Hooray! It’s my annual recap of the books I read last year! This has become one of my favorite posts to write.
I read 34 books in 2018. That is 6 more books than I read in 2017, not that I was counting or being competitive with myself or anything. That would be so unlike me.
For the most part, I listen to audiobooks rather than reading physical books. It just works better with my busy schedule! I can listen to audiobooks while driving and cleaning, whereas I rarely carve out time to actually sit down on the couch and hold a book in my hands. The one exception is vacations–I love to read actual book on vacation!
While most of the books were ones I chose myself, some of them were selected by my book club. I really like being “forced” to read books that I otherwise probably wouldn’t pick up. I have discovered quite a few favorites that way! And, even if I don’t love the book, at least I feel like I broadened my horizons.
Without further ado, here are the books I read in 2018, along with my opinions on each. They are in alphabetical order, and the ones that are *starred are ones that I highly recommend adding to your own reading list! There are many good books on this list that did not get a star. I tried to reserve stars only for books that I enthusiastically recommend.
1. After You by Jojo Moyes. This is the sequel to Me Before You, which I read last year. I hesitate to say anything about the plot for fear of spoiling Me Before You if you haven’t read it yet. Go read that book first, then decide if you want to find out what happens next. This was a good, easy read.
2. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro. I appreciate the social justice themes in this novel, which is written from the perspective of a black American teenager who is dealing with the effects of police brutality in his community. I did think the book was often forced and unrealistic. For example, each teen in the main character’s group of friends had a different gender identity or sexual orientation. In reality, what are the odds of every single child identifying differently? The author was trying to be inclusive, but the ultimate result was that the scenario feel forced. This rang true for other aspects of the book as well.
3. *Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Y’all already know that this was my most inspiring read of the year! I can’t say enough about this excellent book. Noah, who is currently the host of The Daily Show, describes his childhood in South Africa in this memoir. The book is at once hilarious, emotional, and eye-opening. I learned so much about post-apartheid South Africa and was inspired by Noah’s story as well as that of his mother.
4. Bossypants by Tina Fey. This comedic autobiography had some really funny parts, especially at the beginning. However, much of the third quarter of the book centered on specific people and situations related to Thirty Rock and Saturday Night Life, and I found myself a bit bored. I just didn’t have the context to appreciate what she was talking about, as I have not watched a single episode of 30 Rock and don’t know a lot about the various comedians on SNL. The humor was lost on me!
5. *Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. In this book, the author describes her unique experience as an American raising her child in France and compares the parenting styles of French and American parents. Maybe it’s weird that I read a parenting book seeing as how I’m not a parent myself…but it was seriously interesting! I’m not really qualified to recommend this book to parents since I’m not a parent, but I’m going to go ahead and recommend it anyway. It always helps to consider ideas from other cultures, regardless of whether we agree with them or not (though I have to say, I’m pretty convinced that much of what French parents do is pure gold).
6. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. This book was entertaining enough, but I also found myself annoyed at times by all of the materialism. It was just SO over the top. And, I wish the book had been a bit shorter. I did enjoy learning about elite Singaporean culture, while keeping in mind that this is a work of fiction and not necessarily truly representative of the Singaporean elite. For those who haven’t seen the Crazy Rich Asians movie that came out this year, I actually think the movie was better than the book! Definitely give it a watch.
7. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan. The premise of this novel was definitely odd. It connects a fairy tale story of an enchanted harmonica with three children growing up around the time of World War II. Despite the overarching legend surrounding the harmonica being weird and not-so-believable, the individual stories of each of the three children were compelling, and I definitely wanted to keep reading to find out what happened to them.
8. *Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig. This novel was SO good. I couldn’t put it down! The story follows Ginny, a girl with autism who is adjusting to life with a new adoptive family while still desperately seeking to reunite with her birth family. The book is fascinating and has both heartbreaking and heartwarming moments. It was really neat to read a book from the perspective of someone with autism.
9. *The Hundred Story Home: A Memoir of Finding Faith in Ourselves and Something Bigger by Kathy Izard. This memoir describes how the author came to do important work in the homeless community while exploring her own feelings about her past as well as her spirituality. The events described in the book took place not far from where I live, which helped me relate to it that much more. I greatly appreciated Izard’s honesty in describing family mental health struggles and recognizing her own privilege while working with the homeless community in Charlotte, NC. There was one word choice in the book that I reacted to strongly (in a negative way), and I’m not sure I really buy into her definition of “grace” at the end, but otherwise I have very positive feelings toward this book. Definitely worth reading!
10. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. This novel was just okay. It follows the lives of four siblings and how a fortune teller’s prophecy impacts each of their lives. The premise itself is a creative one. The book didn’t grip me, but I did find myself enjoying the ending.
11. *The Kingdom vs John Reid by Dillon Lunn. Technically I can’t share much about this book yet, as it hasn’t been published! (That’s also why I don’t have a picture of the cover…yet!) I got to read a draft of this novel, which comes out later this year, and it is so good! The book is a courtroom drama detailing the trial of a man being prosecuted by a theocratic government. It will definitely get you thinking about the separation of church and state!
12. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. This novel was well-liked by most in my book club, but it was not my favorite. The story centers around a woman whose marriage is crumbling and who has a chance to interact with her past in a way that might change her current situation. I thought there was too much dialogue, not enough action, and not enough of a resolution at the end.
13. *The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This was a book that made me feel “wowed.” The novel follows a young lady exiting foster care as she copes with her past, survives as an adult without help or family, and learns about love and relationships. This beautiful story is heartbreaking in a thousand ways, but it ultimately had a resolution that left me as the reader with a sense of peace. An excellent work of literature.
14. *The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. This is a heartbreaking yet also inspiring pep talk of life lessons from a professor dying of cancer. If you need to recenter yourself on what’s important in life, this book will do it! And, it’s a quick read.
15. *The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. This book about decluttering was a quick and easy read, and I was surprised that it was actually super interesting! It has inspired me to do some tidying up of my own home, though I haven’t actually had a chance to do the full Marie Kondo method. I read this book earlier in the year and have been re-inspired by its principals since seeing friends post about the method after watching the new “Tidying Up” series on Netflix. Maybe one of these days I’ll actually get around to doing it myself…
16. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. This book was incredibly popular this year, but I felt “meh” about it. The novel describes two very different families who are brought together by their children and whose relationships are challenged as a public controversy grips the small town where they live. The book was enjoyable enough, though it didn’t necessarily “hook” me. I thought the ending was a bit odd and didn’t like that many loose ends were not tied.
17. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. This short book has won tons of awards, and for good reason. It centers around a 60 second elevator ride in which a teen considers whether or not he will participate in the cycle of gun violence that has plagued his community. Reynolds’ writing style is incredible. It was also a quick read, which, let’s be honest, is sometimes really nice. Finally, I appreciated hearing a perspective different from my own–that of a child growing up around poverty and violence. I recommend reading the print version of this book. The audiobook is great, but the print version displays the text in visual patterns that are lost when listening.
18. *A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley. Holy moly–what an incredible story! In this memoir, Brierley describes his childhood living in poverty in India and details the traumatic experience of becoming separated from his birth family and later attempting to locate them. As Westerners, we logically know that poverty exists in the world, but it is still shocking to hear the actual details and realities of true poverty that we could never actually imagine. This story is educational and inspirational! And the movie is just as good, too!
19. *Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I was the crazy lady crying in her car because I was laughing so hard listening to this book while driving around town. I actually didn’t realize until I started listening that Sedaris is from Raleigh. This collection of essays is hilarious, and I loved the Raleigh references!
20. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This novel about a bookstore with a big secret was okay, but it didn’t grip me like some of the novels I read this year. While the premise of the book is certainly creative, I wasn’t hooked by the story.
21. *Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker. Yet another winner by Jen Hatmaker! She is so stinking hilarious in this collection of essays. I laughed out loud so many times. I love that Jen brings levity to the annoying and difficult parts of life. And, in the midst of her humor, she also speaks wisdom and big truths. I appreciated her chapter on God’s sovereignty, as this is personally one of my biggest theological challenges.
22. *Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. In this nonfiction book, Gladwell explores the factors that contribute to a person becoming highly successful. I found it fascinating and enlightening. There were one or two parts that got a bit dull, which I feel like is something to be expected with many nonfiction, research-based books. But overall, I found this book incredibly insightful and very applicable to the way we view others and the way the world works.
23. *The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand. This beach read sucked me right in! It follows the perspective of multiple characters during a murder investigation that reveals many family secrets. This was probably the fastest I have read a book all year!
24. *A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir. This is the third book in the “An Ember in the Ashes” series, which has all of the elements of most good series: an intricate fantasy world, compelling characters, romance, and a battle between good versus evil. I absolutely loved the first two books in the series, and the third did not disappoint. I can’t wait until the movies for this series are produced and released! Please let it be soon!!
25. Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali. This novel centers around the typical coming of age struggles (romance, peer relationships, family issues, etc.) from the perspective of a Muslim American teenage girl. It was enjoyable enough, but nothing I’d write home about. But, I do think it’s awesome that the book was written from a Muslim perspective—something that I’m sure is rare and will resonate with young Muslims!
26. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. This novel was difficult to listen to. It is a satirical series of correspondence between two demons. Through this format, Lewis discusses Christian theological issues. I thought the format itself was a neat concept, but I found my attention not held more often than not, most likely due to the formal style of writing as well as the discussion of complex theological and philosophical issues.
27. She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams. This book is written by the creators of the online and print Christian devotional She Reads Truth. The chapters alternate between the perspectives of the two authors as they share some of their personal backgrounds and discuss how they ultimately came to find truth in the Bible. It was inspiring to read their stories at times, but at other times the book failed to hold my attention.
28. *The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner. This memoir stands out as one of the best books I read this year. The author describes her childhood growing up in a polygamist cult. It is heartbreaking but also an incredible story of resilience.
29. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I became interested in this book after hearing about the Netflix movie by the same name. This novel about teenage relationships is cute and an easy read. I recommend it if you want something light and fun! I haven’t yet watched the movie to see how it compares, but I hope to soon!
30. *Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This novel begins with the discovery of a murder and then flashes back to reveal the sad childhood of the lady accused of the murder, then forward to detail the murder investigation and trial. It is so good! The author’s descriptions of marsh life are incredibly rich. If you’re a beach lover, you will love this book. You will be able to smell the salty air while reading. The main character’s story of loss and resilience is inspiring, and I was hooked to find out the result of the murder trial.
31. *The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. SO GOOD. By far one of the best books I read all year. I was instantly hooked on this psychological thriller, which illustrates the dangers we are susceptible to ignore when in love. The book tells the story through two different perspectives: that of the ex-wife and that of the soon-to-be bride of the same man. It is the definition of a page turner.
32. *The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. This psychological thriller follows the perspective of a reclusive woman who sees something she shouldn’t out of her window one evening. As she struggles to figure out what actually happened and what is (and is not) real, you also learn more about her own mysterious background. Highly recommend!
33. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This was my first time reading this classic fantasy adventure novel, and I wasn’t crazy about it. Perhaps I am just too old and not the right demographic! But, there were interesting themes that I could see making for good discussion in schools.
34. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I really loved getting to know Shonda through this book! She is hilarious. I liked the message of the book (saying yes to things you might normally not), but it wasn’t necessarily something that blew my socks off. But, if you feel stuck in a rut, I could see this book being just what you need! And finally, fair warning: Reading this book may just make you decide to start watching all of Shonda’s TV shows, resulting in a major crush on one of the actors in Scandal. You’ve been warned!
Alright friends, that’s a wrap! Leave me a comment if you also have thoughts on the books listed. And, be sure to comment with suggestions of books to add to my reading list for 2019! You can see what’s already on my list on my Pinterest board.
P.S. – This post may contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Read my full disclaimers/disclosures here.