Saturday, December 29, 2018

Our Favorite Books of 2018

Around the middle of March, I started a project that I've had in the back of my mind for decades:

I began to record every book I read.

I've done this off and on (I still have a Goodreads account to prove it!), but no method ever stuck. And even this time, I tried a couple of different ways to record my reading before I came to the one that I like. I really wanted to make a cutest bullet journal-style artistic layout, but I'm not actually, you know, artistic, so the first one that I tried looked like crap.

Eventually, I taught myself how to make my books look a tiny bit more bookish, and now I'm happy, and I have a list of 58 books that I've read between March 13 and today.


As a lover of books, something as simple as just writing down the title and author of every book I complete (I don't include the books that I drop before finishing, and I only write down comics if I've read a whole volume) is a game changer. All I have to do is look through the list, and it's easy to recall plots and settings and the details that make each book what it is. I can give people book recommendations now!

I can make a list like this!

I fully plan to require the kids to somehow record the books that they read in 2019, although I don't have any idea how I'm going to do this. They'll both rebel and "forget" and complain and refuse, and I'll go nuts in my mind knowing all the ones they're undoubtedly skipping. We'll figure it out, though, because it's so worth it. Too bad that I didn't do it this year, though--I'm confident that Will has read hundreds of books this year (if you doubt that number, it's just because you don't know this kid), and Syd has listened to perhaps as many audiobooks.

Don't bother wondering what my life is like with one kid constantly reading the book in her face, and the other kid constantly listening to the audiobook in her headphones. It's generally very quiet.


Syd still reads kid books, but she made a decisive move into YA novels this year, too. She listened to almost all of John Green's books, although she admitted that she didn't really understand Turtles All the Way Down. She LOVED The Fault in Our Stars, though.

I mean, of course!

Unlike Will, Syd is happy to reread her favorite books. She still listens to Wonder every now and then, and all the Rick Riordans, although she's more into The Mark of Apollo books than the Lightning Thief ones these days. This year, Syd also loved the Spirit Animals series enough that she dressed as a Green Cloak for Halloween. 

I let Syd listen to The Hunger Games, and she cried so hard when Rue died that I let her listen to Catching Fire, even though I was worried it would be too scary. She was so worried about Peeta after that book ended that I let her listen to Mockingjay. Even Will hasn't read the Hunger Games trilogy (although I LOOOOOOVE it), because she's worried it will be too scary, the chicken.

This book actually started out as a pick from the MENSA For Kids reading list, part of a book report assignment. But as I'd hoped when I gave the assignment, Syd LOVED this book. Of course she did. Have you re-read it recently? It's beautiful, and sad, and doesn't gloss over or try to explain the hardest mysteries of our burdens in life. It also has a fox, which is currently Syd's favorite animal, and it speaks to the intense relationship that one has with one's pet. Syd, who intensely loves and is loved by a certain grey tabby cat, understood what the book was saying about what it is to love an animal.

Syd isn't quite as obsessed with Garfield these days, but she still reads Foxtrot over and over, and her shining moment in the sun was the day that she met Bill Amend, himself, and bought a signed print from him. Her grandparents gave her this boxed set for Christmas this year, and since then, I think she's read through the whole thing at least twice.


In some ways, it's easier to figure out what Will's favorite books of the year were, because they're piled all over our library bookshelf (yes, we have three entire shelves of a giant bookshelf devoted only to library books--that's how bad our habit is!), but in other ways, it's nearly impossible because she doesn't keep track of them, and reads so many that she can hardly recall them when asked for favorites.

Here's what she admitted when I pinned her down, though, although don't expect any summarizing or opinions. Apparently we're not conversing with mothers this morning...

Will didn't mention this book as one of her favorites, but she couldn't stop talking about it after she read it for a book report assignment. She had a LOT to say about Scout's naivety, and it inspired lots and lots of discussions about civil rights and racial bias, particularly in the southern states.

I can tell you the books that Will has recommended to me and that I always loved, too:

This book is so good! Will read it on a road trip and then handed to me to read on the same trip, so that every five pages or so I could pester her with my theories and predictions and beg her to tell me if I was right or not. She never would, though, because she has a strong moral tone when it comes to book plots.

I'd read the first book in this series, So You Want To Be a Wizard, years ago, back when I was taking a children's literature class in grad school for my MLS and had to complete an annotated reading log. I remember loving it, but I didn't research it further, and so didn't realize that there's an entire series! Will, however, loves all things fantasy, and so she reintroduced me to the Young Wizards this year, and patiently fielded all of my guesses and questions and excited discussions, and now it's something that we love together.

Here's another book series that Will recommended to me, recently enough that I've only read the first two books, although I'm super excited because there are so many more! Will would hardly turn down the chance to read any book about dragons, but this series, she agrees, is something special. The way that Temeraire and his captain speak to each other is tender and sweet, the type of courtesy born of true love, and it colors all of the books with its gentle affection, giving emotional impact even to hard-boiled battle scenes.

This recommendation is recent enough that all the volumes are still on hold for me at the library, waiting for our next trip. Will tells me, though, that it's a terrific series, and combines Girl Scouts, one of my favorite things, with fantasy adventure elements--my other favorite thing!


The first few books of this series are made of magic. Anne is one of the most endearing characters in all of literature--flawed, to be sure, or otherwise you wouldn't love her, but so sweet and hopeful and brave that you can't possibly do anything but adore her. The later books in the series are... well, they don't star Anne, and none of the other characters who are introduced can make up for that. Will happily read the first few books, and then I encouraged her to muscle through the rest just to have a clear view of the series as a whole. Syd listened to the first couple, and I, of course, read them all for the dozenth time this year, getting through at least a couple while on Prince Edward Island itself!

This book is a speculative biography of Nelly Ternan, a Victorian actress and most likely the mistress of Charles Dickens. It's likely that his relationship with Ternan is why he removed his wife from his home and refused to let her have any contact with their children, and she is definitely part, although not all, of the secret to the frenetic pace at which he traveled and spent, and why he seemed to continually lie about his whereabouts. More than that, though, this biography is about a Victorian woman, both subject to and flouting many of those conservative Victorian standards. She was an actress! She was unmarried! She was sexually active! And yet she was just as trapped by the web of these transgressions as she would have been living a completely conventional Victorian life. I admit that I did feel kind of sick about Charles Dickens after I read this, but hey. Celebrities, like anyone, are a lot more complicated than they'd like to appear.

I love the Cormoran Strike books, J.K. Rowling's mystery series. This one might be my favorite, as it ties up a long-running story arc in the series, but they're all fun, contemporary, genre-standard mysteries, far more well-written than you'd expect mystery novels to be.

You guys, I spent a shocking amount of this year obsessed with Floyd Collins. I read about him during our trip to Mammoth Cave National Park, and then couldn't stop thinking about him for a long, long time. This book is quite thorough in telling his story, and also tells about the interesting history of travel and tourism in the years between the world wars. But mostly, it tells the horror story of a man trapped in a small cave, hardly able to be reached, entirely unable to be rescued (or was he?), left alone to die in the cold and dark and wet.

Outsider art is one of my interests, especially genre art. The art constructed as part of Christian-themed pop culture counts as outsider art, mainly because its fan base is more interested in the content than the quality, the theming rather than the technique. I had a lot of fun reading these chapters and then looking up the artists referenced. I listened to a lot of bad music, and it took forever for my recommended YouTube videos feed to recover, but it was worth it to watch an episode of a campy TV show about a Bible-based superhero.


I've mentioned several times that The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy have been our family read-alouds for a long while now. We actually just finished the whole series earlier this autumn! After that, we did A Christmas Carol (we didn't love it a ton, but we did have a lot of fun making fun of it, so there you go), and we're ready to start the Harry Potter series together soon.

I'm already excited by our next year of reading. By this date in 2019, I'll ideally have an exhaustive book list for each kid, as well as me, to peruse through and wax nostalgic about all the happy adventures we've had.

Oh, and if you have any recommended books for us, please let me know in the Comments. We ALWAYS need new things to read!

1 comment:

Tina said...

Thanks for the book recommendations! Emma is working her way through the Apollo series now. Her favorites are Keeper of the Lost Cities, Pegasus, and shes re-listening to the 39 clues. Has Syd read The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West? Emma loved those for quite a while.