We’ll talk tomorrow about my 2018 to-read list. (I have good news and bad news.) But before I grade myself on the reading homework I assigned myself in 2018, I want to tell you about my favorite books of 2018. There’s no real criteria for this list (like when it was published or the genre); this list is just the ten best books I read this year.
If you’re looking for a good read to start 2019, I’d wholeheartedly recommend these books:
The Immortalist by Chloe Benjamin
The Immortalists is engaging, creative fiction. The story centers around four children who go see a fortune teller when they’re young; during the visit, they each learn the day they will die. As they grow, their dates loom in the back of their heads, dictating and leading them more than they could ever imagine. This book made me laugh and cry, watching the way each child’s life was ruined or enhanced by a random visit to a fortune teller.
The Year of Less by Cait Flanders
I loved The Year of Less by Cait Flanders for what it encouraged me to do. Flanders is a finance blogger who decided to try to live one year without purchasing things. Her specific rules are in the book, but she was really disciplined about what she brought into her home, how she spent her money, and what she surrounded herself with. She was also really good at processing the emotions behind why she was spending money. It spurred lots of good change in our house and made me re-think some habits. This book isn’t exceptionally well-written or exciting, but it really influenced me this year. (And it’s shaping my 2019–more on that next week.)
Dopesick by Beth Macy
I think this should be required reading. Dopesick by Beth Macy looks at the way a drug company addicted America through ignorance, lying, and greed. The heartbreaking stories of kids and adults used as pawns by a pharmaceutical company will infuriate you and make you look at the addiction epidemic with new eyes.
Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan
I like Kelly Corrigan because she’s a good storyteller, but I love her because she’s such a talented writer. Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say is thoughtful and wise. I’ll read anything Corrigan writes and become better from it. If your attention span isn’t the greatest, you can pick this one up and read one chapter/essay without having to invest in the whole book immediately.
Barking to the Choir by Gregory Boyle
If we truly want to follow Jesus, we need to spend more time and thought on the people our world tells us are not worthy. Gregory Boyle does that well and he writes about his lessons and experiences with humor and mercy. I love Boyle. I borrowed this one from the library but had to stop after the first chapter and buy my own copy–there was just too much that needed underlined, highlighted, and notated. You’ll read this one again and again.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An American Marriage is fiction, but it’s full of social justice issues, relationship lessons, and so much reality about the state of race in America that it will feel real. I often want happy endings in my books–I like the happy even when it feels cheesy–but there was no way this realistic look at injustice and racism could end the way I longed for. I think about this book all the time, and I think it will stick with you too.
Everything is Horrible and Wonderful by Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Addiction is addiction is addiction. Wittels Wachs writes about her brilliant, kind, funny brother as he descends into a heroin addiction that will eventually kill him. Writing from a place of honesty is hard when you want to strangle this addicted person whom you love so much, but she does it really well; you mourn her loss like it’s your own. Reading about addiction, especially books like this, helps to get rid of the stigma of what an addict looks like and gets us closer to helping people with compassion and mercy. I loved Everything is Horrible and Wonderful.
The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J. Bargerhuff
I used The Most Misused Stories in the Bible (and The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by the same author) in my morning Bible time this year and learned so much. Bargerhuff writes well-researched and accessible essays on popular Bible teachings and how we’ve been taught wrong or incomplete truths from them. I really enjoyed these two books and keep them handy for reference when I’m writing. (I bought these two plus Out of Context: How to Avoid Misinterpreting the Bible by Richard L. Schultz for about $30 and have been really challenged by all of them.)
The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington
I found this on my library’s audiobook app and joined the waitlist thinking it was a true crime novel (I love true crime and don’t read as much of it as I would like). Once it came available, I quickly realized I was listening to a book on social injustice and could not stop. If our criminal justice system or systematic racism interests you (it should), I’d highly recommend you read this book. It would make a good companion piece to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Learning the history of how coroners came to be and the way forensic science has helped (and hurt) so many people will outrage you. At one point, I did have to stop the recording because I was just so, so brokenhearted. This book will overwhelm you and leave you changed.
Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler
Kate Bowler is clever and funny. Reading this quick book was a highlight for me because she shares hard stories with wisdom and honesty. She’s a professor at Duke Divinity School and has studied the prosperity gospel for years. Weaving her diagnosis of stage four cancer at 30-something and her faith, Bowler teaches us how to be better humans to each other. I loved this book, and I think you will too. (Bonus: We chose this as our next Not Terrible book club selection and will release an episode in March discussing it. If you want to read it in preparation for that episode, that would be cool.)
*For some reason, I thought I wrote about my favorite books every year, but I’ve only done it once, in 2015. What a disgrace, Mary. So disappointing. But if you’re interested, here are my favorite books from 2015.
*DISCLOSURE: AFFILIATE LINKS USED.
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