Ranking the 20 Books I’ve Read this Year

What a fantastic year of books.

I had a goal to read 20 books in 2018. However, with two kids under two, a full time job, a dog and cat, a wife I enjoy spending time with, a house that is in constant need of repair, and a yard that is in constant disarray due to a particularly harsh rainy summer, 20 books was a lofty goal for me. Yet here we are, mid-September, and I have finished my goal. 3. Freakin. Months. Early!
*Round of Applause*
It may be the only goal I accomplish this year, but I’m still counting that as successful, and I owe it all to the 19 authors (1 author I read twice) who wrote incredible books that kept me interested throughout. Some were better than others. Some were much much better than others, but I didn’t finish a book and say, “Damn, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time on this.” In fact, there are probably 10 books on this list that could have easily been the best book I read this year….if it weren’t for the other 9.
So yes, a fantastic year of books.
I’d like to share my personal ranking of the 20 with you now as all are certainly worth a read. So here we go.
20: An Unexpected Grace by Kristin Von Kreisler: love dogs and I love dog books (Dog’s Purpose, A Man of His Own) so I had high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite meet my expectations, but that’s not completely the author’s fault. The book started dramatically enough, but kind of mellowed and just strolled along from there. Not enough rises and falls.
19: Two From the Heart by James Patterson: I enjoy Patterson’s “Women’s Murder Club” series, and I’ve enjoyed some of his romantic tales (Susanne’s Diary for Nicholas & Sam’s Letters to Jennifer, for example), but for the most part, his books are just not emotionally gripping enough. They move at a good pace, but emotionally, I am not all that drawn in, which is a problem for me.
18: The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand: This book is probably a Top 10 in a down year, but I read too many great books this year. I read this because I wanted a beach book, and I enjoyed the different perspectives. But I think the story just didn’t resound with me…but it could with others. Still a good book.
17: Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Garber does a wonderful job creating a magical world; sadly, though, it’s really hard to get me locked into a fantasy world. However, as this is a series, I am still intrigued to read Book 2, Legendary, which just released the end of May.
16: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty: Again, a victim of circumstance. Nothing is particularly wrong with this book, but it just didn’t grab me as much as the ones above it.
15: Child Finder by Rene Denfeld: I was intrigued by the book’s premise, but it took so long to build suspense for me, as I was expecting more energy in the middle and just didn’t see it. Once the book picks up with the climax however, it flew and kept me glued to the page.
14: The Bear by Clare Cameron: Bear was recommended to me several years ago by someone who knew I enjoyed Room by Emma Donohue, and I finally picked it up cheap at a book sale this summer. Both books are told from a child’s perspective, and while I found the concept so unique and mesmerizing in Room, I had a harder time following it in Bear. And even though this book had a bear chase, Room had more suspense for me.
13: The Other Half by Sarah Rayner: I read a lot of books this year set in England, but I didn’t enjoy the “Brit Speak” as much as I did in this book. I tried incorporating it into real life, but people just looked at me strangely, so I had to stop.
12: Abundance of Katherines by John Green: I’ve read many of Green’s books over the past few years, but didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Paper Towns and Fault in Our Stars. Also, Green fell victim to the books above it this year.
11: Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans: Evans is certainly a Top 3 favorite author of mine all time, and even this book didn’t crack the Top 10 (though he sneaks in with another book later). A good Christmas read.
10: The Girl Before by JP Delaney: This book is a bona fide winner in other years, and it kept me reading with its suspense, but I wasn’t quite as hooked as a couple of books you’ll see in The Top 5.
9: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo: I love a good romantic story, and this one didn’t disappoint. This probably moves up a few spots if not for some of my beefs with the main character….but the fact that Santopolo creates a character that I care enough to argue with? Makes her a great writer, and this a great book.
8: Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin: If Evans is a Top 3 author, Martin is a Top 5, and I’ve never not enjoyed any of his books. Romance, intrigue, suspense, morality. This book had it all. The ending might have dragged a little too long, if I had to give a con.
7: One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr: I loved going on the journey with Flora Banks, the girl with amnesia, as she chased after a boy who, of all things, she remembered.
6: The Forgotten Road by Richard Paul Evans: Evans narrowly misses the Top 5 with the second book in a series whose main character is a wealthy, arrogant jerk that suddenly finds a conscience. The reason I enjoy Evans and Martin so much is because they create characters who either a)have a moral compass or b)are trying to find a moral compass. Both authors are guided by their belief in Christ that shapes their written words. In a world of constant chaos, we need characters like that. At least I do.
5: Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown: A book with a mystery that leaves you guessing until the end. I love books where you spend pages trying to solve the mystery, only to be left surprised with the ending, anyway.
4: Woman in The Window by AJ Finn: As above, it’s suspenseful with a mystery you are constantly trying to solve. An edge-of-your-seat book that I didn’t want to put down. If you enjoy Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn, you’ll enjoy AJ Finn. Sidenote: this is becoming a movie with a great cast of actors/actresses.
3: My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry: I love love love discovering new authors, and even more, love finding out that this isn’t the only book of theirs that’s currently released! Jane quickly became a new favorite author with just this book, creating characters you think about long after you’ve put the book down. Just the right blend of suspense and intrigue.
2: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: How is this book not #1?? Even I can’t believe it, and I made the list. I’ve never read anything like this. The “catch” in this book is unlike anything I’d ever read before. It made my mouth drop open. Paris also writes openly and brilliantly about a character with Down Syndrome, who I couldn’t get enough of. I don’t want to give anything away, but you need to read this book. And the only reason it’s not #1 is because….
1: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon: This book literally came out of nowhere. Seriously. I’m at Barnes & Noble looking up books on my list of books I want to read. I go to find my wife, who is looking at something on a shelf, and this book catches my eye with its intriguing cover and tagline. I pick it up, say “Hmm, this sounds good” and put it on a pile of books that, 30 minutes later, I have to decide which are keepers and which are save-for-laters. I was on the fence between two books, and this was one of them. Something told me to keep it…and it was the best decision of the year.
This book has…a romantic story. Suspense. Page-turning quality. Characters you love. Characters you want to scream at. Characters you just shake your head at. A mystery that you’re trying to solve from Page 1 to 320. (PS, I convinced my wife to read this right after I finished, and she figured out part of the mystery I didn’t, but missed the part that I figured out that I thought was obvious). And that sinking “Oh No” feeling you get in your stomach when you’re afraid of what’s going to happen? McKinnon takes you there…and then she drops multiple plot bombs on you in a matter of….ten pages. You’re trying to recover from the first, and there’s the second, then another. And another. At least five near the end. I couldn’t breathe by the time I finished. And I LOOOOVE that feeling! It is so hard for a book to make me do that. That and cry are the two things that a fantastic book should make you do, and McKinnon got me further than most authors who have tried (For the record, there’s less than 5 books that have ever made me cry). Yes, this book benefited from the fact that I had low expectations going in, but the writing quality blew the others out of the literary water (note: “Literary Water” is a dry pond because water is bad for books. Duh!).
I am forever grateful for McKinnon and “The Neighbors” for reminding me, more than any other book did this year, why I read. And driving that passion home for me with a stake to the Literary Heart .
(note: the metaphorical stake is plastic because nothing can harm your Literary Heart. Also – steak. Mmmm…)

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