I remember being a few years out of college and one day realizing that I never read good books. Not just good books . . . ANY books! After immersing myself in great literature for four years, then getting a Master’s degree in English, I think I was burned out on reading.
So, on the day of my realization, I set a reading goal for myself. I would read one book a month. Twelve books in a year. It felt right for that time in my life, and it was a goal I kept tucked away in the back of my mind for many years as I was raising three little girls and teaching college students.
It’s not that I wasn’t reading—I read thousands of pages of mostly terrible student essays back then. But I always had a goal to read one book a month. Sometimes I did it; sometimes I didn’t.
I joined Goodreads in 2017, having no idea how many books I could actually read in a year. (Remember, I had never challenged myself to read more than one book a month!) But that year I kept track and read 34 books. I was pretty proud of myself.
This year, I signed up for the Goodreads reading challenge and, thanks to some prodding from my friend, Sarah, set a goal to read 50 books in 2018. I actually surpassed that goal! So far, one week into December, I’ve read 53 books and will probably finish two more before the end of the year.
I am officially hooked on reading.
How did I read so many books, you ask? Well, Goodreads has definitely helped. I keep a “Want to Read” list going, so when I don’t know what to read, I look there. I also usually have two or three books going at one time—one in print, one on my tablet, and a couple on audio.
Speaking of which, I finally gave in and started listening to audio books. I usually listen as I’m getting ready in the morning or when I’m driving in my car. It’s amazing how much reading you can get in by using those snippets of time. I use free reading apps (Hoopla, Overdrive, and Libby) that link with my local library, so I can get these audio books for free.
I also started a book club this year, so once a month I’m reading a book club selection that I know I’ll discuss with my friends. This has been so much fun, and I’ve read several books I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.
I also peruse the E-book deals on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog and have read a lot more books on my tablet this year than ever before, probably because I’ve been on airplanes more this year than ever before.
Finally, speaking of Modern Mrs. Darcy (a.k.a. Anne Bogel), I faithfully listen to her podcast, What Should I Read Next? to get great book recommendations. Sometimes I get so excited when I listen that I hurry up and read my current book so I can get to the next one.
I’m definitely addicted.
With that, I want to share with you my Top Ten Favorite Books of 2018. Seven are fiction (because I love fiction) and three are non-fiction.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Hands down my favorite read of 2018. As soon as I closed the book I wanted to turn back to page one and start all over again. It’s a book that will make you squirm, make you sad, and will definitely make you cry. But every uncomfortable moment is worth it in the end. I’m sure I will re-read this book soon.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. This was one of our book club picks that, again, will make you a little (or a lot!) uncomfortable, but is totally worth it. The surprise twists in Jodi Picoult’s novels always get me and this one will knock you over!
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. This is a modern classic that I felt I should read, so it was my pick for book club last year. It’s literary fiction, and the author spends a lot of time on descriptions, so be prepared for that. But the descriptions and the overall writing is so beautiful, and that’s mostly what I look for in a book (well, beautiful writing and beautiful settings). I’m so glad I read this.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. People had recommended this book to me for years, so this summer, during a painting project, I listened to it on audio. Wow! What an amazing book and an amazing story. I’m a sucker for a good WWII fiction book, and this one, while not quite as good as All the Light We Cannot See, in my opinion, is right up there as one of the best. I’m sure I’ll go back and read it in print one day.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Another audio pick that made my heart sing. I’ve seen this movie several times, but had never read the book. Similar to Crossing to Safety, The Remains of the Day is a modern classic. I got immersed in the mind of the main character, a butler whose time “in service” is dwindling, but who is holding on to the old ways of doing things with all his might. Oh, this is a beautiful book! (And the narration was SO GOOD!)
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell. Anne Bogel kept recommending this on her podcast, and it sounded interesting, so I read it earlier this year. It’s a book I thought about throughout the year, so it definitely captured my imagination. Plus, it’s set in Ireland and California—two fun places to travel in my imagination. I really liked this one.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. I listened to this one, too, and the narration may have been what made me love the book so much. I’ve talked to others who didn’t resonate with this book, mostly because they didn’t love the characters, but I found myself fascinated by the story and the people in it. It’s an interesting look into marriage, friendship, and our oftentimes unjust legal system.
Our Secular Age, Ten Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor by The Gospel Coalition. This is my pick for my favorite non-fiction book of the year. It’s deep, it’s a bit heady, it’s a little difficult to read, but it is so worth it. The book offers several essays about Charles Taylor’s 700-page book, A Secular Age, which traces the history of thought and the decline of faith over the past 500 years. No small task! But the authors of the essays in this smaller book (only 176 pages!) have done a great job of condensing and explaining Taylor’s views. I devoured this book on a road trip, reading much of it out loud to my husband. A challenging and fascinating read.
Sex, Jesus, and the Conversation the Church Forgot by Mo Isom. I think I’ve personally recommended this book to a hundred people this year, it’s that good. And the author is still in her 20s! This is a biblical look at purity—not just of our bodies, but also of our hearts. It’s a call to love God wholeheartedly, to be sold out for the gospel, and how that should impact every aspect of our lives, but especially our sexual ethic. I cannot recommend this highly enough, especially if you have teenagers or are (or know) a young adult in their 20s (or even their 30s).
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan. If you’ve known me for a while, you know I am a huge fan of Kelly Corrigan. I’ve read every one of her books, so I was excited when this book was released this year. This book is typical Kelly: wry, kind, and thoughtful insights into human relationships.
This year I read a few books for the second time, so I thought I’d include those in my list too. These are books I love that I’m sure I will read over and over again throughout my life:
Friends in High Places by Marne Davis Kellogg (I read something from her Kick Keswick series every year!)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (audio)
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr (audio)
The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (audio)
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
So there you have it! If you want to know any more about my reading life, follow me on Goodreads. I’ll be challenging myself to read 50 books again this year. Why not join me? Leave me a comment to let me know your reading goals for 2019.
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