I have an ongoing goal to read 50 books a year. Some years, this is more achievable than others. This fall kicked my butt, so I’ve fallen significantly short of my 50-book target—but here’s the great thing about a huge goal: even if you miss it, you still read a lot! So yeah, I won’t hit 50 this year, but I will hit 40. Which is still a big pile of books, if you ask me.
(And a big pile yet to go. I currently have 17 books out from the library. It’s a whole thing. Don’t judge me.)
At the request of several friends, I have pulled together my favorite books of 2018. I tend to read 3 books at a time—one fiction, one nonfiction, and one “Jesus” book—so I have categorized my top choices in the same way.
I have chosen a top 5 for each category and starred my #1 selection. If you want to see my full reading list, you can check it out anytime at koosertravels.com/books.
Two years ago, one of my favorite books of the year was Hannah’s The Nightengale. She is an amazing storyteller, and this winding story of life on the Alaskan frontier proved that she still has the skills. The story is painful but powerful, and I couldn’t put it down.
I love a good fiction novel. Especially one that captures you in its drama and relationships and moral quandaries. This was one of the first books I read this year, and I’ve recommended it a million times since. It makes you think and wrestle with tough topics—the sign of a powerful fiction read.
Some books stick with me less for their story and more for their mastery of language. Last year, my best example of this was Less by Andrew Greer. This year, Eleanor Oliphant. Honeyman’s mastery of the craft of writing—the structure and words and hidden unraveling of meaning through her story—is seriously impressive.
This YA novel is SO GOOD and SO IMPORTANT. It recently was made into a movie, but you know I am always on team book (or at least team book-before-movie). It will rattle you. But in a way that I think we all need to be rattled.
My last fiction choice of the year is one of my selections from the Opportunity International Book Club (make sure you are signed up for great recommendations each month!). This multi-generational, cross-continental story was fascinating—and made even more relevant by my two trips to Ghana this year! Highly recommend it.
If you read one book this year, make it Factfulness. A few pages in, my dad looked up and said, “Everyone everywhere needs to read this book.” I agree. Put simply: the world is way WAY better than we think it is. Yes, it’s a book of data. But it’s a funny, compelling, story-based book of data! Just read it. Bill Gates and Obama agree with me (it’s on their “Best of the Year” lists, too!).
This is one of those books that shot to the top of every single best-seller list—and for good reason. The story of a woman who grew up to survivalists in Utah, it recounts Tara’s fight for education against her parents’ interests. It’s fascinating and well-written, and it highlights a world I knew literally nothing about.
I love memoirs. Basically all of them. But I have a unique soft spot for memoirs by people who have faced incredible challenges, medical or otherwise (see: Girl Interrupted, Brain on Fire, and When Breath Becomes Air—all past years’ favorites). So this story of Kate Bowler’s ongoing fight with cancer was so compelling to me. She is a master storyteller and life live-r.
Every working creative should read this book. I couldn’t stop talking about it. Moral of the story—the rest that we think is a break from our work is actually part of the work itself. Our brain continues building connections and consolidating information as we sleep, walk, exercise, and socialize. As someone who fights hard for sabbath, this was the reminder I needed that rest really does matter.
Ok, yes, of course I am going to have an Enneagram book on the list. At this point, I roll deep with the Enneagram and I am not ashamed. I’ve made all my work teams figure out their numbers and I stand by my statement that it is the cheapest therapy that money can buy. If you are just getting started, read The Road Back to You. But if you know your stuff, this book by Helen Palmer is EXCELLENT.
Honorable Mention: The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
This book makes the list because of the concept. I LOVE hygge (loosely translated as “coziness”, but even that isn’t quite right). I’m doing my best to channel as much hygge as I can into my new home this winter!
Father Greg Boyle is one of my heroes. His first book, Tattoos on the Heart, is one of my all-time favorites. This one might be even better. This could probably also fall into the “nonfiction” category, but it is inspired by faith so I’m putting it here. Boyle’s work with the “homeboys” in south LA is incredible. His stories are unbeatable. Put simply, read this.
Next up on my list of heroes: Bob Goff. The concepts are simple, yet life-changing. Love everyone. All the time. That’s it. Easier said than done. Bob’s life is an inspiration to me as I seek to follow God and live boldly. His ability to love people with action is unmatched—and a challenge for me to constantly push myself to love bigger.
I have a few people from whom I always, always take book recommendations. My friend Andy is one of those people. I always love what he suggests, and this classic by Buechner was no exception. Story structure and the Bible? Yes, please!
My rest days are critical to my wellbeing, so it’s no surprise that a book about sabbath made it to the top of my list. I need near-constant reminders to rest and slow down—but what I love about this book is that it makes rest itself seem active. It’s important for all of us that are overworked and accomplishment-driven.
Anyone who works in “do-gooder” “save-the-world” professions needs to read this book. It will mess you up. Be forewarned. But I think it will also make you better. I’ve been reading a lot about “failed” missionaries—deconstructing the cross-cultural behaviors I once knew and replacing them with something I hope is a little more educated, respectful, and relationship-based—but I still have so much to learn!
Ok, that’s what I’ve got for this year. Remember to check out the full, ongoing list at koosertravels.com/books!
Now it’s your turn! What books did you love? What books can you not wait to read? Let me know in the comments. I’m building my 2019 list now and would love to check out some of your favorites!