As is now my tradition, here are the top 10 books that I read this year, in order.
10. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: I hated this book the first two or three times I tried to read it, but because I’ve loved so much of what Wolitzer has written before and because people kept telling me they loved it, I persisted. I’m glad I did — it does a wonderful job showing the complexity that sometimes exists in relationships between people who on the surface all believe the same thing.
9. Factfulness by Hans Rosling: I wrote about this book earlier in my post “Combating Despair with Facts” but to reiterate, if you are feeling hopeless or pessimistic about the state of the world, this easy-to-read book will help ease your soul. Extreme poverty has halved in the last 20 years around the globe, more girls are getting educations, and fewer people are dying of preventable diseases. It’s probably the book I’ve talked the most about this year — I think it should be required reading for every world citizen.
8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: I have very complicated feelings about Sherman Alexie (and this was even before the whole #metoo thing) so I have avoided reading much of his work. Last year though, my book club read Alexie’s memoir about his mother and I was floored by how good it was. Long story short, I read this in an attempt to open my mind, and I am glad I did. It’s so good.
7. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug: I’ve always wondered what it’s like the be German and saddled by all of the horrible Nazi history. German-native Nora Krug’s beautiful graphic novel tells the story of her search for home and the complex feelings she has as she researches her family’s role in WWII.
6. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui: This gorgeous graphic novel tells the story of the author’s family’s life and eventual escape from Vietnam and the impact on the children’s lives in California many years later. Beautiful.
5. Tin Man by Sarah Winman: The content of this novel reminded me a lot of my #1 pick but this is a much more succinct snapshot. A beautiful story of missed opportunities and the pain of a first true love.
4. You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis: I discovered this book through the recommendation of a good friend and I’m so thankful. Davis’ simple drawings help tell a beautiful story about what it means to be by yourself and the joys of traveling without a structured plan.
3. Calypso by David Sedaris: You probably know David Sedaris and how laugh-out-loud funny his essays are. This is his tenth book and while they’ve all been funny and smart, this is the first time I’ve seen him tackle difficult topics — like his sister’s suicide and the approach of old age for him and his father — with such grace and depth. It’s absolutely his best so far.
2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Angie Thomas is the next Toni Morrison. This YA novel tells the story of a police shooting from the perspective of 16 year-old Starr Carter and is surprisingly thoughtful about showing the story from multiple perspectives.
1. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: I feel like there should be a name for this kind of sweeping novel — one where the story takes you through the complete arc of a character’s life. Is there and I just don’t know it? In any case, this one is fantastic. It tells the story of Cyril Avery, starting with the day his 16-year old mother is humiliated by the parish priest and kicked out of her home for getting pregnant out of wedlock. It is a beautiful story about the unexpected places life takes you. Just gorgeous. (Although to be fair, I gave it to my mother for Christmas and she called me up to ask why I would give her such an anti-Catholic and depressing book. So it’s not for everyone. But I adored it.)
PS: What 2018 was not great for was blogging. I was inconsistent and just plain dropped off there at the end of the year. But I plan to remedy that in 2019, with much more frequent and diverse posts (fingers crossed).