December 27, 2018
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Welcome to my yearly post of the favorite books I read this year (make sure to check out past posts from 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014). This year, I had a wonderful year of reading; of the 124 books I read, 23 of those books were 5 star reads for me. This list narrows down those 23 books to the most memorable, but I listed a few extras at the bottom, including a few amazing 4.5 star reads, that I would also highly recommend. Here we go!
Favorite Non-Fiction reads of the year:
Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle: This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, after Boyle's first book Tattoos on the Heart made my favorites list last year. Boyle works with gang members in California who are looking for a way out, and the humanity he paints to this often feared and ostracized group was humbling. Keep writing Boyle - you are a go-to author for me!
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: This book is dense, intense, and very hard to read. At the same time, I was so very thankful I picked up this book - it opened my eyes to the mass incarceration of black men in the United States. While I am sure there are many strong opinions in opposition to her point of view, I thought Alexander presented meticulously researched information in a very straightforward and convincing manner. Very impressed.
The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath: This was a book we read with our entire team at work, and it pushed us to make some significant changes to the way we do things. Talking about the power of creating little moments that catch someone off guard or surprise them in unknown ways, this book is one I go back to over and over. I plan to give the audio version a try in the new year, as I feel like it is time to read it again.
The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie: I spend hours each week either reading to my kids or finding books to read to my kids - reading is the activity I most enjoy doing with them. While books are already a huge part of our family, The Read Aloud Revival gave research-based information that validated what we are already doing, while also giving us tons of new ideas. I have this sitting by my computer and reference it often.
Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga: I absolutely love reading nonfiction books that read like suspense novels and dive deep into one specific topic. This book looks at the deaths of seven indigenous students from one town in Canada, deaths which were the result of racism and an utter lack of support for this people group. Most shocking? This occurred recently, between 2000-2011.
Remember God by Annie Downs: I have read quite a few of Annie Downs books over the years, and it is a lot of fun to see authors grow and push themselves in new ways. I could just really feel Annie's depth of emotion, and I often got the "me too" feeling, even though our situations may be different. She was so gut-wrenchingly honest - it was a breath of fresh air. Go Annie go!
Favorite Fiction reads of the year:
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt: This middle great book was the first book I read in 2018, and it stuck with me all year. A follow-up to The Wednesday Wars (another of my favorite books), this book looks at a boy growing up and figuring out family, friends, grief, abuse, and more. It is touching and gives you hope. Schmidt is one of my favorite authors, and I hope to read more of his back-list soon.
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows: Gosh, this audiobook is so much fun. I have recommended it to so many people in audiobook form, and so many came back to tell me how much they loved it as well. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and I didn't want it to end.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman: A popular book on many favorite lists in 2017, I grabbed it this past year and really enjoyed this darker look at humanity and small town life. I was amazed by the way Backman portrayed the many different complicated lives of those from the hockey town of Beartown. This book isn't happy go lucky; however, I just loved the story, the character development, and the manner that they story as told.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang: This middle grade read is showing up everywhere, and I'm not surprised at all! Based on her own upbringing, Yang details the life of a family of Chinese immigrants managing a hotel in America, telling the story from the perspective of the 10-year old daughter. This book was really eye opening about immigration, racism, coming-of-age, and more. It is also fun, hopeful, and just makes you feel good. I hope Yang will write more soon!
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: This book! Gosh, I just loved it. Based on her own family's Holocaust story, Hunter traces five siblings and their parents in Poland during WWII. Each chapter alternates back and forth from the different perspectives, which adds so many layers to the story. This book also isn't necessarily happy, as the subject matter is so very intense, but I just loved every second of reading it. I also loved hearing Hunter talk about her book on a recent episode of What Should I Read Next - fascinating.
The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne: If I had to pick a very top book of the year, this would be it. This is a sweeping novel following a boy from a very young age throughout his entire life growing up in Ireland. It's hard to even put this book into words - it was just fantastic. I finished the last page and wanted to start again. This isn't your light beach read, but it is worth curling up with this expansive novel this coming winter.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: I seem to have a theme in books I enjoyed this year: books that span a long time frame, aren't necessarily happy reads, but left me with a sense of hopefulness in the end. This falls into that category, looking specifically at a young girl growing up in Alaska under an abusive and mentally ill father. Hannah is one of my favorite authors, and I just loved her newest.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: I am really into fantasy these days - but don't worry, I'm not recommending a 1000 page, multi-book intense series (though I do enjoy those at times). Strange the Dreamer (and its sequel Muse of Nightmares, which was also a 5 star read for me) follows the lives of a boy and a girl from two very different backgrounds whose lives intersect, as they hope to transcend the violence of their pasts. I was a big fan Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, and I think this is even better.