Books and Reading

My Top 5 Reads of 2018

Hello, family, friends, and readers!

Since it’s the last day of 2018, I thought it high time I publish my top 5 reads for this year! My reading schedule has been more cooled this year. All in all, I read 25 books, 18 of which were fiction. In addition, I wrote more this year than last year, so I enjoyed the decreased volume in favor of soaking in each book and taking time to create some stories of my own!

Without further ado, here are my top 5 reads of 2018, in no particular order, with some thoughts on each one!

  • Sugar by Deirdre Riordan Hall
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Unwind by Neil Shusterman
  • Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and David J. Evans
  • The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

Let’s start with my earliest read of 2018, which I began in 2017 but finished in early January of this year.


Sugar: Deirdre Riordan Hall

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Sugar is a sweet, realistic story about an overweight girl who lives with her negligent and abusive family. Her physical health has dipped to critical levels, she is socially isolated, and she doesn’t expect anything more than her current life. Sugar then meets Even, the first person who sees her before seeing her weight. The two begin a tentative friendship that quickly morphs into something more.

More than a romance, Sugar is an exploration of humanity’s need for love in order to become the best of itself. It has dark, sad, and bright moments throughout. I connected with the characters and enjoyed the splendid imagery, as well. This novel knows its scope and tells its story until it’s finished. I’d recommend Sugar to anyone looking for young adult or romantic fiction—or simply an inspiring story to start off your new year.

Anna Karenina: Leo Tolstoy

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One of the most resplendent Russian literary masterpieces of all time…what can I contribute to what’s already been said? Anna Karenina artfully covers so many themes: the roots of infidelity; the chains of addiction; the need for love; codependency; selfishness; depression; anxiety; social strata and their pressures; life’s purpose; falling in, out, and back into love…

I loved the sweeping, intricate character arcs that traverse this novel’s pages. We see each character reach their own sort of zenith of development; and these endings seem completely right, because we’ve watched them grow. Tolstoy brilliantly shows us the stark reality of human nature up close. Anna Karenina is a great winter read to cozy up with by the fire.

Unwind: Neil Shusterman

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This is hands-down my favorite read of the year. My husband, Josh, referred it to me, knowing my love for character development and science fiction dystopia. Unwind is the futuristic story of a world in which parents can legally “unwind,” or surgically disassemble, their 13-18-year-old children. This indoctrination centers around the idea that abortion is illegal, and that unwound children live on in their various donated parts, given to people who would otherwise die.

Conner, Risa, and Lev are the main characters, whose lives are affected directly by Unwinding. They find unique ways to circumvent the futures prescribed to them, and meet one another along the way.

Told in smoothly switching POVS, this is a four-part series that traverses multiple years of the young adults’ battles with the system. I was hooked from the beginning thanks to the quick, lively plot and lifelike characters. If you’re squeamish or don’t like dark themes, be cautious with this series. I’d argue, though, that the story is worth it because of the fascinating implications of a world that could feasibly exist not long from now.

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life: Bill Burnett and
David J. Evans

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This is the one nonfiction book that made my list this year. Burnett and Evans are experts in design thinking, used to engineer new products. They apply this philosophy of creative intentionality and productive failure to designing one’s lifestyle. The results have been wildly devoured and critically acclaimed by college students, working adults, and retired individuals.

Designing Your Life is packed with useful direction and thorough self-assessments. I would recommend buying this book with its corresponding workbook, as it leads you through weeks of in-depth analysis of your daily routine and what feeds your soul. This book is a fun yet realistic invitation to reevaluate your beliefs about what a career—and a life—is supposed to be. I’d recommend this to any student or adult going through a transition period.

The Thousandth Floor: Katharine McGee

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Okay, ready for the “guilty pleasure” addition to the list? On a fundamental level, I don’t believe in genre-shaming; but this also isn’t a novel I would tout as the epitome of literary excellence without expecting my university professors to shudder a bit.

Imagine life a century in the future: New York and other key cities have built thousand-level skyscrapers where the glitziest, richest members of society have taken their places at the literal top of the world. Lavish parties, high schooler drama, identity crises, and secrets…so many secrets. If there’s one thing these characters don’t know how to do, it’s communicate with one another.

The Thousandth Floor is the first installation in a trilogy. While the pacing isn’t always good, this is a read that’s enjoyable before bed. The imagery is stellar, the world-building is extensive (I love the author’s imagination and the technology she weaves into the world of the tower), and the characters, while frustrating at times, are likeable. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes YA fiction, or who is looking for a lighter, entertaining read.


Well, that’s my list for 2018! Now I want to know: what are your favorite books from this year? Let me know in the comments. If you’ve read any of these five, let me know what you think!

Thanks so much for reading, and Happy New Year!

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