Once again, it’s time to report on what I read this year. I set myself the Goodreads challenge of 35 books, and I read them all! As usual, the most memorable books get mini-reviews. And I’ve included links to the two full-length reviews I wrote this year. Sprinkled throughout this list you’ll find my favorite books of the year, so keep your eyes open for the On the Blink Noteworthy Books of 2018!
- Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott
This is the final installment in Alcott’s Little Women quartet in which she explores more sophisticated themes: young women who choose a career over marriage, authors who tire of their fame, and lives that don’t tie up neatly. It’s a solid presence in the saga of the March family.
- Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
(On the Blink Noteworthy Book of 2018)
Stamper’s humorous style and meticulous research are a delight for any language lover! Read, read, read this!
- Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
A hilarious light read. Fisher narrates the audiobook, and she does a wonderful job!
- Before Happiness: How Creating a Positive Reality First Amplifies Your Levels of Happiness and Success by Shawn Achor
- Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich
This author never disappoints. Heinrich’s poetic style and rich descriptions make each book completely absorbing.
- The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart
- Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography by Susan Cheever
As with Cheever’s biographies of E.E. Cummings and the Transcendentalists, this book does not disappoint. By turns heartbreaking and ecstatic, Cheever’s style offers a rounded portrait of Alcott—and all her bizarre life events.
- Anne of Windy Poplars (Anne of Green Gables #4) by L.M. Montgomery
- Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France by Peter Mayle
- Why Poetry Matters by Jay Parini
- Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield
Astute, detailed, and inventive. This is a must-read for practicing poets.
- Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
A masterful author, Haupt create ecological nonfiction rife with poetic and philosophical references. Her discussion of crows is smart, astonishing, and empathetic.
- Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey with an Exceptional Labrador by Stephen Kuusisto (On the Blink Noteworthy Book of 2018)
I read this book three times this year. I cried every time. It is absolutely wonderful. I wrote a full-length review for Wordgathering here.
- The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works by David Crystal
- Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway
- The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible by Aviya Kushner (On the Blink Noteworthy Book of 2018)
Completely outstanding exploration of the differences between the Hebrew Scriptures and English translations. This book is a gem — detailed layered research interspersed with a nuanced and captivating family story. Again, the audiobook is a wise choice here. I needed a reliable narrator to pronounce all the Hebrew passages.
- How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey
- A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett
- Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
A lively, capable retelling of the Norse myths. Let Gaiman read to you: choose the audiobook for this one.
- The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassion—Surprising Observations of a Hidden World by Peter Wohlleben
This is a fascinating and enjoyable book, but nothing compares to Wohlleben’s The Hidden Lives of Trees.
- I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
- Dodger by Terry Pratchett
This novel is Pratchett’s hilarious and inventive companion to Oliver Twist. For Dickens fans, there are many enjoyable moments, but the book also stands alone in true Pratchett style.
- Words on the Move: Why English Won’t–And Can’t–Sit Still (Like, Literally) by John McWhorter
- Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John M. Marzluff
- Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan
Read this. You will laugh! It’s light and fun – a nice break.
- More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art by Georgina Kleege
I wrote a full-length review of this ambitious scholarly work for Wordgathering. You can read it here.
- Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
Cute and fun.
- Dear Committee Members (Jason Fitger #1) by Julie Schumacher
This novel consists entirely of letters and emails written by Jason FItger, a train wreck creative writing professor who gaily mixes his professional and personal lives. If you work n academia, you will love it!
- The Weather Detective: Rediscovering Nature’s Secret Signs by Peter Wohlleben
- Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux
- The Shakespeare Requirement (Jason Fitger #2) by Julie Schumacher
In the second installment of Jason Fitger’s story, Schumacher expands the academic universe to include other charmingly self-involved scholars. This novel is much longer but equally hilarious.
- The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy
Exhaustive and enlightening. Not for the faint of heart, but well worth the time and energy.
- Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
- The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King (On the Blink Noteworthy Book of 2018)
Heartwarming, uplifting, and encouraging. The audio version is narrated by LeVar Burton and features the iconic Mr. Rogers music. A beautiful book.
- 84. Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (On the Blink Noteworthy Book of 2018)
Another delightful epistolary story – and the audio is narrated by several cast members. This book is a lovely reminder of how much heart we put into letters, and why we should always write and save letters.