The 5 Best Books I Read This Year

It’s December 31st, so I’m going to jump on the bandwagon of making year-end, best-of lists and tell you my favorite books that I read in 2018.

My goal to read the fiction section in my local library, along with starting a book blog this year, have led to something wonderful – I now track every single book I read. Before this year, I used to be TERRIBLE at keeping track of books, authors, and whether I liked a book or not. When people would ask me for ideas or recommendations, I would drum up an image in my mind of a specific book but would not be able for the life of me to remember the actual title.

So since I kept track of everything, choosing the 5 best books should be easy, right? I can look back at all the books that I have rated 5 stars and easily find my favorites. Except I just counted and I rated 16 books as 5 stars in 2018. 16 books?? Can that be right?? Must have been a good year.

Cue a 15 minute break as I try and narrow down my list of 16 books to choose only 5. MOST STRESSFUL EXPERIENCE EVER. Ok, I’ve decided. Here goes (in no particular order, because choosing an order would stress me out even more).

Educated by Tara Westover

This is one of those books that I quite literally could not put down. I stayed up too late reading it and couldn’t think about anything else until I finished it. Tara Westover chronicles growing up in the mountains of Idaho as the daughter of survivalists. Her parents do not believe in education, getting car insurance, or modern medicine practices.

As Tara grows older, she sets out to get an education, beginning at Brigham Young University and going on to get a PhD from Cambridge. Her relationship with her family gets more complicated the more education she gets. Her story is astonishing and watching her ideas about education and self unfold on the page is simply beautiful.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Love for this book snuck up on me as I finished reading it. After reading the final pages, I realized how engrossing, mesmerizing, and intriguing the story had been. The main characters are Yejide and Akin – a young Nigerian couple trying to navigate their relationship after attending University together and getting married. The most important thing for both of them is starting a family, but after four years of marriage, Yejide is still not pregnant.

Yejide is willing to (and does) try anything and everything to get pregnant. Her emotions are tangibly felt throughout the book, and when Akin’s family arranges for him to take a second wife, the fire inside Yejide grows. By the end of the book, I yearned so badly for a good outcome for Yejide. This book will make your heart ache in the way that only good fiction can.

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

This was another book that snuck up on me. I’ve read a couple other Fredrik Backman books, and I expected to like this one, just didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Britt-Marie is in her sixties and just divorced from her husband, Kent. She spent the last forty years of her life ironing Kent’s shirts, cleaning the house to her very particular standards, and sitting on the balcony to wait for Kent to come home each night. After her divorce, she goes to the unemployment office, bullies the worker there into getting her a job (any job), and that’s how she ends up in Borg, a tiny town that is growing tinier due to the recession.

Britt-Marie is a fantastic character – she says exactly what she is thinking (no matter how socially inappropriate it may be), she does not adapt well to new situations, and she is extremely funny (she just doesn’t know it). She begins to make friends in Borg and ends up as the coach of the soccer team because there just isn’t anyone else around to do it.

Backman does an amazing job of filling Borg with interesting characters, and Britt-Marie herself ponders a lot of pertinent questions about getting older, people’s ability to change, and what is important in life. By the end of the book, you’ll be rooting for her, the soccer team, and the whole town of Borg. And crying. You’ll probably also be crying.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a Small Town by Jon Krakauer

Krakauer is an amazing non-fiction writer – I’ve read several of his books and no matter the topic, his writing is compelling, interesting and intriguing. Missoula is a college town in Montana. It is also a town where 350 cases of sexual were reported to authorities between 2008 and 2012. Krakauer documents the experiences of multiple women who were victims of sexual assault or rape and their attempts to get justice.

From Krakauer’s reporting, one thing is clear – the justice system is broken. From the way police question victims to district attorneys who decline to prosecute, the examples of ineffectiveness stack up. It was difficult as a reader to not stop at certain points and just scream about the injustice of it and wonder how we got here as a society. Despite the difficulty in reading it, this book is so important and when I finished the book, I immediately wanted to share it with everyone I knew .

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

This book is the third in Brown’s Red Rising series. If you’re into space, extreme action sequences, plot twists like you wouldn’t believe, and cheering for the underdog, this series is for you. The book is set many years in the future after space has been colonized and society has been divided into permanent castes. Darrow, a lowly Red slave, infiltrates the highest reaches of society (the Golds), in order to get justice for his people who are enslaved within Mars.

This was another book that I could not put down. I stayed up way too late reading all of the books in this series, and Brown definitely knows how to keep readers’ attention with plot twists and shifting loyalties. Keeping track of the space lingo and all the technical gadgets gets a little old, but the fast-paced action more than makes up for it. Brown has created an exciting, intriguing future world that will keep you hooked from beginning to end.

Honorable Mentions

And, because I can’t let you go without telling you the 5 books that almost made the list, here are the honorable mentions:

  • Exit West by Mohsin Ahmed

  • There There by Tommy Orange

  • My Own Devices by Dessa

  • What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Thanks for reading! What were the best books you read this year?