Books, Featured, Living Books

Best Books of 2018

It’s my favorite time of year–best books of 2018 lists are out!

I love spending the days between Christmas and New Year’s looking at “Best of” lists but especially book lists. I add a ton of new ideas to my “to-be-read” list. This year I am posting my own favorite reads of 2018 below as well.

Here are a few with great “best books of 2018” lists to get you started:

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Goodreads has changed my reading life.

Goodreads is a social site for readers where you can set goals, read reviews, track your reading list and to-be-read list and generally geek out on all things bookish.

It has changed my reading life by giving me a one-stop shop for my reading wish list. I can access it when I am at the library looking for something to read. I can also quickly add to it when I read about a new book that I want to remember.

Goodreads also lets me keep up with good friends and fellow readers so I know their thoughts on the latest reads and can share suggestions. I also like to glance at the ratings of books I am finding trouble getting in to. If it only has 3 stars, then I probably won’t be finishing it.

I don’t review every book I read, and I am really stingy with my stars. However, I now have a complete list of all the books I read this year (50 so far), which lets me give you a list of my favorites! These are in no particular order and include fiction and non-fiction titles.

My favorite books read in 2018

Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

“In Mozart’s Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history’s most cherished composers and one of earth’s most common birds. “

Did you know Mozart had a pet starling? Did you know that Shakespeare is inadvertently responsible for the starling infestation of North America? This book is part story and part natural history. The author befriends her own pet starling, Carmen, and shares about their interactions in addition to music history, science and language. If you love nature, birds or music, you will like this sweet book.

The Loyal Son: The War in Benjamin Franklin’s House by Daniel Mark Epstein

“The dramatic story of a founding father, his illegitimate son, and the tragedy of their conflict during the American Revolution.”

I enjoy American history and watched Turn last year about Washington’s spy network. This book turned up in the midst of my American Revolution obsession and it did not disappoint. I had no idea that Benjamin Franklin’s own son was a Loyalist governor. While some of the things I learned about old Ben were a bit surprising, I had new appreciation for his own loss from the war. I also gained a new understanding for the Loyalist cause during the war and the ways individual families were affected by Americas’ first civil war.

 

Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

The first two stories of a masterwork once thought lost, written by a pre-WWII bestselling author who was deported to Auschwitz and died before her work could be completed.

I discovered the Suite Francaise movie on Netflix and enjoyed the story of a French woman who falls in love with a German soldier quartered in her home. I learned that the story was part of a longer work by an author who lived in the war and was caught up in its clutches. The first part of the book is set in the desperate days as multiple people flee Paris and the various experiences they encounter. The second story is the love story. They are both beautiful and tragic. If you enjoy WWII stories and want something written in the period itself, you will love this book.

The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane

“A unique travelogue that will intrigue readers of natural history and adventure, The Wild Places solidifies Macfarlane’s reputation as a young writer to watch.”

This was the kind of book you savor. A blend of beautiful words and keen insight and love for nature. The author travels around Britain in search of its remote “wild” places. He climbs trees and mountains, sleeps in stone crags and snowy peaks, walks miles on weathered and forgotten places and takes you along for the journey. His descriptions of nature and of the language that is imbued by nature are unlike any I have ever read. I will be looking up more of his work. The place names alone are worth picking up the book for: Ben Hope, Orford Ness, Ynys Enlli, Rannoch Moor. I just want to curl up in each one.

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah

The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature

It has been a long time since a book made me cry. Kristen Hannah’s The Great Alone is both an ode to her home state Alaska and a searing portrait of a family in crisis. Through family and friends I know more than I would like about abuse and survivalism. Both of these are central to the story here. But more than that there is also hope, Love, and forgiveness. She somehow uncovers both the positive and the negative sides of each of these. Covering about a decade in the life of young adult Lenora Albright, the book is beautifully written and drives a knife straight through you so smoothly you don’t know until it twists.

“Fear, Leni learned, was not the small, dark closet she’d always imagined: walls pressed in close, a ceiling you bumped your head on, a floor cold to the touch.”

 

Love & Ruin by Paula McClain

The bestselling author of The Paris Wife returns to the subject of Ernest Hemingway in a novel about his passionate, stormy marriage to Martha Gellhorn—a fiercely independent, ambitious young woman who would become one of the greatest war correspondents of the twentieth century

A few months ago I read an article in Town & Country while sitting in a doctor’s office about Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s 3rd wife. The story was a travel piece visiting Hemingway’s Cuban retreat, where he and Martha lived. It mentioned her career as a war correspondent. The author of the story was Paula McClain and Love and Ruin is her book exploring the relationship between the two writers and this amazing woman’s life. It is lyrically written with language that cuts to the heart of what must have been a passionate relationship between two Strong individuals. Well researched and told in a voice similar to Martha’s own stories, I immensely enjoyed this book. It also inspired me to give Hemingway another go so I read For Whom The Bell Tolls, which is mentioned in this book.

 

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

“From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, a novel about what it takes to become a vampire”

The latest addition to historian-turned-author Deborah Harkness’ World of All Souls,  Time’s Convert turns the corner to open a new array of story options. The first 3 books primarily told the story of vampire Matthew de Clermont and witch Diana Bishop. The stories were richly wrapped in history and books. This new story is no exception other than the primary focus is on Marcus, a “son” of Matthew’s and his love Phoebe, who is becoming a vampire by choice. The story deftly weaves three main strands of Marcus, Phoebe and Diana/Matthew, continuing the story that people fell in love with while opening the way to exciting new options.

Other than a foray into the Twilight world many years ago I am not a typical fan of this genre; however Harkness overcomes my concerns with beautiful and rich writing and a historian’s eye view of the world. Start with A Discovery of Witches if you are new to the series– also coming to a TV near you via the Sundance Channel.

 

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

This is a moving book about a world class pianist who develops ALS. He faces the horrible disease in graphic detail alongside his estranged family. The author of Still Alice returns to the idea of someone facing an unexpected battle with their own mortality at an early age. This was not an easy book to read but it was very honest and frank with an important subject which will face us all-the hands on care of a dying loved one. ALS is a horrible, horrible disease. I have new appreciation for those who face it and their loved ones.

The World in a Grain by Vince Beiser

“The gripping story of the most important overlooked commodity in the world–sand–and the crucial role it plays in our lives.

I know what you are thinking . . . a book about sand, really? Who knew? That phrase was included in two of the jacket quotes and it sums up my thoughts as well. This book is both fascinating and at times disturbing. I had never really thought about all the ways sand is literally the foundation of modern life from the roads we drive on, the buildings we live in, the glass we look through, the screens and processors that run our devices and even more. Every chapter had eye opening information and led to questions about our world and how we use all of our resources because if we can literally run out of usable sand maybe we need to think about things more.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

In a narrative as mysterious as memory itself – at once both shadowed and luminous – Warlight is a vivid, thrilling novel of violence and love, intrigue and desire.

To be honest, this one started slow for me and I wasn’t sure I was going to keep up with it. About 100 pages in, it finally turned a corner for me ( note those first 100 pages end up being important so don’t skip them). Written by the author of The English Patient, the setting of the story in the murky years after the war when lives are returning to “new normal” but repercussions remain in the shadows was an interesting choice. A nice change from stories set in the actual war period. I’m still gathering my thoughts on this one but was ultimately enchanted by its unveiling of the story at its heart.

 

If you have a list of your favorite reads of 2018, please leave a comment below!

 

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