Great Big 2018 Book Review

December Reads

December Reads

Merry Christmas!!

I’m hoping you’re all bundled up inside today with friends and family, enjoying a long, relaxing day of holiday cookies and cocoa and gifts and naps and a really good book!

Today’s post is all about all 66 books I read in 2018, wahooo!! In 2016 I read 100 books, just because I was curious if I could do it. But since then, I’ve made my personal Goodreads reading goal to 60 books per year, because that’s a bit more manageable for my lifestyle.

Click here to see all the books I read in 2016 (100 of them), click here for 2017 (64 books), and here for 2018 (66 books).

I’ll start with a recap of the books I read in December, then I’m going to share a few favorites from the year.

(Psst: if you go to my 2018 Reads page, you can see where I marked a * for my favorite books of the year, or a ** for audiobooks that I enjoyed. Hope that helps you find your next favorite book!)

December Reads

1. Becoming by Michelle Obama

I joined Audible specifically for this book, ha! I’ve been so excited for it to be released, and I wanted to listen to the audiobook version because A) Michelle is reading it, and B) I had a couple weekend road trips in December and wanted a nice, long, entertaining book to kill the time.

Michelle Obama is an amazing woman, and she writes her memoir the same way she lives: with grace and integrity. I didn’t know very much about her upbringing, except that she was from the south side of Chicago and she went to Harvard. This is a big book with lots of life details, and I love how she shares so many intimate moments of her life with us.

Must read, five stars, go buy it right now!!

Find it on Amazon here

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Book three….check! I’m really excited for books 4-7 because everyone keeps telling me that’s when the series gets really good.

Find it on Amazon here.

3. Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

I read my first Katherine Center book last month, and I loved it so much that I picked up two more to read this month! I put her in the same category as Liane Moriarty or Taylor Jenkins Reid: kind of chick lit/rom com-y, but with a little more substance than someone like Lauren Weisberger or Elin Hilderbrand.

Now, I’ll be honest with you: I was this close to quitting on this book. I hated it until I was 50% of the way through, and then in the final stretch it really came through for me and I ended up LOVING it. So hard.

It’s about a 32-year-old recently divorced woman named Helen who is going on a wilderness backpacking adventure in Wyoming to find herself again. The only glitch is that her brother’s best friend, who is 10 years younger than her, decides to hitch a ride with her and go on the trip too. She thinks the entire thing will end up being a disaster, but she has no idea about the twists and turns that are up ahead for her.

The ending has such a positive (and often overlooked) message. It’s super light, fast, easy to read, and a great vacation novel!

One more quick note: I listened to the audiobook version, and the reader’s voice really annoyed me. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t like it. I wish I had read it instead of listened.

Find it on Amazon here.

4. The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center

Three for three! So far, I’ve loved every book by Katherine Center. They’re perfect for the month of December when I’m in “vacation mode.”

The Bright Side of Disaster is a super relatable novel about Jenny Harris, a newly engaged, pregnant woman with a less-than-attentive fiancé who is more concerned with his amateur band than helping out with wedding plans. When he suddenly disappears just before Jenny goes into labor, she’s left to care for her newborn baby and figure out future plans alone (with the help of her divorced parents and the handyman neighbor.)

When Dean reappears, she has to ask herself if “good enough” is good enough, or if true love is still worth believing in.

Y’all…I’m probably going to read all of her books. They’re just so much fun!

Find it on Amazon here.

5. A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

I haven’t read one of Jodi Picoult’s novels in years! Not sure why, except they just haven’t been on my radar. But Kylee finished this one last month and she kept telling me I had to borrow it, so when I was in Dallas for the marathon earlier this month I picked it up and told her I’d read it.

Friends!! It was sooo good! I didn’t get enough sleep for 3 nights because I kept staying up way too late reading! It’s about a shooter who goes into women’s services clinic in Mississippi and holds the doctors, nurses, and patients hostage. The book moves in backward motion, starting at 5 pm when the shooter is about to emerge from the clinic, and working to 8 am of the same day.

This would be a good one for a book club (if you have a group of people in your book club who are willing discuss difficult issues!) Jodi Picoult introduces characters who are on both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate. I thought the book would be about gun control, but it’s mostly about abortion and women’s rights.

Find it on Amazon here

6. Starry Night by Debbie Macomber

Haha, I’m so embarrassed that I read this! I always like the idea of being someone who enjoys cheesy Hallmark movies with their bad acting and predictable plots during the holidays, but I’ve never been able to get into them. I don’t know…the idea of it just sounds so fun! But I’ve never actually enjoyed them.

Debbie Macomber’s novels are essentially Hallmark movies in book form, so I figured I’d give the book equivalent a try.

I just can’t.

There’s light and easy, and then there’s too cheesy. At least I tried! I need just a bit more substance in my reading.

7. When Life Gives you Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

This is the third book in The Devil Wears Prada trilogy. Back in October, I read the second book and didn’t like it, but I said I’d probably read the third one anyway, just to see if it gets better.

And it did!

Instead of being about Andy Sachs, this one follows her friend Emily Charlton, who is now a successful stylist and image consultant to Hollywood stars in LA. I’m glad that this book followed Emily, because I think the story line with Andy kind of fizzled out at the end of book two. This one is sexy and gossipy and fun!

Ironically, the thing that weakens this book (and the second book in the series) is how Lauren Weisberger tried to tie in Miranda Priestly and keep all of the books connected. It just didn’t really work, and Miranda is in maybe 3% of the entire book. I think it would have been better as a stand-alone novel rather than part of a series.

Anyhow, it was much better than the second book, but not nearly as good as the original The Devil Wears Prada. That one is still my favorite!

Ooh, and I will note that I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was a really fun one!

Find it on Amazon here.

Ok, so if you want to see every book I read in 2018, click here. Overall, it was a GREAT year of reading!

I think I’m getting better at picking out books I know I’ll love, and I’m getting better on quoting books halfway if I can tell it’s not for me. There were several books I started and stopped halfway when I realized it wasn’t something I would enjoy, and that skill can we call it a skill? Hehe) took a couple years to cultivate.

My favorite author of 2018

My favorite author of 2018 was definitely Taylor Jenkins Reid! I read all of her novels this year; I couldn’t get enough! When I’m in the mood for a fun, easy book, hers are perfect! That have a little bit of depth, have a bit of sadness in them, but overall are just really quick, fun books to read on vacation.

(Katherine Center was a close second for my favorite author of 2018!  I read three of her books in the last two months, and I’m kicking off 2019 with another one!)

My favorite memoir of 2018

My favorite memoir of 2018 was Educated by Tara Westover. It’s on a lot of “best of” lists for 2018 (New York Times, Amazon, Goodreads, etc.) so I know that a lot of you enjoyed this one. Her story about growing up in a survivalist Mormon with no education at home is gripping.

I read a lot of good memoirs this year! A few others I loved were Love Warrior by Glennon Doyles, My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (it was the second time I’ve read that cookbook/memoir…her writing is just so comforting!), and We Crossed A Bridge And It Trembled by Wendy Pearlman, the series of accounts from Syrians whose lives have been altered from the war.

My favorite self help of 2018

I’ll admit it…I’m a bit of a self help junkie. I love reading any book about how to understand my personality, increase my productivity, or develop a new mindset in how I approach something difficult.

I loved Jocelyn K Glei’s Unsubscribe, a book about approaching your email inbox in a healthier way. I’ve used many of her suggestions this year to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my email. (For instance: recognizing that I don’t owe every single person a response! That one took me a very long time to learn in life, but now that I’m there I’m sooo much less stressed by email!)

I’ve also been recommending The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile to a bunch of friends. If you love discussing personalities and want to learn more about the enneagram, this book is a fantastic starting point.

And I finally read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, and friends: I freaking love Amy Chua. I’m a violinist now, and I grew up in classical music world with dozens of these “tiger moms” around, so nothing was all that shocking to me in Amy’s approach to raising kids. I just think it’s fascinating to contrast the eastern versus western approach to raising children.

My favorite fiction of 2018

Picking my favorite fiction novel of the year was tricky, because I read a pretty broad range of them.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is at the top of my list. It’s historical fiction, which I love. The book starts with two Asante women: one marries a British governor, and her half-sister is brought to the United States and sold into slavery. Rather than following them for the book, each chapter follows their children and subsequent generations. This book pulled at my heart strings, was instantly gripping, un-put-downable, and all the things I’m looking for in a great read!

I also have to mention three others, because they were close contenders for my favorite fiction of 2018:

  1. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner is another historical fiction novel that I absolutely loved. It toggles between two time periods that are 100 years apart: Ellis Island in 1911, where a young nurse can’t get herself to return to Manhattan after a man she loved fell to his death at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and Upper West Side in 2011, where a widow is raising her daughter alone after her husband died when the World Trade Towers collapsed.
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was easily one of my favorites of 2018. I’ve yet to see the movie…I think I’m stalling, because the book was so emotional for me, I’m not sure I’ll be able to handle the movie!
  3. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. I mean, y’all…it’s chick lit. There’s no way around it. This book is fluff and fun, but I just had so much fun reading it! It’s just the ultimate beach read for someone who wants a light, flirty, easy book to read. If you have a lazy vacation coming up, go ahead and go over to Amazon and order this book now!
  4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio is one of the only YA books I read this year, and I absolutely adored it. I want every young adult (and older adult!) to read this sweet story of Auggie. And, like The Hate U Give, this is another book that has a movie that I haven’t seen yet!

Alrighty friends, that’s it for 2018! Did any of my favorite books match up with your favorites? Anything you read this year that stood out to you? If you have suggestions of anything I should add to my 2019 reading list, feel free to comment below!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas, friends!


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5 years ago

I am so excited for you to be reading Harry Potter! I wish all the time I could go back and read them for the first time and enjoy all the magic.

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