I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! Now that the festivities are over and 2019 is rapidly approaching, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and making plans for the year ahead. As part of all of that, today I’m sharing the books that I read in 2018, both novels and non-fiction, and highlighting a few of my favourites!
- Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss
- The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
- The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman
- The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman
- The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
- Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
- Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
- Materially Crafted by Victoria Hudgins
- Care Packages by Michelle Mackintosh
- The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright
- Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew
- Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee
- How to Invent Everything by Ryan North
- Tokyo by Steve Wide and Michelle Mackintosh
1. How to Invent Everything by Ryan North
From the blurb:
Imagine you are stranded in the past (your time machine has broken) and the only way home is to rebuild all of human civilization, but better and faster this time. In this one book, learn How to Invent Everything. Ryan North provides all the science, engineering, art, music and general know-how you need, no matter how far in the past you’ve gone. Thanks to his detailed blueprint, we can mature quickly and efficiently this time – instead of spending 200,000 years without language or thinking disease was caused by weird smells. Along the way you’ll discover technologies needed at each stage of progress (from writing and farming to buttons and birth control). So if you’ve ever wondered if you could do history better, now is your chance to find out how.
Ryan North is hands down my favourite living writer. I’ve been reading his webcomic Dinosaur Comics for over 10 years, and we even have a dedicated ‘Ryan North’ shelf full of his comics and books in our living room. His latest book, How to Invent Everything, is not only full of interesting information about the various inventions and technologies that humanity developed to survive and thrive over thousands of years, but it’s also presented with a completely hilarious framing story – so you’ve gone back in time and you need to rebuild civilisation. His writing is both informative and funny, and the book itself is full of brilliant little details, from the Pocket Temporal Flowchart to find your place in time on the endpapers, to the metric ruler printed on the book jacket, to the hilarious fine print disclaimer on the copyright information page. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!!
2. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
From the blurb:
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum. Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her.
Last year I read another of Maria Semple’s novels, This One Is Mine, and did not like it. That’s why I was so surprised to find that I really enjoyed reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette? The mystery of Bernadette unfolds through emails, notes, and other documents that Bee is reviewing for clues to her mother’s whereabouts, interspersed with Bee’s own commentary and narration about the events described in those documents. I love this unusual style of storytelling, and the way it shows that one’s actions and words can be perceived in a myriad different ways depending on the person who is observing them. The characters are quirky and vibrant, and the story develops at a nice, steady pace. Overall, this book was a pleasure to read, and I’m glad I gave Maria Semple another chance!
3. The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright
From the blurb:
As a quirky Jewish kid and promiscuous, punk-ass teen, Jamie Wright never imagines becoming a Christian, let alone a missionary. Yet she is barely an adult when the trials of motherhood and marriage push her through the doors of a suburban megachurch and onto a collision course with Jesus.
Before long, Jamie sets off with her family for the green fields of Costa Rica, where they plan to serve God and change lives. But faced with a yawning culture gap and persistent shortcomings in herself and others, she soon loses confidence in the entire missionary enterprise.
In the clutches of a dark funk, she decides to take a huge risk. She will tell the whole truth, starting with herself.
She launches a renegade blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, to chronicle the everyday dumbness, hilarious ineptitudes, and downright disasters of a wannabe world-changer who would rather just stay in bed. In a surprising twist, Jamie’s blog wins a large and passionate following, suggesting that maybe a “bad” missionary – awkward, doubtful, and bare-butt honest – is exactly what the world and the throngs of American do-gooders need. Funny, outrageous, and pitch-perfect, The Very Worst Missionary is a memoir for the frustrated idealist in all of us.
I found Jamie Wright’s blog a couple of years ago, and loved the unflinching, unfiltered, and honest way she took on faith, life, and Christian culture. My husband Dannii bought this book for me as a gift, and I really loved it. It’s written in Jamie’s signature conversational style, making it easy to read, but it’s probably the most searing and real book on faith that I’ve ever read. Jamie doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of being a human in this world, and the different type of ugliness that pervades the modern Western church, and I found myself nodding and thinking “Yes, girl” as I read about her battles with both. This was probably the book that gave me the most to think about this year, and for that I’m very grateful.
That’s it for 2018! I’m looking forward to a new year of reading – the first book I’ve got lined up for 2019 is Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. What were your favourite books of 2018, and what’s on your reading list for 2019?