Best of 2018: Books
I’ve already mentioned it several times—and I don’t wish to keep bragging—but I read 61 books in 2018. Last year, after reading 52 books, I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge a bit higher. I was apprehensive that I’d get burnt out on reading or feel too much pressure to read quickly, but luckily I never felt anything but joyful about reading so much. This was an arbitrary goal I set for myself, and I would have had no qualms about abandoning it if I ever felt negatively towards the challenge. I read the books I wanted to read without regard for length and while sometimes I would finish several in one week, other books demanded a more leisurely pace.
I know that I am happier when I’m reading, so I make time for it. I know 60 books seems like a lot, but I don’t want anyone to feel bad about their own reading pace (unless you’re Donald Trump, in which case fuck you, read a book). Trust me, there are tons of things I “should” be doing—exercising, eating healthier, saving more for retirement, working on my design portfolio—that I feel woefully inadequate about on a daily basis. So please keep in mind that just because I happen to make time for reading (taking public transit is the number one reason why I can read so much), that doesn’t mean I have it all together.
According to Goodreads, I read 19,367 pages in 2018 (3,052 pages more than 2017). The shortest book I read was In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It, by Lauren Graham and the longest was Broadway: A History of New York in Thirteen Miles, by Fran Leadon. The most popular book was Jurassic Park, by Micheal Crichton, the least popular was Hollywood Obscura, by Brian Clune and the highest rated was The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America, by Isaac Butler.
🏆 BEST OVERALL 🏆
As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Joan Reardon
This collection of letters isn’t even included in the 60 books of my reading challenge—it’s the 61st book I read this year, and also happens to be the best. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end 2018 than blanketed in the warm and fascinating correspondence between two extraordinary women.
Full review to come.
📗 BEST FICTION 📗
Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
Although I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction, nothing sticks with you like a really great novel. Honoring a recommendation, I started Station Eleven reluctantly, not expecting the post-apocalyptic storyline to really grab me. I was completely wrong, and eight months later I’m still thinking about this haunting story.
📓 BEST NON-FICTION 📓
This was the category for me with the most competition this year, and Zeitoun, The World Only Spins Forward and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark are all contenders. But I think that Dopesick was the most eye-opening and maddening book I read this year, and it should be required reading for any American struggling to understand the opioid epidemic.
🔬 BEST SCIENCE 🔬
I didn’t read as many death-related books this year as I have in the past—maybe because the world is depressing enough. But this book was a fascinating look at the health and wellness industry from someone who knows it well. Ehrenreich holds a PhD in cellular immunology and now that she's in her 70s, has decided that she is "old enough to die," meaning that she has chosen to forgo any unnecessary medical treatment and preventative screenings—a concept that is revolutionary and potentially life-changing no matter how old you are.
👨🏻 BEST MEMOIR 👨🏻
I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, by Martin Short
Short’s memoir is just as funny as you’d expect it to be—he is the creator of one of the best characters of all time, Jiminy Glick, after all—but it’s also surprisingly heartfelt and inspirational. Short has suffered more than his fair share of real tragedies throughout his life, but he remains infectiously optimistic.
😂 BEST HUMOR 😂
Meaty: Essays, by Samantha Irby
Last year I picked Irby’s second essay collection, We Are Never Meeting in Life, for this category. This year I finally tracked down her first book, Meaty (which has since been re-released) and it’s just as good as everything I’ve ever read by Irby—including her Instagram and Twitter feeds, which are worth a scroll through—which is to say it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. Irby also somehow manages to be extremely insightful about some really heavy topics in between the laughs and although she’s already made it quite clear that it’s not happening, I still dream of one day becoming her friend in real life.