The 27 Books I Read in 2018
As I wrote about in this post, I challenged myself to read 25 books in 2018 and ended up reading 27! I documented the books I read on my personal Instagram and Facebook, captioning them with short takeaways or impressions.
As the year continued, these captions became longer reviews. I didn’t think anyone would find them interesting or care in the least what I had to say about the books I read. I posted them more as a means to keep myself accountable for my goal. It turns out, I received many comments from friends telling me they loved reading my reviews.
Confession: For most of my life, I’ve downplayed my love of reading, because it set me apart from other people. Reading and talking about books definitely wasn’t what all the cool kids were doing in school, so I wasn’t parading my love of reading through the halls of my high school. (If I’m being honest, I was far from a cool kid as it was so it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I nonstop talked about what book my nose was currently in.)
It was kind of major for me to share my finished books on Instagram in the first place, because reading had almost been like a secret hobby and I outed myself by posting my progress. That’s why it was amazing receiving some of those compliments on my book reviews, because they were from high school friends I had no idea also enjoyed reading.
So, without further ado, the 27 books I read in 2018 with my original Instagram captions. I hope you enjoy them.
📚First book read in 2018!📚 Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
For a more in depth review, see my post, “8 Reasons You Should Read Big Magic”.
📚Second book read in 2018. 📚 I don’t know how many books I actually read in 2017, but I’m willing to bet I’ve already read about 1/2 that amount this year! (A newborn, grieving, and a new job don’t lend a lot of time to leisure activities.) Takeaway: Sheryl Sandberg convinced me to at the very least not quit working. As for leaning in, it depends on what I’m leaning into.
📚 3rd book of the year 📚 Pretty interesting read. I found out my perfectionistic tendencies come from being an only/firstborn. I also learned how to parent different children based on their placement in the family. I do wish the advice was more research-based and not so heavily derived from anecdotal evidence. But maybe that’s just my inner firstborn talking 😆
📚 4th book of the year 📚 Don’t worry, I’m not quitting teaching any time soon! Acuff says to work on your dream job for years before quitting. Still clarifying what that is for me.
📚 5th book of the year 📚 Some good info in here. Not necessarily only for those dealing with grief, but also for people dealing with any type of trauma. Obligatory chapter on work (the woman loves to work). Not the bolt of lightning I was looking for to make me feel better, but I don’t think that exists anyway.
📚 6th book of the year 📚 This was more for women who lost their mothers early on (childhood to early twenties), but there were some parts that resonated with me. It also had parts for women whose mothers abandoned them or with whom they have a strained relationship.
📚 7th book of the year 📚 I have been a fan of Liane Moriarty’s for a long time and have been steadily working through her books. I like how they’re easy to digest, but give context to deep, sometimes dark societal issues. She’s also very perceptive when it comes to human nature. While this is not my favorite book she’s written, it is still a pretty fun read
📚 8th book of the year 📚 This book may be slim, but it’s a fascinating read on humans’ tribal origins and how modern society is at odds with our ancestral heritage. Although we’re safer and live longer, the comforts we enjoy are making us unhappier than if we were living in small bands, hunting and gathering, and going to war with other tribes. (To quote Jimmy Dugan in “A League of Their Own”: “The hard is what makes it great.”)
📚9th book of the year📚 Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this novel, despite Brene Brown’s positive review on the cover. I just couldn’t buy the love story, but according to reviews on the internet, I am in the minority on that count. People really like this book. I really didn’t.
📚 10th Book of the Year 📚 Forgot to snap a picture before I returned Wild to the library, so here’s a screenshot of the cover 🤷♀️ The first chapter was really difficult for me to read, as was the part about the horse, but Cheryl Strayed convinced me that I could at least go on that overnight backpacking trip K keeps wanting to do if for no other reason than my hiking boots are better than hers.
📚 11th book of the year 📚 Warning: Not for people who a) don’t enjoy sarcasm; b) are overly serious; and c) have never buried a loved one. Like all good humor, this book’s take on the death of a loved one was entirely inappropriate and completely accurate. But I want to reiterate that you shouldn’t read it unless you’ve lost someone close. If you don’t have that context, you’ll just think this book is tasteless.
📚12th book of the year!📚 Well, I finally joined the rest of the world and read Eat, Pray, Love. Now I can watch the movie! Overall, I liked it. I skimmed all the parts when she is crying on the bathroom floor about living in a gilded cage, and my eyes glazed over whenever she talked about her years of sadness. It was hard to empathize when she didn’t elaborate much on the reason for her pain, and it sounded like a lot of her problems were self-created. Maybe I should have been more sympathetic, but I’ve got my own problems and as a reader I wanted her to get to the more interesting parts of her story. I really enjoyed reading about the people and cultures of the countries she visited, and I loved reading about her spiritual experiences in the Indian ashram. I think I would have rooted more for her love story at the end if I didn’t know she’d end up divorcing him a decade later. I preferred the journalist Liz to the navel-gazing Liz in this memoir. In all, a good read.
📚 13th book of the year! 📚 This book was sooo good! I’ve loved listening to interviews with Brene Brown, but had yet to read any of her work. She’s a research professor in social work, and this book provides 10 guideposts she has found people who practice “wholehearted living” cultivate. The guideposts help people “engage in our lives from a place of worthiness”, i.e. being able to feel like no matter what you look like or what you accomplish, you are worthy of love and belonging. It’s a fast read, full of personal stories and examples to illustrate each guidepost, but I feel like I need to reread the book to really absorb the information. My only criticism is that while Brown tells us what qualities we need to cultivate, she doesn’t explain in detail how to do so with each guidepost. (Specifically, for cultivating a resilient spirit, she says to “lean into discomfort” and not rely heavily on numbing feelings or avoiding pain. But how do you lean in to discomfort? What does that look like?) In all, I’m a big fan now and look forward to reading her other books.
📚14th book of the year!📚 Oh, my goodness. This took forever to read. I should have abandoned it, but I kept pushing through it because Oprah said it changed her life when she read it back in 1989. I finished it, but it made me want to scratch my eyes out the entire time. He kept repeating the same thing over and over again in different ways. Some parts were insightful or made sense, but I kept wanting to know where he got the information he was teaching me. Where’s his spiritual credibility coming from? Maybe if it had been written by someone else with the same concepts, I would have liked it. As it’s written, I barely made it to the last page.
📚15th book of the year!📚 I finished this book a week or so ago after whipping through it in a few nights. The cover caught my eye on its shelf in the library, and I couldn’t say no to a fellow Caitlin, so the book had to go home with me. I’m glad it did, because it was a fascinating read. The author is a mortician in LA and she traveled the world to learn about different customs and rituals people had concerning death. I learned so much about how the way a culture deals with death can impact the living. I found myself longing to be able to have had similar experiences with my mother after she died as were described in the book. Basically, I wish I’d had been able to be more involved in what happened to her after she died and had more time to just be with her. Doughty (the author) advocates for more family involvement in the funeral industry. After reading this book, I realized what I had been missing may have given me a better sense of closure and the time to wrap my mind around what had happened physically to my mother. If you are squeamish or don’t like thinking about death, this isn’t the book for you. But if you are interested in learning about a more personal, less commercial way to handle death, you should dive into this book. Now, I’m ready for a light fiction book. Any suggestions?
📚16th book of the year!📚 Technically a novella, this was a quick read. It had some interesting characters (apparently, it’s part of a series, but each book can stand alone and there isn’t a need to read the books in consecutive order) and a nice plot twist at the end. What I thought was great was it’s a smart mystery. I had to look up the definitions of a few words and research some cultural and historical references made by the characters. All around enjoyable read.
📚17th book of the year!📚 I finished this book a few weeks ago and I thought it was okay. It was well-written and smart, but I just couldn’t feel too much for the characters. I liked them as adults, but thought they were stupid as teenagers. I couldn’t sympathize for the adults as they dealt with the situation their teenage selves had put them in. If I had cared, this would have been a good suspense novel. Since I didn’t care, I was more like, “Oh, that’s how it ends. Didn’t see that coming. Still stupid.” That being said, I do want to give the author’s other book The Woman in Cabin 10 a shot because she is a good writer.
📚18th book of the year!📚 I really liked this book. The author writes a blog I like to read called Modern Mrs. Darcy and is a personality junkie. I’ve taken most of the tests for the personality frameworks she discusses and gained some insight on them after reading the book. For instance, I always thought my Meyers-Briggs personality type is INFJ, but it is probably INFP. Turns out one letter different can make a big difference! I figured out I’m more of a big picture person and not as good at planning or focusing on project details as I thought I was. If you’re interested in personality frameworks, this book should be right up your alley 😀
📚19th book of the year!📚 I really, really like Brene Brown and I really, really liked this book. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what it’s about. I got this from the library in August(!), renewed it, and started reading it at the beginning of October. I read it late at night, one session followed by days or weeks of non-reading due to sheer exhaustion. I powered through the last 100 pages in the last few days. I enjoyed reading it. I just can’t remember what I read. But it’s good. You should read it. Trust me. 👍 (P.S. How am I going to make it to my 25 book goal by the end of December? I need to find some short books!)
📚20th book of the year!📚 Today I basically ignored my family and devoured this book of essays by Nora Ephron, the woman who wrote “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle”. I found one essay titled “On Maintenance” particularly interesting because I had written a similar essay in college a couple years before this book was published. While the content was very different, I had tried and failed to capture the tone that Ephron uses in her essay. It was nice to see at least one person got it right. I don’t know if that irreverent voice of hers is what I want to strive for in my writing anymore, but I’m sure glad it worked for her because her essays are fun to read.
📚21st book of the year!📚 In this book, the other woman is Emily’s boyfriend’s mother, and let me tell ya, she’s a real charmer. I was ready to quit reading about 2/5 of the way in, because it was pretty clear this relationship of Emily’s wasn’t worth the drama, but I kept reading. I’ve got reading goals to keep! In the end, the relationship definitely wasn’t worth it, but it’s not for the reason you originally think. The story’s big twist at the end definitely caught me off guard!
📚22nd book of the year!📚 I really liked this book. I liked it so much that I didn’t want it to end. It was about a group of neighborhood friends, one of whom disappears with her two children without warning after a night of drinking wine around the fire pit. What really hooked me were the characters. They were nice. They were normal. They could’ve been me. No Gone Girl twists, no dubious choices made by unlikable characters, no manufacturing sympathy on the reader’s part in order to finish the book. I’m getting a little tired of empathizing with unlikable middle class female characters who I would not like if I knew them in real life. This book was a salve in that way.
📚23rd book of the year!📚 The last book I read had warm, friendly characters. The main character in this book is consistently described as cool. And she abandons her husband and three year-old in the first few pages. Of course there’s reasons for everything she does, and she garners sympathy from me as the story unfolds, and I guess I can somewhat respect her by the end, but I just don’t think I like her. She is portrayed as not being a girl’s girl, and it’s really hard as a female to like someone who doesn’t want to be friends with other females. My favorite line of the book was in the Author’s Note: “To all the places where I worked on this book – St. Petersburg, FL; New Orleans, Louisiana; New York, New York; Fenwick Island, Delaware; Havana, Cuba; Barcelona, Spain; London, England; Spannocchia, Italy; and, of course, Baltimore, Maryland. It is a deeply wonderful life.” Now that’s the story I want to hear (and live)!
📚24th book of the year!📚 Holy moly, I’m so close to my goal! This book was interesting. I had read her book on French parenting years before we had Fiona and really liked it. This book is more personal. It is a collection of essays on the topic of life in your forties. At first, I didn’t really like it, because she started off lamenting about the sad physical changes that occur. It was slightly neurotic and highly superficial, which doesn’t interest me much. As the book continued I found there were some insights to be gained, especially when she was writing from a more journalistic perspective rather than a personal one. My favorite nugget of wisdom was this bullet point for “You know you’re in a fortysomething relationship when…”: “You’ve realized that ‘soul mate’ isn’t a preexisting condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.”
📚25th book of the year!📚 I did it! I reached my goal with weeks to spare! Is it cheating that this book only has 131 pages? If it is, I’ve got some more books waiting for me that I’m sure I will finish before January 1st. I do enjoy Nora Ephron’s voice, and this book came complete with recipes! Her essay topics ranged from aging to her family, the beginning of her career to both of her divorces, encounters with famous people and friendships with both famous and non-famous people alike, and her thoughts on what she will miss and what she won’t miss when she dies. I enjoyed reading about her journalism experience in the early ‘60s. The world she describes is so different than today. And I thought it was funny how she reflected on the marital problems of the women in her ‘70s era consciousness-raising group: “But the main problem with our marriages was not that our husbands wouldn’t share the housework but that we were unbelievably irritable young women and our husbands irritated us unbelievably.” I’m a big fan of equality in marriage (and feminism in general), but I love how Ephron has the moxie to say that sometimes the problems between men and women have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with affect (and that statement applies to both genders).
📚26th book of 2018!📚 I didn’t post this, but I read this and finished it in December. And if I don’t post my reviews, it’s like it didn’t happen, right?
Book number 26: The Widows of Malabar Hill
This was a great book! I really enjoyed reading it, because I learned SO MUCH about India’s customs and cultural make-up in the 1920s. Plus, the main character was pretty much a maverick in a sari. The book checks off a lot of my “good book” boxes:
✅Strong female lead (Perveen Mistry)
✅Foreign locale (Bombay, India)
✅Historical fiction (1920s)
✅Collision of cultures (Parsi/Muslim/Hindu/English)
✅Requires multiple Google searches to learn more about the food, culture, and history in the novel
In the novel, Perveen Mistry is the first female lawyer in Bombay, and she uses her gender as a means to go where other male lawyers can’t go. In this case, it’s to interview three Muslim wives whose husband, her firm’s client, just passed away and are living in full purdah, or seclusion from the men in the outside world. In talking with the wives, Perveen finds out they don’t know much about their husband’s estate and their rights to it under the law. She also learns the guardian their late husband appointed to take care of the wives and execute his will after his death may be trying to pull a fast one over the women and their shares to the estate. When the guardian is murdered, Perveen investigates to find out what’s happening behind closed doors and to protect the women and children from further harm. In doing so, she puts herself in danger and must use her wits to save herself from being the next murder victim. I’m fairly certain that this is going to become a series, and I’m all in if it does.
📚27th book of 2018!📚 Here’s another book I read in December but never posted. (P.S. My goal for 2019 is 30 books. I’m feeling pretty confident that I can make it 😁)
I was not a fan of the first half of this book. In it, Ella wins a Rhodes Scholarship to attend Oxford University in England while simultaneously taking on the job of education adviser for an American candidate for President. What rubbed me wrong about Ella is something that rubs me wrong about most people in their twenties: she was fairly self-absorbed and wasn’t really warm (though she did help out a fellow student with a romance issue, which was nice). And yes, I’ll say it because it’s not like she was the one running for President in the book: I found her unlikable. (Hardcore left-wingers give me a break on this one.) Almost immediately upon her arrival at Oxford, she starts seeing Jamie, one of her Oxford professors. This is the second book I’ve read that takes place at Oxford where an American falls for an Oxford professor who is handsome and brilliant and also happens to be fabulously wealthy, which makes me wonder if that’s a cliche or just coincidence.
About halfway through the book, though, it all changes. Without giving anything away, the relationship between Ella and Jamie is completely different. I ended the book absolutely bawling. If you are looking for a book that’s going to give you a good release of tears, this may be the ticket. Power through the first half and then let the floodgates open.
Out of all 27, it’s too hard to say which was my favorite read of the year. In the top 25% were Big Magic, The Gifts of Imperfection, Wild, Reading People, Not That I Could Tell, and The Widows of Malabar Hill. As I said in my post on my 2018 reading challenge, my next goal is 30 books in 2019. I’ve read one and have started another. If you want to see my Instagram reviews for these books, you can follow me here.
Have you read any of the 27 books I read in 2018? What did you think of them? Any good book recommendations for me for 2019? Let me know in the comments!