Shelf Life: The best books I didn’t read in 2018

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

As 2018 comes to a close, now is the time when all the “best books of the year” lists come out and I start lamenting the great ones that I missed.

Here are a few that got great reviews and will for sure be on my list to read in 2019.

“A Very Large Expanse of Sea” by Tahereh Mafi

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Set in 2002, this young adult novel follows Shirin, a 16-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped. She refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her until she meets Ocean James, the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know her.

“Educated” by Tara Westover

My book club is reading this next year, so I know this book is in my future! The author shares about her childhood with survivalist Mormon parents in the mountains of Idaho, where she never received a formal education. However, she educated herself and went on to earn a PhD from Cambridge.

“An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are ripped apart when Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. During his incarceration, Celestial finds comfort in her childhood friend Andre. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, but the home he knew five years ago is basically nonexistent.

“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara

Published two years after the author’s death, the true crime book details her obsessive search for the Golden State Killer. Interestingly enough, the Sacramento Police arrested a suspect in the case just two months after the book’s release, who is now awaiting trial for all 12 murders.

“Give Me Your Hand” by Megan Abbott

A life-changing secret destroys a friendship in this psychological thriller. Kit has risen to the top of her profession and is on the brink of achieving everything she wanted, and only one thing is standing in her way — Diane, her former best friend who knows her worst secret.

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

The memoir of the former first lady has skyrocketed up the charts, selling more copies than any other book published in the U.S. in 2018 in just 15 days. The book chronicles the experiences that shaped her life, from her Chicago childhood to her eight years living in the White House.

“My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The tagline for this novel is a “darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.” Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead and Korede continues to save the day by protecting her sister from getting caught. But when her crush asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must come to terms with how far she’s willing to go to protect her sister.

Jen Pace Dickenson is the youth services librarian for Polk County Public Libraries. For information about the library’s resources, programs, and other services, visit or call 828-894-8721.