One of my 2018 resolutions was to read more than ever before. I set a goal at the beginning of the year to finish a book a week — including the reading for my graduate program. I managed to finish forty books in the year.
It was a fun challenge, and I enjoyed watching my bookshelf grow with titles by authors I’d never known before. I also dove deep into research-based books for school. This stack was both daunting and enlightening, and I spent many autumn afternoons reading and scribbling notes at the Senate House library.
In 2019, I will be slowing my pace, reading a smaller and more curated list of books. (Ironically, reading a book a week means I’ve forgotten many of the stories already). Before I begin that list though, here are my favorite books from 2018. If you haven’t read them already, I encourage you to add them to your list.
Favorite Memoir: I Am, I Am, I Am, Maggie O’Farrell
This was my last read of the year and one I was excited to finally get my hands on. I love O’Farrell’s style and voice, and I loved the structure of this memoir (it’s split into seventeen chapters about seventeen near-death experiences).
Favorite New Author: The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
What is it with authors named Anne/Annie? Annie Dillard has now joined Anne Lamott on my shelf of ‘guide-writing.’ What I mean by this is that she somehow speaks to my depths and helps to remind me why I am writing. It is her style and voices like hers that make me want to do this work. I expect I will be reading more of her in 2019.
Favorite Novel: The Water Cure, Sophie MacKintosh
I picked up this book because I fell in love with the haunting cover. And I’m so glad I did. This is one I read over the summer. It’s best devoured on a beach or over a few lazy afternoons.
Favorite “This Should Be Required Reading” Book: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
Living in London, it was hard to get my hands on a copy of Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here. WIt’s expensive on Amazon and none of the city libraries had a copy when I was searching, but I came across Eddo-Lodge’s book and could not have been more thrilled.
Most Transformative Book: Echo of the Soul,J. Phillip Newell
This book was recommended in a Facebook group, of all places. I’m still processing much of the content, but this book has been one of the most spiritually transformative pieces of literature I’ve ever read. Newell’s books now sit on the same shelf as Richard Rohr in our home.
Most Underwhelming Book: The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
I wouldn’t normally include a book I didn’t like but, because of how celebrated Joan Didion is, I want to list this one. This was the first book I’ve read from Didion, and I honestly didn’t love it. While she is clearly a talented writer and lives up to her accolades in many ways, I failed to connect with her in this memoir. Maybe I need to give it a second look or try something else by her, but I’m failing to understand all the hype thus far. I’d love to hear feedback from any Joan fans!
Other Books I Loved:
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Bleaker Island, Nell Stevens
Braving the Wilderness, Brené BrownE
Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot
Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamott
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
Priestdaddy, Patricia Lockwood
Pure, Linda Kay Klein
Repeal the 8th, Una Mullally
Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, Tina Schermer Sellers
The Line Becomes a River, Francisco Cantú
The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen, Lisa Gungor
The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti
To Show and Tell, Phillip Lopate
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Jeanette Winterson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
Sarah’s Keys, Tatiana de Rosnay
The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee