While I didn’t set any reading goals in 2018, I ended up reading an awful lot of books and a lot of them were really, really good! I’ve found that when I write up book reviews of the books I read, it really allows me to process the information int he book and I remember details and characters much better than I used to when I just read book after book.
Next year, I plan to read a little slower and take my time. I have fewer books that I have been requested to review because I’ve learned to be a little pickier with the books I agree to review. I also plan to read more of the books I already have in the house on my bookshelf, to-read drawer and on my Kindle. I hope I find just as many good books in 2019 as I found in 2018, though!
What were your top books of 2018? Share with me so I can add it to my 2019 to-read list!
Here are my top 2018 picks in the following categories – fiction, historical fiction, biographical, inspirational, historical non-fiction, young adult/children and just for fun.
Leni’s parents are living a great love story – on the outside. Her father was a POW in Vietnam and her mother waited years for him to return. He did, but he was changed and had demons that they tried to chase away with alcohol, changing jobs or changing locations. In a last ditch effort to make her father happy, the family moves to Alaska when Leni is 13 after a friend from the war leaves her dad some land. I was drawn into this book right away. I could see the places where the book took place, which I think helped. I do wonder if those who haven’t seen the beauty of Alaska will enjoy the book as much as someone who has experienced it firsthand.
Clara Kelly leaves Ireland to find a better life for her in America and to send money back home to her family. Wandering the streets, not knowing where to look for work or shelter, she hears someone call her name. Taking a chance, she responds and finds out a Clara Kelly has been hired to become a paid servant at someone’s house in America. Her education and quick thinking land her at the home of Andrew Carnegie, serving as his mother’s lady maid. She keeps her eyes and ears open and learns how things work in the Carnegie’s world, all while keeping her real identity and history a secret. I highly recommend this book to readers who love fiction, especially historical fiction. The characters come to life right away and I really could relate to each of the characters in some way.
Cecilia happens upon a letter in the attic addressed to her from her husband, but to be read upon his death. She doesn’t open it right away, but wants to tell John Paul that she found it first. He tells her over the phone on his business trip that it’s nothing, but his voice and quick return tell her that something important is written in that letter. As soon as she opens and reads it, her world is forever changed by her husband’s secret. The characters came alive very quickly and I would recommend this to lovers of a great fiction story, adults only, though, as there is violence and romance.
As the son of a Major League Baseball pitcher, Paul Tracey not only longs to follow in his father’s footsteps, but loves everything about baseball. One season, a phenom is brought up from the minors and manages to hit almost every time he is up at bat – shattering records left and right. Calico Joe is everyone’s favorite baseball player and that doesn’t set well for Warren Tracey. Paul tries to keep his idolization of Calico Joe to himself, but when his father finds out, the consequences are dire. You don’t have to love baseball to enjoy the story – it’s about parent-child relationships and forgiveness – things we all deal with in life.
Addie can barely keep her temper in check and her brother knows just how to push her buttons, even though they are also best friends. Her mom can’t tolerate their squabble any longer when they fight at her sister’s destination wedding in Ireland. Their fate is to get along while they travel together to Italy to visit Addie’s friend, Lina, or both not play sports for school in the fall. They agree to get along, but just as Addie gets ready for them to leave for Italy, Ian changes the plans – and both of their futures. Love & Luckis a sweet story of siblings, love and friendship. It’s also about the struggle to be free and brave enough to be who you truly are and not what other people want you to be.
Fast forward a few decades and picture a city built on the moon where people have lived most of their lives. Artemis is a tourist attraction, but in order to keep the tourist attraction running, there have to be people who work there. Jazz has lived on the moon since moving there with her father when she was 6 years old. Her father is a welder, but Jazz has chosen to find her own way after squandering her potential, as everyone tells her. She can barely afford a room that is slightly larger than a coffin and works as a runner delivering packages. She needs more money and is offered a deal that she finds hard to turn down. I would recommend Artemis to anyone who enjoyed The Martian or who like books and movies that are light on the sci-fi when telling the story.
Amanda Fox knows her neighbors very well – from watching them out her window, often with a zoom lens on her camera. She knows their comings and goings, their affairs and their names. She is the woman in the window. They really don’t know her, though, as she never steps outside of her apartment in New York City. A traumatic event has left her incapable of dealing with wide, open spaces. Her groceries are delivered to her and her physical therapist and physiatrist both visit her at home. Without a job, she spends her time helping others online with the same ailment since she used to be a therapist, playing chess and watching old movies. Then, a new family moves in with a teenage boy who stops by with a gift. Her world cracks open just a bit. I really connected with the characters and found myself surprised a few times in the book. It was a fun book to read.
Anne and Charles Lindbergh were America’s favorite couple when they were making strides in the aviation front. Together, they charted new routes and went places no airplane had gone before. They both flew and, without Anne, Charles may not have been able to help take aviation as far down its path as he did. However, Anne always fell into Charles’ shadow and his personality would overpower hers even in their personal life. For most of their married life, she was not Anne, she was The Aviator’s Wife. Melanie Benjamin has a gift of bringing history to life and I feel like I really know Anne Morrow Lindbergh now. Lovers of good fiction and historical fiction should add this book to their to-read list!
Four women are waiting to make a new life for themselves after surviving the horrors of being Jewish in Europe during World War II. They have left their home continent to live in the new state of Israel. Without identity papers, they are stuck in a camp for illegal immigrants called Atlit, run by British soldiers. Life is better than it was before, but living in another camp has them yearning for more. Any lover of historical fiction will love this book. The most fascinating part of the book is learning about Atlit and how survivors of death camps were then put in another camp before they could move on with their lives.
The village of Kelegeen in Ireland is struck by the potato famine and each family does what it takes to survive. The first year isn’t so bad as most have pigs or services they can sell to have money for food and rent for the land they work. As each year passes with failing potato crops, starvation, disease and death take over the countryside. A young couple, engaged to be married, set plans in motion to do anything to help their two families survive. Hope is often found in the eyes of the local priest or visiting British doctor, but is hope enough? I was captivated by the story in Kelegeenand will recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I learned a lot about the potato famine and the descriptions of what the people suffered through will stick with me for a long time.
Charlie St. Cloud is pregnant in 1947 and the only thing she feels in control of is the search for her cousin, Rose, who disappeared at the end of the war. Eve Gardiner is a former spy and Charlie’s only link to Rose as the signer of her paperwork. The two women couldn’t be more different, but on the search for Rose they find out they have more in common than either could have believed. Fans of historical fiction will really enjoy this book. It ties together two historical times (WWI and post-WWII) along with a topic that is not often addressed – women spies.
Ruby is an American who found herself in France married to a man she once loved, but hardly sees anymore. As war approaches, she finds herself alone, but not wanting to leave France. Her only “friend” is the girl who lives next door – a Jewish girl. When the girl finds herself alone, too, they decide to stick together, but have to decide what risks they are willing to take – hide or fight. The characters were different than most WWII historical fiction I’ve read and were more complex. Books like Room on Rue Amelie are a good reminder of what has happened in the past and how a single person can be brave and make a huge difference.
Ben Solomon, a survivor of the Nazi invasion of Poland, is watching TV one day in his older years and sees a face he could never forget. The man who lived with his family and then turned his back on them is alive and well and living in Chicago, a pillar of the community. Ben decides to confront the man he knows as Otto, but is known to all of Chicago as Elliot Rosenzweig, only to have Elliot adamantly deny that he is Otto. In fact, he is himself a survivor of Auschwitz and has a tattoo to prove it. However, Ben has people who believe his story – why would he lie? The story is about love, family, loyalty, corruption and justice. Lovers of historical fiction will really enjoy this book.
There are some stories that are almost too amazing to be true. Irena Sendler was part of a network that helped save more than 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto, along with many other teens and adults. As a university student at the time of the German invasion, she and her friends were full of a rebellious spirit that they used for good to help both their Jewish friends and strangers. While Irena focuses on how she was part of a group, she was also one of the leaders and the person who kept the log of children’s true names and families. Irena’s story is one that people need to know. It shows how one person or a group of people can make a huge difference in the lives of others.
I love reading books about the lesser-known parts of history and Fly Girlsfalls right into that category. Early in aviation history, women were making strides alongside men, even though they were often thought of as being not able to fly as well. Amelia Earhart is well-known, but there were other aviators who helped pave her way or flew alongside her to further the advancement of women in aviation. Aviation is a career field where everyone has an even playing field, no matter what gender, race or finances. Either you learn and have the skill to fly or you don’t. Yet, women had to fight to be able to participate in plan races with men. The women’s stories are inspirational and remind the reader that anyone can accomplish any dream when they’re willing to risk everything for it.
Madeleine L’Engle is probably best known as the author of A Wrinkle in Time. However, she was also a wife, mother, believer in God, artist, mentor, speaker, teacher and author of many other books. Her legacy is spread through all these hats she wore, but out of all of them, her faith spread through everything she did. She believed that making art well was in and of itself a show of faith, even if the art did not depict faith. Her views of faith and art, combined with her chasing a writing career when she was a mother of young children put L’Engle ahead of her time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves biographies, loves Madeline L’Engle or who finds it hard to fit in a specific mold (like Christians who enjoy Harry Potter). It is very revealing and thought-provoking.
Malala was the target of a Taliban attack in 2012 when she was only 15 for going to school. She lived in Pakistan in a beautiful valley that was a tourist attraction. Her father was an advocate for education for all, including girls. Her mother didn’t even know how to read, but her father treated her as his equal, unlike many marriages Malala observed around her. Her little brother was able to go and do just about anything he wanted in a society where a woman could only go out if she was with a male relative – even to play ball on the roof of an apartment building. I Am Malala is an important book for high school age readers and older to read. It gives a personal look to recent historical events and gives a personal view of what happened to peaceful families when the Taliban came into power. I learned a lot from reading this book and am very glad to have read her perspective. Please
As a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl is well-suited to offer any advice on how to deal with suffering in life. As a psychiatrist, he was able to take what he lived through and saw and apply it to his practice, creating a new form of psychiatric therapy – logotherarpy. He wrote about his time in the concentration camp and originally wanted to remain anonymous when Man’s Search for Meaning was published. He wasn’t seeking fame, but to have people understand how having a sense of meaning in a person’s life can make a huge difference. He wrote that they knew when a prisoner had given up because he would start smoking the cigarettes they used for currency. The men who had a purpose to live for, whether people or legacies such as books or research, were more apt to survive no matter what they suffered. I honestly think every adult should read this book. Not just because we need to know the stories of people who survived the Holocaust, but also because it talks about how every person can find meaning in his or her life. Every single person has something to live for. It is a message that needs to be told over and over again.
Motherhood – it is hard, it is real, it is tiresome, it is lonely and, yet, it is so worthwhile. Every mother struggles in some area or another, although we all often try to present ourselves in ways that make it seem like we’ve got it all put together. What if we were real with each other? What if by sharing our struggles, we could learn to lean on one another and learn from one another? The Brave Art of Motherhood: Fight Fear, Gain Confidence, and Find Yourself Againis all about one mom being real in order to give support to the rest of us. None of us are alone. I highly recommend this book to every mother. Even young women who aren’t even mother or married should read it to see how to authentically live a life now – and to help avoid some of the motherhood traps if they become mothers.
What makes people come up with great ideas or become successful entrepreneurs? Adam Grant explores the science behind how people think originally in this book. I found it fascinating and definitely pushed myself in different ways after reading this book.
It seems every leadership and inspirational book I was reading mentioned Make Your Bed as a must-read book. I hadn’t heard about McRaven’s viral commencement speech, but after reading the book, I can understand why his advice was so well received. It has common sense and is to-the-point. I recommend reading it.
In my understanding, the sinking of the Lusitania was a key factor in the United States entering World War I, but history tells a different story. It was two years after the sinking and the deaths of many American citizens that Americans finally fought with their Allies in Europe. The morning the Lusitania left its port in America, a notice from Germany was published in papers warning that “vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or of any of her allies, are liable to destruction.” The ship sailed anyway. There was even British intelligence that could have been used to warn the captain of the Lusitania that a U-boat was near it, but the information was never passed along. Tragedy resulted from both action and inaction. I highly recommend this book to just about every high schooler and adult. It helps explain the exact role the sinking played in history and America’s decision to enter World War I.
Sept. 11, 2001, changed the entire world. For the people of Gander, Newfoundland, the day was a way to change the world in a good way. Once the United States’ airspace was closed that fateful day, planes that were still in the air had to find a place to land. Many were in the middle of crossing the ocean and were diverted to Gander, a familiar checkpoint to pilots who cross the Atlantic. Thousands of people were stranded on the island for days and they found nothing but people who wanted to help them, and the stories are told in The Day the World Came to Town. The true good spirit of humankind is shown by what happened those few days on Newfoundland.
On May 31, 1889, water poured over and broke through a dam releasing water that would damage a countryside and kill thousands of people – the Johnstown Flood. It had been a wet spring and there was a lot of rain released by a strange and powerful storm the night before. However, the dam should have had drainage pipes and should have been managed by the South Fork club members who used the lake behind the dam as a personal retreat space. While nature played its part, the decisions made by the club while rebuilding the dam were the reason there was so much damage and destruction. I learned so much as I had never heard about this flood before. It is a part of American history that should be taught as there are so many lessons that can be learned from the Johnstown Flood.
The Four Tendencies looks at how people meet expectations – internal ones like New Year’s Resolutions and external ones like work deadlines. Upholders meet both fairly easily. Obligers meet external well, but not internal. Need to have outside accountability so internal expectations are external. Questioners only do things for a good reason, which makes all expectations internal. Rebels only do what they want to do when they want to do it. (You can take the quiz to find out who you are here.) https://quiz.gretchenrubin.com/The book explained a lot about who I am and how I work as an Upholder. It gives a lot of tips for each tendency in how to find the ways that work so a person can do what he or she wants to do. It applies to family, friendship, work relationships and even the best way to deal with a doctor/patient relationship. I really think everyone should read this book!
Why do some people survive and others perish after experiencing the same set of circumstances? Why do some people walk out of a jungle after a plane crash and others sit and die? Author Laurence Gonzales digs deep into these questions and provides lessons in Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why. He looks at specific cases to examine scientifically some reasons people tend to survive. His motivation stems from his father’s own survival of both a military plane crash and being a prisoner of war. Maybe survivalism can be passed down through the genes.
We all just want to be heard. At least, that’s what Michael Sorenson builds his book around, with many, many stories to back up his claim. I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationshipsgives readers tips on how to make any relationship better by slowing down and listening in order to validate the person you are talking with. It seems simple, yet it takes practice and intention – and it can change each of your relationships. I would recommend this book to anyone who has friends, coworkers, bosses, children, spouses, significant others, family members … everyone could use the tips in this book!
I am fascinated by personality studies and birth order. Reading Peopleis all about that. While most books just focus on one type of personality test or one idea of birth order traits, Anne Bogel explores many different personality tests in Reading People. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about why you are how you are and why you do what you do, it would help to find out what kind of personality you have. Rather than pick one set idea of personalities, I would recommend a person start with this book and get an overview of several different tests and then delve deeper into specific tests. I may end up buying this book for my bookshelf because I think it will help us all work together better as a family if we understand each other’s personalities.
I started Pax by listening it on a road trip and then read the ending after getting home. Two of my children read it, too, and we all decided it was a great story, but bittersweet. A boy is separated from his fox and decided to find him. The trials of trying to find him again cost both the boy and the fox greatly.
Louisiana Elephante is awoken in the middle of the night by her grandmother, loaded into their car and taken away from the place she has settled into being her home. Used to her grandmother’s eccentricities, Louisiana thinks they will be heading back soon. Her life is turned upside down when she it told they will not be going back, but must forge ahead to break the curse that is on their family in Louisiana’s Way Home. Everything Louisiana knows about the world comes from her grandmother’s perspective – that the county homes and bologna are bad, that her parents were trapeze artists who are dead and that they don’t need a phone. A wonderful tragedy happens on their journey that changes everything for Louisiana. I love the message of this book – terrible tragedy can result in wonderful things happening in the end.
Way of the Warrior Kid tells the story of a boy who is not doing well at school both grade-wise and friend-wise. His uncle visits for the summer and asks if he’s willing to work on the areas he’s weaker in, such as pull-ups, swimming and studying. The boy agrees and his uncle helps him become disciplined and it results in a great start to the next school year. The book is geared toward children in grades 4-8.
Jocko Willink continue to inspire children to get after what they want in life with The Way of the Warrior Kid: Marc’s Mission. Uncle Jake is back to help Marc face a bully. There are great lessons for kids in this book!
Artemis Fowl is the first book in a young adult series. It was interesting, but left me with some questions at the end (which made me read the second book shortly thereafter). Artemis is only 12, but is cunning and finds a way to reach the fairy world to kidnap a leprechaun for ransom. He is already known as a criminal mastermind, yet he deeply cares for his mother and won’t give up hope that his missing father will be found alive.
After reading Artemis Fowl 1, I was left with many questions as to why Artemis was doing what he was doing. The second book, The Arctic Incident, answers those questions and continues the story very nicely. It might be a while before I finish the series, but it is an interesting plot idea.
Beatrice lives in the Abnegation faction of her city, where all the residents are supposed to be selfless. She is only allowed to look in a mirror once a year when her hair is cut. There are four other factions in her city and she must soon choose which one she wants to live in. She loves her family, but she feels out of place in their selfless world. She can venture to Candor where they always tell the truth, Amity where there is peace at all costs, Erudite where the quest for knowledge is held highest or Dauntless where bravery is required. One simple test will tell her where she is best suited, but those results prove she belongs nowhere and everywhere. She’s Divergent. The story moves along quite nicely and kept me guessing as to what was really going on in their world. The book brings up many topics for discussion – human nature, power, friendship, bravery, loyalty, right vs. wrong, a class system and messing with genetics.
_____JUST FOR FUN_____
Warning: If you don’t enjoy or understand satire, please do not read this book! Many Christians try on a daily basis to live a good life. The goal may seem unattainable, as there is a verse that says to try and be perfect. But, there is a Christian cultural standard that can make it feel easier to follow the right path. There seems to be the “right” church, pastor, lifestyle, clothing, media consumption and even Facebook posts to do or be part of if you’re a good Christian in American’s society. How To Be A Perfect Christian brings to light the “Christian culture” and makes fun of it in a clever way. The book is trying to make people look very critically at their own spiritual lives and see if they are actually living what they believe and not just conforming to the current Christian culture.
I remember being very surprised when Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, came out and not only endorsed Trump for President, but predicted he would win. It wasn’t that Adams was a conservative or that he believed in most of Trump’s ideas, he saw what he thought was a master persuader at work and knew it would be effective. In Win Bigly, Adams explains how he came to identify Trump as a master persuader. Anyone interested in politics would enjoy this book on either side of the aisle. It’s not a pro-Trump book, but an explanation of what Trump did that was effective. It also covers how to recognize cognitive dissonance in our own lives and readers will be able to start seeing persuasion tactics in the world around them.