I didn’t quite reach my goal of 100 books this year, but I came close! I had 94 books listed on my GoodReads and only a handful of those were children’s picture books. I actually read some adult books this year too! Here are a few of the stand-out titles for me.
Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge — I think we’ve all heard the myth that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein during an evening when her group of friends wanted to see who could write the scariest story. Like any tale, there is some truth to it, but the REAL events of Shelley’s life and everything leading up to that night and the nine months after, is far more interesting.
I knew nothing about Mary Shelley beyond her being the author of ‘Frankenstein’. I had no real context for her life and what the world was like when she penned this tale. I didn’t know her mother had been a prominent member of the early feminist movement and that Mary was born into that “celebrity” status. I didn’t know about her love affair with Percy Shelley and the roller coaster ride of that relationship.
Lita Judge did tons of research to craft a very readable and very beautiful book, written in short poems and heavily illustrated. Judge brings Mary’s story back from the grave and reanimates it and hopefully readers will be inspired to revisit her classic work and think of Shelley as more than a scary story writer, but a real person who fought and suffered and LIVED.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Lafayette! A Revolutionary War Tale by Nathan Hale — I didn’t know a whole lot about Lafayette. Last year, I read Sarah Vowell’s book, which was very focused in its discussion of his love affair with America, and, of course, I listened to Hamilton. This Hazardous Tale was probably just as ambitious as the World War I graphic novel earlier in the series. This might be a comic for kids, but it is DENSE and jam-packed with information and it doesn’t even cover his whole life PLUS it includes a min-comic about Benedict Arnold!
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix — Hendrix starts the book off with a start white page with black text, paragraphs lined up in a row. In just these few words, he gets the reader thinking about Germany, WWII, a people vs the people and history. And then you turn the page and are sucked into a world of color – of peaceful, contemplative blues and angry, offensive reds. We learn about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s early life, his obsession with theology and how his coming of age ran parallel to the Germany’s struggles after WWI and the rise of Adolf Hitler.
This book is the next step for Nathan Hale fans, the ones who might need a little more deep thought in their history books. Hendrix explains the roots of the war and how a country can get sucked into evil leadership. And how there will always be people fighting back, risking their lives to save the soul of their nation. Bonhoeffer was just one of those people, but it is important to tell his story, a life of balancing religion and faith and trying to be a good man and dealing with his countries atrocities and the fact that murdering a man might be the only way to save the world.
I really hope Hendrix does more history titles like this. His approach to the story made it very readable and it was hard to put down. Five stars!
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera — I don’t read a lot of straight up ROMANCE novels, but I like both of these authors so I figured why not step outside my genre comfort zone!
This book was so sweet. So sweet that it made my teeth hurt at times, but you know what? Gay teens NEED a book like this that they can read. There are tons of saccharine YA summer romance stories with straight characters that go through all the exact same struggles – the doubt that anyone will ever like them, the worry that they are going to mess up and how that worrying can lead to messing up, and the what do we do when summer is over?
This is a really great “first love” story. A great story about friendships. A great story about family. It doesn’t matter if you are LGBTQ+ or straight, this book will make you laugh, cry, and possibly give you a cavity.
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton — I don’t remember how I discovered this book, if it was a suggestion from a favorite author or a good blurb somewhere, but I knew nothing about it and it sat on my desk for a month and I was almost about to return it to the shelf…thank goodness I picked it up and started reading it instead.
I wasn’t sure about things because the book starts out pretty angsty with a very distraught character as the lead having some very cliche high school experiences. But then things go weird when his classmate has a boating accident and that is where I am going to leave this because I don’t want to give away anything! Going into this book blind made it that much better.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara — The timing of this book was my main reason for picking it up, though I think the positive reviews that would have followed had McNamara not passed suddenly and/or had the killer been caught might have put it on my radar eventually. But both of those headlines made it feel like a must-read.
I don’t read a lot of true crime because it freaks me out. I tried to read this at night and found myself lying awake in bed, terrified of every noise I heard. But I did find some daylight hours and managed to read the whole book. The last section is a bit dry as her research assistant and friend try to wrap up the story as best they can, acknowledging that they felt it was better to just give the reader the facts than try to mimic McNamara’s writing style. And then, of course, Patton Oswalt’s epilogue was heart-breaking.
This was very readable, and it fit very well with my earlier reading of Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit – in that, Douglas talks about working the cases and solving them. This was the other side of the story, the cases that sit and go cold. Douglas didn’t talk as much about things like that in his book, so this felt like a continuation of the story.
What made this book stand out and hard to put down was McNamara’s story. At the end of the book, Oswalt mentions that she was honest about her story to a fault, seeing how her obsession had changed her life as she typed it all out for the book. Those human moments worked well to keep me engaged when I was dreading the next chapter that might have the description of a horrible attack.
I hope that in a few years they can add on another chapter and discuss how she was on the right track and that they finally caught the bastard.
Lock In // Head On by John Scalzi — My resolution for 2018 was to actually read a book by John Scalzi as I had been following his blog, Whatever, for a better part of a year but had never actually read one of his books! I’m so glad I did, he is exactly the kind of sci-fi author I was craving!
I walked over to the sci-fi shelves in the library and whatever book was there was going to be my first book and Lock In was there. Bonus, a couple months later, Head On was released so I got to read the sequel with only a bit of downtime! They were both a lot of fun with enough thrills, mystery, and snark to keep me entertained. I am guessing there will be more Scalzi on next year’s list too!
Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2) by Neal Shusterman — I want to know how much the 2016 election effected Shusterman’s writing or if this is one of those strange cases of life imitating art. I don’t think I have read a 500 page book this quickly in a LONG time.
While Scythe set up the world, Thunderhead lets us finally live in it. More thoughts on life, death, and also how easy it is to become dependent and *trusting* of technology.
I actually liked Rowan and Citra a lot more in this book too, perhaps because I prefer them apart rather than together.
Shusterman reminds me of Michael Crichton, in the sense that he knows how to tell a great story, fast-paced and mixed with enough pseudo science to make you feel like it could happen…even if his character development isn’t the best. But I’m not here for the characters so much as I am here for the thoughts on what a world without death would really mean. And how much I should worry if Alexa does gain self-awareness and decide to run my life for me.
That’s just a small selection of the books I read this year! You can check out all my books + reviews at GoodReads.
What did you read this year that you loved? What surprised you? Any books you are excited for in 2019? Comment here or link me to your post!