I used to be an avid reader but really slacked off after college — at least when it came to published books. I devoured fanfics like crazy, and for the longest time, I really did cling to my favorite fandoms, enjoying AUs, fix-its, time travel, and so on. However, in 2018, I decided to participate in the Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge and that required moving beyond comforting fandoms.
2018 really was the year of diving into nonfiction/biography, though I did get into fiction — found some real winners there, too!
I absolutely loved The Last of the Doughboys by Richard Rubin, which features interviews with WWI veterans that took place in the early 2000s as their numbers were plummeting. These interviews are woven in seamlessly with historical accounts and a host of other primary sources from sheet music to journals, memoirs, and letters. I read this in July and I’m still fondly remembering it. As a journalist, I really appreciated the story behind this interview project and the efforts Rubin had to undertake to find these veterans — it wasn’t easy, especially since the VA really let WWI veterans fall through the cracks. I ended up with 122 notes that would be of potential use for my historical fiction novel; though some of these were just interesting tidbits.
In a polarized world, sometimes it is good to be reminded that human kindness does exist, even in the darkest of times. If you, like I did, need a reminder of its existence, pick up The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede. I opted for the audiobook on this one, and it didn’t let me down, with the narration proving to be stellar. I’m not too proud to admit I bawled during parts of this book, overwhelmed by both the sheer kindness of our Canadian neighbors and the trauma of having been a junior higher who witnessed this tragic event unfold on television and in horrific photos. I was riveted by the stories of the displaced travelers who suddenly found themselves stranded as the U.S. closed all of its airports in addition to the kind Newfies who truly went out of their way to welcome these unexpected visitors. (Heck, I’m crying again just thinking about this book!)
In September, I went on a bus trip (it was lovely!) to Grand Rapid, Mich., and ended up at the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. Naturally, I needed a souvenir. I ended up leaving the gift store with Betty Ford: First Lady, Women’s Advocate, Survivor, Trailblazer by Lisa McCubbin. Prior to this novel, I only knew Betty Ford as an addiction treatment center and the first lady who used the CB radio. After reading this biography, I now adore Betty Ford, her openness, and her determination to succeed in her recovery. Betty Ford starts out strong with the intervention her family held before diving into Ford’s entire life, her accomplishments, and her struggles. Definitely check it out! She was a very incredible who did so much to remove the stigmas around breast cancer (cancer in general) and addiction.
My coworker introduced me to Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha-verse, namely Six of Crows and The Crooked Kingdom. Dang, both these books were excellent! Loved Bardugo’s writing style and worldbuilding. She used the current popular trend of dividing chapters by POV, and shockingly, there was not a single POV I dreaded entering. I loved every single main character. I could probably count the number of times I’ve said that on one hand; normally, in a book, there are is at least one main character that I dislike, but here they are all so delightfully different with their own character strengths and flaws. Side note: Jesper and Wylan are my new adorable OTP. ❤
2018 saw the continuation of my exploration of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. I read Changes (I believe this is my favorite so far, though I am partial to Dead Beat, which features reanimated Sue — the T. Rex — and Butters’ “Polka will never die!” mantra.), Ghost Story, and Cold Days. I find The Dresden Files to just be entertaining, though some of Harry’s thoughts about women drive me crazy as every single one is beautiful. But I bury that mild annoyance. I’m actually down to just Skin Game to read, but I am holding off until there is more news about Peace Talks, which to my knowledge, there isn’t even a release date for at this time.
Finally, I was happy to finally read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, rather than just rely on my knowledge gleaned from Wishbone — man, I loved that Jack Russell terrier! Indiana Humanities made Frankenstein its One State/One Book choice in honor of the novel’s 200th anniversary in 2018. My local library participated heavily in this program with its own special programming and had free copies of the book for interested parties. I struggled at first to get into Frankenstein, but once I got past the letters, I found myself engrossed in the tale, all while wanting to slap the titular Frankenstein. The discussions held at the library only further enriched my reading experience.
So, these are some of my reading highlights from 2018, and hopefully, you will be enticed to give some of these books a try. There were other books in 2018 that I really enjoyed, but I decided to keep it to three apiece in the nonfiction and fiction categories. My full 2018 reading list can be found here: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/10569492.