My 10 Best Books 2018
The older I get, the more voracious my appetite for books has become. According to my GoodReads profile, I have read a total of 53 books in 2018…nearly one book every week! That is, by far, the most I have ever read in any given year. Perhaps my sudden thirst for reading is because my own words, on the importance of being a good reading example for my kids, echo in my mind or perhaps it is because I have come to find reading as my new favorite way to relax and unwind (in addition to watching Netflix and Amazon Prime once the kids are in bed). Or it could be the fact that this blog has been severely neglected this past year, giving me much more free time to read. Any way you slice it, this past year has been one of growth as I have enjoyed beautiful novels while also being challenged by many nonfiction reads.
Before I share what I thought were the best books of 2018 I read, I feel like I need to warn you a bit on my preferred genres. I love Historical Fiction most of all, so most of my favorite fiction books will obviously be historically-based. Fantasy is not my favorite genre, although I have read a few fantasy books this year, and you will not find a single Sci-Fi book on this list. I also prefer to know as little about the book as possible before reading. I don’t read back covers or flaps and I get my book lists primarily from friends, people I follow on GoodReads or other social media. Most of the nonfiction books that I select are in order to challenge me in my faith and in my parenting.
I prefer to read real books (no Kindle for me, thank you) and very rarely buy books. I use our local library on a weekly basis. If our library doesn’t have a book I want to read, they can often get it through interlibrary loan.
So without further ado, here are the 10 best books that I read in 2018. Keep in mind, these are books that I have read for my own pleasure and personal growth. I’ve included a few I read aloud to my boys as well.
Best Fiction Books:
1: As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
This was my favorite fiction read for all of 2018. I love Susan Meissner’s writing (I have devoured Secrets of a Charmed Life, A Fall of Marigolds, and A Bridge Across the Ocean) and this one was so hauntingly beautiful. The book centers around the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and its impact in Philadelphia specifically. After sharing about how much I enjoyed this book on Facebook, I also learned from a great aunt that my own great-great grandparents died from the Spanish Flu and my great grandmother had to live with relatives. I cannot imagine the heartbreak and devastation that so many faced.
2. Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan
Who doesn’t love a real-life love story…especially when the love story involves the most brilliant Christian author and apologist of the 20th Century? This book was breathtakingly beautiful (albeit a bit slow in parts). The book is written in Joy’s voice – her real, broken, headstrong, and at times infuriating voice. There was obviously creative license taken with the book, but I loved how it showed real, messy, complicated love with the overarching theme of God’s love for us. One of the best books of 2018!
3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
A heart-wrenching but important read! I had no idea the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union to those in the Baltic countries during World War II and for about a decade after the end of the war. This historical fiction novel based on true accounts opened my eyes in many ways and I found myself captivated with Elena’s character (Lina’s mother) as she exuded such incredible strength and love in the hardest of times. This book is getting ready to be a movie here in a few shorts weeks (under the name of Ashes in the Snow, as not to be confused with the Fifty Shades series).
4. No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert
I read The Hate U Give, Small Great Things, and this book within about a 6-week time frame, not really knowing anything about any of them. This book gently (but at times, uncomfortably) approaches the issue of modern day racism in suburban America through an engaging story line involving the very different lives of three women.
I enjoyed this book the most out of the three because it included an element of faith (Small Great Things was a close second and although I was challenged by The Hate U Give, I cannot recommend it (especially as a YA book) because of the amount of language, drugs, and sexual references. I love Katie Ganshert’s writing and although this isn’t my favorite of her books (The Art of Losing Yourself and A Broken Kind of Beautiful are my two favorites), this was an important, informative, and thought-provoking read.
5. The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan
I absolutely adored this sweet book. This is yet another World War II historical fiction book (noticing a theme?) yet it is so much lighter and more positive than most others I have read. The Chilbury Ladies Choir is an epistolary novel- written in the form of journals and letters, much like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Where’d You Go, Bernadette, both of which I loved as well.
Best Middle Grade Books:
6. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
My 10-year old son got two copies of this book for Christmas and in order to encourage this super competitive child to want to read over Christmas break, we had a competition between the two of us to see who could finish if first (spoiler alert: we tied). I was amazed with how much I enjoyed this book! It was engaging and had a twist at the end I didn’t see coming! This book isn’t just for kids- adults will enjoy it as well! It is the first in a series of three books, which I also read, but is also great as a stand-alone book.
7. Refugee by Alan Gratz
Even though my boys are old enough to read to themselves, I still read aloud to them nearly every night because we all enjoy it. This book is one that was not necessarily enjoyable to read but it was important. It helped us all to step outside of our comfortable, safe, suburban lives and step into the shoes of people who are truly suffering. The book chronicles three refugee children from three different places and time periods (a Jewish boy fleeing Nazi Germany, a Cuban girl trying to leave Cuba in the 90’s, and a modern-day Syrian boy trying to escape war-torn Syria). No matter your political affiliation, caring for refugees is a matter of empathy, compassion, and humanity. I would recommend it for adults and children 10 and over who are not particularly sensitive to peril (it was a tad intense for my nearly 9-year old).
Best Nonfiction Books 2018:
8. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Quereshi
I have never devoured a nonfiction book as I did this one. I literally could not put it down (and read it in three days), especially in light of the author’s death a year ago after battling stomach cancer for over a year. The book is part autobiography, part testimony, part introduction to Islam, and part overview of Christian apologetics. It was a fascinating and informative read.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is the dedication to his parents: “This book is dedicated to my parents. Ammi and Abba, your undying love for me even when you feel I have sinned against you is second only to God’s love for His children…”
Learning about Nabeel’s upbringing (especially since he was the same ages as I am) helped to demystify my thoughts on Islam and see that we have more commonalities than I have ever realized. Seeing Nabeel’s intellectual testimony unfold throughout the pages of this book challenged me in so many ways.
9. Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman
10. Everybody Always by Bob Goff
If you have not read Love Does by Bob Goff, add that to your list first. But then you’ll want to read this one right afterwards because both books are delightful and inspiring. There is no one quite like Bob Goff and the way he simplifies the message of Jesus is so encouraging. Each chapter is a vignette from Bob’s life and they are short and easy to read in less than 10 minutes.
Runner-Ups For Best Books Of 2018:
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (this would have made my top 10 list but I didn’t have “Biography” as a listed genre – this book impacted me in so many ways)
The More of Less by Joshua Becker (nonfiction book on minimalism and combating consumerism)
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers (modern-day fiction that I loved)
Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult (important novel on modern day racism)
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton (beautiful Historical novel about fleeing Castro’s Cuba)