I had one big personal goal last year, and that was to read more! I have always loved reading, and really fell out of the habit when Jane was a newborn (for obvious reasons, like general exhaustion). I have a really strong memory as a kid of my mom reading a book before bed each night, and my dad always reading the paper when he got home from work at our kitchen counter. It made me think about how I want Jane to see me enjoying reading too with the hopes it gives her the same excitement for books. I set a big goal to read 24 books — 2/month over the course of the year — and ended up finishing the year just shy of 30 (I finished my 30th book on January 2nd!). It was so nice to into the habit of reading again! Every time I post about books I’m reading on Instagram I get messages back where people ask how I find time to read. The unglamorous answer is: I did it by watching less TV and scrolling on my phone less. At the beginning of the year I was using an app called “Done” that would remind me at the end of the day that I had to work on my reading goal (I also used it for things like remembering to drink enough water and exercise). It was a good reminder to put down the phone and stop Instagram scrolling. My husband also has been reading more, so we tried to have a night or two a week where we just didn’t turn the television on and read instead — that is probably the biggest help, that we were doing it together. A little friendly competition is always a good motivator for me too — my sister was working towards a similar goal so we kept checking in on each other’s progress and comparing book lists.
The last thing that really helped was giving myself the permission to abandon books I just wasn’t that into; I got almost all of the books I read this year at the library and I felt way less pressure to finish a book I wasn’t feeling (and felt just the right amount of pressure to finish books I was enjoying in a timely fashion so I didn’t have late fees!). Now that I found a solid rhythm again, I’m hoping I can beat that 30 book goal in 2019! I decided to write up a list of all of the books I read this year with a one-line review in the hopes that it helps you find a good book to read too! Here is what I read in 2018:
2. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. There is so much craze about this book now; I read it last year as part of my New Year’s Resolutions and it definitely got my serious about cleaning out, refolding all of my clothes, and trying to be more purposeful about only buying things that spark joy!
3. I Feel Bad About My Neck. I got on a real Nora Ephron kick at the beginning of the year, reading her writing makes me desperately want to become a better writer – I love her breezy, whip-smart style.
4. When Breath Becomes Air. My sister recommended this book to me back when I was pregnant, and I was just too hormonal to get through the sadness and heaviness of it. I finally marked it off my list this year and I was glad I did it — it was hard at time to read but it was so powerful.
5. Crazy Salad. Another wonderful compilation of essays that I read while on my Nora Ephron kick at the beginning of the year. If I’m having trouble getting into the swing of reading, some good essays are usually a great way for me to get my groove back!
6. Little Fires Everywhere. This Celeste Ng book was one of my favorite reads of the year, she has a serious knack for creating complex characters that you can love and hate within just a few pages.
7. The Last Mrs. Parrish. This was what I like to call a good “junky” read — drama and back-stabbing and twists and turns that would make most soap-operas seem tame by comparison.
8. Seven Days of Us. I heard someone compare this book to that holiday movie The Family Stone and I was intrigued, it was a sweet and funny story that I really enjoyed.
9. The Gunners. This book was just okay, I won’t spoil the ending but I felt disappointed when some major plot questions were left open to interpretation at the end of the book — I prefer when things are wrapped up neatly!
10. A Simplified Life. This book was written by Emily Ley who also wrote Grace, Not Perfection which I read last year. I felt like this book was a more tactical companion to her first book, but it was a little bit repetitive if you’ve read both. I definitely took away a few good tips though that have helped me streamline things in our home that may have previously left me frazzled.
11. How to Start a Fire. I definitely chose this book by its cover, and it may have been a mistake — the storyline was confusing and I think I hung around to finish it because I was looking for some clarity, but I’m not sure I ever got it.
12. Look Alive Out There. I will read anything by Sloane Crosley, she is one my all-time favorite writers. This, among her other collections of essays, are probably some of the few books I have ever truly laughed out loud at (cackled, really).
13. Women in Sunlight. I think it’s fair to say this was tied for my favorite book of the year. I absolutely loved the storyline, loved the characters, and every word written by Frances Mayes makes me desperate to hop on a plane and explore Italy. If you want a feel-good book, this is it.
14. The Trust: A Novel. I don’t fancy myself much of a mystery reader, but for some reason this book jumped out at me when I was scanning the shelves at the library; it was definitely enjoyable and made me think I could get into more mystery type stories.
15. Visible Empire. This was a really interesting novel, based on true events, about a plane that crashed carrying a large number of high-society members from Atlanta. It followed the stories of their families after the crash and all of the Gatsby-esque drama that came with it; definitely enjoyed this one.
16. The Montessori Toddler. One of the only non-fiction books I read this year (reading what you want to instead of what you think you should really helps with this goal!). It was a beautifully laid out book and I took away a few tips for toddler-rearing; one of the best parts for me was when they talked about how to lay out different places in your home in a way that is more conducive for kids learning. It helped me a lot with some decisions about how we laid out our playroom.
17. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I didn’t expect to like this book a much as I did! The main character is an oddball, but you sort of fall in love with her. It was one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks, which has never steered me wrong before!
18. You Think It, I’ll Say It. This was a smart collection of short stories by Curtis Sittenfeld; I zoomed through this one on the beach and it made me want to read the rest of her longer fiction works.
19. How to Find Love in a Bookshop. This book was the definition of charming, I just loved it. The main character inherits a bookshop after her father unexpectedly passes and it follows her tumultuous year as she tries to save the family store and put her own life back together in a small town outside of London. A really lovely feel-good read!
20. The Husband Hour. This was a Jamie Brenner book, and it was a bit formulaic but sometimes that’s just what you need for an easy, mindless beach read!
21. Educated. Definitely one of my top reads of the year. It was a hard story to get through at some points, but so incredibly compelling, and at many times, unbelievable. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it!
22. The Forever Summer. Another Jamie Brenner book that also followed a pretty standard beach-read plot formula, but I enjoyed this one a bit more than her other book I read this year — mostly because it was set on Cape Cod and I read it just after spending a week in the same spot.
23. The Alice Network. This book was great — about female spies in WWII — and totally got me hooked on some other WWII historical fiction (that last book I read that kept me from getting to #30 was Transcription, also about female spies during the war!).
24. All Happy Families. I’m a sucker for books about complicated wealthy families unraveling all of their issues at their summer homes, it’s basically my favorite genre — this book fell right into that niche but had the interesting element of being a true-story memoir.
25. A Simple Favor. My sister and I both read this book — a psychological thriller-meets-chick-lit story — and then went to go see the movie (with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick) together; like most book-turned-movie scenarios, I liked the book much better!
26. Origin. This is my guilty pleasure read on the list — I have a thing for Dan Brown books and can read them in about 24 hours. It helps that I enjoy imagining Tom Hanks as the main character after seeing some of the movie adaptations.
27. The Girls in the Garden. I hit a wall reading during my busy work season when I started this book, and it took me a long time to finish it, but I really enjoyed it once I got through it. It followed a few families that shared a common backyard garden in London and had a suspenseful second half when one of the young girls that lives on the garden appears to have been attacked — it had a Law and Order: SVU feel to it!
28. Other People’s Houses. This book similarly follows the intertwined stories of several families that live on the same street, and I really enjoyed it — it was a quick read!
29. One Day in December. This was tied for my favorite book of the year; a totally perfect romance story that is told over several years as the main characters come in and out of each other’s lives. It was just the feel-good type of book I wanted to read over my holiday vacation.