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The 10 Best Books I Read in 2018

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2018

2018 proved to be my best reading year to date. 

Apparently, writing a book puts me in a reading mindset. I finished 44 books which is not necessarily all that impressive, in and of itself. But what is mildly noteworthy is the number of fiction books I read in the past 12 months. I read twenty.

For a girl who spent most of the last decade avoiding the adult fiction section of the library, twenty books is a record-breaking number. Admittedly, the genre hasn't changed much in the past ten years. But I have.

You see, I shied away from adult fiction for years because as a Christian, I struggled to read secular books that often contained language, scandalous story-lines, or graphic violence. Christian fiction books, on the other hand, seemed too fluffy, predictable, and overly spiritualized. They had underdeveloped and unrelatable characters. 

My desire to read fiction lately is not necessarily an indication that my tastes have changed, but that I've found other readers in my life and online who share my distrust of the genre. They've gifted me trustworthy titles and authors, creating quite a lengthy TO READ list on my GoodReads account. 

And as I've mentioned before, reading both fiction and non-fiction at the same time is one of my Top 5 tips for reading more books each year.

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I started about 50 books this year, but only finished 44, because not all the books I cracked open were worth my time. And to be honest, some were good enough to complete, but not great enough to recommend. Here is a list of the cream that rose to the top: my five favorite books in both fiction and non-fiction.

Best of Fiction

5- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

by Mary Ann Shaffer

I picked this bestseller up no less than seven times in the last two years hoping to love it as much as the rest of the world seemed to. It had been recommended to me by so many of my trusted reader-friends. But each time I cracked it open, I was turned off by the writing style. Since the story wraps around the letter correspondence of a dozen different people, I found it difficult to understand who was writing whom and couldn't seem to follow the basic plot points. After my seventh attempt to read it, I assumed the book was a lost cause.

I learned that Netflix had created a movie version of the whole thing.

Typically, the idea of watching a movie before reading the book that inspired it makes me burn red hot. (I mean, honestly, why watch the replica when you can read the original?) But, I took a chance and did the unthinkable. I turned to Netflix for help with my literary problem. And I'm so glad I did. While the movie was a rather flimsy attempt at the story, it did provide a sturdy foundation for me. I was officially introduced to the characters, learned the gist of the plot, and then took one final look at the book. By the eighth go-round, I not only understood it but also loved it. 

4- Two From Galilee

by Marjorie Holmes

Similar to Lineage of Grace or the Sons of Encouragement series by Francine Rivers, Two From Galilee is a biblical fiction that seeks to fill in some of the gaps of the love story between Mary and Joseph of Nazareth prior to Christ's birth. Holmes has obviously taken quite a bit of literary license, but it's obvious she has done her homework and has included the historically and culturally accurate courtship customs of an ancient Jewish couple.

I read this book during Advent which allowed me to see the Christmas story through fresh eyes. I can't wait for the Easter season when I can read the sequel, Three From Galilee, which portrays the silent years of Christ's life--age 12 through age 30.

3- Caroline

by Sarah Miller

Before launching into this one, I received several gentle warnings about a few scandalous parts in the pages. To be honest, I wasn't sure how "scandalous" the life of demure Caroline Ingalls could possibly be but was willing to take the risk, knowing that I could always cast the book aside should the storyline become noticeably inappropriate.

For the most part, the book was quite PG-rated. The author did a wonderful job recalling the details of Little House on the Prairie (The third book in the original series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.) Obviously, the book's plot runs parallel with that of the children's version, but it filters every detail through the eyes of a fearful and often over-worked mother instead of a naive and impressionable child, offering such an interesting layer to an already timeless tale.

It should be mentioned that in the final two chapters, the safe story did take a rather racy turn. The author described the intimate relationship between Caroline and Charles, leaving very little to the imagination. 

2- All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

By the time I came to the final page of this book, I wanted to fling the whole thing across the room. The writing and historical accuracy were exceptional. The author's ability to show the emotional poverty of the two main characters during the start of WWII was quite impressive and contributed to my eventual unraveling. I wanted this book to end neat and tidy. I wanted only good things to come to the characters. But it didn't because really good fiction rarely does. It mirrors real life and doesn't always tie up in a pretty bow at the end. For that reason, I loved this book. I just didn't always like it.

Please note: There is some mild language in this book.  

1- America's First Daughter

by Stephanie Dray

The Early American enthusiast in me cannot recommend this book enough. Based on the real daily correspondence of Thomas Jefferson and his close family and friends, this colonial drama follows the life of Martha "Patsy" Jefferson Randolph, the eldest daughter of the third president of the United States. Admittedly, many parts of the story are a bit scandalous and often read like a clean soap opera (Is that even possible?). But, after doing quite a bit of fact-checking, I've concluded that the authors of this historical fiction have done history justice. Even the most unbelievable parts can be proven by court records, archeological evidence, and Jefferson's own letters.

Please note that this book contains some mild language. In addition, while the authors have used discretion in not including any illicit sex scenes, they have chosen to mention the adultery, abortion, incest, and spousal abuse that are sad but provable elements to Jefferson's family timeline.

Best of Non-fiction

5- Book Girl

by Sarah Clarkson

What's not to love about a book about books? To be honest, I don't always share the same liturgical views of faith as Sarah Clarkson, but I do appreciate how she views books through the same lens as I do: as a tool to furnish the mind, nurture the soul, and shape a life. Yes, books are entertaining and can certainly be read for leisure alone. But, they can also be used for so much more than that. My favorite part about this book was the carefully curated book lists. Each list had an intentional and thought-provoking theme beyond just the typical "great books to take to the beach" that you often find in other books about books. 

4- Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

by Jim Cymbala

When my Monday night Bible study group picked this book as our next discussion starter, I was leery. Nothing about the title, cover, or dust jacket summary compelled me towards its pages. But the content became solid proof that one should never judge a book by its cover.

Every page of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire written by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, bears witness to the miraculous power of prayer in one of the toughest neighborhoods in America and was a great reminder to me that the injustices of this world can never be truly changed through legislation or loud voices in the public square. Why? Because the human heart cannot be regulated. Only prayer can move the hand of God and only God can transform lives and change nations.

3- Boundaries

by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

This was another Monday night Bible study selection that really made me dig deep into my own personal struggles with boundaries, setting limits, and saying NO. Prior to reading this book, I didn't think I had many issues with setting boundaries. But that was because I only viewed them in terms of relationships. I soon learned that boundary issues can extend to other areas of life too.

Through some self-assessment, quite a bit of discussion with the other ladies in the group, and a generous amount of honesty, I realized that while I don't necessarily have trouble setting and keeping boundaries with other people, I have difficulty maintaining boundaries on my time. As a high-capacity person, I tend to over-extend myself to an unhealthy degree. 

2- The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi

by Kathie Lee Gifford and Rabbi Jason Sobel

I read and re-read so many sections of this book...to myself, to my husband, to my kids, to anyone who was willing to listen. So many paragraphs left me awestruck.

After numerous trips to the Holy Land, Kathie Lee Gifford, along with a Messianic Rabbi, shed new light on many well-known stories in Scriptures. They both proport that so much of the translation is lost when read through Western eyes. By explaining each passage in light of a Middle Eastern mindset and culture, they made me see so many new layers to the life of Christ and the land where He lived. 

1- Bread and Wine

by Shauna Niequist

This book is part memoir, part cookbook, part essay on faith. The author shares how food has been a central theme in her life and in her journey towards Christ.

As a woman who has banked some of her best memories while gathered with friends and family around the table, I can completely get behind the message of this book. The chapters are mostly on the short side and almost always contain one or two recipes that just happen to coincide with the personal story found within those particular pages.

While my thoughts on theology and Christian living do not always line up with that of Shauna Niequist and while I absolutely disagree with the message of one of her other books, she is currently my most favorite contemporary non-fiction writer. Her writing is breezy and effortless--or, at least, it seems that way on this side of the writing/reading process.

The new year has just begun and I've already turned the final page on The Hiding Place, a book I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read in its entirety until now. It was an exceptional story that I've heard and read in many other forms but never from Corrie ten Boom's own words. I have no doubt it will land in my top 10 for 2019. But, I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Here's to another year of great literary adventures!

More books worth reading


  1. I love love love seeing your top books lists! You are definitely a go-to person for me when looking for my next read.
    Loved GLPPPS, read it with a friend, and it took me until about page 30 to get into it. When we discussed the end we could see that it should be made into a movie, we were hoping! And then it was, but we were sorely disappointed. I think because the ending of the movie wasn't quite the ending of the book. But it probably would be the kind of movie I enjoy if I didn't read the book first, lol.
    Have you read Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay? Sounds like from your description of All the Light We Cannot See you may like it. No pretty bows. If I remember right there was a few language profanities.
    I keep seeing Book Girl pop up as a highly recommended book, I may have to actually add that to my list now. I'll definitely be adding The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi to my list.
    Thank you for your book posts!!

    1. No. I've not read Sarah's Key or even heard of it. I'll have to look into it.
      I agree, the ending of the Guernsey movie was less than stellar. I'm glad, in this case, that I watched the movie first.
      Hope you enjoy The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi. Kathy Lee's parts were good, but the Rabbi's were the best!

  2. I have read 3 of your 5 fiction books..
    I didn't love the Potato Society..
    I thought All the Light We Cannot See was beautifully written.. sad but disappointed by the end.. felt like it went on for maybe 50 pages too long.. I didn't need to read about the female characters life in the present day.. I would have liked for the story to remain in the past.
    I devoured America's First Daughter.. it was sad to read about the treatment of women.. made me very grateful to be born in the decade that I was..


    1. Yes, I felt the same way after reading America's First Daughter.