Now that I have re-established myself as a bookworm, many of my friends have asked me for book recommendations or what my favorite books were from the last year. When looking for new material, it’s always easiest to ask a friend for what they’ve enjoyed rather than hunting through the vast array of options available to the modern day human thanks to the seemingly endless stacks of the internet. Between extensive interlibrary loan opportunities and the rise of ebooks and audiobooks with Kindle and Audible it can be extremely overwhelming to pick a new book if you don’t have some basic ideas about what type of book you’re looking for.
With that being said, here are a few of my favorite books of 2018. I did a pretty good job of getting some non-fiction in the mix, but I was definitely fiction-heavy last year. My goal for 2019 is to increase my non-fiction book count by at least 5. I think I’ll meet that as the bulk of my Black Friday shopping spree was purchased with that goal in mind.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
I loved this one because I felt like it did a great job giving me an insider’s view into a cultural background different from my own. I don’t know what it’s like to experience our current culture of officer involved shootings as a person of color, but Angie Thomas did a fantastic job bringing readers into Starr’s world, making it accessible to all and giving readers a great opportunity to learn empathy for those with lives unlike our own. The story was so engaging and I really felt like I was there with her throughout this tumultuous experience, even if it was only fiction for me and it’s reality for many people in our nation.
Noteworthy – Riley Redgate
This one was basically She’s The Man but with an elite boarding school a capella group instead of boys varsity soccer. Jordan has to balance being a girl during the day while dressing up as a guy in order to keep her position in the singing group. Of course hilarious shenanigans ensue because one person cannot be in two places at once! This one was very entertaining. I love music and I’m also an Alto 2, so I could totally feel for Jordan not being able to get the leads in plays because they’re pitched too high. Becoming a Tenor 1 steal the show? Now that I can get behind.
Stalking Jack the Ripper & Sequels – Kerri Maniscalco
Stalking Jack the Ripper managed to combine my love of mystery and historical fiction with a splash of romance. Audrey Rose is a teenager in 1880’s London, secretly studying forensics as a coroner under her Uncle and ends up assisting him and his other apprentice, Thomas, during the Ripper murders which plague the London populace. There’s a little bit for everyone in these as Audrey tries to pursue her own wishes for her life while also not bringing shame on her family for not being a proper lady in waiting according to the current aristocratic demands of young women. Books two and three are also great playing off of Dracula/Vampire hunters and Harry Houdini, but with a murder-y twist! I love this series. Audrey Rose’s pursuit of what she wants in such a stuffy, aristocratic culture really makes me happy. I think I would’ve found myself in just as much trouble as she does if I was expected to go to tea parties and sew all the time too!
One of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus
Think The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars. 5 kids go into detention, but only 4 come out alive. Who killed Simon? The remaining 4 have to figure out if it was one of them, or an outsider all the while navigating the gossip site that Simon ran which revealed all kinds of dirt on them and their classmates. I loved how this one kept me guessing the whole time. It switches between the points of view of the detention crew, so you’re always learning more about the situation thanks to their different clues and experiences!
Save the Date – Morgan Matson
This one is just a hilarious adventure of wedding craziness where anything that could go wrong does go wrong. Charlie is the youngest of five and her whole family is coming home for her big sister’s wedding which will be taking place in the backyard. When the wedding coordinator turns out to be a giant train wreck, Charlie along with her friends and family have to get very creative in order to give her sister the wedding she deserves! This one reminded me of Father of the Bride. It had that same type of levity while still giving you those warm fuzzies that come with a wedding story.
Windfall – Jennifer E. Smith
What would you do if you won the lottery on your 18th birthday? When Alice buys her best friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his birthday and he wins, the two are thrown into a shockingly different new reality where suddenly money can change everything. I can’t imagine what I would’ve done with 150-ish million dollars as a senior in high school, but I think these guys do about as well as one could expect!
Favorite Christian Non-Fiction
Party of One – Joy Beth Smith
This book is a fantastic read for all Christian ladies, not just the single ones. Joy Beth is so funny and she brings up a wide variety of important points within the book regarding singleness and how to live a God honoring life no matter if you’re living the life you dreamed to or not. She analyzes and questions a lot of church norms that inherently exclude single women that do not need to exist, which I love. There’s lots to learn from this book for everyone, especially on how we as the church can better love the single ladies in our lives.
Church History in Plain Language – Bruce Shelley
This book has been a labor of love over the last 1.5-2 years. I finally finished it last fall. It is a basic narrative history account of the church starting with the early church immediately after Jesus went back to heaven and ends with modern day trends. Shelley does a great job making the history easy to read while still being very educational for the history nerd in me. I enjoyed taking the time to back up and see the way the Church has evolved since the days of the early church, through Catholicism’s claim on it and the Reformation all the way to today. It’s always good to be reminded of where you came from.
The Death of Expertise – Tom Nichols
In the age of Google it’s so easy to think that if you can search something on the internet you’re as smart as someone who has formally studied a topic. Nichols refutes this point, methodically touching on various points of contention in today’s society where people think they’re smarter than the experts, and what that means for America. As someone who values intelligence and honors the time and effort people have put into their studies, I loved this book for the way it attacked the fallacy that everyone is the same and all opinions are equal. Sometimes opinions are not equal, because people have different educational backgrounds, and that’s okay.
The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory – John Seabrook
As a lover of pop music, this was the music history book of my dreams. Seabrook breaks down the hallmarks of a hit pop song and then brings you into the world of song production by going into the studio with the likes of Max Martin and his many assistants. He tells the stories of how songs like Oops I Did It Again, I Want It That Way, Umbrella and Since U Been Gone came into the world and the unmistakable traits and song writing patterns that these pop writing geniuses have established to define what makes a hit song. I loved this one because it kind of reminded me of those VH1 episodes Behind the Music, but about the producers in the studio, the ones you don’t see or hear about but are super influential to the music industry.
Classics – Yay or Nay?
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens – Yay (slow beginning)
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – Nay (really weird)
The Jungle – Upton Sinclair Yay (dumb ending)
1984 – George Orwell Yay