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2018 was the first year I ever set a goal on how many books I wanted to read. In 2017 I read something like 90, so I was inspired that I could hit 100 if I put my mind to it. Little did I know that I would spend the first half of 2018 so sick that reading was about the only thing I could do. I ended the year by reading 228 books.
Most of the books I read were from my library’s digital offerings. I decided to read through the historical fiction section and see if I found any good ones. I ended up reading a lot of romance novels that weren’t exactly intellectual fare, but I also stumbled onto some great books. And I didn’t exclusively stick to historical fiction, so a few of my choices are from other genres, but these are my favorite books of 2018.
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up Prairie Fires, but the Little House on the Prairie books were one of my obsessions as a child. Prairie Fires is a stunning exposé of the true story behind the books that endeared us to Laura Ingalls and her family’s struggle to make a home in the pioneer days.
I had no idea how romanticized (and even fictionalized) the books were, or how much Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose contributed to the editing and even writing. While the book dismantled my notions about the family and their lives, it didn’t make me love the books, or even the characters, any less. Except Rose. She was certifiably nuts.
At over 500 pages this is a pretty hefty read, and some parts are a little monotonous with detail, but if you are a Little House fan, it is a must-read. I couldn’t put this book down!
The Year Of Less by Cait Flanders
I’ve read a lot of books on minimalism lately that were quite frankly boring. There are only so many times you can go over the process of decluttering or the driving force behind it before it becomes redundant. I was pleasantly surprised by The Year of Less that not only was I not bored, I came away from it inspired and energized. The Year of Less tells the story of when blogger Cait Flanders got so fed up with her life she decided to do a no-spend year. She spent the year dealing with unhealthy coping mechanisms like shopping, alcohol, and food, and decluttered her life and possessions.
I was so inspired to make similar changes in my own life after reading this book! This is also one that I am going to purchase my own copy of so I can re-read and refer back to it. If you are looking to be inspired instead of a how-to on decluttering, definitely read this book!
Once We Were Strangers by Shawn Smucker
A while back one of my friends recommended a Shawn Smucker book to me and Shawn himself reached out and offered to send me a copy. When I saw he had a new book out I quickly snatched it up. Once We Were Strangers is a different type of book than his previous fictional works, but I devoured it just as quickly.
This book recounts Shawn’s experience of meeting and befriending a Syrian refugee named Mohammed. He tells the story of how Mohammed and his family fled their beloved homeland after a bomb blew a hole in their wall. The book details the growing friendship between Shawn and Mohammed and shatters many stereotypes about refugees. I did a more complete review of the book here.
A Piece of The World by Christina Baker Kline
I had no idea what to expect when I picked up A Piece of the World but I am so glad I did. I’ve already written a review of the book here so I won’t repeat myself, but whether you are a fan of Andrew Wyeth or just good historical fiction, this is a must-read
This is one of those emotional, heart wrenching books that you never want to end. I had a hard time finding another book to read after that sucked me in so completely.
How Not To Die By Michael Greger
If you need to be scared straight about your diet and exercise habits, may I recommend How Not To Die? I have been plant-based for many years and felt like I had a pretty good grasp on the science behind a plant-based diet, bit holy moly, this book blew my mind!
I borrowed this from my library, but it is one that I want to get a hard copy of to reference back to. It covers just about every ailment you can think of from high blood pressure to diabetes and explains what foods will help heal the body and which ones progress the disease. I think everyone should read this book at least once!
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnuson
I mentioned earlier that books on decluttering and minimalism have gotten really repetitive and boring to me, so I was so pleasantly surprised when I absolutely loved The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. This book isn’t a how-to on decluttering, but rather a conversational read written by a wise, elderly Scandinavian woman.
You can’t take any stuff with you, and leaving a mountain of junk behind for your loved ones to deal with isn’t ideal. The title might sound a bit morbid, but what this book really focuses on is deciding what is important and clearing out the rest so you can enjoy the time you have left on this earth. It’s a quick and delightful read, so add it to your list!
Of Mess And Moxie by Jen Hatmaker
I’ve read almost all of Jen Hatmaker’s books, and while they are all good, this one really spoke to me at this season of my life where I am pushing 40, my daughter is becoming an adult, and I am facing many new phases in life. Each chapter is like a mini essay, looking back on her experiences and pondering how to transition into this next phase of life. The most powerful message I took away is that just because you believed something, or acted a certain way in the past doesn’t mean that you are chained to that identity for the rest of your life. If you are a middle-aged woman, I think you’ll appreciate this book.
Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman
I have to mention Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman because I read a LOT of really terrible historical romance novels last year, but this wasn’t one of them. It follows a pretty typical romance novel formula, but the characters are well-fleshed out and the story was interesting. I love reading books that challenge me, but sometimes I just want to read something for entertainment, and this book definitely fit the bill! Plus it is free on Kindle Unlimited.
So, there you have some of my favorite reads from last year! What were your favorite books?