What I Read In 2018

In 2017, I challenged myself to read 10 ‘real books.’ That challenge was so much fun, I thought I would repeat it in 2018 - but up the ante a little bit and see if I could read at least one book per month. Journals and textbooks (as always) didn’t count. Want to see how I did? Leave a comment and let me know what you read in 2018 and any suggestions for 2019!

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Ok, admittedly, I downloaded this one over the summer because of the cover art. What’s not to like? Pretty lady, gorgeous dress, interesting title reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor. I figured it would be a ‘beach read,’ but about three chapters in, this book blew my mind. Ms. Reid spun a tale that was both gossipy but poignant; the story glamorous but so very real. Of course it wasn't the ‘smartest’ book I read this year, but I loved it nonetheless.  Evelyn Hugo, the protagonist, is an exceptional character and I loved her. For many reasons, I was sad when the book ended, but mainly because I wanted more Evelyn. Read this, please. You won’t be sorry.   

Favorite Quote: “you can’t tell a single thing about a person’s true character if you both want the same thing. That’s like a dog and a cat getting along because they both want to kill the mouse.” 

2. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. 

Imagine this: you’re a sailor in 1700, there’s no GPS,  you navigate only by the stars, and how far away you are from land is a best guess. You may venture so far off course that you die from starvation or die of scurvy before you can get to land. Anyone alive in the eighteenth century would have known that "the longitude problem" was THE scientific dilemma of the day-and had been for centuries. Lacking the ability to measure their longitude, sailors throughout the great ages of exploration had been literally lost at sea as soon as they lost sight of land.  One man, John Harrison, dared to imagine a mechanical solution-a clock that would keep precise time at sea

I LOVED this book - I had no idea there even was a longitude problem! Ms. Sobel’s account is interesting, educational, and entertaining. I read this book in a day and couldn’t put it down. 

Favorite Quote: "In literally hundreds of instances, a vessel’s ignorance of her longitude led swiftly to her destruction. Launched on a mix of bravery and greed, the sea captains of the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries relied on “dead reckoning” to gauge their distance east or west of home port. The captain would throw a log overboard and observe how quickly the ship receded from this temporary guidepost...He routinely missed his mark, of course—searching.” 

3. Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck

This is the true story of Tzu Hsi, who rose from concubine status to become the head of the Qing Dynasty. Tzu Hsi was last empress of China and Buck spares no detail about ancient Chinese life. This story has it all - beauty, power, jealousy, and love. This was a really interesting glimpse into the Forbidden City and Ms. Buck is, of course, is unmatched in her historical writing about China. For sure read this if you enjoy historical non-fiction.

Favorite Quote: "When may I paint a picture of my own?" Yehonala asked. Her teacher held her hand poised for an instant and cast a sidelong look from her narrowed eyes. "When I can no longer command you.”

4. Corsets and Codpieces by Karen Bowman

Ever wondered why we wear the kind of clothes we do? How did skirts transition from a man’s to a woman’s garment? Where do tights come from? What does the way we dress say about us? I enjoyed this sartorial jaunt through history; it was more than just a view of how clothes are made but also the rules and attitudes of each era as fashion changed. Ms. Bowman also discusses the impact of fashion on society, psychological effects of clothing choice, and how we wear affects our minds and bodies.

Favorite Quote: In medieval times, there was no pink for feminine or blue for masculine. It was in fact the reverse. Blue was associated with the Virgin Mary and conveyed gentleness. It was considered a weak colour in comparison to pink as pink came from red and red was the embodiment of power, passion, wealth and blood. White stood for purity, but was not worn by brides – whatever their station, people were simply married in the very best clothing they owned.” 

5. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones 

I was interested in reading this book because Ms. Jones is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, Silver Sparrow.

An American Marriage does not disappoint - I love how she creates *real* characters and how easily I can relate to them.  In theory, I have little in common with the characters - I didn’t grow up in the south, I’m white, and I’ve never dealt with the justice system. Ms. Jones crafts a story that drew me in and made me feel as though it could all easily happen to me. Her compassionate style of writing and character development is unmatched. Clearly, I’m a huge fan of Ms. Jones, but I think this book is one of her best.

Favorite Quote: “I have always let you know how much I care, right? You never had to wonder. I'm not a man for words. Daddy showed me that you 'do' for a woman. Remember that time when you damn near had a nervous breakdown because it looked like the hickory-nut tree in the front yard was thinking about dying? Where I'm from, we don't believe in spending money on pets, let alone trees. But I couldn't bear to see you fret, so I hired a tree doctor. See, in my mind, that was a love letter.”

6. Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

I read this for a book club, and I was excited for it. But for some reason, I just couldn’t get into the story. Yes, I love the ideals of minimalism and carving out your own path…but I found the main character’s voice to be a bit too urgent, a bit too self-righteous. I love the concept of this book, but I had to slog through in order to finish it. I can see why this book is popular, but it wasn’t for me. 

Favorite Quote: “The thread that holds together a lifetime of commitment is made up largely of morning breath and lost keys and fingernail clippings and snooze buttons.” 

7., 8., and 9. Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, and Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Ok, these were real beach reads. I read the first in the trilogy, Crazy Rich Asians, in a few hours, then I greedily downloaded the next two. All three perfect summer reads - dreamy, light, and full of sensory overload. If you’ve seen the movie, don’t let that deter you from the book. Even summer beach reads are much better in book form. Enjoy these over a long weekend!

Favorite Quote: "Lah is a suffix that can be used at the end of any phrase for emphasis, but there’s no good explanation for why people use it, lah."

10. The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall 

Willow Havens is ten years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. Need I say more? This was one of my favorites this year; both funny and sad, this book so smart at every turn. Ok, maybe I have a Southern family, but you don’t need one in order to appreciate this book. 

Favorite Quote: “You should have tried the eggplant parmesan she tried to hoist on me at the church bake sale. No wonder her children turned to Satan. He probably showed up as an angel of light and promised them a decent meal.”

11. My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

This book is not action-packed, but Mr. McCall Smith reliably delivers interesting characters, humour and a humane view of life. This book had the added bonus of being set in Italy, leaving me with a craving for good wine and authentic Italian food, and a touch of wanderlust. It was a good way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Favorite Quote: "I suppose that's the way affairs come to an end. Somebody grabs a fork and stabs the other in the hand. And that's it.”

12. Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan

This book made me call my friends with young children and emphatically say, “OMG are you OK??”  Ashley Keller was an up-and-coming marketing exec before she unexpectedly got pregnant right after her wedding to her husband, David. Now she’s at home, trying to figure out how to take care of her baby, her house, her marriage, and herself at the same time. Like most parents, she’s struggling. Then she starts to compare herself to a mother extraordinaire she meets online (think Martha Stewart meets Gwyneth Paltrow.) Yep, I get it, tired concept. But I’m pretty sure all of my mom friends can relate to this one 100%. This was a fun, quick read. 

Favorite Quote: "Dear Pinterest, When we first started dating, you lured me in with Skittles-flavored vodka and Oreo-filled chocolate chip cookies. You inspired me, not to make stuff, but to think about one day possibly making stuff if I have time. You took the cake batter, rainbow and bacon trends to levels nobody thought were possible. You made me hungry. The nights I spent pinning and eating nachos were some of the best nights of my life. Pinterest, we can’t see each other anymore. You see, it’s recently come to my attention that some people aren’t just pinning, they are making. This makes me want to make, too. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

13. Becoming by Michelle Obama

And, of course, a book that needs no introduction. In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama established herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives. Read this. I don’t care your political affiliation. This book isn’t about politics…it’s about soul. 

Favorite Quote: “Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”