2018: Year in Books
Click on the book title to link out to my thoughts/reactions/reviews and if we aren’t already friends on Goodreads, let’s connect! I love learning about new authors, fantastic finds and classics I need to put on my “must-read” list from dear readers and friends!
Tip: If you are an Amazon Prime member (who isn’t?!), you also have access to Amazon First Reads which are a selection of 6 brand-new books selected by Amazon editors and available for free to Prime members pre-release! You can check out the selections from your Kindle e-reader or the Kindle app on your phone and download a brand new book every month. You’ll see that I download these every month and (usually) get through them quickly, so I’ll note when the book is an Amazon First Read.
- Bonfire (Krysten Ritter): Available on Kindle and Audible, our brand-spankin’ new book club’s selection for January. 5 stars on Goodreads.
- How Not to Die (Dr. Michael Greger): Available on Kindle. Note: The book details page says it’s a tome at 600+ pages. Don’t let that scare you off! The last 200+/- pages are references and footnotes. It’s totally do-able at around 400 pages and I *highly* recommend this enlightening read! 5 stars on Goodreads.
- Tips for Living (Renee Shafranksy): Available on Kindle. Amazon First Read. (January selection) Status: read and reviewed. 4 stars on Goodreads.
- The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas): Available on Kindle. This was my first read of February, Black History Month, and man! am I thankful for #angiethomas . Please don’t let this one fall off your radar! Status: read + reviewed. 5 stars on Goodreads.
- A Man Called Ove (Fredrik Backman): Available on Kindle and Audible. Unfortunately I’ve DNF’d this book (Did Not Finish for non-runners). The negative tone and lack of direction was just too much to manage. Life’s too short to read books you don’t love!
- Pachinko (Min Jin Lee): Available on Kindle and Audible. 5 stars on Goodreads.
- Present Over Perfect (Shauna Niequist): My book club’s selection for February. Status: DNF’d. I had a hard time getting over the author’s reliance on religion in this book and ended up failing to finish it. Others in my book club loved it though.
- The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood): Available on Kindle. Status: read + reviewed. 4 stars on Goodreads
- Beneath the Scarlett Sky (Mark T. Sullivan): Available on Kindle + Audible (as well as paper). 5 stars on Goodreads.
- Hunger (Roxane Gay): 3 stars on Goodreads.
- Call Me By Your Name (Andre Aciman): 3 stars on Goodreads
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See): 4 stars on Goodreads. I loved this book and would recommend it to those interested in Asian culture, traditions and family drama.
- Elmet (Fiona Mozley): 4 stars on Goodreads.
- Young Jane Young (Gabrielle Zevin): 3 stars on Goodreads.
- What Remains True (Janis Thomas): An Amazon First Reads selection – I purchased it because I was torn between this one and another selection and knew I wanted both! 5 stars on Goodreads.
- An American Marriage (Tayari Jones): 5 stars on Goodreads. This book is one of the standouts of 2018 for me. Topically, it’s very timely as it deals with a black man who is sent to prison under questionable circumstances. But emotionally, it hits a chord with readers because it examines how time apart (in whatever capacity) can strain a marriage. Highly recommend.
- Before We Were Yours (Lisa Wingate): 5 stars on Goodreads. Also a standout for me in 2018. Recommend!
- How to Stop Time (Matt Haig): 3 stars on Goodreads.
- Wonder Valley (Ivy Pochoda): 3 stars on Goodreads. I struggled a little bit with this book, despite the buzz surrounding it. Set in the deserts of Southern California and told by a young teen on the run who ends up in a strange cult-like commune, I had a hard time relating to the main character. Not sure if it was an issue with character development or just me not getting into her. Finished it, but not sure I’d recommend it unless you’re drawn to it on your own.
- Bandwidth (Eliot Peper): 4 stars on Goodreads. An Amazon First Reads selection. Will look for more by this author!
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Mark Manson): 2 stars on Goodreads. A book club selection for 2018, I didn’t feel the author offered up anything new or of particular value. I don’t mind the use of expletives and colloquial language in personal development books (or any books for that matter), but I didn’t feel it provided any additional value. Felt rather gimmicky.
- When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi): 5 stars on Goodreads. A non-fiction book written by a doctor who ends up a patient (and dies before he finishes the book), this book was compelling not only because of the irony of the author’s plight or his ability to write well, but because I found it highly relatable and extremely moving. Get your tissues ready for the Epilogue written by his wife after he passed away!
- Molly’s Game (Molly Bloom): 4 stars on Goodreads. Whether you saw the movie or not, this book is a nice beach read to follow up. It’s also the rare exception to my general take on the book-to-movie path that often happens… the movie was actually better! Still, a good book.
- Educated: A Memoir (Tara Westover): 5 stars on Goodreads. This is another highlight of my year in books for 2018! I’ve recommended it countless times when I’m asked by friends what they should pick up. It’s extremely compelling, shocking even, and yet inspiring for what Westover is able to overcome in her young life. There must be a movie deal in the works… if it’s not already inked. Highly recommend!
- Lincoln in the Bardo (George Saunders): 2 stars on Goodreads but ONLY because I hate to rate a book 1 star or less. I absolutely hated this book and I don’t recall ever having such a viceral reaction to a book in my adult life. I finished it, but reading it in tandem with a very good friend, who does like Fantasy and Science Fiction (of which this book is neither), we both agreed that the hype was NOT deserved and we were not expecting this book at all. It likely aligns more with Magical Realism (another genre I’m not a huge fan of).. so if that’s your jam–go for it! If you’re more of a Literary Fiction or Historical Fiction or Memoir kind of reader–steer clear!
- Tangerine (Christine Mangan): 4 stars on Goodreads.
- Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng): 4 stars on Goodreads. There was much hype about this book this year and I recall it made some top book lists out there in the media. It’s well-deserved and it was quite enjoyable. Consumed via Audible.
- A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership (James Comey): 5 stars on Goodreads and consumed via Audible. I chose to listen to this audiobook because it was (1) expensive when it first came out and (2) read by the author–my favorite kind particularly when it comes to non-fiction. If you’re interested in Comey’s take on the Trump Administration and all the hoopla surrounding it, it’s worth the read!
- The Alice Network (Kate Quinn): 5 stars on Goodreads. I’m a historical fiction girl, through and through, and Quinn’s novel did not disappoint! Recommend.
- Sing, Unburied, Sing (Jesmyn Ward): 5 stars on Goodreads. Again, this book was much hyped so I had to check it out. Loved it!
- The Great Alone (Kristin Hannah): 5 stars on Goodreads. This book was very well-received and I’m also a fan. The compelling story of this family’s life in VERY remote and desolate Alaska will not leave you once you close the book. I’ve already got more books by this author on my “to-read” list.
- Torch (Cheryl Strayed): 3 stars on Goodreads. Having read Strayed’s breakout book, Wild, I thought I’d give her earlier books a read. This one left me a bit . . . meh.
- The Perfect Mother (Aime Molloy): 4 stars on Goodreads. Another popular new book in 2018 with lots of hype. I was happy to get it from the library (after a loonngg wait) and flew through it in 2 days. An easy read for when you need a break from those heavier dramas/tomes/non-fictions.
- Circe (Madeline Miller): 4 stars on Goodreads. I loved reading something new and by a new (to me) author! This book toes the line between fiction and fantasy, but only because the subject matter is Greek mythology (brought to life). Even though Greek mythology drives the underlying storyline, the real story is the struggle of the main character, Circe, and what being exiled to a remote island (for life) by her own father does to her, how she struggles, overcomes and in the end creates her own happiness on that island. Recommend!
- To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and Murder (Nancy Rommelmann): 3 stars on Goodreads. This book has a compelling storyline–a young mother throws her 2 young children off a bridge. So, yeah. . . it drew me in. As did the fact that the author is a journalist who researched the heck out of the case. While I learned quite a bit and it was fascinating, the book fell a little flat for me as we aren’t really ever able to comprehend why the mother tried to kill her own children. Sure, she had a shi*ty life, but so do plenty of other women — and they don’t try to kill their own babies.
- I Suck at Girls (Justin Halpern): 4 stars on Goodreads. After #35, I needed something light and funny and this hit the mark. I read Halpern’s first book (Sh*t My Dad Says), which is laugh-out-loud funny (as is this book). Halpern’s father is straight comedy. If you need something light and funny to shake things up, with some outstanding insights and funny banter between the father and son–give this a try.
- Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis): 2 stars on Goodreads. I know, I know-everyone loved this book– but for whatever reason, it kinda just fell flat for me. What I’ve learned the last couple years is that personal development books often lose my attention because they are oversimplified, lack actionable guidance and/or are just too..drawn..out–and I think this book might have been all three for me. And repetitive. I DNF’d this book after giving it a good go (and getting through more than 80% of the book). I still enjoy Rachel Hollis and what she’s all about–in fact I went to her live event here in my hometown and regularly tune into her podcast Rise Together, which I love. But this book (and presumably the follow up which comes out in 2019) just didn’t do it for me.
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman): 5 stars on Goodreads. Hilarious, insightful, entertaining and with a unique perspective of a highly introverted, virtually non-functioning hermit of a young woman and her take on the world as she experiences it. Enjoyed!
- The Tenth Island: Finding Joy, Beauty and Unexpected Love in the Azores (Diana Marcum): 2 stars on Goodreads. I picked this up because I thought it was going to be a bit more like “Under the Tuscan Sun” or “Eat Pray Love” . . . and I wanted to learn more about the Azores–what a fascinating premise! Sadly, this book also fell flat for me and I struggled to get through it. The descriptions of the geography, culture and people of the Azores were thin and the rest was a repeat of other memoir-like books that come before it (and did a better job).
- A Place For Us (Fatima Farheen Mirza): 5 stars on Goodreads. This was my top read in 2018 and for me, given that I read 60+ books this year, that’s saying a lot. I found out that SJP (yes, the Sarah Jessica Parker) fired up a new imprint and sought new, undiscovered talent and stories we have not heard before. BRAVO SJP! This book is well-written, original
On Deck for 2018 : Books I’ve already purchased/downloaded
- The Sign of the Beast (Joyce Carol Oates): I happened upon this book perusing the Kindle Store one night, stalking one of my favorite authors, and author of “We Were the Mulvaneys”–one of my all-time favorite books. Short story collections by Oates.
- A River of Darkness (Masaji Ishikawa): A non-fiction book of one man’s harrowing tale of escaping North Korea. Can’t wait to dig into this one!
- The House of Spirits (Isabel Allende): Another one of my favorite authors and a purchase inspired when I finished her latest novel, “The Japanese Lover” (which I highly recommend!)
- Little Boy Lost (J.D. Trafford): Another one of my late-night book purchases after getting sucked in by the tragedy this family endures.