I always love reading through my friends’ favorite book lists at the end of each year, and I adore talking books and reading with anyone who will entertain that conversation with me, so publishing my own favorite reads of the year has always been fun for me.
Admittedly, 2018 wasn’t my best reading year. I finished around 52 books (I’m including a few longer read-aloud chapter books with my kids, to be fair). And usually I have a hard time narrowing down my favorites, but this year, I just wasn’t as excited about many of the books I finished.
So I’m really hoping to get into some amazing books in 2019! (please leave recommendations if you have them!)
However, the books I read in 2018 that I loved, I REALLY loved. I’ve got six nonfiction and four fiction to share…
Thirst by Scott Harrison. I’m just going to jump right in with my favorite nonfiction of the year. I couldn’t put this one down, and when I passed it on to Evan after I finished, he couldn’t stop either. Thirst is the memoir of Scott Harrison, founder of charity: water, an innovative nonprofit that works to bring clean water to communities around the world. Scott’s story is so raw and redemptive, and the work charity: water is doing is completely inspiring. Go grab this book right now!
Educated by Tara Westover. This is one of the books everyone is talking about, but I actually read it after I read Sound of Gravel (below). Both are similar enough – girls raised in strict Mormon households with erratic fathers who want nothing to do with U.S. government. But they are different enough that I could read them in tandem and not feel at all like I was reading the same story. Educated is Tara’s personal story of being raised by her survivalist parents, never having stepped into a classroom until she left home at 17 (teaching herself enough to take the SAT and gain admittance to college!) It’s a truly gripping and poignant book.
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner. Ruth’s memoir is a haunting account of growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico as the 39th of her father’s 42 children. When she is young, her father is murdered and her mother remarries an abusive man. Ruth’s experiences are heart-breaking, but she eventually escapes the community and perseveres over her circumstances.
The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. This is a journalistic memoir of sorts, of Helen’s experience moving to Denmark for a year after her husband took a job with Lego. She explores all different facets of Danish culture, especially why Danes are renowned for being the happiest people on earth. I learned a lot about the Scandinavian way of life and enjoyed her stories immensely.
The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee. I was apparently on a memoir streak this year, which was totally fine, because I love memoirs and read a lot of truly riveting stories. The Girl with Seven Names is an eye-opening look into a young woman’s (almost accidental) escape from the tyranny of North Korea. Her experiences as she tries to avoid being recaptured and deported – and also to help her family escape too – are nothing short of amazing.
French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. If I could take myself back ten years and read just one book before having kids, THIS would be it. This book is written in a similarly “journalist memoir” vein as A Year of Living Danishly. It follows Karen’s family as they move from Canada to her husband’s home country of France, and she discovers just how different her family’s eating habits are as compared to the French as she battles her daughters’ Westernized picky eating, snacking tendencies and overall unhealthy attitudes toward food. It’s interesting and well-written, and I have implemented so much of what I’ve learned for our own family, for the better!
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I read this at the beginning of 2018 and knew it would likely be my favorite fiction book of the year – and I was right. It was made even better by the fact that Evan and I had just gone to Alaska, so the setting actually felt familiar. This is a coming-of-age novel, and I have a special love for those kinds of books. At 13, Lenny moves with her mom and dad – who is unpredictable and abusive after suffering as a POW in the Vietnam War – to the Alaskan frontier, where they learn what it means to survive in the wilderness on their own. Such a beautiful story of loyalty, loss and love.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I have to say that I didn’t pick up a Kristin Hannah novel for a long time because I read one years ago and could hardly get through it. Even though The Nightingale came highly recommended to me and was sitting on my Kindle, I didn’t pick it up until I had devoured and loved The Great Alone. These books are on a whole new level as compared to when I first read Kristin Hannah, and this World War II historical fiction is captivating.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. This was my “chick lit” of the year 🙂 It was entertaining and proved a great summer read. We watched the movie recently and found it much more wholesome than the book, which leaned more raunchy at times. Don’t expect this one to change your life, but it was definitely a light, fun read – if not a little absurd!
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. This is the follow-up to one of my past favorites, The War that Saved My Life. I just adored this 2-part middle grade novel series about resilience and overcoming, and can’t wait to read it to my kids.
What books made your favorites list from 2018?
Happy reading in the new year!
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