Best Books of 2018


The Reader by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
via Wikimedia Commons

I finished 44 books this year and I started or made some progress on many more that I never finished. That’s not counting any of the books I read aloud to the kids, though I certainly thought about them and they do form a large part of my reading life these days. But I put them into a different mental bucket. Maybe I shouldn’t

I’d like to average a book a week, but my reading is really irregular. Some months I read only one or two books. One month I didn’t finish any. Other months I finished more than one a week. It depends what kinds of books I’m reading and how I’m reading them.

I like keeping count every moth. It’s reassuring to see that bottom line number and to say to myself: see, I’ve still got a life of the mind. I read and I write and I think. In the years when I don’t write a monthly books I’m reading list I start to feel listless and flabby.

So here’s a quick overview of what I read and liked this year.




Hands down my favorite work of fiction this year was Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge. Such a beautiful story of redemptive grace and self sacrifice in marriage that I think was one of the truest books I’ve ever read about the sanctification of married life.

I also loved The Borrowed House by Hilda van Stockum, a juvenile novel about the German occupation of the Netherlands in WW2. A beautiful story for young readers about how love and friendship can help people to come to know the truth even when they’ve been taught lies and a warped worldview.

Honorable mentions to:

1. A.S. Byatt’s Ragnarok , about an English girl reading German myths during thesecond World War, gorgeous poetic language.

2. Meriol Trevor’s Shadows and Images, a historical novel about a woman who becomes Catholic and gets to know Blessed John Henry Newman.

3. Rosamund Hodge’s Endless Water, Starless Sky (the second part of her dark fantasy adaptation of Romeo and Juliet)

4. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver —a gorgeous fairy tale retelling of the Rumplestiltskin story that reimagines the protagonist as a Jewish moneylender in a fantastical Russia.

I’m astonished, looking over my reading lists for the year, that I did not finish a non-fiction this year, though I started Salt and kept reading in several ongoing books like Hamilton. I think one of my goals for this year will be to read more non-fiction. And to finish a bunch of my in-progress books that I can’t seem to finish. 




What were your favorite books that you read in 2018?

Here’s the complete list. You can click on the month name to see my short reviews of the books:

January

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files binge:

1. Death Masks

2. Blood Rites

3. Dead Beat

4. Proven Guilty

5. White Night

6. Small Favor

7. Turn Coat

8. Changes

9. Ghost Story

Nine books in one month. I love this series.

February

10. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

11. Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

12. Endless Water, Starless Sky by Rosamund Hodge

March

13. In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden

14. Lights in a Dark Town: A Story about John Henry Newman by Mariol Trevor

15. Edmund Campion: A Life by Evelyn Waugh

16. Shadows and Images by Meriol Trevor

17. The Samurai and the Tea: A Legacy of Japan’s Early Christians by Cathy Brueggermann Beil

18. The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig

April

19. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

20. The Borrowed House by Hilda Van Stockum

21. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

22. The Rose Round by Meriol Trevor

23. Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

May

24. Cold Days by Jim Butcher

25. Skin Game by Jim Butcher

26. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

27. Listen to the Nightingale by Rumer Godden

28. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

June

No books finished in June. I was reading Green Dolphin Street and East of Eden and finished both in July.

July

29. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

30. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

31. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

32.Crossbows and Crucifixes by Henry Garnett

33. Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

August

34. Endless Water Starless Sky by Rosamund Hodge

35. The Witch’s Brat by Rosemary Sutcliff

36. Flame Colored Taffeta by Rosemary Sutcliff

September

37. Spinning Silver by Naomi Nov

October

38. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

39. Recursion: Wearing the Cape #7 by Marion Harmon.

40. The King’s Achievement by Robert Hugh Benson

November

41. By What Authority? by Robert Hugh Benson

December


42. Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

43. Hapax by A.E. Stallings

44. Olives by A.E. Stallings

Books I read some parts of, but did not finish this year:

1. God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism by Abraham Joshua Heschel

2. He Leadeth Me by Walter Ciszek, SJ

3. 1776 by David McCullough

4. The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander

5. Elisabeth Leseur Selected Writings

6. Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master by Fr. Robert Barron

7. Death of a Hornet: And Other Cape Cod Essays by Robert Finch

8. Finders Keepers by Seamus Heaney

9. Stages on the Road by Sigrid Undset

10. A Noel Perrin Sampler by Noel Perrin

11. Through a Screen Darkly by Jeffrey Overstreet

12. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

13. All Through the Night: Night Poems and Lullabies edited by Marie Heaney

14. The Italian Story by Geoffrey Trease

15. St. Nicholas Owen by Tony Reynolds.

16. Salt:A World History by Mark Kerlansky

17. Building the Benedict Option by Leah Libresco

18. Wooster Proposes, Jeeves Disposes by Kristin Thompson

19. Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

20. Nella Last’s War edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming

21. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

22. Omeros by Derek Walcott

23. The Bear and the Nightingale

2 Responses to Best Books of 2018

  1. Amy January 4, 2019 at 2:09 pm #

    I loved reading this list! I plan on rereading Green Dolphin Street this year as it’s been awhile. Have you read A.S. Byatt’s Possession? I’m like half way through and abandoned it, but want to pick it back up.

    • Melanie Bettinelli January 5, 2019 at 12:27 am #

      I wrote my senior thesis on Possession, lo those many years ago. It’s one of my favorite novels. Though I haven’t read it in quite some time.

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