Top Books of 2018

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These are all great books – and I read them all this year – but they didn’t make this list.

This was my most productive year of reading to date. As I look back over the year (thanks to goodreads), I found many of the books I put on the mid-year list rising to the surface again. Rather than repeat those (all of which I still highly recommend), here are works from the second half of the reading year also worthy of a mention.

atomic habits

Atomic Habits – I’ve followed the blog of the author, James Clear, for years. This is the best book on habit formation I’ve read. So many sticky ideas that are well illustrated and researched. I’ve already applied multiple principles from it, like, ‘habit stacking,’ ‘point and call,’ and ‘time and place.’ This would be the perfect book to read to start 2019.

Feeding the Mouth that Bites You – Fantastic book for parents of teens. His concept of “Planned Emancipation” is worth the book. Also helps with knowing where to choose your battles. A big take away is to be working together with your teen to help move them intentionally toward adulthood.

sevens heaven

Sevens Heaven – I read a ton of books about Fiji and the South Pacific this year, since we lived there for six months. Sevens Heaven was near the top of the list. You don’t have to understand rugby or Fiji to enjoy the book, though that would help. This book shows how the passion for a singular sport dominates a country at so many levels (unlike the US where multiple sports compete for national attention). After living here, I have so much more appreciation for the challenge of winning their first national Olympic gold medal. Though their athleticism and genetics are superior to any other country for Sevens Rugby, their national funding just can’t match up. It’s a fascinating account of an Englishman’s quest to flex to the culture and also apply discipline and professionalism to his coaching. Other notable books about Fiji: James Calvert of Fiji documents many of the ancient practices found upon the arrival of the first missionaries ($0.99 ebook on amazon). Kava in the Blood was written by an Englishman who grew up in Fiji and followed in his father’s footsteps (and grandfather’s) to serve in various government offices. He does a great job of alternating chapters between what he loved about Fiji and its culture with chapters on the 1987 coup.

Robert FrostSelected Poems: Reading poetry is one of the best things you can do to calm your soul in this hectic world. I’ve found that some poets connect with me, some do not. I’ve loved Frost since I first read him as a child. The Folio Society volume blew me away (difficult to find, but maybe this link will lead you to it). His long form poems were some of the most captivating pieces of short writing (besides Flannery O’Connor) I’ve ever read.

2,000 Years of Christ’s Power Part II – I’m a huge fan of reading Church History and this series is among the best. However, if you’re looking for a good place to start, pick up Justo Gonzales’s two volume work, The Story of Christianity. Super readable and engaging. Start with Volume 1.

Crossing to Safety – I didn’t read as much fiction this year as I normally do, mostly because of reading about Fiji. But this novel by Wallace Stegner was a great fictional compliment to A Severe Mercy (mentioned in previous list). Both made me long for a stronger sense of community. I’m planning to try and read through everything Stegner wrote over the next few years. Julie read these two and Angle of Repose while in Fiji and loved them all.

When the Body Says No. I wrote an epic blog post on the importance of this book for me this year. Others have recommended The Body Keeps the Score which I plan to read after our return to the USA.

Now some selections from a few broad categories

CLASSICS

I like to keep a classic in the mix. Three that stood out this year are The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Vol.1 by Edward Gibbon (Churchill’s favorite author – and this is the perfectly organized set for reading these.), Julius Caesar (surprised by how readable this was and how many lessons to learn through it), and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (so many nuggets!) Worth picking up any of these.

READ ALOUD TO KIDS

I’m always on the hunt for good books to read aloud to the kids. We read through the Chronicles of Narnia this year. The kids were completely enraptured with The Island of the Blue Dolphins. They barely breathed throughout. Thought I didn’t read it aloud, Caroline powered through this audio version of The Hobbit in two days.

ANNUAL RE-READS

 I didn’t used to be a big fan of re-reading books. But each year it seems I gain more from re-reading books that have deeply influenced me than I used to. Now I keep a list of about ten books I like to re-read (two of which I added this year). This year, from that list, I nibbled on Surprised by Joy, and fully re-read Fahrenheit 451, My Reading Life, The War of Art, and Tribe. What books do you like to re-read? I’d love to hear about them.

A FINAL NOTE ON E-READING vs. PAPER

I’ve always preferred paper books to ebooks. But living in the South Pacific these last six months, with limited access to the paper books I want, and where paper easily molds, my appreciation for e-books has grown. That being said, I’m still looking forward to getting back to my library. I still prefer paper books – and I’d say even a little more now. Though the flexibility of ebooks has grown some over the years, there are still so many glaring problems that make them an unworthy substitute (i.e. the lack of consistency on page #s vs. locations, the difficulty in extracting one’s notes from the book, and the lack of presence of a paper book that continues to beckon for your attention from your nightstand). Plus I still can’t perform my note capturing system more effectively with an ebook vs. paper. Maybe one day.

 

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