Top Ten of 2018 + Reading Goals Recap

There’s three weeks left in the year, but I honestly don’t expect to get much reading done till my Christmas break (beginning the 20th!!!), so I thought I would start my yearly retrospective a bit early.

These were my reading goals for 2018:

  • Bring back Book Journals – Kind of a fail. I started a book journal with Ben-Hur but lost momentum early on.  I’m still tacitly reading it, and maybe during my break will start posting about it again.
  • Read more non-fiction.  Check!  Of the 45 books I read (or partially read) this year, almost a third were non-fiction, and some of the fiction was based heavily on real life.  That’s pretty good for me.
  • Escape the comfort zone.  Check.  I read a number of books this year that definitely challenged me, and some made me extremely uncomfortable.
  • Revive the blog.  Check.  While podcasting, I made an effort to write posts that complemented the episodes, and that worked out nicely.

In spite of having more or less reached my 2018 goal of 40 books, I have to admit only a fraction of the books really stand out to me as I think about it now.  Some were duds; others were momentarily entertaining but failed to leave a long-lasting impression.

Here, then, are my top ten books of the year (excluding re-reads):

10. The Undead: Organ Harvesting, the Ice-Water Test, Beating Heart Cadavers–How Medicine Is Blurring the Line Between Life and Death, by Dick Teresi
What a title… This wasn’t a cheerful read, but I thought it was very educational, especially the sections on the ambiguity of death itself. 

9.  Please Look after Mom, by Kyung-Sook Shin
A moving and memorable novel about family, old age, and culture.

8.  Various stories by Flannery O’Connor
Can’t believe I hadn’t read O’Connor before.   

7.  The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea, by Bandi
Disturbing, dark, and challenging to anyone who is a writer.

6.  About Orchids: A Chat, by Frederick Boyle
A sad history story about one of my favorite flowers.

5.  Embers, by Sándor Márai
Another book I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read before.  The ideal book for fans of the introspective, nostalgic novel, almost like something by Ishiguro…

4.  84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
A short, poignant book to make you laugh, then cry.

3.  A Pale View of Hills, by Kazuo Ishiguro
I don’t generally like or read ghost stories, but this one is a masterpiece.  It’s also featured in one of my favorite podcast episodes from this year – “What Is a Classic?

2.  CEO, China: The Rise of Xi Jinping, by Kerry Brown
To my own surprise, I really gravitated to this biography of a very powerful, and somewhat mysterious, leading figure of 2018.  Absolutely worthwhile.

1.  The Sea and Poison, by Shūsaku Endō
This book is a Kafkian “axe” if ever there was one.  I spent the better part of a week in shock over the book itself, as well as over my research for the episode “Doctors, Murderers.”  Hard as it was, I’m glad I pushed myself and tackled a subject I was almost too afraid to talk about on the podcast.

That’s it for me.  What were some of your favorites from this year?


  1. Some unique choices and most I hadn't heard of before. I've been so bad at finishing books this year, I couldn't pick a favourite finished one, although I did enjoy 84, Charing Cross Road. I'm certainly hoping for a better 2019 for reading!


  2. I'm tempted to look into The Rise of Xi Jinping, but I'm so behind in my already-owned-books-that-need-to-be-read pile…..oh….I'll add it to my list anyway. Some of my favs this year: Hardy's Tess of D'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure, Anne Frank's Diary, Brittain's Testament of Youth, Machiavelli's The Prince, and Hosseini's The Kite Runner. I feel like I had more disappointment's this year. Hopefully next year I will have a better selection.


  3. i've stayed away from Japanese lit as a result of some bad experiences which now i can't remember… such fun, being elderly! anyway, books i liked in this year #2 of the Trump Empire: Tylney Hall by Hood, Homage to Catalonia by Orwell, Coningsby by Disraeli, various Charlie Chan novels by Biggars, Austin Eliot by Kingsley, 53 Days by Perec, Letters From High Latitudes by Lord Dufferin, and a whole lot of mysteries from Golden Age mystery writers: Wallace, Oppenheim, etc…. so far about 180 books, most just worthless adventure/mystery stories, which i'm drawn to probably because of my aging intellect… haha.


  4. well, i'm retired and reading is my favorite thing to do… i probably could read more except i have to mow the lawn, fix the water system, work on the car, do some painting, etc. it's not really that much when one doesn't have to work at a real job like you do…


  5. I haven't heard of any of these books. The first one sounds especially interesting – blurring the line between life & death but I can imagine it could be a little harrowing.I feel I've had a distracted & lacklustre year of reading & blogging, but there were a few standout books:Mr Standfast by John Buchan – this was my third time reading this book & I appreciate it more each time; Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset was epic as was Anna Karenina which I just finished last night. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey & The Screwtape Letters were highloghts also.I'm a bit frustrated that I still haven't finished a couple of books I've been reading for a year or more but I wasn't in the mood for much non-fiction this year.


  6. Is there a way to subscribe to your blog? I always find I am behind in reading your latest posts.Interesting that I do not think I've read any of the books on your list. I love ghost stories so I might give Ishiguro a try. The stories from North Korea also look interesting.I have read Flannery O Connor and I just finished a biography of her. It was very good. If you're looking for non fiction, I would give the biography of O Connor by Brad Gooch a try.


  7. Sharon, so glad you brought that up! I just added Subscription Links and Follow By Email to the top of the blog. Let me know if that works. 🙂 I used to be on BlogLovin, but I haven't set it up for the new URL (yet). I love biographies and O'Connor sounds like a fascinating person. Thanks for the rec!


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