Best Books of 2018 – A Year in Review

Every year, at the end of the year, I look back on all the books I have read the year before and list my favorites overall. This year, I again topped my 100 books in a year goal and made it to 114 (including five books on tape, which I think should count). The added bonus of this post is that you don’t have to bother to read any of my other posts over the course of the year!

There were three five-star books this year:

And here’s the bulkier list of four-and-a-half stars:

As usual, there were lots of fours this year – too many to include among the favorites. As I say every year to those three fans I have, thank you for reading my thoughts on books and keep the recommendations coming – any great reads for you in 2018 that I need to add to my TBR list?

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott is a slim volume that’s been on my TBR list for a while. It took about an hour to read. Its chapters are filled with Lamott’s musings on life and God. It was a little too preachy for me, but Lamott has had a tough life and I admire her strength admit what she has battled. It was a nice, quick read, but not a favorite this year.

Winter in Paradise

I usually reserve Elin Hilderbrand for summer reading candy. But, Winter in Paradise came up from the library and I thought it might be a quick last 2018 read. And, it was. As expected, this was nothing challenging, but the story was entertaining. It’s the only book Hilderbrand has written that didn’t take place on Nantucket. In this story, Irene Steele discovers that her devoted husband has been leading a double life. When he dies unexpectedly in the Virgin Islands, she and her sons travel there to figure out what happened. The setting is gorgeous and it made me long to return to the islands. But, all in all, this was a fluff read, leaving me ready for meatier choices in 2019. Happy New Year!

Abandoned in 2018

This year, rather than post about books I didn’t finish, I simply added them to a list. Keeping the list throughout the year saved time and effort and meant an easy publish on December 31! Sometimes abandoning is about the time or place where I was reading. Usually, after about 50 pages, I give myself a pass if the book is really not grabbing me. Sometimes, I push through, especially if someone has given me a compelling review. Let me know if any of these are worth another try.

The Last Castle

The Power

White Houses

Everything Here is Beautiful

Love and Ruin

Less

The Maze at Windermere

The Mars Room

Social Creature

Stay with Me

High season

Circe

Unsheltered

The House of Broken Angels

Whiskey When We’re Dry

Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison has gotten great reviews, but it’s taken me a while to pick it up. Jessilyn’s mother died when she was born and her brother basically kills off her father and disappears. As an orphan, alone on their homestead, Jessilyn realizes she won’t survive for long. She transforms into a boy and sets off to find her brother. The bulk of the book describes her adventures along the way. I enjoyed this read, one of my last of 2018. It was engaging and fast-paced, though I think that some of my speed was due to my desire to be finished before the end of 2018. Nevertheless, it’s well worth picking up.

The Dream Daughter

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain was a great read. It kept me on the edge of my seat and I read almost all of it in a day. While it is not my normal kind of read (again, suspension of disbelief was required), it worked, and the twists and turns made it quite enjoyable. When Carly, a young Vietnam widow, realizes that her unborn baby has a heart defect, she is devastated. Her mysterious brother-in-law offers her an unbelievable option that she takes. This choice alters the course of her and her unborn child’s future. I can’t say more without spoiling the story. This is a story I would absolutely pick up if I were you.

The Winter Sea

I picked up The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley on the recommendation of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s post – “20 books to cozy up with this winter.” And, it didn’t disappoint. It’s the story of author Carrie, who moves to Scotland to research a story that turns out to be one she remembers from the 1700s. In alternating chapters (everyone knows how I love that format), we read the story Carrie is writing (and reliving in her memory) and her own story in her new home. The book requires a suspension of disbelief, which I normally am not a fan of, but it worked here. This was a perfect choice for a chilly winter break.

The Great Believers

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai was chosen by the NYT last week as one of the ten best books of 2018. And, while I did really enjoy it, it wasn’t a best of 2018 for me. The book is really two stories – one of Chicago at the worst part of the AIDS epidemic, the other in Paris involving one of the characters from the 80s Chicago story. The primary story was the more compelling and page-turning one for me, whereas the Paris one I just wanted to cruise through. And the stories didn’t overlap in really interesting ways, the way you thought they might. And, ultimately, the book itself was too long. So, again, though I enjoyed it, I didn’t love it.

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton was a great read. It was depressing and astonishing, but also eye-opening and fascinating. I could easily see why it has so many positive reviews. It’s the story of the 30 years that Hinton spent on death row, though he was innocent of the crime he was accused of committing. More than anything else, the pace at which the judicial systems works is unfathomable. And, of course, the ridiculousness of the system that would have convicted him in the first place goes without saying. If you have not read this already, grab it. You won’t regret having added it to your list.

One Day in December

You all know how much I love Reese Witherspoon and how much I have enjoyed most of her other book club picks. One Day in December, by Josie Silver, though, was a book that I felt like I had read before. In addition, I found it trite, predictable, and overall, skipable. Did I finish it? Yes. I did need to know how it turned out, but it was too “been there done that” for me.