Shakespeare), but it was one of the most magical moments in my entire year.  (p.s. Guess how many copies of Shakespeare I own?  Hint: everyone in my family plus visitors could have their own copy if we hosted a reader’s theater… and I’m not sorry at all.)

(Mansfield Park was a perfect example of how a classic grows and reveals more as you grow and change as a person.  Revisiting this favorite Austen from my teen years took on new depth and meaning as an adult!  (You can read more of my thoughts on Mansfield Park here.)

Best Audiobook:

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

The children and I consistently maintain a car-ride audiobook habit.  My favorite audiobook this year was Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  I am so glad we chose to enjoy this popular historical fiction novel via audiobook!  Music is a key theme and plot element, and the audiobook does an incredible job weaving in harmonica and other instruments when appropriate to the story. The novel several separate plots (which all come together beautifully at the conclusion).  The audiobook has a different narrator for each portion of the story, each of them equally delightful.

Echo is over 10 hours long, perfect for a long car trip!  It is categorized as YA due to the protagonists’ ages as well as some difficult thematic elements (it is set during the WW2 time period, after all).  However, even my elementary-aged children enjoyed the audiobook.  If you have a sensitive child, though, I would recommend holding off until they are older.

Best Discovery (books I couldn’t put down):

Magpie Murders  and The Word is Murder  by Anthony Horowitz

How is it that I have never heard of this word-master?!  Horowitz has apparently written novels and scripts (Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, etc) for years.  As a British-mystery-lover, these two impeccable mystery novels were an absolute treasure to discover.

More than being merely good stories, however, the language is lyrical and literary and a delight.  There were several times when, despite the dark subject matter, I had to stop and read a sentence or description or phrase aloud to my children because the words were just the beautiful.  When reading The Word is Murder  I intended to merely read for 15 minutes before bed…and ended up staying up until the wee hours to finish the story!  These are books I would like to own and read several times.  Highly recommend!

Best Motivational Book:

Make Your Bed  by William McRaven

I actually don’t typically like the self-help or inspirational genre.  This short book by a retired Admiral and Navy Seal, however, had gripping personal stories that captivated both me and my children.  I read it aloud during morning time last spring, and even now we often reference favorite quotes and stories!

A Book that Disappointed:

The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Ok, personality-type-loving friends…don’t judge me harshly.  I’m sure the issue is with me, not this book.  I gave personality typing, specifically the Enneagram, another attempt, but am still left confused. I spent time over Christmas finishing my reading of The Road Back to You upon the recommendation of a friend. And then I cried.  I don’t want to be the only person who can’t discuss her number like the cool kids …but I’m once again ready to throw out this whole thing!

Have you found the Enneagram (or another personality system) to be helpful? Or do you, like me, find them incredibly frustrating, confusing, and depressing?  Maybe I’ll give Anne Bogel’s book Reading People a try; I’ve heard that it is excellent.

Best Memoir (the Book that gave me a Hangover):

Educated by Tara Westover

Westover essentially grew up in a cult, even if it was formed only from her immediate family.  Abuse, mental illness, and fear were a daily part of her life.  This book raises questions about the nature of knowledge: how do we know what is true and not merely our own perceptions?  It deals with questions of identity, family, education, and religion.

This memoir was incredibly moving. It was also exceptionally difficult to read emotionally. Do you ever finish a book and feel like your brain and emotions need about a week to process all you’re thinking and feeling? I might have needed more than a week for this one.  I was literally unable to read anything else for several days as I processed many thoughts and ideas.

Best new book from an author I already loved:

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I read and loved The Dry  by Jane Harper previously, and her new release, Force of Nature, did not disappoint.  There are few authors who could have so transported me to a setting that I grew thirsty while reading about a drought in The Dry, or felt the terror of being lost in the wilderness.

If you love mysteries/thrillers, or are curious to explore an Australian setting, definitely check out Harper’s books.  I have already put The Lost Man (releasing February 2019) on pre-order hold at my library!

Book that Surprised Me:

Is the Bible Good for Women by Wendy Alsup

Have you ever picked up a book that you were determined to dislike, or perhaps pre-disposed to judge harshly?  Shamefully, I admit I did not have a very good attitude when I picked up Alsup’s book.  After all, I had read a lot of garbage on this topic.  A few chapters in, however, and I was amazed by how she had managed to discuss a difficult topic with humility.  (You can read my extensive review here.)

Book and Reading Goals for 2019

I have never done an official reading challenge before.

It’s probably not a good commentary on my character…as soon as I get a list that restricts me I feel super rebellious. What if I want to read something that doesn’t fit on the list, after all?! These lists don’t take into account my daily mood swings.  Ahem.

But this year I’m going to try to use a couple reading challenges as inspiration, not as rigid rules. One challenge calls for “a book with at least 400 pages” and the other challenge requires “a book you’ve been meaning to read.”

An Elizabeth Goudge novel fits both requirements, so I grabbed Green Dolphin Street off my shelf yesterday and began to read! I have been intending to read Goudge for years…so many people I love and respect list her as one of their favorites!

Of course, I got distracted by a library hold that came in suddenly.  Spinning Silver was mesmerizing, and turned into my first completed book of 2019.  Good thing one of those reading challenges has “A Novel” on the requirement list!

What are the Best Books YOU have read lately?

What books would you place in the above categories from your own reading life lately? Let us know in the comments!

My life hashtags might include #nosuchthingastoomanybooks and #booksaremylovelanguage. There is almost nothing I love as much as a good bookstack and an overloaded library hold shelf.  I also love connecting good books with the right readers.  Is there a particular type of book you hope to read this year, or a change you’d like to make in your reading life?  I would love to help!

So, please, share your favorite book suggestions or questions in the comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.  I often share what I’m reading personally or what I’m reading with my children there on social media or on my email list.

I can’t wait to hear from you!  Happy Reading!

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4 thoughts on “Best Books I Read in 2018”

  1. My best reads in 2018 were “Passport through Darkness” by Kimberly L. Smith and “The Power of a positive mom” by Karol Ladd.

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