The Best Books I Read in 2018

The Best Books I Read in 2018

2018 is the year I completed chemo. That’s why I started off listening to most of my books via Audible (try it with my link and get 2 free books) and then switched to print or Kindle the more distance I put between me and that final dose of Gleostine.

I had a Goodreads goal of reading 20 books this year, and got all the way to 25 books before completely crapping out at the end. Some books were better than others, so I want to highlight my faves first. Then, if I’m not completely exhausted, I will list the rest of the books at the end.

The Best Thing I Read This Year

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

If you haven’t yet? READ. THIS. Just read it.

“Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells—taken without her knowledge in 1951—became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.”

My Top 8 Reads of 2018

Coming Clean
by Kimberly Rae Miller 

This is the really touching memoir of the daughter of a hoarder. I was emotionally wrapped up from the beginning, and I feel like reading this book made me a better, more understanding person. What you see of the lives of families on the show Hoarders, for example, is just the tip of the iceberg.

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L’Engle

Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of this delightful book until it became a movie. (I know, I know.) So to keep my Book Nerd card, I decided that I must read it before seeing it. I loved it. Then I heard from friends that the movie was disappointing, and I decided not to watch the movie at all. Did any of you see the movie?

Artemis
by Andy Weir

This book is by the same guy who wrote The Martian, which I also loved. Space books make me feel dreamy and happy, and Artemis involves a heist that takes place on the moon. Super fun!

Beautiful Exiles
by Meg Waite Clayton

I loved this book based on the real-life affair between Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway. (OMG, he was such a jerk.) Anyway, I’m always fascinated by people who (in my estiation) make destructive decisions, and these two definitely did. Whooooeee.

The Paper Magician
by Charlie N. Holmberg

This is some fun YA fantasy right here. (It’s part of a series–as you’ll see, I read three other books by Holmberg back to back to back to back.) Ceony Twill, our protagonist, is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic and crushes on her mentor. (It’s not gross though.) And they have to fight bad magic with good magic.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
by Hank Green

(Full disclosure, in the mid-aughts I worked for Hank’s brother, John.) I liked this book, and then I got really irritated by some things, and then I liked it again, and then I was like, “HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT THIS BOOK?” It’s like this: a bunch of robots show up on earth mysteriously, and then the main character accidentally gets YouTube famous because of it. And then fame makes her kind of horrible.

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship and Purpose
by Joe Biden

This memoir was good, but it ran me through the wringer emotionally because: brain tumor. I love Uncle Joe, and I really admire his ability to hold on to his HUMANITY, even as a politician. If you have a brain tumor or love somebody with a brain tumor, you should be prepared to feel your feels.

The Art of Memoir
by Mary Karr

You know I’m writing a memoir, right? That’s why I picked this book up at the Champaign Barnes & Noble toward the end of the summer. It’s got some great advice for writing memoir but also wonderful suggestions for us as we read memoir. I scribbled several notes in the margins of its pages as I contemplated how I wanted to write and organize my own book.

Everything Else

So, that’s my list. What books did you read this year that really stick out for you?

Good Reads 2018: January – March

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Artemis | Andy Weir

This book was written by the guy who wrote The Martian and performed by Rosario Dawson. (I love her.) It’s about a heist that takes place on the moon. It’s witty and science-y.

Promise Me, Dad | Joe Biden

This was a hard read for me, seeing how the book was equal parts family story and political memoir. If you don’t already know, Joe’s son died of a brain tumor. That made this book a bit of a traumatic read for me. But it was also comforting. I’m a bigger fan of Joe Biden having read this book, and I already thought pretty highly of him.

Artemis Fowl | Eoin Colfer

Just a coincidence that Artemis appears in the title of this too. It’s what I’d call YA Fantasy and it was a fun distraction. I listened to this (and other titles) on Audible during chemo week and during my two-hour visits to Expanded Care for my IV fluids. The guy reading this book was fantastic, a true voice actor.

Coming Clean | Kimberly Rae Miller

This is the memoir of a woman whose parents are hoarders. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry. And you’ll be reminded that the people on that TLC show are real people and, I believe, understand them just a little bit better. I loved this book, and I think Kimberly Rae Miller is a gem.

A Wrinkle in Time | Madeleine L’Engle

Somehow I had managed to never hear of this book until I was 38 and it was being released as a Disney movie. It was decent, but I think I would have enjoyed it immensely more if I was 12.

What She Knew | Gilly MacMillan

I also listened to this book on Audible. For a book about a high-profile kidnapping, it was a long slog. I finished listening more out of duty than enjoyment. In fact, I ended up changing the playback speed to 2x real time just to get it over with. Perhaps it would have been more enjoyable as a read instead of a listen.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House | Michael Wolf

I. Had. To. If you don’t know, I’m a political junkie and I think Trump’s a nincompoop.

The Good Samaritan | John Marrs

Read this one on my Kindle before my headaches got to be a little too frequent, and it was good. It’s about a woman who works at a suicide hotline looking for candidates to encourage to commit suicide. I’d give it four stars and a trigger warning.

Post contains Amazon affiliate links.

 

Turtles All the Way Down: A 100% Spoiler Free Review

Turtles All the Way Down: A 100% Spoiler Free Review

I used to work for John Green.

I blurt that periodically. Like, every time he publishes a new book. Maybe because I’m an ordinary person with no claim to fame of my own, I dunno. I do know that at one point he was my boss. The last time I put that tidbit on a resume, one of my interviewers was like “no way!” and I was like “way.”

I got that job, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the only reason why. Pretty sure.

Anyway, if you’ve never been here before or you just haven’t had the chance to keep up with my blog for the last eight months, you should know I have a brain tumor. I promise it’s relevant to my review of Green’s Turtles All the Way Down, but it’s going to look like it’s not for just a minute or two.

***

Last night I asked Twitter what those tiny purplish dots on the pads of my fingers might be. When I first noticed them, I thought they were ink. (From what, exactly, I didn’t know; I hadn’t picked up a writing utensil in several weeks.) So I tried to wash them off without any luck.

However, with the help of the wonderful @mumsintheattic, I settled on them being chemo-induced thrombocytopenia.

Basically my blood quality sucks because of chemotherapy, and—voila!—microbruises. Turns out they’re kind of painful. The pain sensation is something akin to the prick you feel having your blood sugar tested. Only it’s hundreds of tiny locations, on all my fingers, and the pain lingers for hours instead of seconds.

I got thrombocytopenia from reading Turtles All the Way Down, because the weight of the hardcover on my hands was too much for my clot-challenged blood. So my finger tips bruised.

Suddenly Natasha Bedingfield just seems kind of, well, whiny. Am I right?

***

February 9, 2017 was the day Dr. Beaumont cut my head open. And though I’m certain he didn’t mean to, his knife work tweaked some already overzealous muscles in my head, neck, and shoulders. (The muscles seem to be terribly afraid that if they don’t wrench and clench twenty-four-seven, my head might actually fall off my body.)

Said muscles are so constantly worked up that they pinch a nerve, and the nerve invariably sends a signal back to the constricted muscles: WRENCH AND CLENCH HARDER. If there’s such a thing as neck sciatica, I have it.

This pain is exacerbated when I hold things like my cell phone or, say, a hardcover copy of Turtles All the Way Down. So at the end of every chapter (God bless authors who write short chapters) I’d put the book down and take a couple of deep breaths. Then I’d pick it back up despite myself and wince.

***

This is where the 100% spoiler free review comes in.

The fact that I read this book in less than 24 hours while causing myself more pain (more as in more than chronic pain) is a testament to how great it is. I particularly recommend it to my Spoonie friends. (Have a tissue when you get to page 89.)

If you’re thinking about buying it, do. You can use my Amazon affiliate link, and I’ll make a few cents. Which I will probably use to buy more books that cause me pain.

Turtles All the Way Down

Books I Read in 2016

Books I Read in 2016

I don’t read near as much as I did when I was younger. Partly because adulthood means more time working and less time “hobbying” but also because fibromyalgia and its accompanying symptoms can make reading a struggle. And who needs more struggle, right?

Anyway, these are the books I got around to finishing this year. Complete with my Amazon referral links.

The New Jim Crow:Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

“This book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

If you think everyone in jail belongs there, you are terribly misguided. If you don’t believe we disproportionately imprison people of color, you’re wrapping your arms around a fact-free narrative. This book will wake you up.


Brooklyn by Colm Tobin

“Colm Tóibín’s New York Times bestselling novel—now an acclaimed film starring Saoirse Ronan and Jim Broadbent nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture—is ‘a moving, deeply satisfying read’ (Entertainment Weekly) about a young Irish immigrant in Brooklyn in the early 1950s.”

I just thought I’d read the book to see what all the fuss was about. It’s a decent read.


The Everything Box by Richard Kadrey

“Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff…a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again.”

This was a fun and easy read. I was even able to crank up the font size on my Kindle and read it with a migraine. Nice distraction from the pain, plus a few good chuckles.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“Read the cult-favorite coming of age story that takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory. Also a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a funny, touching, and haunting modern classic.”

I didn’t hate it. I basically read this just to be in the know; it gets referenced quite a bit in my social media circles. It was okay, but it didn’t really grip me. Still, I see what others appreciate in it.


Landline by Rainbow Rowell

“Landline asks if two people are ever truly on the same path, or whether love just means finding someone who will keep meeting you halfway, no matter where you end up.”

I’m a fan of Rainbow and her female characters. This book kind of put me in the mood for the holidays with it’s Christmas timeline, too. Bonus!


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”-John Green, The New York Times Book Review

Have I ever mentioned that I used to work for John Green when I was living in Indianapolis and attending IUPUI? If he recommends a book, I’m going to look into it…eventually.


The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

“Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab.”

I picked this out because it was in my OverDrive recommendations and I didn’t have to get on the waitlist to check it out from my local library on Kindle. Not disappointed.


The Fibro Manual by Ginerva Liptan, M.D.

“If you suffer from fibromyalgia and are struggling to get help from your doctor, you’re far from alone…. In this unique resource, Ginevra Liptan, M.D., shares a cutting-edge new approach that goes far beyond mainstream medical knowledge to produce dramatic symptom improvement.”

There are a couple of other fibromyalgia reads on this list. If you only read one of them, this is definitely the one I recommend.


Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill

“Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member Sea Org—the church’s highest ministry, speaks of her “disconnection” from family outside of the organization, and tells the story of her ultimate escape.”

Being born into a cult. Just…damn. Excellent read.


The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution by Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D.

“This book discusses research and advances in treating chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and the baffling, often dismissed symptoms associated with these debilitating conditions.”

I read this book after Liptan’s and don’t feel like it offered much new or different info. I think if I had read it first, might have preferred it. Hard to say though. No do-overs!


Take Back Your Life: Find Hope and Freedom from Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Pain by Tami Stackelhouse

This is the self-helpiest of the fibromyalgia-related books I read. I skimmed so much of it because it just wasn’t doing it for me. However, if you’re into the life-coaching scene and don’t mind reading obvious statements wrapped in positive speak, this might be encouraging to you.

Read what you want. Get the help you need.


Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

“Lawrence Wright—armed with his investigative talents, years of archival research, and more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—uncovers the inner workings of the church.”

Horror movies and stories have nothing on Scientology in the nightmare department. This books is fascinating. I picked it up after watching the HBO documentary of the same name.

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