For a writer, I’ve never felt like I read enough. I always have a book going, but I’m not what people call a “voracious reader.” Without being intentional, I average a book a month, sometimes two. So this year for the first time ever, I set a reading goal: two books a month, 24 books total. I’m proud to say that as I write this I am at the end of my 24th book for the year (Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowling). This is probably the most I’ve read since I was in grad school and basically had to read 24 books a week. If you count a couple of books I read for work, I actually exceeded my goal. Being intentional about how much I read meant more reading at night and in the morning and less social media scrolling. It reminded me why I love books so much. It helped me concentrate for longer periods of time without having to grab my phone and most importantly, it introduced me to others’ stories. Of the 24 books I read this year, only seven were by people of color. Of those seven, three are my top three books of the year. I thought I had been more inclusive with my reading choices. Instead, the majority of the titles I grabbed this year were by people who look like me: white women. Lesson? Be intentional about reading books written by people—especially women—of color next year. Those stories are sticking with me most. Without further ado, here are my top five books from 2018, in countdown form:
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This read was delightful. Ove was a character I felt I knew personally by the end, and although at first I thought we had nothing in common, I grew to realize there were certainly parts of Ove in me. I love novels where the characters reflect back a piece of myself. It makes me feel more connected to the world.
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
I remember seeing this cover years ago when I worked in publishing and everybody was reading it. I bought this book based on cover alone because I couldn’t remember if people said they had liked it. I loved the absurdity of the tale, the complexity of Bernadette and the tenacious spirit of her daughter. Now I know why everybody has already read it.
- The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
To me, this is a near perfect story. I’m not always a fan of novels written from multiple points of view but this one really works. I clutched this book to my chest after I read the last page. Then, I couldn’t sleep—the sign of a truly good book.
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
As a writer of creative nonfiction, I was pretty stunned by this one. It is truly beautiful, and to know it was written between chemo treatments, in rare free moments during his hospital rounds, and at the very end of his life—it is still hard for me to believe. I am just so grateful Dr. Kalanithi wrote this book.
- Chemistry by Weiki Wang
I haven’t been able to shake this one since I read it. I keep coming back to it as my favorite of the year. Wang’s style is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Short sentences. Very little description yet somehow I felt completely enveloped in the protagonist’s story, her nervous breakdown in graduate school, her inability to decide to take the next step in a relationship, and all from the perspective of a Chinese American woman grappling with a cross-cultural existence. This book is truly great. I don’t know how else to describe it. Just read it for yourself. Reading slows us down. It opens our eyes to others’ perspectives. It exercises our minds and calms them at the same time. It is a love I’ve had for a long time and know I always will. Here’s to even more and better reading in 2019. I leave you now with several honorable mentions, a couple of which just barely missed my top five list but are definitely worth reading. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout Good Christian Sex by Bromleigh McCleneghan Life After Life by Kate Atkinson There, There by Tommy Orange To Build a Trail by Paul Willis