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  • Writer's pictureEmily McTavish

Best Books of 2018

I met my 2018 reading goal very early, and as of writing this, I completed 40 books before the new year. You can find my reading recap from last year here. In previous years I made qualifiers to my reading challenge, but this year I just wanted to read more nonfiction that wasn’t a biography or memoir, which I still read anyway, but I did make good on that goal. I read books that I would have never picked up on my own by participating in a book club at my local independent bookstore, City Lit. I also read more books that were hot releases of this year thanks to putting my name on hold lists before my library even had the new books on shelves. However, I feel like I am always playing catch up with the best books of years past.

I would call 2018 a more purposeful year of reading for me. I am finding myself almost craving a certain type of book--a family saga, a story set somewhere I’m curious about or an easy reader. This happens especially when I’ve read a lot of the same type of book. For example, I have recently read a lot of books about relationships between heteronormative couples. I’m in that sort of relationship, and while it is sometimes helpful to read books starring people similar to myself, I need a break or to look into other sorts of relationships that are not just couples. This is where I would swing to a book where the characters are family or friends, or I would swing to historical fiction or nonfiction.

Here is the best of what I read this year, and it does not include what I’ve already written about here on the blog. Those would have made the cut anyway, and now I can talk about more books. See my other reviews of Pachinko and The Female Persuasion. To be honest, I think I read so many great books this year.

Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

I had heard about this book before its release and immediately put my name down for a library copy. However, I wasn’t quite expecting it to be so amazing or remind me of where I grew up. The titular character, Virgil Wander, is recovering from a serious head injury when he meets a kite-flying stranger, who turns out to have a deep connection to the small town near Duluth, Minnesota. Virgil’s recovery is a really fun, really profound journey that I would recommend to everyone. I'm still thinking about this book and when I should read it again.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

I really enjoyed this story of a couple battling the elements, both of nature and of chemistry, in the Alaskan frontier in the 1880s. I really enjoyed the adventures and trials of the Colonel and how they were juxtaposed with his wife’s own trials living back at the barracks. I’m not always into the romance, but I found this story about love to be written with more action and less wistfulness. I would recommend this to someone in the mood for a period piece.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman

This is another book where I didn’t know what to expect with the plot. Having read other books by Backman, and I would recommend those as well, I knew this book would likely be heartwarming and make my laugh. Yes, to both those things, but this book tackled a more prominent and serious topic that affected all of Beartown. I really enjoyed the mix perspectives from the characters. You could see the generation and income gaps, which were important to how the plot moved. This book’s characters all really resonated with me, and I can’t wait to read the sequel Us Against You, which is now on my shelves.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

I read this book as part of the Lost in Translation book club at City Lit. I have had this on my to-be-read list for quite a while, and this was a good excuse to finally read it. I’m glad we did, and now my dad is also reading it. This was another book that didn’t turn out as I expected. You read the journal entries from a young, French girl who has decided life is enough and will end hers on her upcoming birthday. However, she makes friends with the apartment complex’s lonely concierge and newest tenant from Japan. It’s a beautiful story even if I did get lost in the philosophical bits. Again, I highly recommend this book.

Squeezed by Alissa Quart

This book gave me a lot to think about. In each section, Quart discusses a social, economic problem in our American society that squeezes family wallets and marginalizes achievements. The whole idea of middle class has changed over the course of generations, and while my Millennial generation may be blamed for many things, this book illustrates why we, and those older and younger than us, are feeling squeezed. I also have more empathy for different professions that I had never considered before.

In 2019, I plan to read 38 books with no qualifiers again. I am more used to reading nonfiction now so I don't feel as though I need trick myself into doing it. Happy reading!

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