Shelf Life: My favorite reads of 2018

Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2019

In my last column, I gave you a list of all the great books I missed out on in 2018.

Now, it’s time for what I did read! Only half were published last year (the first four listed), but all are relatively new.

I read 26 books in 2018, and my goal for 2019 is 36. What about you?

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“There There” by Tommy Orange

This book was a bit confusing to me, as there are so many characters and it takes awhile to figure out how they are all related. But it was an excellent read once I worked it all out. It revolves around 12 urban Native Americans living in Oakland, California, as they all prepare for a powwow.

“A Spark of Light” by Jodi Picoult

Picoult is one of my go-to authors, and her latest novel is told through a narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of a standoff between a hostage negotiator and a man who has shot up an abortion clinic. The catch? The negotiator’s daughter is inside the clinic with the gunman.

“The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah

This book spans years, but begins in 1974 when Leni and her parents move to the wild frontier of Alaska. They make friends, Leni falls in love and they all grow to love their new home. That is until Leni’s Vietnam vet father becomes more violent and unpredictable during the long, dark winters.

“Baby Teeth” by Zoje Stage

This one is pretty creepy, but I couldn’t put it down. The story is told from the point-of-view of both Hanna, a 7-year-old who has yet to speak, and her mother, Suzette, who is convinced that her daughter is evil. However, Suzette’s husband and Hanna’s dad, Alex, never sees the manipulative and aggressive side of Hanna as she is so happy and sweet around him.

“Scythe” by Neal Shusterman

Shusterman is one of my favorite authors of young adult novels (check out his “Unwind” series as well). In “Scythe,” the world no longer has hunger, disease, war or death. So scythes are the ones who must end lives in order to keep the population size under control. Teens Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe, much to their dismay, and must master the “art” of taking life.

“Pretty Girls” by Karin Slaughter

Slaughter became my new favorite author this year, and I read all her stand-alone novels. This was my favorite. Claire and Lydia are sisters who have not spoken since their sister disappeared 20 years ago. Now Claire’s husband has been murdered and they reconnect to discover shocking secrets.

“You” by Carolina Kepnes

“You” was developed into a TV show this year, which I can’t wait to watch now that it is on Netflix. Another creepy one (that’s how I roll), this novel is told from Joe’s perspective as he stalks and inserts himself into the life of Beck, the woman he has deemed to be his perfect match.

“Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson

A laugh-out-loud hilarious memoir! I’m so glad I picked this one up for a book club. The author examines her own experience with severe depression and a host of other conditions, and explains how it has led her to live life to the fullest.

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.