I started off the year of 2018 with the ambitious goal of reading 52 books — a book a week — in a year. At some point I lapped myself, finished 100 books, and here we are. I decided to write a list of my favorite reads of the year, partly for self-accountability and partly in the hope that someone out there might find a recommendation. Many, if not most, of these books were not published this year or even this decade; but they were new to me so maybe they’ll be new to you, too. I hope you find a title that interests you! I also hope you make it your New Year’s resolution to download Goodreads and be my friend.
My top 10 of 2018
Theft by Finding: diaries (1977-2002), David Sedaris
I discovered David Sedaris in 2018 and don’t know how I made it to 25 without reading any of his books. I’m late to the bandwagon but wasted no time catching up. I cracked open my first Sedaris, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, on a train from Naples to Florence and my life hasn’t been the same ever since.
I saved Theft by Finding for after I had read and listened to a handful of his early collections. This one is by far my favorite not only because it’s all-encompassing, but also because it’s the bravest thing I can imagine a person doing: voluntarily publishing your personal journal entries for the whole world to read. Modestly, he writes in the foreword, “…I don’t really expect anyone to read this from start to finish. It seems more like the sort of thing you might dip in and out of, like someone else’s yearbook or a collection of jokes.” Ignore that. Read it from start to finish. Especially if you are in your 20s (or 30s) (or 40s) and think you’re doing it all wrong. He’ll make you feel better when he writes, “Mom dropped by this morning with at least $60 worth of groceries: pork chops, chicken, hamburger, meat, salami, cheese, cereal, eggs, oil, pancake mix, broccoli, canned tomatoes, corn, beans, pasta, bread, syrup, oatmeal. I feel guilty and grateful.” Ever since I graduated from college, I have felt both Guilty and Grateful.
[Disclaimer: I tried to make this list not solely David Sedaris and Nora Ephron, so wish me luck.]
Heartburn, Nora Ephron
Like I said. This was a hard list to make, especially following my own rule: Must Have More Than Ephron and Sedaris. Heartburn is an oldie but a goodie. I’ll probably read this book once a year as it is a bible to me AND it has recipes.
This is Your Brain on Anxiety: What Happens and What Helps, Faith G. Harper, PhD, LPC-S, ACS, ACN
I read this once all the way through and now I pick it up from time to time to remind myself anxiety is normal and has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. If you deal with anxiety, I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy of this book and keep it within reach. I learned so much about how physical feelings are directly related to emotional feelings and how anxiety plays into that.
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
The week I read this book was one of the best weeks of my year. I remember lying in bed with a cup of tea as I read about Cheryl sleeping in the woods. I’ve never felt cozier. Once again, I’m late to the train on this one, but I’m here to tell you there’s a reason why everyone, including Lorelai Gilmore, loves this book. I never stop thinking about this story, the human resilience and the journey as the destination. I don’t think I would ever do what she did, but her writing was so clear and descriptive that it sometimes feels like I, too, hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Light We Lost, Jill Santopolo
I picked this book up because of a recommendation from Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I curled up with a blanket, my dog and this book, thinking I’d read a few chapters and then do something else… but four hours later, I looked up and realized I read it in one sitting. (Is that not the best feeling ever?!) This book is perfect. When I finished it, I wished I had written it myself because it’s just so good.
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch
Jason Dessen is happy until he’s abducted but it’s not what you think. It’s a book that introduces a seemingly impossible idea that, by the end, doesn’t seem so impossible, and I love that. Just read this? I can’t possibly explain it. This Is Why I’m Not A Book Blogger.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?, Donald Margulies
I love love love to read plays and this one is, by far, my favorite. When I finished it, I got teary-eyed on the uptown 1 train, and I’m not saying that’s the only way to read a Donald Margulies play but I’m also not saying it isn’t. You should read this just so that the last word of the play can tear through your heart like it did mine.
Letters to a Young Writer, Colum McCann
This is clearly a niche book, so if you’ve ever so much as entertained the idea of writing a book, go get this now. Now!!!!
Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, Valeria Luiselli
I usually hate when people say this because it makes me not want to read it, but this is Required Reading. No one has done a better job of explaining the border crisis and its relation to the American drug epidemic than Valeria Luiselli. No one. Read this quote: “The devastation of the social fabric in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other countries is often thought of as a Central American “gang violence” problem that must be kept on the far side of the border. There is little said, for example, of arms being trafficked from the United States into Mexico or Central America, legally or not; little mention of the fact that the consumption of drugs in the United States is what fundamentally fuels drug trafficking in the continent. But the drug circuit and its many wars – those openly declared and those that are silenced – are being fought in the streets of San Salvador, San Pedro Sula, Iguala, Tampico, Los Angeles, and Hempstead. They are not a problem circumscribed to a small geographic area. It’s urgent that we begin talking about the drug war as a hemispheric war, at least – one that begins in the Great Lakes of the northern United States and ends in the mountains of Celaque in southern Honduras.”
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Sorry, but this is Required Reading, too. It just is.
For at least half of 2018, I drove 60-minute+ daily commutes with even longer drives on the weekends. These were my five favorite audiobooks.
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
As usual, the book is better than the movie. But I would go so far as to say that the audiobook is better than both. This was Audible’s 2017 Audiobook of the Year and there is a reason for that! This was the first audiobook I ever listened to and it inspired me to listen to more.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
I had never read this book and I still haven’t seen the movie. I know! I know. I listened to The Help because I found it on all sorts of “best of” audiobook lists. Octavia Spencer reads her role and if that’s not reason enough, I don’t know what is.
Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, Katy Tur
I try not to read too many industry-specific books so as to tune out the real world, but when I started this one I knew I was going to have to finish it. And once I finished it, I couldn’t stop talking about it. If you want to know what it was like to have a front-row seat to the 2016 Trump campaign, look no further.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The title kind of tells you what it’s about and Chimamanda narrates the audio. I could listen to her speak forever and ever and ever. Couldn’t you?
Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
I binge-watched the show after it won every award ever last year and then when I was done I needed to relive it so I listened to the audiobook while I drove. Caroline Lee reads it and has a beautiful voice. It is so well-written.
2019… here I come!