My Top Reads of 2018

It seems that most readers, book bloggers, & bookstagrammers spend the end of the year wrapping up their favorite reads. I must say that I love that practice because HELLO 2019 to-be-read shelves…

But, I decided to wait a bit before sharing my favorites to give my last minute reads a fighting chance. And I’m quite glad I did because there were a few books I read in December that made my list. After going back through my Goodreads shelf, I settled on the twelve books that seemed to stick with me as the year went on. These are books that I either:

  1. recommended over and over again to people

  2. found myself lost in the story/world/characters so much that I still feel like I’m there or

  3. felt they had a very strong theme / story to tell / advice to give that I’ve added it to my re-read shelf for some point in my future life

Several of my reads were 2018 publications while most of the others weren’t which sums up my typical reading life pretty well. I’m often late to the game when it comes to more popular books because I like to make up my own mind about what I’m reading. It turns out, the majority of readers are right and really, and I should just jump in if a book is getting a lot of hype and then still make up my own mind about the story.
That’s okay though—2018 was my best reading year to date since I’ve been tracking my reads and I’m taking a lot of lessons I learned with me into 2019.

But for now, here are my top reads from last year, all highly recommended reading! [Bold blurbs are taken straight from the Amazon page!]
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Young Adult

  • Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed
    “In this unforgettable debut novel, an Indian-American Muslim teen copes with Islamophobia, cultural divides among peers and parents, and a reality she can neither explain nor escape.” 

I read this one early in the year, but it was definitely a book that stuck with me through 2018. Maya’s life is so much different than mine, and it’s stories like this one that change my perspective and convince me to make a difference in our world. This read found a prominent place in my classroom.

Literary

  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
    “Funny, tender, and moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry reminds us all exactly why we read and why we love.”

This was one of those reads that I waited too long to find—but when I suggested it for my book club early last Fall, it was actually the perfect time for this feel-good, bookish story about a single, local bookstore owner who’s life changes instantly, and whose life inspired my own.

  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
    “A remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.”

I know. I have NO IDEA why I waited so long for this one, but I knew I had to read it before the Netflix movie came out, and since my writing partner practically demanded I read it. [Thanks girl!] Turns out, she and my fellow bookclub gals were 100% right. Guernsey was probably my favorite read of 2018, and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve recommended it and bought it for someone since I read it. If you’ve be under the radar about Guernsey like me—GO READ IT NOW!

Graphic Novel

  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly
    “Barbara is the only thing that stands between terrible giants and the destruction of her small town. But as she boldly confronts her fears in increasingly dangerous ways, she begins to question everything shes always believed to be true.”

I can’t remember exactly where I heard about this graphic novel, but wow. It was stunning in terms of storytelling. The symbolism and depth of this story is why I believe so strongly that books matter. It’s a graphic novel (though at times, a bit rough) that needs to be in the hands of kids who struggle with hard things. Bonus: I just discovered it was made into a movie too!

  • Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training by Joris Chamblain
    “In this graphic novel interwoven with journal notes, scrapbook pieces, and doodles, Cici assembles clues about the odd and wonderful people she’s uncovered, even as she struggles to understand the mundane: her family and friends.”

A delightful and mysterious middle grade read, I gobbled up Cici’s story and fell in love with her character. I found a little bit of myself in her, but I think we all might. She’s someone who longs for excitement when really, excitement is right there in her life all along.

Middle Grade

  • Samantha Spinner and the Super Secret Plans by Russell Ginns
    “A round-the-world action-packed adventure filled with super-secret messages, fascinating facts, and middle grade humor.” 

I loved, loved, loved, Samantha’s story because it’s all the whimsy I long for in my life! This read had me laughing out loud throughout the whole book while keeping me on my toes trying to figure out the puzzles. I’m cannot wait for book two which comes out in March.

  • No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen
    “A touching and funny middle-grade story about family, friendship, and growing up when you're one step away from homelessness.”

This novel was another one that stuck with me throughout the year, and one I found myself recommending over and over again. Save for one scene in the middle of the novel that I thought really didn’t need to be in it (a bit graphic for middle grade,) Felix’s story of homelessness moved me in a way I wasn’t expecting. Nielsen tackles a tough topic, and one that’s too familiar but often taboo about speaking in our society today. It’s an eye opening read for all ages.

  • The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
    “An enchanting, exciting fantasy about a real-world girl searching for her sister in a land full of magic and strange creatures, blending the timeless feel of A Wrinkle in Time with Frozen’s powerful themes of identity, enchantment, and sisterhood.”

My Narnia bells were ringing as I read my way through Benko’ debut novel. It held everything I love about fantasy stories. A magic portal to a new world. Siblings fighting and loving on each other. Good vs evil. Magic. And unicorns. It’s the beginning of what I think is magical, wonderful new fantasy series, and book two comes out next month! All the heart eyes emojis for this read!

  • The Vanderbeeker’s of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
    “In this delightful and heartwarming throwback to the big-family novels of yesteryear, a large biracial family might lose their beloved brownstone home, but win it back with an all-out charm offensive.”

Oh I could write a whole essay on this book! I read it just in time for Christmas (as it’s set in the days before the holiday) and it was the first middle grade book that made me cry all the beautiful-ugly tears in a long while. Every so often a book pulls on my heart just right, and those are the books that stay there forever. The Vanderbeekers are a wonderful, welcoming family and I can’t wait to jump back into their lives in book two.

  • Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley
    “This visually stunning, middle-grade classic in the making about Wicked Nix, the foulest of the fairies and his quest to protect his forest explores the timeless bonds of family and the joy of finding home in unexpected places.

There’s something about faerie stories that pull at my heart, and I’m quite positive they always will. When I discovered Wicked Nix on my library’s new reads shelf, I literally jumped for joy. It held all of the faerie lore I love and more, so much so that I read it in one setting! It’s an exciting and beautiful tale as the accompanying images add so much more to the imagination. Not to mention, there’s a beautiful takeaway wrapped up in Nix’s tale.

Nonfiction

  • Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L’Engle
    “Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one's own art.”

I’ve been a fan of L’Engle since I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was in elementary school, but I have to admit, I’ve never read any of her nonfiction. This one popped up on my Instagram feed early last year, and I read it nice and slow, savoring the words, advice, and reflections. It’s a beautiful complement to a writer’s life, and one that, now full of underlines, I’ll be coming back too as I continue my own writing journey.

  • The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy by Leonard S. Marcus
    “Fantasy," writes Leonard S. Marcus, "is storytelling with the beguiling power to transform the impossible into the imaginable and to reveal our own ‘real’ world in a fresh and truth-bearing light.”

This collection of interviews with fantasy writers was recommended to me by a fellow writer. She said if I wanted to write fantasy, this was a must read for my craft, and was she ever right! Whether you’re a fantasy writer or not, if you love the genre or any of the authors interviewed (Jane Yolen, Madeleine L’Engle, Dianna Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander, Garth Nix, and more!) I highly suggest picking up this book! It gave me a new fervor for writing the stories of my heart while also allowing me a sneak peek into the minds of these great writers.

What’s next?

Overall, I had a fabulous reading year in 2018. I branched out. I discovered new genres and new stories I loved. But most of all, I was inspired.
To read widely and deeply. And to be a girl who always gets lost in stories.
In 2019, I resolve to branch out even more. To revisit the classics again. To discover more through nonfiction. To love literary fiction and try “pop culture” faves in the moment. To discover more middle grade worlds and be fascinated with YA. And finally, to learn about my craft by studying more writing books.

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What about you? What’s in store for your 2019 reading life?

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