Halfway Through 2018: My Not Imaginary Monthly Book Stacks
I cannot believe it’s already halfway through 2018!! Not to mention that my husband and I have our first baby coming in August! Eep! Time is only going to go faster and faster, I assume?
After admiring people’s monthly reading wrap-ups on Instagram for a while, I decided to try it myself this year. It’s been fascinating for me to see the books piled up at the end of the month and get a better idea of how I read. For instance, while I think I read a somewhat wide variety of books (kind of?), it’s all the more clear to me that my sweet spots are children’s classics and what I’ll call British comfort. I’ll sometimes click on the hashtag and look at all the pictures together in the hopes of developing some very deep insights about my personality from looking at the book stacks, but have yet to find any. Perhaps you can blow my mind?
I’ve also seen that I reread a lot, which I know is not something everyone does (and, honestly, I find a bit shocking). Personally, rereading makes me very happy and I couldn’t imagine not doing it. If I love a book, it brings me a lot of joy to return to it, whether it be as a source of comfort, a way of gaining new insights, or even just as a path to fall back into that world again. I know there are a lot of books out there, but I find a book is different each time I reread it anyways.
Below you’ll see that I’ve chosen my favorite reads of the year so far, but have opted to not include books that I reread, since those are automatically ones that I like a lot. I have to say that there haven’t been as many new to me books that I’ve been crazy about this year, so please help me fix that with some recommendations!
You’ll also see, at the end of this post, a complete collection of the mini reviews I’ve been posting on Instagram for the 68 books I’ve read in this half of the year. Perhaps it’s only interesting to me to see them compiled together, but who knows?
New To Me Favorites Halfway Through 2018
As I said, I reread a lot and those are generally favorites, but here are the books I’ve read for the first time in 2018 and best liked so far.
- James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small
- Maud Hart Lovelace’s Carney’s House Party
- Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime
- Beverley Nichols’ Down the Garden Path
- Sloane Crosley’s Look Alive Out There
A Complete Compilation of My Mini Reviews on Instagram Thus Far
1.The Girl in the Tower- 4⭐: I liked this one even more than the first in the series, The Bear and the Nightingale. Vasya really comes into her own and I find the rich Russian culture and history fascinating.
2. The Immortalists- 3⭐: Clever idea and solid writing, but, for me, it was over-hyped and left me feeling empty towards the characters.
3. Vacationland- 3.75⭐: Uneven, but had me chuckling out loud.
4. Every Heart a Doorway- 2.5⭐: A brilliant concept- a school for the people who come back from the fairylands, the wardrobes, the rabbits holes, etc.- but I found the execution lacking.
5. Sister Mother Husband Dog- 4⭐: Touching, witty, perceptive, and just plain satisfying autobiographical essays from Delia Ephron, including the loss of her sister, Nora.
6. Nine Stories- 2.5⭐: For me, would have been better in a classroom.
7. Last Christmas in Paris- 4⭐: Dear historical fiction, please do not interject the present lives of the characters. It’s super cheesy. Otherwise, these letters exchanged during WWI captured me.
8. Bad Feminist- 3⭐: I think if I had read this one when it came out, I would have found it more thought-provoking, but the idea of bad feminism is certainly one I embrace.
9. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living- 3.75⭐: A cozy read, with extra points for amazing pastry descriptions. There’s a major plot point I found cheap, but it’s a good Hallmark movie in book form.
10. A Little Princess- 5⭐: Loved this magical story as much as I did as a kid. Thanks to @carrottoppapershop for inspiring this reread!
11. Emma- 4.5⭐: Arguably Austen’s best crafted novel.
12. The Origin of Others – 4⭐: This collection of thoughtful lectures by Toni Morrison happily transported me back to my English major days. I only wish she had pushed even deeper, but Morrison’s insightfulness shines.
13. The World That Was Ours- 3.75⭐: This is almost 400 pages and dense, but the details immerse you in the lives of the Bernsteins before, during, and after the trial of ‘The State against Mandela and the Others’ and I now know much more about apartheid.
14. Bridge to Terabithia- 3⭐: I somehow missed this one as a kid, but also knew the end, so let that serve as my defense for those of you diehard fans outraged by my cold 3.
15. Henry and the Clubhouse- 3.5⭐: Wholesome, cute. Cleary understands kids.
16. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- 4.5⭐: I had forgotten just how creative and brilliant Dahl’s descriptions of the factory and products are. Can I please have the chocolate room? I won’t fall in the river (maybe) and I’m slightly less of a brat than the other three.
17. Still Life- 4⭐: Despite an early love of Nancy Drew, this book made me realize I’m not really a mystery lover. That being said, the character development and rich setting of this book will have me returning to Three Pines.
18. Graceling- 4⭐: I really enjoyed having a new to me YA novel with a fierce female lead and exciting world building and adventures. The ending wasn’t as strong, but I’m eager to read the next two.
19. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?- 3⭐: I enjoy anything behind the scenes. At times I felt like Mastromonaco was trying too hard (and, editors, cut the cat chapter), but if learning more about what goes on at the White House interests you (regardless of your political leanings) or you’re into life advice, this is worth a read.
20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- 5⭐: I mean…duh. This is somewhere around my 15th to 20th reread (maybe more?)and I am thrilled by my introduction to the wizarding world and Rowling’s gift for characterization every time.
21. Born A Crime- 5⭐: These stories from Trevor Noah’s life in South Africa during and after apartheid are informative, eye-opening, and, somehow, very funny…put it on your list.
22. Pat of Silver Bush- 1.5⭐: Well, there’s now an L.M. Montgomery book I do not like. Actually, I only kept reading this because of the great group of women I was reading it with. Bonus: I learned a new way to say you have your period: “enduring God’s will in [your] bedroom.” The more you know.
23. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions- 4.5⭐: This is a book I’d choose for required reading for society. Basic, clear, yet still we need this.
24. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown- 5⭐: I did an earlier post about this book, but, basically, this book has my whole heart.
25. Heaven to Betsy- 5⭐: Another favorite.
26. Chamber of Secrets- 5⭐: Pure amazingness, but I will say that this one is possibly my least favorite of my HP children (you can say that about your children, right?).
27. A Time of Love and Tartan- 4.5⭐: The latest in the 44 Scotland Street series delivered in its comfort, interesting tangents, and quirky characters.
28. The Plant Messiah- 3.5⭐: Strongest at its end and great nerd material. See my full review on the blog. @doubleday #partner
29. L’Appart- 1.5⭐: Leibovitz successfully stomps on any idle dreaming I have of living in Paris. Honestly, this book was incredibly stressful and that’s not what I want in this genre. I will be checking this book out again, though, as some of the recipes sound amazing.
30. Upstream- 4: A little uneven and not as strong as her poetry, but Oliver’s magic insights shine.
31. Once Upon A Spine- 3.75⭐: This was my first cozy mystery and I thought it was so much fun! I’ll be posting a longer review soon. @berkleypub #partner
32. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- 5⭐: Possibly my favorite?
33. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society-5⭐: Buddy read with @lifebetweenbooks. I was so relieved to still love this book as much as ever and still find Juliet so perfectly charming. The combination of Jane Austen-like characters, gorgeous settings, touching historical details, and seemingly endless charm and wit are very close to my kind of perfection. Does anyone know when we’ll be able to see the movie in the US?
34. Down the Garden Path- 5⭐: More details in my previous post, but if you appreciate a dry Brit than this is for you. Will definitely be continuing with Nichols’ books.
35. Nightfall- 4.75⭐: Magic plus a page-turner…I love this fun middle grade series. Makes forgiving the love square (yep) easy.
36. Carney’s House Party- 5⭐: Buddy read with @teereads. How had I never read this one as such a huge Betsy Tacy fan?? Don’t worry, it’s safely among my favorites now. In fact, I sat in my car an extra hour to finish it because I just didn’t want to leave its world.
37. Dumplin’- 4⭐: A great main character makes this the first non-dystopian YA I’ve enjoyed in a long time. I appreciated the book’s authentic exploration of insecurities, loss, and friendships.
38. Wonder- 4.75⭐: Not quite as powerful the third (?) time around, but still so heartwarming with some good realism. We all routinely need the messages of this book.
39. How to American- 2.5⭐: @dacapopress #partner This one is well rated on Goodreads, so my guess is that it just wasn’t for me and is probably also much better if you know the actor’s work, like on Silicone Valley. He’s funny and I was looking forward to his perspective of the Asian immigrant experience because it’s not one we really see in American culture, but I closed the book feeling meh.
40. Out to Canaan- 3.75⭐: I am always happy to return to Mitford. If you’re looking for a series of comfort books, these are delightful.
41. The Provincial Lady in London- 4⭐: As with the first in the series, engrossing and shrewd social commentary and plenty of smirking over this 1930s “diary”.
42. The Night Circus- 4.5⭐: A reread and again the end keeps this one out of my all time favorites. It hurts me a little each time that a book with this brilliantly imaginative setting has a close I feel is much too cliched and saccharine. The setting, though! And the Bailey story line! Brilliant.
43. The War That Saved My Life- 3.5⭐: Okay, objectively this one is well composed and takes on unique topics within the broader setting of WW2. It won the Newbery in 2016. I liked it overall. Personally, though, I have trouble reading about child abuse and its impacts. I also really wish we could have had a few more moments of triumph and fun, or that the ones that were included impacted me more.
44. How To Be A Heroine- 4⭐: If you, too, have a weakness for books about books and love yourself some classic heroines like Anne and Jane, this one is well worth the read.
45. The Priory-4.75⭐: Whipple can WRITE. This exploration of women’s possibilities in England right before WW2 is fleshed out with Whipple’s trademark gift of characterization.
46. The Secret Garden- 4⭐: Wow, the beginning of this is dark. Dare I say, too, that on this reread I found it a little repetitive in the second half? 🤭Nonetheless, it felt perfect reading this as spring is in full swing here in New England and this is definitely a beloved children’s classic for a reason.
47. Dear Fahrenheit 451- 4⭐: Quirky and funny letters to books from a very not cliche librarian. An entertaining, light read that I happily consumed in a day. The idea of organizing bookshelves by emotion? Amazing.
48. The Long Secret- 3⭐: The sequel to Harriet the Spy. Very 60s explorations of religion, women, etc., and still the diverting craziness of Harriet.
49. I Am Half-Sick of Shadows- 3.5⭐: If characters like Scout, Ramona, and Harriet make you smile, you’ll love Flavia. This is the fourth in the mystery series and I thought the movie filming plot line was extra fun.
50. My Oxford Year- 3⭐: A big thank you to @williammorrowbooks for a free review copy! This reminded me of Me Before You with a less quirky main character and it’s a good one to toss into your carry-on or beach bag. I particularly enjoyed the delightful sprinklings of English literature nerdiness and the evocatively detailed Oxford setting.
51. Reading People- 4⭐: Finally, clear explanations for many of the personality types I hear about so often!
52. The Watsons Go To Birmingham- 4⭐: Highly recommend the audiobook done by Levar Burton (Reading Rainbow 🙌). I’m white, so take this as you will, but I thought the author did a wonderful job of making this family real and fleshed out, rather than merely a prop to show lessons about racism (cough, Small Great Things).
53. All Creatures Great and Small- 5⭐: I never had a horse phase. I do not gravitate towards books about animals. At all. Despite this, thanks to it being one of those titles I kept seeing and @teereads’ praise sealing the deal, I picked up and ended up adoring this semi-autobiographical book about, yes, a veterinarian and, yes, there are descriptions of cow births, etc. More so, though, it’s Herriot’s gift of commentary on the local people and his descriptions of the Yorkshire countryside that had me contentedly reading bits of this every night before bed.
54. 84, Charing Cross Road- 5⭐: A favorite that makes for a charming reread. If you haven’t yet read this one, it’s real life letters between a feisty New Yorker with a contagious bookish passion and the workers of a British bookshop post WW2. Need I say more?
55. My Man Jeeves- 3.75⭐: A bumbling gentleman and his trusty butler attempting to solve the problems of his wealthy friends = good, goofy British fun.
56. Winona’s Pony Cart- 4⭐: Oh how happy I was to be in Deep Valley. This was my last first read of any in print Lovelace books (of which I read the Betsy Tacy ones on repeat).
57. Look Alive Out There- 5⭐: With any type of shorter writing, you need to really have a gift for the rhythm and perception of storytelling or it shows. Crosley does this seemingly effortlessly in her essays AND had me dying laughing (books rarely make me laugh out loud). Thanks to @anniebjones for her review on From the Front Porch that made me pick this up.
58. Murder on the Orient Express- 4⭐: Cleanly composed, absorbing. I listened to the audiobook read by Dan Stevens, who you probably know from Downton Abbey or as the green-screened fellow who had to suffer opposite Emma Watson as the Beast 😏. His narration and voices are amazing.
59. The Happiness Project- 3⭐ : I found this much more impactful the first time, but I also listen to Rubin’s weekly podcast and have read everything else by her, so that’s not the book’s fault. I appreciate her practical approaches to happiness.
60. Unqualified- 1.5⭐: Actress Anna Faris’s memoirs. Bleh. Sometimes blehhh.
61. The Penderwicks at Last- 4⭐: A sweet, solid end to a series that feels like your favorite childhood classics.
62. A Man Called Ove- 2.75⭐: Backman Superfan Legion, I hate to say this, but I found it really gimmicky and it felt unrealistic in a way that made me disconnected from the main character. I had been hoping to like this one much more and feel like I’m missing something.
63. Queen Lucia- 4⭐: An entertainingly snarky story of the absurdity of social life in small British villages.
64. Q’s Legacy- 4⭐: This is the story of how 84, Charing Cross Road came to be and what happened after. Definitely recommend to fans of the book.
65. Am I There Yet?- 3⭐: A charming, introspective collection of essays and illustrations about everything from death to finding yourself by the artist Mari Andrew, whose work you’ve probably seen here on Instagram. Interestingly, the word I think most people would use for Andrew’s work is relatable, but, for me, it was more like a fun anthropology class on more typical white females in their twenties 😄.
66. Little Big Love- 4.75⭐: A big thank you to @berkleypub for the review copy. My full review is earlier in my feed, but, basically, I was completely absorbed in this substantive and heartbreaking yet humorous story of a complicated family.
67. Where the Crawdads Sing- 4⭐: Thank you very much to @putnambooks for the free review copy and @anniebjones05 (again!) on @whatshouldireadnext for piquing my interest on this one. Such evocative and atmospheric writing coupled with both the sad tale of a young girl abandoned by her family and murder, intrigue, and courtroom drama. I was completely sucked in by the rich descriptions of swamplife. Who knew? Full review coming later, but I can see many of you really liking this one. It comes out August 14.
68. The Goblet of Fire- 5⭐: I never can decide if this or PoA is my favorite. The agonies. Needless to say, it’s brilliant.