The Best Books I Read in 2018


My 2018 Reading Summary

Books read: 81

Five-star ratings: 8

Four-star ratings: 34

Three-star ratings: 25

Two-star, One-star, and not rated: 14

Fiction: 63

Non-fiction: 18

My Rating System

I follow the guidelines. A three-star rating means I liked a book and thought it was better than average although not a book I would enthusiastically recommend. The curve is naturally skewed because truly awful books rarely get published, despite the revolution in independent publishing that literally allows anyone to publish any piece of writing for a relatively low cost. I also factor in my reading experience and ability to filter out the worst books from my reading list and populate that list with books I expect will be better than average.

I put a lot of stock in the consensus of reviews, especially when a book has received enough reviews that the rating will be representative of a large number of readers and not skewed by “friends-and-family” reviews.  F-and-Fs are reviews that seem to be written by people who know the author and either want to give or are coerced into giving a glowing review because of personal pressure or sense of obligation. Those reviews are pretty obvious when a book has less than ten or twenty reviews, especially when there exists a one- or two-star review that takes the author to task for poor editing, proofreading, or in some cases, inferior craft. A few books received no-stars– not because they were worse than one-star books, but because I chose not to rate them for personal or professional reasons.

The Finalists

A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life by Pat Conroy

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

*drumroll* . . . and . . .

The Best Book I Read in 2018 is:

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

*cymbal crash*

Choosing the best book from the eighty-one books I read this year is always tough. Peace Like a River stood out because of its unique characters, setting, and story and Enger’s writing style, which grabs you gently by the throat and doesn’t let go until you’re fully immersed in the world he created and can’t stop reading. I just reread the book to make sure it was as good as it seemed after my first read. It’s better the second time. The main reason being is the anticipation of certain scenes, memorable dialogue, and beautifully written phrases and passages. The second time through, I also got the same vibe as I do reading To Kill A Mockingbird because Reuben is such an incredibly innocent and sympathetic protagonist and narrator; much like Scout was in TKAM. And Swede has to be one of the most outstanding supporting characters ever written (or you could consider her a protagonist with the rest of the Land family). Some readers may quibble that no eight-year-old can be as precocious, well-read, literate, creative, and insightful as dear little Swede. But if you are willing to buy into that small suspension of reality, it doesn’t matter. Give Swede any age, and she is as appealing and delightful as characters come.

2019 Reading Goals

I’m scaling back on my Goodreads Challenge for 2019 because it’s really hard for me to read 80+ books in a year and still devote enough time to my own writing. I hope to write most or all of my third novel in 2019, so I’m setting my 2019 reading goal at 52 books and plan to spend those extra 200-300 hours on writing.

I’ll continue to read as many first novels and books by Minnesota authors (Eskens and Enger are both MN writers!) as I can. I also want to read a few classics, some books by past masters of the mystery/crime/suspense/thriller genres, and find a way to finish reading all the books in the bibliography of at least one of my favorite writers. The focus of that last group will be on Elmore Leonard, Pat Conroy, Lee Child, and Michael Connelly. Finally, I intend to work on my compulsive flaw of finishing what I start and TRY hard to stop reading a book that I DO NOT LIKE for whatever reason. Life is too darn short!

I LOVE reading more than almost anything, and I was rewarded with some wonderful reads that touched my heart, awed my senses, made me think, and spurred me to always try to write better than I did yesterday. I hope your reading year was similarly enjoyable.

My Questions for You: What was the best book you read in 2018? How many books did you read in 2018?  What do you think of my finalists?



3 responses to “The Best Books I Read in 2018

  1. Chris — The best book I read in 2018 was LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celest NG. Excellent! According to Goodreads, I read 61 books in 2018. However, that falls short of the number I actually read. If I don’t like a book, I don’t rate/review it. Mom said, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I’m going to take a page from you this year and if I don’t like a book, I’m going to stop reading it and move on. As you said, life is to short. Your finalists sound fantastic. Because of you, I’ve added PEACE LIKE A RIVER to be reading list. Happy New Year to you and yours!



  3. Thanks for the comment and recommendation, Laurie. I’ll add your best read of 2018 to my TBR list. I’ve certainly heard of Celeste Ng, but haven’t read anything by her yet.

    I think Goodreads let you count a book as read even if you give up on it part way through (if you’re into “padding your stats.” 😉

    Have a great 2019 yourself. I’ll hope to see you again somewhere down the literary road.


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