I meant to do this earlier, but I’ve been busy writing book 2 in my middle-grade fantasy trilogy, The Pirate Princess Chronicles. But before January gets away from me, I wanted to share my favorite books from 2018. I read 93 books in 2018 and these were my favorites.
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings On Discipleship by Dallas Willard
My main thought after finishing this book was, “Where has Dallas Willard been all my life?” Seriously, this book was transforming for me. He articulated things I’d been feeling about the Church (in a general sense) in America and Western Christianity for a long time. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t just point out the problem; it gives some practical answers. He also has a series of short chapters at the end about spiritual books that made a big difference in his own life and how. I now have a list of books to read this year. I will say, this is dense reading. It took me a YEAR to read this book, and I tend to be a very fast reader. Each chapter is quite long and I took notes, but it was totally worth it!
Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Power, and Authority by Jon Eldredge
This was another book that I found completely transforming. This book on prayer discusses what it means to mature in our prayer life and the importance authority has in the Kingdom of God. While there were times I felt Eldredge was making things a bit more complicated than they needed to be, I also found his words convicting. He talked a lot about the authority we have as children of God – not orphans or slaves, but children and the rights inherent in that. He also talks a lot about the importance of being in alignment with God and how when we aren’t, it hinders our prayers’ effectiveness. Eldredge also uses a lot of references from books like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings which I always appreciate. 🙂 And he reminds us that we are at war. I think this is something a lot of Christians – especially in the Western world – forget. One of my favorite quotes from the book talks about how we are all called to the battle whether we want to or not, and how incredible that is. “It looks like a hobbit with a handkerchief going to slay a dragon.” If you are looking to deepen your prayer life, this a great book to add to your shelf. I read it twice!
Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind by Brenda Yoder
This was a very timely book for me. With a 20-year-old son living at home and working and another son who is a senior this year, I was definitely the target audience for this book. Yoder, who has four children of her own, talks about the unique challenges of parenting teens and young adults. There are A LOT of books about parenting younger children, but not so many about this strange transitional stage. It can be hard to know the line of support/guidance and hovering. Yoder also talks about the bittersweet feelings that come along with this stage, including nostalgia, regret, loneliness, and the loss that can come with role changes. She also touches on parenting kids in multiple stages of life. With four children, she had a child in college all the way down to elementary school. If you have children in the tween or older stage, check this book out!
Girl At the Edge of the World by Elizabeth Esther
This book deeply affected me. It is a memoir of a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist sect called The Assembly. Growing up, she suffered deep anxiety from being taught she would be martyred at a young age. She also endured daily punishing spankings for minor infractions and things no child should be punished for like not using the restroom fast enough. The Assembly, founded by her grandfather, exerted control over her and everyone involved in every area of their lives. These things had a devastating effect on her life. Her story was a heartbreaking one of spiritual abuse. She and her husband did break free, and her parents did seek her forgiveness, somewhat restoring the relationship. This was a riveting book and I highly recommend it as it addresses some key issues like accountability in leadership and how we can leave the leave the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God Himself.
On the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen
This is an author I really enjoy. She wrote Water for Elephants and The Ape House, both of which I also enjoyed. In On Water’s Edge, I was sucked into Maddie’s story and stayed up way too late reading this. The story starts with a trio – Maddie, her husband Ellis and his friend Hank. The trio seems carefree and exuberant, reminding me of the roaring 20s, a Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald type of couple. But Ellis is not what he seems, and Maddie’s difficult upbringing with a distant, unloving father and a mentally ill, narcissistic mother is slowly revealed. When Ellis drags her to the Scottish Highlands to find the Lochness Monster, Maddie gradually realizes the real monster is her husband. Set in World War 2, this is both a moving love story and a coming of age story.
Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
Hands down, this was one of my favorite fiction books of 2018. Set in World War 2 (see a common thread here?), it is the story of Emmaline “Emmy” Lake and her best friend Bunty, who are doing their bit for the war effort and trying to stay cheerful despite the planes making their nightly raids. Emmy dreams of becoming a war correspondent and when she spots an ad in the newspaper thinks this will be her chance. Unfortunately, there is a misunderstanding and she ends up typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird. Bird is very clear – any letters containing any Unpleasantness are to be thrown away. Unfortunately, her definition of Unpleasantness includes just about everything but housekeeping questions and cooking. Emmy, reading the heartrending letters from girls and women in difficult predicaments because of the war, can’t bring herself to throw those letters away so, she starts to secretly write them back. You will love Emmaline Lake and her cheerful, plucky persistence in the face of sometimes overwhelming challenges.
The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman
There are currently five books with more to come in the series. Irene Winters is a professional spy for the mysterious and shadowy Library which “collects” literary works from alternate realities to help keep the balance between chaos (represented by the Fae) and order (represented by the dragons) in all the alternative worlds. Each book has its own mystery/problem to solve, but there is also the overarching story of the Library and Irene’s own story. This is compulsive reading at its best!
The Stoker and Holmes series by Colleen Gleason
As a steampunk fan, I had a hard time putting down. This series features Mina Holmes, Sherlock Holmes’ equally intelligent niece, and Evelyn Stoker, Bram Stoker’s vampire hunting sister. Each book has its own mystery to solve and plenty of adventure and hair raising adventures, but there is an arch villainess behind them all. There are currently four books in the series and I am eagerly awaiting number five!
The Road to Here by Robert Kugler
This is the second book the Avery and Angela series. In the first book, The Last Good Day, we are introduced to Avery and Angela, two recently graduated teenagers who have been best friends throughout high school. They are spending one last good day before Avery heads off to a music conservatory. At the end of that book, the two have gotten together as a couple, and Angela has revealed that the cancer she beat in her childhood has come back. The Road to Here picks up several months later. Avery has spent his first semester at college while Angela has endured chemo treatments. They reconnect at Christmas break. This is not my usual genre, but I really love the story of Avery and Angela. Maybe it is because I have sons this age myself, but I loved the way Avery grew as a person – learning to really listen and nurture Angela. I also loved the cast of characters that came alongside the couple. The book ends in a twist I did not see coming, and I am waiting impatiently for book 3.
Hook’s Daughter: The Untold Tale of a Pirate Princess by R.V. Bowman
Yes, I know it might seem strange to include a book I wrote, but I spent an entire year with this story, and I still like it. When Andromeda “Rommy” Cavendish’s father doesn’t show up for one of his twice yearly visits, Rommy becomes worried and sneaks out of her exclusive boarding school to find him. Dressed as a boy, she travels through 19th century London only to find more questions than answers. To find her father, she’ll have to travel to the magical island of Neverland where heroes are villains and her father might just be the biggest villain of them all. (On a sidenote, I just finished the first draft of book 2).
If one of your goals this year is to read more, I hope this gives you a great place to start.