My Favorite Books of 2018

By Saturday, January 05, 2019 , , , , , , , ,

Happy 2019, friends and readers! It’s time to take a look back at the year gone by in favorite books and reading stats. Reflecting on what I read in a year and how it grew me has become an annual joy, and I hope you’re inspired to pick up a book mentioned here or to recommend something in the comments. I’d love to hear about your top 2018 reads and what you think I should add to my list for 2019! 

2018 was a strong reading year for me with many new favorites. I set a goal to read 50 books in the year and actually made it to 51! First, I have some fun breakdown to share for those of you who like bullet points and headings. 

Books read in 2018 (new to me)

Books re-read in 2018
4 classic favorites: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, The Angry Tide (Poldark #7), and the first three Harry Potter books

Format breakdown
  • Read the physical book: 31/51 – about 60% 
  • Read on Kindle/e-reader: 7/51 – about 14%
  • Listened to the audiobook: 14/51 – about 27% 
I’ve been so pleasantly surprised to see how drastically audiobooks have increased my reading time. I knew they were helping, but I never expected they would up my book count by almost a third!

Number of male and female authors
  • Male: 8
  • Female: 44 
(this takes into account that one book in the mix was co-written by a married couple, the wonderful Keith and Kristyn Getty)

So, interestingly, it turned out that my reading slanted very heavily and unintentionally towards women writers this year! I don’t really have goals when it comes to author demographics, but it was interesting to look back on how I gravitated.

Most books read by the same author 
8 books by Susanna Kearsley: Kearsley was my golden new author find of 2018 by a wide margin. I fell in love with the first book of hers that I read in the year and then made a point to work on reading everything by her that I could get my hands on. Some strong new favorites came out of it and I’m still working on reading all of her backlist!

Standout themes across 2018 reading
  • World War II stories
  • Books about books
  • Magical realism (this was down to discovering Susanna Kearsley’s work)
  • Biography/memoir/a real person’s story
Now for favorites! I normally wouldn’t list as many as twelve, but that’s where I am this year! I just read a lot of good books, y’all. Here are my very favorites from 2018, and the list could be taken in a rough two sections if I had to narrow it down further. The first five are the ones that really got into my system, that got their teeth into me, and that I still can’t stop thinking about. The next seven also left deep impressions, but I’d separate them by an ever so slight margin. Enjoy!

Favorite Books of 2018 

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter: Possibly a new lifetime favorite for me. This tells the incredible true story of a large family of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. Any book about the Holocaust is bound to be heavy and emotionally impactful, but I can honestly say that this one has stayed with me like few others have. It is riveting, emotional, and an ultimately hopeful book about the strength and resilience and courage of the human spirit.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken: Vanauken wrote this in the 1970s in memory of his wife Davy, their conversion to Christianity, and his own bereavement in the wake of Davy’s untimely death. His reflections on faith, marriage, loss, grief, and the longings of the human soul are heart-wrenching in all the best ways. The couple’s friendship with C.S. Lewis also has a heavy influence in the book, so many of Lewis’s letters to them are transcribed within. I loved every word of this moving story and will be returning to it soon (and will probably cry again).

Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson: I shared recently about how this book resonated with me and it has remained a favorite since then. Sarah Clarkson loves books and expresses profound gratitude in this work for how books have shaped her while she also seeks to pass along the gift that a reading life has been to her. She is passionate, eloquent, and my new kindred spirit.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry: Obviously, much is known about C.S. Lewis, but Patti Henry seeks to draw back the curtain on his wife, Joy Davidman, in this lovely novel. It offers a fascinating take on how this meeting of minds between Lewis and Joy might have progressed into their devoted, passionate marriage. Mrs. Henry tells their story with such poignancy and emotional truth – have a few tissues handy when you pick this one up!

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: My first Kearsley read that sent me on a happy mission to read all of her books, but this one has remained my favorite of hers. Scotland, romance, the Jacobite rising, a mysterious castle ruin, and a snug cottage on the coast made this a pretty near perfect winter read.

A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley: My other favorite Kearsley read that almost came even with The Winter Sea. Romance and the Jacobite rising still play major roles, but this one takes the reader on a journey through France, Italy, and ancient fairytales that give a magic bent to the story. Also contained in this book is one of my favorite literary proposals. Kearsley really outdid herself with that scene and with the hero for this one.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: The best children’s fiction book I’ve read in many years. It tells the story of Ada, a young girl whose cruel mother has kept her locked in their apartment her whole life on account of her clubfoot. When Ada’s brother Jamie is evacuated to the countryside during World War II’s London blitz, Ada promptly sneaks out to go with him. Their foster mom opens their eyes to a completely different life, and Ada and Jamie slowly begin learning the joys of childhood. A moving story about identity, community, and courage. And the sequel, The War I Finally Won, is an equally moving follow-up.

I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel: If you’re a book lover, this is a warm hug waiting to happen. This charming collection of essays on the reading life will make you feel so wholly understood for all your reader quirks. Anne Bogel just gets it. She’s clearly a reader herself, knows readers, and takes joy in bringing readers together by inviting them to appreciate the various phases of a reading life, the book that first hooked them, and even the more embarrassing aspects of their reading lives. Take this journey with Anne and be delighted. I know I was.

On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior: Another bookish tour, this time through classic literature, that opens the reader’s eyes to how virtue can be cultivated through reading. One reviewer of this book described Karen Swallow Prior as the English teacher everyone wishes they could have had, and I totally concur. She introduces you to Dickens, Twain, Austen, and many more while showing you how all of them can make you a better reader and a better person.

Seasons of Waiting by Betsy Childs Howard: My favorite Christian living book of recent years. Most of us feel like we’re waiting for something, no matter what stage of life we’re in. Whether that something is marriage, children, a permanent home, or good health, you will find a compassionate friend in Betsy Childs Howard. She examines various areas of life that involve waiting and explains with gentleness and solid theology how all of our waiting points to our deepest longing for Christ and our waiting for His return.

Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston: I’m a Jane Austen snob and look askance at most retelling attempts, but I took the plunge with this reimagining of Pride and Prejudice, and I am SO GLAD I did. Honestly, I think it made me love the original and its characters even more than I already did, and I didn’t think that would have been possible. I listened to the audio version of this one and found myself looking for ANY excuse to turn it on. I laughed, cried, and giggled with delight throughout the whole 13 hours.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone: A few years ago, a film called The Imitation Game piqued my interest in stories about codebreaking in wartime. It’s odd, as I’ve never been a math person, but I appreciate that a bunch of nerds bent over crossword puzzles were just as vital to war efforts as those fighting on the frontlines. This book tells the unsung hero story of William and Elizabeth Friedman. Elizabeth in particular comes into focus, especially for her work to break into Nazi spy rings in South America during WWII. It’s fascinating, riveting, and has all the elements of a spy thriller.

Any of these catch your eye? What did you read in 2018? What should I read in 2019? I’d love to hear! Let me know and see my full 2018 book list below :) Happy weekend!

Full 2018 book list (in the order I read them)
The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay
Letters to Children by C.S. Lewis
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
Newton and Polly by Jody Hedlund
The Stranger from the Sea (Poldark #8) by Winston Graham
Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery
Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard
The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone
The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield
Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston
The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Finding Myself in Britain by Amy Boucher Pye
The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Mariana by Susanna Kearsley
The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley
Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley
Beauty by Robin McKinley
I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel
My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
The Miller’s Dance (Poldark #9) by Winston Graham
Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty
Seasons of Waiting by Betsy Childs Howard
Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry
Remember Death by Matthew McCullough
The Dating Manifesto by Lisa Anderson
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson
The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
One Day in December by Josie Silver
On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

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