2018 Best Reads
I read 80 books in 2018. Since my Goodreads goal was 75, that makes me pretty happy.
By read, I mean all the way to “the end.” If I give up on a book it doesn’t count toward my goal. Sometimes, if I’m slogging through a book, guilting myself to get to the last page, I’ll ask one of my writer friends for permission to stop reading. For some reason that helps.
I make a point to read outside my comfort zone. I look for authors who come from different backgrounds than me. I read one book this year by a public figure whose views I have been diametrically opposed to. I don’t want to let the media give me an incomplete story, and if somebody wrote a book I figure that’s the best way to understand how he thinks. I did learn a lot about him. Books help me form educated opinions as opposed to blindly accepting what is portrayed on the media.
I’m not (always) interested in being right or finding confirmation for my biases. I’ve always read to escape my reality, and sometimes that means delving into realities I really don’t like—but wish I could understand. The super amazing-face part of all this is, reading has the ability to put us inside another person’s mind, and science confirms reading increases empathy in a person. And, a little more empathy is a good thing.
If you want to see everything I read click here, and if you’re on Goodreads and we’re not friends please add me because I want to know what you’re reading too. I find most of my books through friends’ recommendations.
Now on to my Best-of Reads from 2018:
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon-Steve Sheinkin: History book written for middle-grade that was absolutely riveting. I’ve read several books on the building of the atomic bomb, but this one taught me new information and was so engaging; it read like a good thriller.Braving The Wilderness-Brene Brown: Brown’s background is in social work and research. She spent a lot of time researching careers where people fail on a regular basis (like writing). My job is hard and weird, her research helped me see I’m not the only one dealing with failure and there are healthy ways to cope in this industry. She gave me tools to move forward in my career with a healthier mindset.
Lab Girl-Hope Jahren: Read this. A fascinating combo memoir and plant sciences book is. It’s an odd mash-up that is so well written it boggles my mind. I’m not one to care for hard science or be fascinated by nature, but Jahren made botany absolutely riveting.
Shoe Dog-Phil Knight: The origin story of Nike from the founder himself. Written with story at the heart of the memoir. I gained a new appreciation for the behemoth company and the people who dreamed this empire into existence.
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives-Dashka Slater: Written for a YA audience, this is based on true events. Slater does a great job of presenting all sides of the story and letting readers draw their own conclusions. For anyone who questions why using a person’s preferred pronouns is important, I strongly recommend this book.
The Radium Girls-Kate Moore: Holy crap balls. Read it. Read it. Read it. Don’t read it while you’re eating though. True story of the girls painting glow in the dark paint on watches and airplane parts in the early 1900s. Because of what they went through (more atrocious than the worst horror novel you can think of) we gained significant improvements in workers compensation for injury on the job. Serious face, this book is phenomenal.
The Rape of Nanking-Iris Chang: Don’t read this one while you’re eating either. It’s an in depth history of the atrocities committed in Nanking during WWII. It’s hard to read, but an important story. One I didn’t know about. It’s not a dry history read, and it also doesn’t soften the blow of what happened to these people.
When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing-Daniel H. Pink: Pink’s research about time was thought provoking and engaging. Was introduced to the concept of social pruning in this book. Also made me look at my day differently, so I could optimize my energy and get the most out of my work day. Now I want to read everything by him.
American Heart-Laura Moriarty: The story of a teen girl from a MO town, who reluctantly helps a woman escape from the United States to Canada. It’s set in the not-so-distant future, and the main character reminded me of many people I’ve met throughout the midwest. Moriarty is a writer out of Lawrence, KS—and I heard about this book long before I read it, because it went through a PR nightmare before it’s release. When I finally got around to reading the book I was astounded by what Moriarty had done, and how well she did it.Artificial Condition-Martha Wells: Murderbot is back! Murderbot is best! Get all the Murderbot books because they’re fun and quick and smart! I love Murderbot!
Code Name Verity-Elizabeth E. Wein: WWII story about female under cover agents and pilots. A genius case study in unreliable narration. Wein did unreliable narrator so well I read the whole book in a tear, then immediately went back and started flipping back and forth so I could study how she was doing it.
Darius The Great Is Not Okay-Adib Khorram: A book with a tea drinking teen who goes to visit his family in Iran. Another Kansas based author with a unique voice. Khorram does a great job of normalizing mental health concerns.
Pachinko-Min Jin Lee: Historical fiction that follows a South Korean family that moves to Japan. Covers from the early 1900s to late 1900s. The multi-generational story is full of memorable characters and let me see the dynamics between the two countries. This is the easiest way for me to absorb history, through the engaging accounts of fictional characters.
Scythe-Neal Shusterman: AI has perfected itself and helps humans live forever. In order to control the population a small group of humans are designated as Scythes, and they serve as population control. This is the first in the series and the second was just as fantastic. Great world building and a super fun read.
Spinning Silver-Naomi Novik: A retelling of Rumplestiltskin like you’ve never seen before. The characters and world are unexpected and fun and I’m probably going to re-read this one, right after I re-read Uprooted which is Novik’s other fairy tale retelling. I read Novik and think I wish I could do that, she’s the type of author that makes me feel like a hack because her skills are phenomenal.
The Hate U Give-Angie Thomas: A contemporary story about an African-American girl navigating between her home and an primarily white prep school. She witnesses a shooting in chapter one and the book delves into all of the complexities our teens live through/see on the news on a daily basis. Teens across America are devouring this book. Schools are teaching it, and reluctant readers are asking for more books after finishing this one. Had to see what the hype was about and Thomas delivers.
The Poppy Wars-R.F. Kuang: An epic military fantasy set in an Asian inspired world. Magic meets military strategy novel at its best. (It was after reading this I realized my NF pick The Rape of Nanking was a recommendation I picked up after hearing Chang interviewed.) Chang drew heavily on Chinese history in the book and she does a great job of using fiction to make reality even more impactful. Stayed up until 2 in the morning and zombied it through the next day because of this one.
The Prince and the Dressmaker-Jen Wang: The story and illustrations keep you turning the pages in the tale of a Prince looking to find his footing in a royal world where he doesn’t fit in. A graphic novel that will make you smile.
The Alchemist-Paulo Coehlo: The shepherd boy Santiago follows the winds and goes on a great adventure. This was my Birthday reread. Still love it. Still a study in elegant writing and simplicity.The Berenstain Bears-Stan & Jan Berenstain: I have a slew of these because they’re my favorites from when I was little. I like to read them while I eat breakfast. The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room is my favoritest of all.
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh-A.A. Milne: Still perfect.
The Secret Garden-Frances Hodgson Burnett: Way different reading this one as a grown up. Didn’t realize everyone dies a horrific death (cholera?) in the first chapter. What this book does so well is show how a character/person can change of the course of a novel. Also Mary & Colin are unlikeable characters. It’s always interesting to see how an author can keep a reader engaged when following an unlikeable character.