It’s that time of year again–or actually, a few days past. Time to look at the best, the worst and sometimes weird of my 2018 reading. In this past year I read 101 books. I know that’s a lot when the average is more like 12, but it’s also a big drop for me–I’m usually somewhere approaching 200. I blame this fully on getting married, and you know, seeing as there are also compensations to that, I can’t complain too much. But I do hope to bring that number up next year–barring other major life changes, of course!
In that 101 books, there were a lot of nonfiction ones, a lot of audiobooks, and a lot of Newbery Medal winners. So it’s been kind of a departure of a year in a lot of ways! But there were still good books in there, so let’s see how it looks.
1) Best of…
I’ve been splitting my “Best of” books for the past few years, so that I can highlight the ones that were best in very specific ways.
1A) Best Premise: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – This was an amazing short story collection from a variety of authors (including Stephen King and Neil Gaimain!) with original Holmes and Watson stories…which may or may not be fantastical. I have seen authors mostly fail to accurately portray Sherlock Holmes, so it was an especial delight to find a whole collection of authors who (for the most part) got it right, and the fantasy element was an extra awesome element.
1B) Best World Building: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore – This was the most beautifully crafted book I read this year, so I’m calling that world building. A series of alternate paths for the main character, each with its own genre, each independent and yet consistent and building on each other…this was a gorgeously crafted book.
1C) Best Romance: I find myself with a very strange dearth of options for this category this year! I think this is what happens when you read a lot of Newbery Medal winners and nonfiction books. I’m going to have to set a goal to read more romances in 2019, I think.
1D) Best Hero(ines): The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss – I’m giving this one to a group, the amazing women of the Athena Club, each one a product of a mad scientist’s experiment, banding together to forge their own lives and fight evil in the process. This one could have taken best premise too, but we’ll put it here for its awesome heroines.
1E) Best Series: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot – I had a delightful time this year reading the “warm and joyful memoirs of the world’s most beloved animal doctor.” Funny, sometimes heart-breaking and always charming, these are lovely books set in the Yorkshire Dales about the people and the animals who live there.
1F) Best Relationship Nonfiction: Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman – I’m breaking my nonfiction category into two this year, for the two big topics I read about. This book was a bridal shower gift and had a lot of good insights. Chapman is a little traditional in his gender roles, but a little grumbling on that aside, he still had good practical ideas about things to discuss or think about early on.
1G) Best Spiritual Nonfiction: The World’s Religions by Huston Smith – A book I’ve known about for years, I’m glad I finally read this collected wisdom of the world. So very fascinating.
1H) Best Audiobook: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – I’ve never been able to get on with Dickens, because he’s just too slow for me. But I always wanted to like him, so I was happy to find that the pace felt better on audio than in print and I enjoyed this one a lot–especially the insights into the French revolution.
2) Worst Book: Nothing really emerges as the single worst book of the year. There were multiple Newberys that were fairly mediocre, despite their award-winning status, but nothing so bad I want to call it out individually. So we’ll just say this goes to a good half-dozen Newberys en masse.
3) Most Disappointing: The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton – I’m not being entirely fair to Chesterton here, as he wrote a perfectly decent book…just not the one I wanted after watching the TV show. I wanted a setting more like James Herriot’s, and a lead detective more like Mark Williams.
4) Most Surprising (in a Good Way): The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox – I thought I started this book years and years ago, and never finished it because I was so horrified by a moment when a child is eaten by a shark. Then I reread it for my Newbery challenge, and was pleasantly surprised (if confused) to find that scene was never in it! It’s still a very grim story though…and now I have no idea what book I read all those years ago.
5) Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2018 To Read It: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan – Another I’ve been hearing about forever, I finally read it at the very beginning of the year, and was pretty sure then it would be on this list somewhere. Wonderfully insightful and alarmingly relevant.
6) Most Hilarious Read: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett – I didn’t read any new Pratchett this year, so I’m giving this category to this favorite reread, one of the best entry points for the Discworld series too. But I think I should read more funny books in 2019 too!
I always love looking back at the reading adventures I had over the previous 12 months. What have you been reading? What were some of your best and worst of 2018?