Friday, December 28, 2018

Best Books of 2018

I was nervous about how much reading - or really how little - I might get done during my first year of parenting. But it turns out I had nothing to be worried about. I ended up reading 87 books and will likely finish another one before the year ends which will make this my biggest reading year ever! I should have known that if I found time to read when I was studying for the CFA (which was a huge time suck), I would find time to read as a new mom.

I get a lot of comments asking how I find the time to read. I definitely got a lot of reading done while I pumped but even if I hadn't pumped, I think I still would have found time to read in 2018. I also read on my bus commute and for 30-60 minutes before bed, depending on how tired I am. And I choose books over tv much of the time. All those snippets of time, both big and small, really add up! 

Now that I've addressed how I found the time to read, here's a list of the best books I read in 2018 in no particular order!

1. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova - I have read and loved every book by this author. She has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard and her expertise in that field is apparent in her books, which are all about different neurological disorders. Her latest book is about ALS. In this book, we meet Richard, an accomplished concert pianist who is diagnosed with ALS> He is in desperate need of a caretaker when the most unlikely person rises to the challenge - his ex-wife. Genova weaves together his experience with this disease with a story of the aftermath of a failed marriage. I could not put this book down and read it in just over 24 hours.

2. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett - This is my favorite Patchett book of the ones I've read. It's about 2 families who merge when the father of 4 children marries the mother of 2 children. It's very much a character-driven novel instead of plot-driven but I tend to like those kind of books. Even if character-driven novels aren't your thing, I still think this one is worth picking up because the story is so rich and the characters are so well-developed. I was sad when the book ended because I wanted to see how their  lived continued to unfold. 

3. This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell - This novel definitely falls more under "literary fiction" but it's still pretty accessible in my opinion. It's a young American professor who falls in love with a famous actress who trades a life lived in the limelight for a life of seclusion in Ireland. The story isn't told in a linear fashion so it can be confusing at times, but it's worth sticking with it!

4. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza - This novel is about an Indian-American family living in CA. When the novel opens, the eldest daughter is getting married and we learn that her younger brother has returned for her wedding after being estrange from the family for years. The novel moves in a non-linear fashion and we learn, through snippets of the family's life, about the 3 children and the parents. It's a heart-breaking novel about faith, parenting/being a siblings of a difficult child, and forgiveness. 

5. Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen - This is definitely another character-driven novel, which seems to be a theme for my favorites! I adore Anna Quindlen so it's no surprise that her latest novel made my best of life for 2018. That said, it gets a pretty low 3.36 rating on Goodreads so if you aren't a Quindlen fan, you should probably skip this one. It's a novel about a couple living on the Upper West Side of NYC. The novel is about tensions - both in a close-knit neighborhood and between a husband and wife.

6. How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry - This is a delightful read set in a book shop in Cotswold, England. It's a light, easy breezy read but sometimes that's just what you need - especially after a heavy read. I'm a sucker for any book set in a book shop!

7. Educated by Tara Westover - This was such an engrossing memoir about a woman that grew up in a family that took an extreme interpretation of the Mormon faith. her parents didn't put them in school but they did not home school them either. Instead they were put to work and asked to do work that put their lives in danger. Her parents' distrust of and paranoia about the government and medical profession is baffling. It was hard to read about the abuse the author suffered but she did find a way to educated herself, and through her education she began to come to terms with the abuse she suffered.

8. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner - This memoir was one of the most heart-breaking books I have ever read. It’s about a woman’s experience growing up in a religious cult in Mexico. Her parents belonged to a polygamous sect of the Mormon church. It was so difficult to read about the poverty and abuse that this woman and her family experienced. I found myself laying awake at night, thinking about what her and her siblings went through. It’s hard to understand how her mother could have chosen this life and subjected her children to such misery. But even though she could have harbored feelings of resentment for her mom, she writes from a place of acceptance and forgiveness. Because of the way my holds became available at the library, I read this immediately after reading Educated. I do not recommend reading these back-to-back!!

9. The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne - This novel is about Cyril Avery, an Irish boy born out of wedlock. He gets adopted by a wealthy, eccentric couple and this novel follows his life. Cyril is such a sweet, likeable character. This is one of those books where you are sad when they end because you don't want to say goodbye to the characters!

So 9 is an odd number to end on but I don't want to force myself to add another book to this list just to round it out to an even number!

What were your best reads of 2018?


Charbelle said...

I need to tally up how many I've read this year. I too pick books over TV. Yesterday I was home sick and I read 3 books. Michael doesn't understand how I can just sit and read all day long but when it's a good story, I would much rather read than watch TV!

Jeanie said...

I just started Educated and Commonwealth is on my pile. I have to read the one about love in a book store. Because it's the Cotswolds, which I decided this fall might be the most beautiful place on earth!

Stephany said...

I'm so impressed that you've read 88 books this year AND have a baby! It just goes to show that when you make time for reading, you get a lot of reading in!

I read The Sound of Gravel last year and it made my top 10 list. It was SUCH a brutal story, the kind that you can't believe is real life! But Ruth Wariner has such a way with words, which is astounding given her upbringing. I read it with my book club, and it's a book we bring up time and again.

I'm currently putting together my favorite reads of 2018 and I'm still not sure which one I'll pick as my favorite. I really loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, The Kiss Quotient, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Becoming.

Gracie said...

I think Do No Harm (an oldie but goodie) was my favorite book for this year. But I actually read less and did more art this year than past years. That's a good thing, as I'd gotten away from art recently, mostly due to exhaustion!

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I think Commonwealth and Alternate Side sound like two I would enjoy. I'm having a hard time remembering the books I read this year. I know I read quite a few while on our hot trips, and a giant stack over the summer, but I didn't write down the names of all of them (which I am going to try to remember to do in 2019).

One I really enjoyed this year was The Domesticated Brain. I love brain science/ behavioral science books, so that is usually what I reach for in a book store. I can't get enough! I also love the nutrition science books, so I currently have my eye on The Plant Paradox, since I have a Chapters/Indigo gift card from Christmas.

Another book I loved this year was The Gender Game, which is a young-adult novel that I read this summer more for work than for my own enjoyment. That being said, I thought it was excellent, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series, and reading this first one aloud to my students to get them hooked into a series (which I love to do, and is totally a sneaky, but awesome way to get them to read more).

Amber said...

Love your best books list every year! I have read 5 of the 9 you have on your list and really really enjoyed 4 of the 5. I didn't love Alternate Side even though I have loved other Quindlen books. I will definitely add your other recommendations to my TBR list!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this list. I also had a baby this year, but didn't manage to read many books. Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer is an older book I read this year, but reminds me of two of the books on your list (Educated and The Sound of Gravel). The best book I read that was published in 2018 was Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful by Stephanie Wittels Wachs. More people should read this book! I also read Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne to my daughter, and it is just adorable. I'm trying to read children's classics I haven't read before by reading them to her before bed (she doesn't pay much attention now), but it is slow going because we can only make it through 2-3 pages. Better than nothing!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

Some of my favorite books this year were Wonder, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, Ghost Boys, We're Going to Need More Wine, and Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? I read so many books so every time when I look back at what I read I sometimes give different answers depending on my mood.

San said...

Oh, I love that Every Note Played made it on your best of 2018 book list... it was my first book of 2019 and I loved it.