Disclaimer: featured image only contains 2 of the books on my list because I’m lazy and took a screenshot from my Goodreads 2018 overview.
2018 was a bit of a banner year for reading for me with a total of 63 books read. Of course there are people who read hundreds of books a year, but that’s not something I aspire to – I don’t like to read really quickly and I think it would all start to blend together even if I did reviews for each book.
Of course having been on sick leave and then unemployed for most of 2018 definitely helped give me more time to read. Though I’ve been studying I won’t pretend I’ve spent as much time on that as I did my job.
An ode to audio books
Another thing that upped my total books for the year was definitely my Audible subscription. I got only got into audiobooks about 1,5 years ago because somehow I never thought I’d be able to focus on listening to a book as my mind tends to drift a lot. And I also considered it a “lesser” form of reading as it’s more passive consumption than reading a book.
As to the first point it did take a bit of practice to get into, but if the book is interesting I found it easy enough to focus on. For my own part I generally find it easier to listen to fiction works, as though non-fiction can definitely be interesting it doesn’t usually have the same tight narrative structure that keeps me focused. A notable exception would be Cosmos.
As to the second point, I do still think that it takes more effort to read a book than to listen to it, but does that really matter? I generally read for pleasure, and I think I retain roughly the same amount of detail from audiobooks as from printed (paper or digital) books.
And they’re a godsend when working out. I find exercising boring and even though I’ve had the habit of exercising 3-5 times a week for years I still need to push myself to actually do it almost every time. My motivation is: I know it’s good for me and I almost always feel good afterwards, and if I have a good book to listen to I am additionally motivated by getting to listen to more of the story.
Goodreads doesn’t give me an easy stat for this but at a quick glance it looks like a little under half my books read for 2018 were audiobooks and I wouldn’t be surprised if this year will be much the same.
Favourite inspirational read
Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe.
Although I’d heard of the body positive movement, this was my first thorough introduction, and I have to say it was an eye-opener. I was familiar with a lot of the subject matter, having struggled with eating disorders and body image most of my life, but it really helped to have someone who had not only been through it, but done a lot of research and reading on the topic really lay it out there. And in many ways this book propelled me down the path that I am currently on, studying to be a weight consultant – not because I want to weigh people and count calories but because I want to have a proper background and insight into the subject as I help people become happier with themselves and figure out what healthy means to them.
Our bodies are amazing and they deserve to be loved.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
This was such a beautiful story, it was just a pleasure to listen to. Very meditative, and sweet and funny too. We see the pre WWII era in England through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, and while we definitely empathise with Mr Stevens it is also clear that he’s not terribly objective, and that he’s struggling to adapt to “modern” life. His dignity is what he clings to, but is it not also what has prevented him from truly living is his life? It’s a beautifully written and layered story.
Honourable mention: Anna Karenina.
Simon VS the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.
This book about a gay high school boy in the Southern US was just downright adorable and funny. It took me a while to get into the style, but I came to really love the writing – it felt genuine and appropriate. It was one out only a very few books in 2018 that left me with that warm glowy feeling. And there’s also the mystery of who Simon’s email buddy Blue is to keep you hooked.
Death Message by Kate London.
I’ve read quite a few crime/thriller books in 2018, mostly via Audible. It’s a great genre to keep me focused while listening and to motivate me to exercise because I want to hear more of the story.
I think Death Message is the only one I gave 5 stars to, though there were definitely a few other good ones too. This one stood out to me because it was just really solid and believable without going over the top. It was well-written and detailed, the characters came alive, and the story was really exciting. It relies on a well plotted narrative rather than lots of surprises and twists, and still had me just as hooked. I am definitely looking forward to the next one.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
I guess quite a few of my favourites could fit into this category, but I’m reserving it for Eleanor because she stole my heart. It took me a little while to get used to Eleanor and her style, but it was SO worth it. The story is brilliantly crafted and written with some beautiful language and recognisable but still fresh description, and Eleanor herself – well, you may start out by laughing at her, but after a while it’s definitely more of an affectionate laugh. And you’re really rooting for her to succeed, to get better, that her attempt to put herself out there in the big scary world will pay off. I laughed, I cried, I really, really loved it.
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib.
NOTE: this one is only scheduled to be published February 5th 2019.
This may be the toughest pick of the bunch, as I also really loved Sadie. In the end though I went for this one as I guess it resonated that tiny bit more strongly with me personally. This was a beautiful, sad and heart-warming/heartbreaking story about eating disorders, broken dreams, family and the great capability we have of kindness and understanding for others but not always for ourselves. If you want to know what it’s like to struggle with ED, this is a good one to read. But it’s also a beautifully written story in its own right.
Cosmos by Carl Sagan.
Admittedly I didn’t read that much non-fiction this year, but Cosmos still stands out among all the books I read in 2018 as a favourite. It’s a notable exception to the “cannot focus on non-fiction audiobooks” rule, because it’s very engagingly written and the narration was great as well. Sagan was a very good writer who was not only passionate about his material but also a firm believer that science IS for everyone. He explains some relatively complex subjects in a straight-forward way. He gives a good overview of the history of science and the cosmos, but also goes further into speculating as to what might be possible – and that’s why it gets really exciting.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Ostensibly a children’s book, I feel this has a lot to offer to adults as well, who enjoy fantasy/magic and don’t mind a child protagonist. Neil Gaiman is a fantastic storyteller and you cannot fail to be dragged into the graveyard and live through this tale of ghouls and ghosts and hounds of god, with Bod and his helpers. It was sweet, it was funny, it was vivid and it was downright scary in parts. An absolute delight to listen to, and the music definitely added to it.
So, in conclusion: I read a lot of books in 2018, and there were definitely some favourites among them that I will no doubt read again. In fact I’m kind of tempted by some already. But then again there’s also sooo many books out there still to be discovered.
Here’s to another year of great bookish adventures!