2018 was a busy year for me. I published The Haunter, wrote its sequel, Ghostapalooza, traveled a lot, tried a bunch of new stuff, and even went to Disneyland. I also read 61 books, down two from 2017 and nine from 2016. But, what my reading year lacked in quantity it made up for in quality because the books I read were all pretty great. I had such amazing book karma in 2018 that I had a very hard time narrowing my list down to ten but I did it, y’all. I DID IT!
I love this annual post because I get to review my reading year AND recommend books, thus combining two of my favorite things: self-reflection and being bossy. (If you want more book recommendations, I’ve got ’em! Check out my past posts from 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 or whoaaa, 2012. Man, I’ve been doing this for a long time.)
My 2018 was a little different from past years in that I let myself read whatever the hell I wanted. Sure, I managed to complete a couple of goal books like We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates (very good) but it was mainly a year full of me cracking open whatever novel or memoir looked enticing in the moment. I think my list reflects that. These are all serious page turners! It was almost like my brain needed to take a break from something in 2018 and these great books provided entertainment, respite from real life, and inspiration. I feel very grateful to have read them all and I hope you find something intriguing on this list. Here we go!
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: When I finished this 720-page long bitterly painful but also beautiful journey, I felt like I’d joined a club: The ‘I Read A Little Life and Survived’ club. Perhaps that’s why I keep seeing people with the shirt or tote bag everywhere now. We did it! We want credit! This novel is not for the faint of heart but man oh man, is it gorgeous. All I can say is: yes, it’s lovely and proceed with caution. (This should also answer your burning “Which Queer Eye Dude is Kendra?” question. Of course I’m Antoni, duh.)
- Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: My friend Kim recommended this to me last January and I devoured it over a weekend. Eleanor is a the best kind of protagonist: quirky, determined, and a little broken. This book might wreck you but I bet you’ll go willingly.
- Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: This is it. This is the book you pack for the flight or the beach day, y’all. It’s SO completely absorbing, you will not be able to put it down. I absolutely lived and breathed it and ignored everything else in my life until I was done. If you like sci-fi, thrillers, mysteries, etc., I think you’ll dig this. See you on the other side.
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: I loved this book so much that I bought it for my mom, my mother-in-law, and a girlfriend, and I recently thrust my own copy into the hands of another friend with the words, “Trust me.” It’s evocative and gorgeous and everything you want in a novel. Just read it.
- Becoming by Michelle Obama: Everyone I know was reading this at the same time and guess what? We all loved it. She goes there. Everyone’s fave FLOTUS is candid, reflective, and super inspiring. You might cry while reading this but ultimately you’ll probably feel like I felt: grateful we had her in the White House for eight years and thrilled we still have her voice and galvanizing presence in the world. I can’t wait to see what Michelle Obama will do next.
- The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: This book hits all my sweet spots. The basic premise (I ripped this from Goodreads) is: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It starts in the 1960s and then takes you through five decades of family drama. I got completely swept up in the world and their lives. Highly recommend.
- Dracul by by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker: When my pal Drew told me to read this, I had serious doubts because, I mean, I LOVE Dracula and this is a prequel written by a descendant of Bram Stoker and I just thought, no way is this thing good. However, it is VERY good and Drew was right and I think the lesson here is never doubt a Stoker. Or Drew.
- Noir by Christopher Moore: Since the afternoon I picked up a used copy of You Suck at Powell’s in Portland, Christopher Moore has been one of the very short list of authors I always pre-order. So, when this arrived in the mail, I dropped everything to read it. It did not disappoint! It’s hilarious and full of unique characters you won’t forget any time soon like a dame named Stilton (yes, like the cheese).
- Devil in the White City by Erik Larson: This book has been on my To Read list for years and years but for some reason, it’s hard to get me to read a non-fiction about anything other than self-help or the Tudors. I’m so glad I finally read this. The author somehow makes the Chicago World’s Fair itself as interesting as the serial killer who used it to cover up his murder spree. It’s dark and interesting but you’ll, like, learn something!
- The Outsider by Stephen King: I read three books by my man, Stephen King, this year and enjoyed them all but this was by far my favorite. If you enjoyed the Bill Hodges Trilogy, you will love this! (Holly Gibney even makes an appearance.) It has everything you’d expect from King: a murder, a mystery, and maybe something supernatural going on underneath it all.
Also, I’m adding a new category this year. It didn’t feel right to include these titles in my Top 10 (because like what if they bribed me to get on my little blog hahaha!) but I read some amazing books by people I’m lucky enough to know this year. They’re all so freaking fantastic! You should definitely check these out:
- Life Unscripted: Use Improv Principles to Get Unstuck, Boost Confidence, and Transform Your Life by Dan O’Connor and Jeff Katzman: Not just for improvisers! I got SO much out of it, y’all.
- Bare Bones Stones: A Welcome Guide to Curling by Joel Ingersoll: Funny and informative, like Joel himself!
- Burn and Stray (The Four Sisters Series) by Elissa Sussman: YA at its best: engaging and magical.
- Nobody Cares by Anne T. Donahue: You will care. You will care A LOT.
- How to Be Alone: If You Want To, and Even If You Don’t by Lane Moore: Somehow both charmingly fascinating and relatable AF.
And that is my 2018 list. I wish you great books and happy reading in 2019!
*I had to include a couple of Honorable Mentions in the pic because I loaned so many of these out! Also: our pet pig wanted to be in the photo. He’s sassy.