I read 57 books this year; my Goodreads goal was 50. I guess in the past I’ve typed out the title (and author) of each book here, but you can view all that on Goodreads so I’ll save myself the time. It’s a pretty neat infographic they put together—here’s what the top looks like:
Apparently I gave 22 books five stars, which is a super high rating for me, and I gave 15 books four stars, so I’m including a bunch below, splitting them into fiction / non-fiction.
Best Fiction Read in 2018
“The Book of Ruth” by Jane Hamilton
This was the book that marked me the most this year. It’s not an uplifting tale, but for whatever reason I was so transported into the story and stunned by the language. This was the first time in a long time that I experienced such deep enjoyment of the sentences she’d crafted. I picked up my own copy at the end of the season so I can reread and write in it this year (and study those sentences!).
I read a little more Jane Hamilton after this initial success (a few years ago I read “A Map of the World” and enjoyed it), but some of them fell flat. Didn’t decrease my love of this book, though.
“Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
I read this book in November while in Death Valley National Park, and simply flew through it. If you’re looking for a page-turner to get sucked into, look no further!
“My Absolute Darling” by Gabriel Tallent
This is a book that I picked up on a whim when I saw it on display at the Steamboat Public Library. Yes, something about the cover drew me in—and when I saw that Stephen King had written a brief but strong recommendation on the back cover, I checked it out. It’s unlike any novel I’ve ever read; what a work of art.
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
The Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette Patreon community had read this one for the book club some time this year, which is what put it on my radar. Relevant, engaging story—a good read.
“Banana Rose” by Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg is one of my favorite writers. I’ve read tons of her non-fiction about writing, so it was a treat to finally read her novel, which was referenced in many of her memoirs I’d read previously. A different style, different pace—enjoyable to be in her story, especially knowing many of the story’s elements came straight from Natalie’s past.
“Heidi” by Johanna Spyri
When I was in elementary school I had a friend named Heidi, and she gifted me this book for one of my single-digit birthdays. I held on to it all these years, and finally decided to read it when I was home this April so I could take it to St. Vinny’s. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the tale!
“Tortilla Flat” by John Steinbeck
This was a new genre for me; my friend Nate lent me this book after I read Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” (also a Nate rec). While I think deeper meanings and themes were lost on me, I liked these books for their change of pace, time period, and absurdity of some situations. They were shorter, quicker reads, too.
“Redwall” by Brian Jacques
“Redwall” is a very familiar title to me, but I don’t think I ever read it when I was younger. I saw it on the bookshelf at my shared housing back in ACE and brought it along on my monthlong in Texas. It’s a fantastic book! There’s action, suspense, creativity. I recommend!
Best Non-Fiction Read in 2018
“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
It was my lucky day at the library last weekend, because “Becoming” was sitting on the Lucky Day shelf when I walked in. It was a large print copy—making it over 600 pages—but I snatched it up probably quicker than necessary, with a smile of course. (I’d been looking for this one on the Lucky Day shelf every time I went to the library in December.) I read it in a day and a half; couldn’t put it down. Memoir + Michelle Obama = Awesome!
“Writing Wild” by Tina Welling
In the past I’ve mainly been a library reader, occasionally picking up $1 books at St. Vinny’s or Friends of the Library book sales. So when I saw this book in the gift shop at Grand Teton National Park—by an author I’d never heard of—I really wouldn’t have expected myself to buy it. But I did. And am I glad for that! I wrote in the book, underlined, copied down quotes, and am looking forward to reading it again in 2019.
I’ve always loved books about writing, and as someone who had just spent the past year immersed in the outdoors (for the first time in my life), the timing couldn’t have been better to read “Writing Wild.” Welling considers nature an endless source of creativity, and explains how her “Spirit Walks” give her writing ideas and energy. She also honed in on the physical/body connection with nature, which I had been experiencing as a relief after many years of just writing, writing, writing. Anyway, it was a powerful read for me.
“Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” by Martha Beck
At the end of high school and throughout college I was a very secular, logical, rational person—and proud of it. Over the past few years I’ve seen myself slide a little more towards center, away from the totally rational end. So I appreciated this book because I suppose it would fall on the other side of the center, towards a more mystical side. Hell, maybe I’m over on that side now, just beyond center.
One could quickly gloss over this book as “woo-woo,” citing the bending metal and talking to animals bits (yes, both are in the book!), but I understood and felt a connection with much of what she wrote. That there are feelings and experiences which happen, but which can’t be articulated in our limited language and which aren’t reflected in modern society’s culture. That plants and nature are a powerful energy. Anyway, if it looks interesting to you, check it out!
“When You Are Engulfed in Flames” by David Sedaris
It had been a while since I’d read a David Sedaris book, and this was a breath of fresh air. There was one story in there, takes place on an airplane, which had me absolutely laughing out loud. What talent!
“What Happened” by Hillary Rodham Clinton
The year ended with Michelle Obama, but I started the year reading Hillary Clinton’s memoir “What Happened,” and thoroughly enjoyed it as well. I love memoirs, behind-the-scenes stuff, and anything that shows more of the layers and complexities behind a human face than headlines and news articles ever could.
“Being True to Live: Poetic Paths to Personal Growth” by David Richo
So far in my poetry-writing journey, this has been the best book I’ve read! Here’s a bit from its Goodreads blurb: “…we can use the process of writing and reading poetry to move toward greater self-understanding and emotional healing.” I took pictures of many passages and exercises back when I read it, but of course I haven’t looked at them since. I’d rather look at a book in my hands than a photo on a screen! So, this is a book to own, in my opinion.
“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance
A great memoir that illuminated a life very different from mine.
“The Girl Who Smiled Beads” by Clemantine Wamariya
Another good memoir which got me out of my head and made me stare at the harsh realities of other peoples’ lives.
“Hammer Head” by Nina MacLaughlin
Yup, another memoir, this one about a woman carpenter—which really increased my carpentry interest!
“Unprocessed” by Megan Kimble
Surprise, surprise—this is also a memoir. While I selfishly wish the author had been vegan during this part of her life, this is still an important book, incredibly well written and well researched, which takes us through Megan’s year of eating only unprocessed foods. I saw it randomly at a library book sale in Jackson, WY, was prepared for meh writing, but I was absolutely blown away both by Megan’s writing and how she crafted her year into this book.
“On Trails” by Robert Moore
After working on trails for a year and now preparing to thru-hike the AZT, this was an especially fun read, but I honestly think anyone would enjoy it.
Your turn! What were your favorite reads of the year? What are you most excited to read in 2019? I’d love to hear what you have to say!