The best books I read in 2018 that you should try in 2019

best books I read in 2018

A couple years back, the incomparable Cassey shared her immense book reading stats thanks to Goodreads. You may or may not know this about me, but I LOVE stats. Anyway, I was jealous that she had reading stats, so I promptly signed up to Goodreads, too.

Last year, I didn’t even manage my reading challenge. Life was chaos with moving, so it was understandable. This year, thanks to Libby and audiobooks, I surpassed it. I read so many great books this year, but these were some of my favorites.

I’ve continued my fascination with speculative fiction (SF) this year, reading tons of great stories. I adore the Binti books because they imagine such a unique universe based on African traditions mixed with the most futuristic science and tech. But most of all, I love that the main character feels so out of place. Whether because of race, background, moving or personal growth, I think we can all identify with struggling to fit in somewhere new, only to realize that this means we don’t fit in at “home” either.

I read TONS of NK Jemisin‘s stuff this year, finally catching up on my backlog of her novels. She has certainly become one of those writers I adore, where I’ll pick up any book she writes. I read The Inheritance Trilogy as well as the Dreamblood Duology. I find her stories so compelling and well told, and I particularly like how women and mothers are depicted. There aren’t any flat characters in her stories, as protagonists and antagonists are well developed and fleshed out to feel real and relatable. While her Broken Earth trilogy was my favorite, I’ve yet to read a bad book from NK Jemisin.

It appears that I read numerous stories this year that challenged preconceived notions of gender. The Left Hand of Darkness is an SF classic, imagining a planet where gender isn’t set. Anyone could become pregnant as a result of sex, and in general and how people interact is totally unexpected. Similarly, The Power highlighted what might happen if women suddenly gained deadly physical power. How would this change interactions with men, or even the whole course of history or the future? My favorite part of this book was the epilogue, turning an exchange between male and female professors on its head in an all too realistic way.

Of course, the Handmaid’s Tale gained all the attention thanks to the show, so I finally caved and read it. Holy crap it was intense. Similarly¬†intense was Vox, which I think struck home for me because of my love of language. How could I live, parent, love, or just exist with only 100 words a day? And how often have I let myself be silenced, or kept quiet instead of using my voice?

I also started the books for The Expanse. They were absolutely necessary to enjoy the TV series, and now I’m hooked on both. Another popular SF book I tried was The Martian, which I found disappointing. But then I tried out Artemis from the same author. What a fun romp of an SF novel. It doesn’t grapple with the heavy themes of the other books above but is a ton of fun to read.

As I explained when I raved about Libby, the app helped me make the jump from listening to podcasts to enjoying audiobooks this year. I only listened to non-fiction ones, but I really enjoyed them.

My all-time favorite was Year of Yes. I loved hearing Shonda Rhimes in my head, and she was such a role model and inspiration for me this year. I particularly loved her reframing of what it means to be successful, saying that whenever she is succeeding in one area of her life, she is failing in another. Attending her kid’s school performance? She was missing the last taping by Sandra Oh on Grey’s Anatomy. Winning awards for her shows? Missing bath times and bedtimes with her kids. There is no real balance for her.

Then I listened to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Thrive. Both covered similar ideas in different ways. While their approaches were polar opposites, they combined to help me realize that popular metrics for success aren’t true or worthwhile. It’s up to each of us how much we let those ideas influence our sense of self-worth, and we can choose how much information, social media or work influence we let in. Thrive in particular helped spark my desire to return to meditation.

So much great writing that I enjoyed this year. I’m glad that I made the commitment to read again before bed every night. I feel more like myself when I have a great book going at any given point in time. Here’s to seeing what 2019 holds. Oh, and be sure to add me as a friend on Goodreads and send me any recommendations for more books you think I’d like.

The best books I read in 2018 that you should try in 2019

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