The 5 Best Books I Read in 2018

I never used to consider myself much of a reader, but it’s something I’ve been cultivating in my personal (and business) life for the past several years.

I started by setting a goal of 10 books in a year, then 12. This year, I read 16 books! Little by little, I’m learning to love reading and am exploring new authors and a variety of book categories with the hope of broadening my perspective, developing new skills, learning about myself and others, and becoming a better person in the process.

I’m working on my book list for 2019 (thanks so much to all of you who shared ideas and recommendations with me on Facebook and Instagram!), but today, I want to take a look back and share the 5 best books I read this year, along with a brief description of what I liked about each one:

The 5 Best Books I Read in 2018

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Under the Tuscan Sun (Frances Mayes)

Our biggest adventure of the year was a family trip to Northern Italy, so obviously, I had to read Frances Mayes’ book on renovating an old Italian villa in Tuscany, exploring the countryside, and starting a life there.

I fell in love with her writing style: the poetic descriptions of the house, the countryside, the villages, the food, the language. I was drawn into her story-telling and savored the vivid details she shared. I read this one slowly, so as not to rush to the end.

I’m not a big re-reader, but I’m keeping this one on my bookshelf to come back to in a few years!

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Daniel Pink)

This one has been on my list for a few years, after receiving a recommendation from one of my grad school professors. Daniel Pink delves into what drives us - in our personal lives and in our work - what motivates us to act a certain way, to accomplish certain tasks, to achieve certain things? A fascinating look at the theory of motivation, written in a very practical, accessible way.

Note By Note: A Celebration of the Piano Lesson (Tricia Tunstall)

Someone gave me this book a few years ago and I finally took the time to read it this year. What a gem!

Tricia Tunstall writes a moving memoir about her experience as a piano student and teacher, sharing a beautiful portrait of music teaching and learning and a glimpse into her students’ creative process and how they discovered the power of music together.

If You Find This Letter (Hannah Brencher)

Another memoir, Hannah Brencher shares the back-story of how she came to start her nonprofit, More Love Letters. Living in NYC, figuring out who she was and what she wanted to do with her life, she discovered the power and significance of a handwritten letter, especially when given to strangers on the subway or left in various places around the city for people to discover later. The story she shared spurred me to write my own set of secret, anonymous letters of encouragement.

I love her writing style and look forward to reading her second book, Come Matter Here.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Fannie Flagg)

Not a new book, but one I’d never read. I’m not usually much of a fiction reader, but I tried reading a few books in this category this year and this was one I really enjoyed.

I loved how Fannie Flagg wove three different storylines together, including clips from the town newspaper, set in the early twentieth century.

Humorous and engaging, the short chapters, vivid story-telling, and endearing characters made it hard to put down!

In case you’re curious, here are the other books I read this year:

  • The Magnolia Story (Chip & Joanna Gaines) - the story of how Chip and Joanna (of Fixer Upper fame) met and built their business together

  • Out of Sorts (Sarah Bessey) - a personal reflection and honest look at the growing pains of our faith

  • Daring Greatly (Brene Brown) - an invitation to live boldly and dare greatly, in our lives, in parenting, in teaching, and in our faith

  • Quiet (Susan Cain) - a research-based look at what it’s like to be in an introvert in a world that can’t stop talking

  • Breaking Busy (Alli Worthington) - an inside look at the struggle we all have with learning how to rest and be still in a world that values busy-ness and hustle

  • Someday, Someday, Maybe (Lauren Graham) - a novel about an actress trying to make it in NYC

  • The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living (Louise Miller) - a novel about a pastry chef from Boston who finds a new life baking at a country inn in Vermont

  • Mr. Dickens and His Carol (Samantha Silva) - part fiction, part non-fiction, this book follows Charles Dickens through the process of writing the beloved, A Christmas Carol

  • The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (Thad Carhart) - a memoir about discovering a life in the past through a piano shop in Paris

  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett) - a collection of essays and stories on love, loss, writing, and dogs

  • Sounds Like Me (Sara Bareilles) - a candid retelling of her life (so far) in song, Sara describes the joys and heartaches of living a creative life, discovering her voice, and making her way in the world

What was the best book you read this year? What challenged you, inspired you, broadened your perspective, helped you develop a new skill, or made you a better person? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

P.S. See a list of all the books I’ve read in the past few years here.