A Great Year for Reading

2018 books

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It’s been a rough year personally, but my best year ever for my web design business, and a truly amazing year for reading. I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for months so I could tell you about some of the books that have delighted me.

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2018 Reading Challenge

I enjoyed Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2015 Reading Challenge, so after finally completing the Canadian Reading Challenge last year, I decided to give it another go in 2018. This time I decided to work from top to bottom, selecting books specifically for the challenge categories and not taking the easy way out if someone in my book club happened to pick one that fit.

The titles I read for each category are listed below, along with my reasons for choosing them, and how I rated them on Goodreads.

A classic you’ve been meaning to read: Anna Karenina

I’d wanted to read this since I studied 19th century French literature in university. I didn’t love it (I only gave it 3 stars), but it was pretty ambitious at 750 pages, so I was pleased to cross it off my bucket list (and my Reading Challenge list). Because it’s a classic, I guessed correctly that it might be available as a free Kindle, but later discovered that I already had it on my Kobo app. So now I have two different editions.

A book recommended by someone with great taste: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

I saw that Lisa Montanaro had given this 5 stars on Goodreads, and I’m rarely disappointed by her recommendations. It was on my sister‘s Kobo, which I’d borrowed, so it worked out well. I gave it 4 stars.

A book in translation: The Japanese Lover

I thoroughly enjoyed The Infinite Plan when I read it for the 2015 challenge (a book that was originally written in another language), so I searched for another one by Isabel Allende on the Overdrive app. I was not disappointed – I gave it 5 stars.

A book nominated for an award in 2018: The Unlikely Redemption of John Alexander MacNeil

This one took a bit more research. I decided to focus on Canada, so started by searching for Canadian Literary Awards, which led me to this title. I recognized the author, Lesley Choyce, as someone my sister knows, so it seemed like a good choice. Wow! It might have been my favourite book for the whole year! 5 stars obviously!

A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection: Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between

This was a tough one, because none of those genres really tickle my fancy, until I remembered Lauren Graham’s collection of personal essays about her life as an actor, especially of course her role as Lorelai Gilmore. I loved that show, including last year’s mini-series. I enjoyed the book too, giving it 4 stars.

A book you can read in a day: After Swissair

When I did a Google search for possible candidates, one of the titles I came across was The Day of the Locust. At 118 pages, it was a bit of a stretch for me, and it ended up taking me a week to read. I told my sister I didn’t know whether I should count it or not, and she kindly lent me After Swissair. I was blown away by this series of poems about a tragedy I barely remember hearing about on the news. Through her poetry, Budge Wilson conveys the horrific events and the emotions of everyone involved in a deeply touching way I don’t think would have been possible through prose. Definitely 5 stars!

A book that’s more than 500 pages: Burden of Desire

As I often do, I asked my sister, who has both good taste and a great library, for a recommendation. She made several suggestions, and this one interested me most. Another excellent choice – and my third from Nova Scotia! Another 5-star title.

A book by a favourite author: About a Boy

It was hard to choose a favourite author, but I decided that Nick Hornby was definitely up there. This was the only title available from my local library that I hadn’t already read.

Having seen the movie and TV show based on the book, I was already familiar with the story and the characters, which both enhanced and interfered with my enjoyment. As always, I loved Hornby’s humorous approach to even serious subjects, and especially his insight into the minds of the characters. I definitely recommend it – especially if you’ve avoided it because you didn’t like the TV show. It’s much better! 4 stars.

A banned book: Annie on My Mind

When I started looking for possibilities, I was overwhelmed by the vast numbers of books that have been banned somewhere at some time. I decided to explore lesbian fiction, and discovered Annie on My Mind. It’s a lovely YA romance that shows society’s attitudes towards homosexuality in the 1980s. Both eye-opening and enjoyable – 4 stars.

A memoir, biography, or book of creative nonfiction: I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

I may have deviated slightly from selecting books specifically for the challenge categories in that this was already on my shelf, on loan from my sister. Since it fit so well with this category, I chose to read it at that moment in time. It was an unusual autobiography in that it described various events in author Maggie O’Farrell’s life, but not in chronological order. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but I gave it 4 stars.

A book by an author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own: Ragged Company

This was one of several my sister recommended for this category. I went with it since I knew she’d been greatly inspired by Richard Wagamese’s writing. I loved it – another 5 stars!

A book recommended by a librarian or indie bookseller: The Museum of Extraordinary Things

This is the only one I did out of sequence – it was 9th on the original list, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. With only a couple of weeks left in the year, I really wanted to complete the challenge, so I sucked it up. It was such a wonderful experience that I blogged about it! I finished it last night and gave it 5 stars. You can be sure I’ll be checking out the librarian’s other recommendations.

Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge

I set my yearly goal to 45, the same as last year, but ended up reading a total of 51 books. I wanted 25% of the books I read to be non-fiction, including business and self-help, and that was spot on.

Check out My Year in Books to see what else I read.

Reading Goals for 2019

  1. Complete Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2019 Reading Challenge (I’ve already picked out #1 – a book you’ve been meaning to read).
  2. It’s fun to keep track of how many books I read over the year, and the easiest way to do that is by setting a goal in Goodreads. Based on this year, I’ll set my goal as 50, but I don’t really care how many I read. I gave 74% of those I read this year 4 or 5 stars, so if I can come close to that, I’ll be thrilled.

What are you planning to read next year?



Casual Photo of Janet Barclay

Janet Barclay

I eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, cooking, watching movies, drinking tea, and spending time with my family.

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  1. Kathy Stinson on December 29, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    Fun to read about the books you read — and so enjoyed — for your reading challenge this year, Janet. I’m glad I was able to contribute to your reading enjoyment!

    Among the books in my stack for upcoming reading are:
    Always Another Country by Sisonke Msimang (recommended by Peter)
    That’s My Baby by Frances Itani (whose book Requiem I loved)
    The Home for Unwanted Girls (which you’ve kindly lent me)
    Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (which has got a lot of attention recently)

    I’ve always enjoyed a free-wheeling approach to my reading and recently blogged about some of my favourite books from 2018 (https://kathystinson.com/my-23-favourite-books-in-2018/), but I must say you’ve made Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge look like a lot of fun. With 2019 rapidly approaching, I guess I’d best make up my mind about taking part soon!

    • Janet Barclay on December 30, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      You’re right about Washington Black. I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts about it. I’d love it if you’d join me in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge!

  2. Pauline Wiles on December 29, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    I recently spent several blissful days immersed in a beautiful book called Bibliophile, and have created a blended “challenge” based on that and a few of Modern Mrs Darcy’s themes. You’ve reminded me to type it up somewhere that keeps me accountable… my blog, I guess!
    Happy 2019 to you. Hope it brings smoother days (personally) than 2018.

    • Janet Barclay on December 30, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Bibliophile is on my to read list! That would be a great choice for non-fiction. If you think of it, please let me know if you post your challenge – I’d love to see what you’re planning.

  3. Lisa Montanaro on December 30, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Janet –

    Love this post! And what a pleasant surprise to find my name mentioned here. I so enjoy sharing book recommendations with reading friends like you.

    I do the Goodreads challenge every year and really enjoy it. I read some of the same books as you this year, and some different ones. I’ll be blogging about my favorites soon.

    Here’s to more wonderful reading in 2019! Happy new year.

    • Janet Barclay on December 31, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      I’m glad you found your way here, Lisa! I look forward to your blog post and to seeing what you read and recommend next year.

  4. Linda Samuels on January 2, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    Kudos to you for engaging in such an enjoyable challenge and for reading so many books that you loved. I’m always discovering more books that I want to read, but I have a pile that I’m currently reading through. We’re not short on books here. I keep a list and try NOT to buy any new ones until I’m ready for them. But on occasion, I just can’t resist. I like to read physical books as opposed to digital versions. And since I generally write in them, I buy them instead of borrowing them from the library.

    • Janet Barclay on January 3, 2019 at 12:46 pm

      I always have plenty to read too! I rarely buy a book (not counting used book sales) unless I need a title for my book club and it’s not available through the library.

      I feel more connected to physical books than e-books. For example, my niece received a book as a gift, and I knew from the cover that I had it on my Kobo, but couldn’t remember whether I’d read it. If I’d held the actual book in my hand while reading it, I’d have known for sure.

      On the other hand, there are things I like about e-books. One is that I can find a book and download it immediately if I find myself in need of something to read. Another is being able to tap on a word I don’t understand to find out what it means.

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