The 10 “Most” Book List of 2018

Although I’ve been radio silent on social media since September last year, I’ve continued to read through my book stacks to accomplish my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge: 92 books out of my original goal of 85. Cue confetti cannons!

Overall, I’ve had a great reading year and I’m pretty pleased with my progress. But you know what they say, quality over quantity. So below, I’ve compiled a list of some my 10 most memorable books of 2018 in a variety of categories – since I loved and hated them all so differently.

1.) Most Surprising

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess MargaretNinety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really surprised with how much I enjoyed reading this unusual biography of Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s sister. I don’t like long books. And, clocking in at nearly 500 pages, I am doubly surprised that I managed to finish it. But, that’s only because of the fast-paced, hilarious, slightly tabloid-y way this book is constructed to tell the story of Princess Margaret and her reputation for being an unpredictable, cheeky Ice Queen.

2.) Most Overrated

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Out of more than 200,000 reviews for this book, I’m among the 6% that gave this a 3-star rating, easily making this my most overrated read for the year. *Dodges tomatoes.* Look, the book is fine. Everyone calls this a timely book and that’s fair. And, as I mentioned in my original review, it adds some much-needed complexity to the YA genre. Is it a 5-star must-read? I’m not convinced. The Hate You Give tries to cover a lot of civic and socio-economic topics resulting in an absurdly long book with just okay writing. To be fair, as a 30-something curmudgeon, I’m not the key demographic for this book. Still, The Hate U Give feels clumsily organized and encumbered with trying to tell everyone’s story of classicism, racism, gang violence, micro aggression, interracial relationships – you name it. Clearly, I’m in the minority but I believe this book could have done a lot more with a lot less.

3.) Most Disappointing

Salvage the BonesSalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Salvage the Bones, and really anything by Jesmyn Ward, receives near universal praise and accolades. For some reason, this one missed the mark for me. The book is sleepily paced and visceral in a deeply unlikeable way that made it difficult for me to cut through the slog and connect with the characters. I felt like I was reading the book with a hot, wet towel wrapped tightly around my head. Plus, guess what, I didn’t like Esch, the book’s female protagonist. I found her to be a dull, muted passenger in her own life. If there were larger messages or symbolism within the pages, they sailed right over my head and into the upper atmosphere.

4.) Most Bizarre

The Rending and the NestThe Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

The Book of MThe Book of M by Peng Shepherd

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My most bizarre pick is actually a toss-up between The Rending and the Nest and The Book of M – both dystopian fiction featuring women. And, both weirded me out. In The Rending and the Nest, the majority of the world’s population disappears without a trace and with no explanation. Survivors scavenge piles of objects for any salvageable materials they can take back to camp. Shit gets really weird when women become pregnant and start giving birth to inanimate objects. For me, The Rending and the Nest had a compelling story arc about sisterhood and motherhood.

Meanwhile, The Book of M read like an option for a science fiction mini-series. And, it might have even been perfect if you ditch the last 40% of the book and re-wrote it. In The Book of M, people all over the world start losing their shadows and, soon after, their memories resulting in surreal, super trippy consequences. Overall, I wasn’t crazy with the book’s conclusion that resolved absolutely nothing. However the writing, pacing and character development made this worth a read.

5.) Most Polarizing

The PiscesThe Pisces by Melissa Broder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Readers either loved this book or hated it enough to block readers who loved it on Instagram. Not that that happened to me or anything. I’m just sayin’.

I have a penchant for bizarre, out-of-the-box books with absurd premises and anti-heroes. The Pisces pretty much has that in spades. The protagonist is a self-obsessed shit-show, her actions are reprehensible, and she’s astronomically shallow. (I see reviewers often refer to her as unlikeable.) So, why did I like it so much? Because even though the book is hella out there and amorphously floating between comedy, satire and drama, there’s still a chord of sincerity and reflection that makes you go – huh, maybe we’re all a little batshit crazy when it comes to modern love.

6.) Most Regret-Inducing

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White HouseFire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not proud of giving this 5 stars. I’m also not proud that I figuratively sprinted to the Kindle store to buy a copy when it first came out. But who doesn’t stop to observe a dumpster fire? Or a fiery car wreck? The book is total trash; poorly written, dubiously sourced and provocative. Do I think it’s accurate? Totally.

7.) Most Hilarious

The Last Black UnicornThe Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tiffany Haddish is so damn earnest and so damn adorable, it’s hard not to like her go-getting, relentlessly optimistic personality. Especially when she reveals in her memoir some of the trauma she’s endured as a child. Her audiobook performance felt genuine and her delivery often produced unladylike guffaws during commutes to and from work.

8.) Most Eye-Opening

Patriot Number One: American Dreams in ChinatownPatriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This turned out to be an invaluable account of immigrant life in America and a profoundly timely book given the current political climate. Patriot Number One follows a Chinese activist’s efforts to seek asylum in the United States and build a new life from scratch with his wife and young son. Patriot Number One, written by a journalist, can feel a little cold and sterile in its matter-of-fact story-telling. But it also lays bare the true cost of achieving the so-called “American Dream.”

9.) Most Devastating

Small CountrySmall Country by Gaël Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book left me with the hangover-est of book hangovers. It’s a short book with simple prose but so tender-hearted and brutal. This book made me want to reach into the pages and pluck 10-year old protagonist Gabriel out and away from the terrors that await him and his family in 1990s Burundi.


10.) Most Enjoyable

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African ChildhoodBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m so late to this bandwagon that I’ve pretty much missed it entirely. I read a lot of fantastic books this year but my most enjoyable one turned out to be this backlist gem from 2016. I mean, do I really need to explain this one? Trevor Noah is a spectacular story-teller and had one of the most insightful, entertaining, moving memoirs I’ve ever read. I’d known of Trevor Noah through some of his stand-up and when he was slated to take over for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. But this book. This book actually made me fall a little bit in love with him.


That’s a wrap for 2018! This year, I’ve upped my Goodreads reading goal from 85 books to 100 and will attempt to get through my library of books I currently own (instead of my rotating stack of overdue library books). We’ll see how that goes.

Tell me – what were some of your most memorable reads for the past year? And, if you’re on Instagram, come find me. I’ll be back on there soon.

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