Frank (my blog, for any newcomers) turned 9 this week. Frank is now a third-grader with a very busy Chuck E. Cheese birthday party schedule, and that’s why I haven’t written in so long.
Except you and I both know that’s not true.
Really, it’s just a combination of a lot of things. Work and Rotary keep me very busy. I’ve been in a little bit of a writing slump, despite participating in a memoir writing group every other month to keep me doing something. I’ve been knitting a lot. And I’ve been reading.
In 2018 I read 30 books 31 books (I discovered 1 I hadn’t included as I was writing this) out of a goal of 18. That’s pretty consistent the whole year through since I was at 15 books at the beginning of July. It’s the most books I’ve read in one year in …. a really long time (maybe ever). I know there are people on Bookstagram and other reading communities who read like…. 100+ books last year. I also know there are regular people with full lives who read 5 books last year. Any reading is great. You do you.
Every year I like to post a recap of what I read this year, as well as what I liked and didn’t like, and link it to my Goodreads review. None of these are affiliate links and nothing was provided by a publisher because I’m not influencer-y enough for that.
And away we go….
Now back to the good part… before I get into my top favorite books I read in 2018, here’s a list of all of them in the order they were read, linked to my review on Goodreads (or look below the list if you’re more of a visual person who likes to see the covers):
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson
- Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
- Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis
- May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook to Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness by Gabby Bernstein (*this was for a small group I did in Jan/Feb 2018)
- The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr (**re-read)
- All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
- This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today by Chrissy Metz
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (**re-read)
- Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
- The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
- Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
- Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
- Calypso by David Sedaris
- Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
- You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
- Pennsylvania Turnpike by Mitchell Eric Dakelman & Neal Schorr
- The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
- Dare Me by Megan Abbott
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
- Sweet Valley High #65: Trouble at Home by Francine Pascal
- My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
- The Lost For Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland
- Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
- Party Girl by Rachel Hollis
- Hope Never Dies (Obama Biden Mysteries #1) by Andrew Shaffer
- Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering
- Still Life by Louise Penny
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
Breaking It Down Visually….
Here’s What I Know
I read a fair mix of self-helpy/motivational books this year and I don’t care what you think. Sometimes I just want a kick in the pants or an idea on how to improve myself. It’s also apparent that I read mostly books by women. In 2019, I want to make a conscious effort to read more POC. I also read more YA in 2018 than I normally do, and you know what? I enjoyed it. That’s what your brain needs sometimes. I’m all about comfort reads when you need them, and I had several of them this year.
And What Were The Top 5?
There were 6 books that I gave 5 stars in 2018. My top three are very clear to me, but the 4 and 5 slots are not necessarily books that I gave 5 stars.
5. The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland
Loveday Cardew, our protagonist, works at the Lost for Words Bookshop, where she’s been since she was a teenager, at which time her life took some turns and she found herself on her own, starting a new life. She learned to prefer books to people and she maintains a quiet existence. But when a found book sets off a chain of events that shakes up life as she knows it, she’s soon to learn what happens when life cracks you wide open and how a heart can heal. This was such a cozy book and I just loved Loveday. Toward the end, I got to a point where I was just devouring this to find out what happens and how things turn out for her. It’s also a great companion read to Eleanor Oliphant.
Recommended if: you love books, bookstores, and/or books about books; you liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
4. Calypso by David Sedaris
David Sedaris might be my favorite author. I love his writing style and how he can take serious topics in his essays and draw the humor out of them. Calypso was one of those books (much like how I felt about his collection Naked) that I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry. The essays touch quite a bit upon aging and looking at where you’ve been with where you are now. Several of them focus on The Sea Section – his shore house on the Emerald Isle in North Carolina where his family has been vacationing for years, and he reflects upon what those vacations were like for him and his siblings when they were teenagers versus what it’s like for them now as adults in their 50s.
Also, he wants to feed part of his tumor to a turtle.
It’s funny and it’s poignant and it’s everything I love about David Sedaris.
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Throughout the first half of this book, I felt completely understood. There was so much of myself that I saw in Eleanor and I found myself smiling because I felt like I could relate. This wasn’t an “adorably flawed” character. She felt real to me.
And then I sobbed my way through the second half because I cared about her so much as a character. There’s also a twist at the end that I really didn’t see coming.
I said above that this is a great companion read to The Lost for Words Bookshop, and that’s because this book also underscores strength, resilience, the power of friendship and caring, and what can happen when life cracks you wide open and allows kindness in.
I hugged this book when I finished reading it and I know that I will re-read it in the future. It’s up there with The Storied Life of AJ Fikry for me, and I recommended it to just about everyone.
1. TIE: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I truly couldn’t choose one of these books over the other. Both of them are worth every bit of hype that they received.
The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas)tells the story of 16 year old Starr Carter, a black teenager who witnesses her best friend being shot and killed by the police. This book opened my eyes wide. From a place of white privilege, it’s easy to say that racial conflict isn’t a major issue, but it is. That it doesn’t affect white people nearly as much as it affects POC and minority communities doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and this book underscores that in a big, bold way. I was breathless by the end of it and came away knowing that we need to do better and make these incidents stop.
This is so well written (so many people have agreed that it’s hard to believe it’s a debut). It takes a good look at the nuances in Starr’s life as she lives in the projects but goes to a mostly-white private school, and how she has to navigate through different worlds like that. What does that mean to her identity? How does that affect her relationships in her neighborhood versus with her peers at school? Etc. This really needs to be required reading for everyone. I almost never go to the movies, but I went to see this one (the book is always better, but the movie was pretty good too).
Where the Crawdads Sing (by Delia Owens) is another book that takes a look at a kind of “otherness.” Kya watches as, one by one, everyone in her family leaves her. When her Pa finally disappears for good, she finds herself (still a child) alone in their shack out in the marsh, learning to become completely self-reliant. She goes to one day of school and never returns. The marsh is her school. She’s wild and free and also isolated. The people in town call her “The Marsh Girl” and think her strange and dangerous.
The book flashes back and forth in time, spanning from Kya’s childhood throughout the late 50s, 60s, and 70s, and eventually into present day. The main conflict in the book (on the surface) is finding out how star quaterback Chase Andrews ended up dead at the foot of the fire tower, in the marsh. It’s a mystery that unwinds, and when you think you know what happened, you probably don’t actually know what happened. Keep reading.
But there’s so much to be said in this book about what loneliness can do to a person and how kindness and love can change things. Like The Hate U Give, this is a debut novel — and a phenomenal one at that. It’s so beautifully written. The marsh itself becomes a character in its own right as we see it the way Kya does: all of the nature and wildlife, and everything she and Tate learn growing up together.
This is another one that had a twist at the end, and I closed the book with tears in my eyes for Kya. It’s so, so good.
So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, which I’m enjoying. I was hoping to be done with it by this point, but life does what it does and things came up and my brain just hasn’t been in a reading space for the past week or so. It hasn’t been in the knitting space either. And I also haven’t turned on my television since December 18… almost a full month ago. I’ve been zoning out a lot. Like I said… life happens. Reading and knitting are two of my favorite things to do, so I’m hoping to get back to those soon, especially since I have a project to finish up for a friend.
If you want to keep up with what I’m reading on a more regular basis than a yearly (twice-yearly last year!) blog post, give me a follow on my bookish Instagram account: @renee.reads.books
How are you starting off 2019? What are you reading? What were your favorite books you read in 2018? Talk to me.