I read 79 books in 2018. Here are the best and worst.

Happy New Year! Like many, I’m thrilled to say goodbye to 2018. The last few months were especially rough around these parts and I’m excited to start fresh.

As I’ve reviewed my 2018 accomplishments with an eye toward planning 2019 (you know me), I realized I absolutely CRUSHED my goal to read 45 non-school books. Although Mr. T disputes that audiobooks count as actual reading [friendly eye-roll here], it was the ease of the Libby library app that helped me consume 79 full length books in 2018 (not including the 10 or so that I started and quit for various reasons). I listen to books while I drive, cook, clean (HA), and walk the dogs.

Below I’ve organized the ones I would recommend in categories of overall bestness, books that haunted me for days/weeks after finishing them, especially heart wrenching tales, entertaining thrillers, and feel good stories. I’ve also included a few books I absolutely HATED and feel compelled to warn to my friends about.

My Top 16 reads of 2018

L-O-V-E-D these books. Most I happened upon through the library app, although several (Everything I Never Told You and Middlesex), I sought out after reading another novel by the same author. I listened to all of my Top 16 and wholeheartedly recommend the voice actors as well as the stories themselves.
You might notice an inadvertent theme of my top books: lots of women writers. #goals
I found all of these books utterly absorbing, especially this second set. If I had to recommend just one, I don’t think I could. I loved them all so much. But if forced, my top three would be: The Sun is Also a Star, The Power, and Everything I Never Told You.

Books that HAUNTED me

The library app algorithm and my penchant for choosing books at the library without reading the descriptions combined to give me a number of jaunts into environmental dystopian fantasy this year, including three of these recommended stories about cheerful topics like a worldwide pandemic, the disappearance of all bees, and a fungus takeover, (as well as one book I hated, also about killer fungus). The other stories–about teen suicide, the radicalization of teens, and Einstein’s chauvinist jerk behavior to his first wife–all round out this collection of books that haunted me over the last year. Painful, scary, frustrating, but thought-provoking and well-written, too.

Heart wrenchers. 

Looking for a meaningful book about a difficult subject (addiction, abuse, immigration, motherhood) with stories that will smash you in the feels? Here you go.

Thrillers

I’m a sucker for a good thriller mystery. Gillian Flynn’s “Dark Places” was the last book I read this year and probably my favorite of the thrillers. I’m learning I don’t love the psychological thriller theme where the friend/acquaintance schemes to completely annihilate someone for fun/vengeance/financial gain though (Lisa Scottoline, unfortunately, I’m looking at you).

Feel good reads.

That “feel good reads” is the sparsest category probably means I need to seek out some less intense themes this year. In any case, these two tales were lovely. Enslaved by Ducks is a true, laugh-out-loud story about pet acquisition gone awry, and First Frost focuses on the relationships between moms and daughters, and sisters, and everyday magic. I loved both.

Books I hated.

Okay, I really only actually hated My Absolute Darling. While well-written and breath-taking in its scene setting (for those in Northern California, the portrayal of Mendocino County is incredible), the story itself is horrifying. If you want to read about systematic and devastating child abuse, this is the book for you. (Ugh). The other stories I really wanted to like (Speak No Evil especially) but the plots were too far fetched and confusing (Ready-Made Thief and The Genius Plague) or the ending abrupt (I actually hunted to see if I’d lost one of the CDs for Speak No Evil, it ended that awkwardly).

Would love to know if you read any of these this year!

xoxo,
shawna

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