My top 10 books of 2018

Monday, January 7, 2019

It's my favorite time of year - time for "best of" book lists! :) Here are my top ten books of 2018. These are not necessarily books that came out in 2018, just books I read this year. And these are the ten I loved the most, NOT the ten I think were necessarily the best.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

1. The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (2018, Contemporary Fiction)

"A captivating novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family's hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart." (Amazon)

I got this one as one of my Book of the Month picks, mostly on the recommendation of some book bloggers I follow. It's really a perfect combination of things I love in a great novel: fascinating and relatable characters, a riveting mystery, and a satisfying conclusion.

2. The Dry by Jane Harper (2016, Mystery/Thriller)

"A small town hides big secrets in The Dry, an atmospheric, page-turning debut mystery by award-winning author Jane Harper." (Amazon)

I am SO GLAD I discovered Jane Harper this year! (Thanks Anne Bogel!) I loved The Dry and its sequel, Force of Nature, for their gripping mysteries and complex characters. Set in small-town Australia, The Dry follows Federal Agent Aaron Falk as he tries to uncover what really happened when his childhood friend was murdered twenty years ago.

3. Educated by Tara Westover (2018, Memoir)

"An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University." (Amazon)

I almost forgot this was a memoir as I was reading it - it is so unbelievable it reads like fiction. I was engrossed in Tara Westover's account of her unusual and disturbing childhood, rooting for her every step of the way.

4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (2014, Self Help)

"The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  It is not  a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter." (Amazon)

Self-help is my most-read genre, so this one really stood out to make it to my top ten list. I am already considering re-reading it to kick off my 2019. I gleaned so much from this one - it's full of concepts and real-life examples of how to focus on choosing to spend time and energy on the things WE deem essential.

5. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (2018, Historical Fiction)

"In Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, a desperate family seeks a new beginning in the near-isolated wilderness of Alaska only to find that their unpredictable environment is less threatening than the erratic behavior found in human nature." (Amazon)

This was my first Kristin Hannah novel (I know everyone loves The Nightingale and I hope to get to that one in 2019!). Now I understand what I've been missing! I don't read much historical fiction, but the whole internet seemed to love this book so I gave it a try as my Book of the Month pick one month. These characters were so well-written, and I didn't want to put this one down until I knew how the story ended.

6. The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs (2018, Contemporary Fiction)

"The Family Fang meets The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry in this literary mystery about a struggling bookseller whose recently deceased grandfather, a famed mathematician, left behind a dangerous equation for her to track down—and protect—before others can get their hands on it." (Goodreads)

I mean, a mystery novel about math - could it get more perfect for me? :) This was a page-turner, and it definitely didn't require any math background (although there were lots of fun references if you like that kind of thing!). I enjoyed the dysfunctional family dynamics and the mystery was creative and satisfying. (Another point for Book of the Month!)

7. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (2014, Contemporary Fiction)

"Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window... Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations." (Goodreads)

I think I can go ahead and call this one my FAVORITE book of the year! I listened to it on audio, which I highly recommend (that's how I know "Ove" is pronounced "oo-vuh"!). This novel is funny and creative and heartwarming and heartbreaking. I love a book that makes me laugh and cry.

8. Scythe by Neal Shusterman (2016, Young Adult Science Fiction)

"A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control. Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own." (Amazon)

My husband essentially forced this book into my hands, and I'm so glad he did! I love a great dystopian story, and this one is so well-written and unique. It's the first in a series, so I'll be reading Thunderhead next!

9. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017, Literary Fiction)

"An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds." (Goodreads)

Another Book of the Month find! (Have I convinced you to subscribe yet?) This book is a bit outside of my reading comfort zone, and I'm so glad I went. I'm not sure I've read many books with magical realism, but this one is so well-done. Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for her previous novel, Salvage the Bones, which I promptly added to my to be read list after finishing this one!

10. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016, Mystery/Thriller)

"Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins... At first, Lo's stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo's desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong." (Goodreads)

I can't stop recommending this book! A true page-turner and I never caught on to the mystery until the author revealed it to me. After reading this one I promptly got every Ruth Ware book I could find and am making my way through them!

50 podcast recommendations

Favorites These are the podcasts I listen to religiously and recommend all the time. If you're looking for a podcast to get you hooked...