A round-up of the best books I read in 2018 (a mix of new releases & books from previous years), along with a guide to help decide if it's right for you.

Top Books of 2018

Happy Wednesday, friends! Speaking of being behind, I feel like it’s a late to post my favorite books from 2018, but here we are: my top books of 2018. This list isn’t filled with only 2018 releases; they’re all just books I read for the first time and loved throughout the year. I split it up into three sections: 2018 Releases, Other YA I Loved, and Non-Fiction. Within each section they’re listed in the order I read them, not in order of how much I loved them. Without further ado, lets get into the books.

Note – Some of the links used in this post are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using them I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Some of these books may have been sent by the publisher for review. If so, I’ll designate that at the beginning of the review.

A round-up of the best books I read in 2018 (a mix of new releases & books from previous years), along with a guide to help decide if it's right for you.

2018 Releases

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara pours all of her feelings about her mother’s religion, her world, and her place in it into a notebook, keeping them all to herself. But when she discovers a slam poetry club at her school, she dreams about speaking her words out loud. In a world that she believes wants her to be quiet, will she find her voice?

I love verse novels, so this was automatically on my to-buy list as soon as I saw it. I loved Xiomara and was totally invested in her story. Acevedo did a fantastic job of helping you feel what Xiomara felt throughout the novel. I had a hard time getting into it at first, so I found some videos of Elizabeth Acevedo reading passages from the book and after listening to those I breezed through it. Acevedo also narrates that audiobook as well and I plan to listen to it soon. She’s a well-known slam poet, so find her on YouTube to listen to some of her poetry. It’s amazing!

Read this if you:
>> Just read it.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

After Sadie’s sister is murdered and the police mess up the investigation, Sadie heads out on a mission to get revenge for her sister’s murder. When West McCray hears about Sadie, a teen who goes missing after her sister is murdered, he can’t forget about the case, so he decides to investigate it through a Serial-like podcast called The Girls.

I loved that Courtney Summers incorporated a podcast into this story. Novels that use different methods of storytelling always capture my attention and this was no different. It also made it the perfect story for an audiobook, so I highly recommend you check it out in that format. It has a full cast and the production of the podcast was so realistic. I was invested in Sadie’s story and didn’t want to stop listening. Courtney Summers’s books are never easy reads, but they’re important.

Read This If You:
>> This is another to just read, but look into the trigger warnings if you think it might have some content that will be difficult. Summers explores a lot of issues in this novel.

The Scythian Trials by Elizabeth Isaacs

I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Scythians are descendants of the Amazons and they work with governments, but answer to no one. Nya is expected to earn a place in the Trials, a time-honored mating ritual. Once abducted by their enemies, the memories from that time have been buried, but linger just enough that Nya has a hard time getting close to anyone. She works with a psychologist, who discovers triggers that have been planted in her mind. As the Trials begin, her memories start rushing to the surface.

That was not a good description and every time I think about the synopsis I laugh. Somehow I missed the “mating ritual” part when I first read the description of this book, because I wouldn’t have picked it out if I had, but I’m glad I read it. This was just a fun escape and enjoyable read. Definitely worth escaping into. I loved Nya and was wrapped up in her storyline: both what had happened to her and how she was working through it. There’s a lot of intrigue. And even if it was a mating ritual, I was really fascinated by the Trials. There is one pro and con that stands out in my mind: this book really comes off as being a girl power book, but at the same time there were comments that came off as others being possessive Nya in an un-girl power-y way. So basically, I loved that this appeared to be a society that valued women and really supported them, but at the same time I’m not sure if everything really was as it appeared. Also there were times that I thought boundaries were crossed and it wasn’t really addressed. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t. Same kind of dynamic as it being a girl power society. All that being said, I really did enjoy this book and would totally read it again. It was a fun escape.

Read this if you:
>> Like the idea of female warriors.
>> Want to escape into a book.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw

Two hundred years ago in the seaside town of Sparrow, three sisters were accused of witchcraft and drowned. Each summer they return and inhabit the bodies three local teens in order to lure boys into the sea to drown them as revenge. Penny and the others in the town accept their fate each year, but when Bo stumbles into town just as the sisters are about to return, Penny realizes she has to save him from them.

This was another fun escape. I didn’t feel a strong connection to any of the characters, but I loved spending time with Penny and Bo. There were also different peaks into lives of the three sisters that I loved as well. It’s a slower read, so if you’re looking for a lot of action I’d look for something else, but the writing is absolutely beautiful and it’s just a treat to take some time to read through. Grab a cup of tea and sit down for a slow, beautiful read.

Read this if you:
>> Love seaside stories.
>> Enjoy revenge stories.


The Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekannen

Jessica signs up for an ethics and morality study, ready to answer a few questions and make some easy money. But the questions keep getting more invasive. As the study intensifies Jessica starts to wonder if Dr. Schield has something to gain.

If you’re looking for an engaging thriller, I recommend checking this out. I loved Jess and equally as fascinated by Dr. Schield. The authors did a great job of taking you along with Jess, experiencing and feeling what she did. I don’t want to say too much since this is a thriller, but I was hooked as soon as I started reading it and it was one that I was able to breeze through whenever I sat down with it. I handed it off to my mom as soon as I was done and she made her way through it quickly, too.

Read this if you:
>> Love a good mystery.

Other YA I Loved

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr lives in two different worlds: the neighborhood where she grew up and the fancy prep school she attends. While on their way home from a party, Starr and her childhood friend Khalil are pulled over and unarmed Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer, and Starr has to process and live with the aftermath of the shooting.

I loved that Angie Thomas really looked at this from multiple perspectives. Starr grew up in one neighborhood, but went to school another, so we got to see how both communities responded to the shooting and how that impacted her. We also got to see Starr process what happened as the friend who was in the car and knew that he wasn’t doing anything wrong, but also as the niece of a police officer who knows that he also has to be aware of safety. I just loved the nuance approach to this. The movie was also fantastic, and a certain way they deviated from the book, but both are worthwhile to read and watch.

Read This If You:
>> Have a pulse. (AKA, just read it.)

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

In a world where violence creates monsters, Kate wants to be like her dad, who rules the city by befriending the monster and making humans pay for his protection against them. And August wants to be human, but he’s a monster who can steal a soul with a song. 

I loved this exploration of a world in which violence creates monsters and the different types of monsters that are created based on different types of violence. I loved Kate and August and really liked other members of August’s family. The writing was beautiful. I listened to this on audiobook (definitely recommended!), but also plan to read this again soon so that I can read some of the passages on the page. I also read the follow up (Our Dark Duet) and enjoyed it, too, however it didn’t live up to the first for me.

You Should Read This If…
>> You’re into an exploration of good vs. evil (or “evil”), particularly within individuals.
>> You’re fascinated by a world where violence breeds actual monsters.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

In 60 seconds as Will descends in the elevator he has to decide if he’s going to kill the person who killed his brother in revenge. The elevator stops on each floor and someone connected to his brother gets on to help him make his decision.

This is another verse novel and the audiobook is narrated by the author, so I definitely recommend it. This is a short, but powerful read, so…

Read This If You:
>> Just read it. (Surprised? 😂)

Non-Fiction

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Based on her TedX talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses her own experiences to discuss feminism: what it is and isn’t, and why the different ways we treat different genders is harmful to both women AND men.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve brought this book up on conversation. I even read passages of it to my niece recently and then my parents, my niece, nephew, and I all sat down to watch the TedX talk. I appreciated her conversation regarding the word feminist itself and how nuanced it is. I also appreciated her discussion about the different ways we treat/think about males and females.

Read This If You:
>> This is another one to just read.

Learning to Speak God from Scratch by Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt talks about the importance of speech–including sacred speech, and how and why we need to revive sacred speech and learn to speak God from scratch. He ends with a series of words, in which he shares his thoughts on the meaning of each along with his personal experience with each word.

This book opens with an exploration about words and language and how that shapes are cultures by looking at cultures that have active speech vs. passive and other examples. After this, he explores different words that could be speaking God, and includes quite a few you might not be thinking of. I really appreciated each part of this and passed it off to my dad as soon as I finished. Once he was done with it I passed it off to another pastor I know… who I don’t think has read it yet. I should send him to this review to see that it was one of the best of the year. 😂

Read This If You:
>> Have contemplated sacred speech and are interested in seeing how even the most ordinary of words can speak God.

Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Donald Miller walks you through the StoryBrand process to clarify your message so customers will listen.

I met Donald Miller at a conference in February and I immediately loved the concept behind StoryBrand, which is essentially using story structure to communicate a message. I incorporated this idea into the work I do and it’s a method of communicating a message that just… works. If you follow me on GoodReads you probably saw this on my Currently Reading shelf for the looongest time. It’s not because of the book itself, but we learned about it at the conference and I had shared the process with a few others, so it seemed like I was reading things I already knew. That’s not to say I’m an expert in the StoryBrand process. I’d actually like to do a more detailed training for it. But this is a great introduction to it and will do wonders for your communications strategy.

Read This If You:
>> Have a message you’d like to communicate.

What were your favorite books of 2018?

A round-up of the best books I read in 2018 (a mix of new releases & books from previous years), along with a guide to help decide if it's right for you.

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  • Met this handsome fella today. His name is Chauncey. When he blooms he’ll smell like eau de rotting meat and will make everyone swoon. 😍🥴😷 (If you live in the Twin Cities and visit him on Tuesday you might be able to see/smell him in all his glory.)
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PS - There’s a new post on the blog featuring this guy and a few other cute dogs. 🐶
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  • Let’s see if I can make it through this without crying. If you’ve been following my Stories, you’ll know that I left town on Wednesday. I mentioned that this isn’t a fun trip, but I followed that up with images of cute dogs and a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan. What I didn’t show was a day spent at the hospital as I visit people I love dearly, one of whom is in ICU and may not get better. This would actually be a great segue into “Instagram is curated,” but not today.

Yesterday was a hard day. It was filled with this view, that brought some peace. It was filled with cute dogs, who brought some comfort. It was also filled with a lot of anxiety and tension and sadness. We ended the day in a group and our conversation was filled with tears as we talked about what’s happening right now and how we feel.

And then the tears turned to laughter as we reminisced about the past and talked about dogs.

It brought to mind that quote by the wise Albus Dumbledore: “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” The day I left, a friend and I were chatting and he said, “Your heart must be aching.” And it is. I wouldn’t necessarily describe anything I’ve felt as happiness, but yesterday I was reminded (because I’ve always known this, sometimes it’s just harder to remember) that the heartache and sadness can coexist with easier moments, too.

I can enjoy this view and accept the peace that it brings as I wonder what the outcome of this will be. I can feel the heaviness that I might not see this person again and accept the comfort that these dogs bring me. I can band together with people that I love to live through a rough day, but also enjoy the good moments that we share in the midst of it.

Laughter can accompany tears.

And when I live through days like today, I wonder if it’s exactly what we need in order to get through them.
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