six books that impacted me this year

prepare yourselves for a very nerdy sentence: 2018 might be my best book year yet.

what does that even mean? i have always been an avid reader, and have never gone more than a few weeks between books. but after fiona was born, i quickly realized that i wasn't getting through books quickly enough to even remember the plot from one sitting to the next. i didn't have enough time to read, and it seemed that when i DID have time, i didn't have my book on hand. cue: ebooks! while breastfeeding, i discovered ebooks not on a tablet, but on my phone. suddenly, with my kindle app, i could read in the dark while feeding fiona, at bedtime, in the middle of the night, or when she fell asleep on me and i didn't want to move her (read: months 2 and 3 of her life). stupidly, i spent a while purchasing ebooks before i realized most libraries have apps like libby you can download to check out ebooks and audio books from there. my library has a great collection and always has new releases i'm looking for, even though there's usually a wait list. 

enter: 2018. this year, thanks to ebooks and audiobooks on my libby app, i have been able to read around two books a month: one audio book, and one ebook. i didn't always succeed, but i would estimate i read around 20 books this year. i realize that might not be that impressive to some people, but for me it's a big deal. and as an added bonus, i really loved or felt strongly about many of them.

it's hard to rank books that were so different, so instead, here is a list of the books that i would say had the biggest impact on me this year.

a little life, hanya yanagihara
okay technically i mostly read a little life in 2017, but i finished it in the first few days of january 2018 so i'm counting it. HOLY HELL THIS BOOK. it follows a group of four friends throughout their adult lives, with a primary focus on one: jude. jude faces a world that is repeatedly cruel and unforgiving to him from the time he is born. the book shows the depths of his tragedy and heartache, but also the way his relationships redeem him and carry him, even as he sabotages himself. i can still feel how sad and horrified and at times uncomfortable i felt while reading this book. huh... now that i read this back, it doesn't really sound like a ringing endorsement. ha! but i'm telling you, this book impacted my life. you know how sometimes you want to dive into a sad movie or a weepy tv show (grey's anatomy, anyone?). that is how i feel about this book. it made me feel so many things. okay i need to stop now.

crazy rich asians, kevin kwan
talk about a 180 from the last one, but i loved crazy rich asians. i have yet to read the other two books in the kevin kwan series, but i fully intend to do so. it's a pretty silly story when i think about it - guy from singapore brings home his girlfriend from america without telling her anything about the fact that his family is one of the most wealthy families in the world. but it was so fun to read. something about the imagery of the sites and extravagance of the people in this book really drew me in. the story was light but enjoyable, and for once the movie lived up to it. the characters were all colorful and vivacious and there was a good sense of humor too. read it, and then go see the movie. 

tell the wolves i'm home, carol rifka brunt
i saw this book recommended in the comments section of my favorite blog (what, you don't get book recommendations that way?) for anyone who enjoyed a little life, so obviously i was in. it was similarly heart wrenching at times, but i wasn't nearly as invested in the characters here. it was still a beautiful story and i really enjoyed the perspective of a teenage girl as she deals with some seriously heavy adult topics. but at the end of the day i still wished for more... a deeper dive into the main topics and characters outside of the protagonist.

the seven husbands of evelyn hugo, taylor jenkins reid
another lighter book that might be filed under "guilty pleasures" if i believed in that sort of thing. this was a really engaging story about a hollywood starlet in the mid 50's whose life leads her through 7 marriages. there are a few different twists that keep it out of "nauseating cliche" territory. it's surprisingly well done, with a few really lovable characters and minimal eye-rolling-cheesiness. this is another book i listened to and i think that actually added to my enjoyment. 

an american marriage, tayari jones
i had really high hopes for an american marriage, mostly because it was on obama's book list. unfortunately, i didn't LOVE it. i liked it, for sure. the writing was very good, the story was unique, and i loved the way the story was woven together with letters between a man and wife in difficult circumstances. what i didn't like was the ending, which felt a bit dragged on and inevitable. i ended up sort of disappointed in both the female and male leads. i wonder what obama would say...

the great believers, rebecca makkai
okay so i have been debating for weeks whether i would call a little life or the great believers my favorite of the year, and i just can't choose. perhaps in the way movies that are released at the end of the year seem to get the most oscars, this is the last book i'll finish in 2018 and so it is more fresh in my mind as my favorite. 2 weeks after finishing it, i'm still thinking fondly of its characters, mourning their loss. the book jumps back and forth from 1980s chicago and 2015 paris to reveal the impact of the AIDS epidemic. the further into the book you get, the more the two story lines reveal themselves to be intertwined, and the story comes together beautifully in the middle. the main character, yale, is lovable, earnest, and true, and i rooted for him while silently scolding his mistakes. and while i cried my heart out with this book (i actually finished listening to this book at my desk at work because it was due back to the library that day, and i wept at my desk), i also laughed out loud a few different times. i've seen this on a few different "best of" lists and wholeheartedly agree.

so that is my list! as i head into 2019 i'm reading michelle obama's becoming and looooving it, and listening to girl wash your face by rachel hollis and haaaating it (why didn't anyone tell me there was a heavy religious theme?). anyway, here's to more books that make me weep in the next year!


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