‘Tis the season for year-end “best of ” lists, so I thought a fun way to hop on the bandwagon with one of my own would be to take a look back at my favorite books from this past year!
Thanks to Good Reads, I keep pretty good track of all of the books I read, and I try to rate and review them, too.
Good Reads also challenges you to select a number of books to ready each year and then tracks your progress. The past 2 years I’ve far exceeded my goal, thanks to commuting and ample reading time, so I got over-eager and bumped my goal up to 80 books this year, from 50 last year. I’m not sure what I was thinking 80 books in a year? That’s roughly 6.5 books a month, or a 1.5 books a week. Even for me that is slightly ambitious. I guess seeing it broken up like that it’s not impossible, but what I didn’t factor in to my goal last year was my discovery of podcasts, which I now listen to sometimes instead of reading (don’t worry, blog post to come on my favs!), and also that I work from home some days, which cuts into my reading time on the train.
So needless to say I’ve only read 44 books this year. OBVIOUSLY THAT’S STILL A LOT OF BOOKS! I’m not disappointed in myself. I mean come on, that’s still a healthy and robust 3.5 books a month, on average. It’s just well below my goal. So next year perhaps I’ll set the bar a bit lower on my reading goal so I know I can beat it. 35 sounds good 🙂
So anyway, during the past year, I’ve read some great stuff, some not-so-great-stuff, and some pretty-darn-okay stuff! This list is going to be my top 8 favorite books from those 44 that I have read in the past year—not all of them necessarily came out in 2018, though.
Hopefully this will give you some interesting reading ideas for yourself or even gift ideas for the book worms in your life!
My top 8 good reads from 2018
- Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich
Do you like big budget Hollwood heist movies? Is “21” your favorite movie from 2008? Then give this book a try. It’s non-fiction, but this isn’t your dry homework assignment type of non-fiction account. It’s narrative non-fiction at its best and feels more like reading the script for a movie than real-life accounts. Rumors abound at some of the truthfulness of certain aspects, but take it with a grain of salt and enjoy.
Here’s the summary from GoodReads: “An exclusive blackjack club came up with a system to take the world. Us most sophisticated casinos for all they were worth. In two years, this ring of card savants earned more than three million dollars. Filled with tense action and incredibly close calls, this is a real-life adventure that could have stepped straight out of a Hollywood film.”
My review: So good! Reads like fiction. Five stars.
2. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
I’ve never really been into the true crime genre before, but this book as fascinating to me on two levels: 1) that it was left unfinished due to the unfortunate and untimely death of the author and 2) that this case , at the time of publishing, was still open. It has since been closed thanks in part due to the investigating of Michelle and largely due to DNA matching that was not available previously.
This book reads part like your favorite cop-drama, and part like a behind the scene’s investigator notebook, complete with lists, author’s notes, editor’s notes, and chapters that just end with no conclusions. It’s morbid, fascinating, and you can’t look away. I’m wondering/hoping if the book will be updated with an epilogue now that the case is closed.
Here’s the summary from GoodReads: “A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.”
My Review: 4 stars (no comment left).
3. Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure By Amy Kaufman
If you love reality TV and/or the Bachelor, run, don’t walk to Amazon and get yourself this book. I’m obsessed with anything that reveals behind the scenes secrets, and this book gives you as close to as a behind-the-camera view of the Bachelor Nation world as you can get without signing up for the show yourself. Author Amy Kaufman interviewed numerous former contestants and producers to get lots of juicy insider scoop, but the book goes beyond just spilling tea–it also discusses WHY people love this show so much and delves into the psychology of reality television, too. I found it delightfully satisfying.
Here’s the GoodRead’s summary: “The first definitive, unauthorized, behind-the-scenes cultural history of the Bachelor franchise, America’s favorite guilty pleasure.[…] Kaufman also explores what our fascination means, culturally: what the show says about the way we view so-called ideal suitors, our subconscious yearning for fairy-tale romance, and how this enduring television show has shaped society’s feelings about love, marriage, and feminism by appealing to a marriage plot that’s as old as Jane Austen”
My review: Five stars. Part inside scoop of our favorite guilty pleasure, part sociological study, I loved reading this book from both a fan and academic perspective. Highly recommend reading this book if you’re a bachelor fan— or if you’re super confused why on earth anyone would ever watch the bachelor!
4. Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon by Melissa Anelli
Do you love Harry Potter? Are you over the age of 18? You’ll probably like this book. Much like the Bachelor Nation book, it takes a deeper look at the culture of Harry Potter and WHY it has been so successful and so enduring. It’s been more than 20 years since the first Harry Potter books were published and the culture surrounding these books, movies, and pop culture in general has not died down, at all. It’s kind of wild to think about. I’ve grown up and continued to enjoy these books and this world for the past 19 years of my own life and there continues to be more added to the universe all the time with the new Fantastic Beasts movies. If you were unsure of the validity of the Harry Potter world as an area of academic study or pop culture relevance, this book should give you an interest read. If you already knew Harry Potter was king, you’ll love diving deep into great read as well.
Here’s the GoodRead’s Summary: “….The Harry Potter books are a triumph of the imagination that did far more than break sales records for all time. They restored the world’s sense of wonder and took on a magical life of their own. Now the series has ended, but the story is not over. With remembrances from J.K. Rowling’s editors, agents, publicists, fans and Rowling herself, Melissa Anelli takes us on a personal journey through every aspect of the Harry Potter phenomenon–from his very first spell to his lasting impact on the way we live the dream.”
My review: Five stars. Such a great book about the hey day of Harry Potter and the fan phenomenon that followed the release of the books and movies. This made me really nostalgic for that time!
5. The Outsider by Stephen King
This is the first book I’ve read by Stephen King, and I picked it up because it called out to me with it’s intriguing cover art from the airport bookstore while we were traveling from New Hampshire. This is a HUGE book, so I decided not to pick it up and lug it through the airport, but bought it later when we returned home. One of the appeals of this book was its length, because it actually took me awhile to read, which was nice. This book started off a little slow and very weird, but it definitely made up for as it went along and the twists and turns started coming fast. I enjoyed this book because it was a lot like a standard cop thriller, but with supernatural twists to it. It was a good way to ease into Stephen King. It wasn’t TOO intense or too scary.
Here is the GoodRead’s Summary:
“An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.
As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can. ”
My review: Four stars. Not at all what I expected, but I’ve never read Stephen king before. I really liked it. A good detective/ police procedural with just a twist of supernatural!
6. The Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard
I think my mom might have recommended this book to me, and it was a quick and great read! I love historical fiction, so if you do as well, you will enjoy this book. I was fascinated because I did not know much of anything about this part of history ( The Manhattan project) or the role that women played in it. Of course there is romance and lots of relationship drama to move the plot along as well, but to be honest that was not as interesting to me as the history.
Here is the GoodRead’s summary: In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes a riveting novel of the everyday women who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II
“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”
My Review: Five stars. So good! I flew this and loved learning about a part of history I was unaware of. The real photos in the book from this time added a lot to make this feel very engrossing. Highly suggest this book if you like historical fiction!
7. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
I’ve been trying to read this book for years–literally, years. For some reason I was never able to get all the way through it. I guess I’m finally “old” enough to appreciate the slightly duller parts, because I finally finished this, and absolutely loved it. I have always love anything about the World’s Fair, so those aspects of the book are just fascinating–if you live in the Chicago area, it’s just so cool to learn more about how this city was shaped by this event. The serial killer plotline, so to speak, has its own layer of fascination, and the two are so intertwined that it definitely reads like a novel at some parts, but it can be a bit of a slog at other times, so this is not a “light” read by any means. Definitely don’t give this to your teenager unless they are in the mold of Hermione Granger. I loved all of the history and learning more about the place I love in now, so I definitely recommend it if you’re one of the few left who haven’t read this yet (no judgement).
Here’s the GoodRead’s Summary: Erik Larson’s gifts as a storyteller are magnificently displayed in this rich narrative of the master builder, the killer, and the great fair that obsessed them both.[…]The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before.
My Review: Five Stars. Finally finished this book after three times of starting this book. I really enjoyed this! Such a good read and I recommend it to anyone who likes history and The macabre! Can’t wait for the movie!
8. Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertelli
I picked this book up after we watched the movie “Love, Simon” and were frankly blown away by how good of a movie it was, both in terms of emotional resonance and artistic cinematography. This movie is extremely relatable for anyone who was a teenager ever, or went to high school ever (so, everyone).
Once I found out the movie was based on a book, I knew I had to read it. The fact that it was a young adult novel did not deter me. I love YA fiction! The book differs a bit from the movie, but was just as good. It’s actually the first book in a sort-of-triology. It’s not a chronological triology, but more of 3 books that exist in the same universe type of triology. I highly recommend this book and the others in the triology to any teenagers in your life, or for yourself if you’re a fan of YA lit.
Here’s the GoodRead’s Summary:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight.[…]
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
My review: A quick and excellent read! I saw the movie too and I liked the movie a bit more, but the book is still very good as well and I think they did it justice in the movie!
Those are 8 of my top Good Reads from 2018–I hope you enjoyed skimming through and maybe finding a new book to add to your to-read list for the near year!
Wondering how to pick your next book? See my tips on choosing your next Good Read!
Feel free to recommend a book to me in the comments!