I am back on this platform to bring you my top 5 favorite books I read in 2018. I began seriously using Goodreads this year, and my goal was to read 25 books – and I crushed it with 29 books! You can check out a full list here. But I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on my absolute favorites, and just in time for Christmas if you are looking for a great gift. I think books are the very best gift… but that’s coming from someone who loves to read! It was a wild year and I enjoyed every book I read, but these are my top 5, in no particular order.
When I was a freshman in college my friends and I became obsessed with Tumblr and I followed lots of interesting blogs. I like to think of those strangers as still existing within Tumblr, just happy there, reblogging photos of cute animals and cozy winter scenes. Tumblr is a strange world nowadays, so I was surprised when one of the old blogs I followed reappeared in 2018 on Instagram. I don’t remember how, but I was somehow directed towards Jed’s Instagram right before his book came out, and I was first caught by the title. But when I read the description of the book, I remembered my time following him while I was in college. Jed bicycled from Oregon to Patagonia, and I started following his blog in 2012 when he began his trip. I remember seeing him progress through his trip, and loving his journal entries and sketches. But it took him a year and a half to do the trip, and somewhere along the way I didn’t do my job of keeping up with his progress. And then blam! He wrote a book about it!
I knew I had to read it. I requested it at the library before it even came out, and then the day after it came out I asked the librarian when it would be ready for me to check out. She said, “Oh! We just processed that and it will be ready in one minute. I have to say I wanted to steal it and read it myself.” I knew this was going to be good. I read it in about 5 days, and savored every word. It is an incredible journey, and Jed talks about more than just travel. He spent time reflecting on his religion, his childhood, his time working for a large corporation, being gay, and so much more. It is truly thrilling and exciting. This was definitely a “I laughed, I cried, I had a great time!” kind of book. Highly recommend for someone who feels like they want to get out and travel, but don’t quite have the funds (yet).
I am embarrassed to say that I totally judged this book by its cover. Someone on Instagram made a cowl pattern using the colors from the cover to promote the launch of this book, and it was so beautiful! Go check out Caitlin Hunter at Boyland Knit Works. Her stuff in incredible. So in July I requested this book through my library and got it within a few weeks. It is a page turner, it did not take me long to finish it and I began looking for other Chloe Benjamin books. I discovered that she is a very young author, lives in San Francisco, and has written another novel that I plan to read early in 2019.
This book has dark themes, but will make you think about your life from a completely different perspective. The characters feel like real people, well developed and relatable. I wouldn’t say the characters are all likable, but that’s what makes this novel so piercing. I absolutely love reading about families, and this novel is a wonderful piece of writing about a fairly typical family who experiences something extraordinary that changes their lives forever. Although it centers around death, it focuses on how to live and how to love your family. I recommend to anyone who enjoys a really captivating novel.
Ryan and I spent Memorial Day Weekend at the coast (trying and failing to camp, another story), and before I left I went to my favorite used book store (Daedalus Books in NW Portland). I asked the person working there for a good novel that would suck me in, but wasn’t too wordy or difficult to read. Something that was like Twilight but not bad. This is what happened:
Guy 1: So you want something with vampires?
Me: No no no, just something that is like popular and frothy, but not bad writing.
Guy 1: Ok so how about like Pride and Prejudice?
Me: Well, ok, kind of but it’s a little too “heavy” for what I want you know?
Guy 1: Maybe Eat, Pray, Love?
Me: Ok yes closer but I’ve read that.
Guy 2: I bet she’d like Dracula!
Guy 1: No she said no vampires, just something girly but with good writing.
Me: It doesn’t have to be “girly” just popular!
Guy 2: I give up
Guy 1: How about Ali Smith?
And that’s my most embarrassing book store experience ever. And actually it went on much longer but I didn’t want to bore you. I also picked up short stories by Flannery O’Connor because Guy 1 insisted it was right up my alley (still haven’t read them, but plan to!).
I read the first half while we were camping and it was exactly what I was looking for, with an unexpected twist of being really weird. It was very very good, definitely sucked me in, really wonderful writing, but very strange. Someone on Goodreads said Ali Smith is a reader’s writer, and to a fellow writer her writing comes off as a perfectly haphazard unmade bed. I get it. My bed looks terrible unmade, but sometimes you’ll see perfectly photographed gorgeous beds that have the fluffy comforter all messed up and pillows with head prints in them, and you just want to crawl in it. That’s what her writing is like.
This book is unusual, and is kind of about nothing and everything at the same time. You’ll be very confused at the beginning and that will just keep going. But its wonderful in it’s weirdness. She also doesn’t use quotation marks, so you never really know if maybe someone said something or maybe they thought it? I recommend this novel to someone who is stuck in a fiction rut and needs a shake up.
My sister in law, Monica, gave this to me for Christmas last year. I read the inside cover and thought wow this sounds good, and then I opened another present and it was The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, and was completely mesmerized. I put this novel on my bookshelf and promptly forgot about it. Then in early May I was looking through my books for something to read and I found it. I could not for the life of me remember where it came from. After a series of texts with Monica I remembered it was from her.
If ever you feel the need for a “beach read” this would be it. Going on vacation? Bring this book. Planning a staycation? Read this one, people! It is pure drama and fluff and I loved every minute of it. It’s described as a psychological thriller (my first hint it was from Monica) and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. There are really only 3 characters and you get to know them very well. I’ve heard people say they thought it was slow, especially the beginning, but I didn’t think so. And there is a huge HUGE twist in the middle. You have to keep going. I didn’t see it coming, it was an enormous surprise. I’m also very gullible when it comes to plot lines though. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a great, fast, fun, suspenseful read.
Confession: I did read this in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2017. When we were planning our honeymoon two years ago I knew I wanted a couple of really good books to devour while on vacation. I love to read novels that take place in the same region or city of where I’m traveling. So I consulted my book fairies (Maudie and Kathy) and asked for any New England/Boston/Nantucket novels. They decided on two: The Children by Ann Leary and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I bought both used at Powells, and read both of them while on our honeymoon. I LOVED The Children, but I didn’t technically read it this year so it didn’t make the list. But you should go read it!
When we moved after our honeymoon those two books got lost (I actually think I donated them) and I found myself really sad that I didn’t have copies of the two books I so closely associated with our honeymoon. So for our first anniversary Ryan bought another copy of both books and gave them to me before our trip to Joseph. I reread The History of Love over the long weekend in the middle of nowhere Oregon and now it has taken on a whole new meaning. I plan to read it, or parts of it, every year around our anniversary.
Ok enough with the mushy story stuff, let’s get to the book. It is maybe top 10 favorite book I’ve ever read. Many of the reviews on Goodreads say something like “well on the second time reading it…. and then the third read….” which not only tells you it’s intriguing enough to read it multiple times, but that it morphs every time you read it. The characters have real-life depth, and you love them. You can’t help it. This book is charming, beautiful, enchanting, and heart breaking at the same time. I would recommend it to anyone at any stage in their life who likes to read anything. It’s a book for everyone.
Follow me on Goodreads to see what 2019 holds for me! If you search amoonlightread you’ll find me!