Let me start by saying that I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Mine was filled with family time, chocolate cake and lots of books! As it’s drawing to the end of the year, I thought we could discuss my favourite books of 2018. I’ve had a fantastic reading year. As of today, I’ve read 117 books and will surely finish my current read by tomorrow. I’m hoping to squeeze in a couple of Penguin’s Little Black Classics to take my total up to 120, but we’ll see…
Goodreads has kindly summarised my reading year for me. I’ve read 34,409 pages across 117 books (excluding my current read). Jane Austen’s ‘The History of England’ was my shortest book (16 pages), and Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was my longest (1,005 pages). My most popular book was Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and my least popular was Favourite Poems of the Countryside edited by Samuel Carr. My first read of the year was Jane Austen’s Persuasion and my last was Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure.
Most importantly, my average rating was 3.3 stars, so the following books must have been good! Let’s get into it…
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien:
Middle-Earth has always been very special to me. The movies, both LoTR and The Hobbit, were everything. Everything I owned and watch was to do with Middle-Earth. Despite this, I had never read the books. I promised myself that 2018 would be the year that changed, and so it did. It’s the tale of a dangerous ring that must be destroyed, and so a fellowship is formed. There are many obstacles along the way, but can they make it to the fires of Mount Doom?
I’m so happy that I loved the books just as much as the movies. It was my biggest worry. But it shouldn’t have been. Peter Jackson stayed so true to the books, that the films are essentially straight copies. Tolkien is such a good writer. He knows how to write an engaging story, with wonderful characters, and a complex world. I was completely immersed in the stories. I was itching to read them all the time. I think The Fellowship of the Ring is my ultimate favourite, just because everything is so pure and wholesome, but the whole series is brilliant.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett:
I should have read this way before 2018. My sister used to be obsessed with the film, and so I already knew the story. I didn’t expect to love it this much though. It is the tale of Mary Lennox, a little orphan, who is sent to live with her uncle at Misselthwaite Manor. She is spoilt and contrary, but is also horribly lonely. Whilst wandering the gardens, she finds a key buried in the grounds, which unlocks the enchanting secret garden. And so her whole life is transformed.
I loved this. It was essentially an ode to Nature, which, as a Nature lover myself, I could appreciate. It was so lovely watching the characters transform before my very eyes just because of this one secret garden. Mary changed into a strong, little woman. Colin transformed into a healthy boy of ten. Nature was so fundamental to the narrative, and I loved being swept along with it. I just felt so at home reading this. Also, it’s one of the first children’s literature that I’ve read and not hated. I didn’t even hate it a little bit. It was completely perfect in everyway.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank:
This is another one of those books that I’ve been wanting to read for years but never got round to it. 2018 was the time to read it. I’m actually quite annoyed at myself for taking so long to read it when it was so perfect. Anne, on her 13th birthday, receives a journal. A few days later, she is taken into hiding for the simple fact that she is a Jew. Naturally, she begins to document her life in hiding. It goes right up until three days before she is found.
This was, quite frankly, perfect. I don’t know how a young girl, who is experiencing such trauma, manages to be so happy and free-spirited. Anne’s personality is so likeable, and her happiness is so infectious. A 13 year old child managed to make me feel a wealth of emotions, which isn’t always easy. She doesn’t dwell on the war, but instead speaks of her sexuality, her gender, her education, her relationships with the people in hiding, and her lost experiences. It was such a privilege being able to read these.
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell:
I must admit, I was pretty intimidated by this one. It’s Gaskell’s longest novel, and is actually left unfinished. I had nothing to worry about, though. It quickly became one of my favourite novels of all-time. It’s the tale of Molly Gibson, whose life is thrown off course when her father remarries. With it, she receives a manipulative stepmother, and a glamourous new stepsister. Molly quickly finds herself as a go-between for her sister’s love affairs, risking her own reputation and the man she loves with it.
Again, I loved everything about this one. I can’t find one fault in it. Everything worked beautifully with one another. I loved the small community (which is something Gaskell is brilliant at writing about), the host of characters, the slow and subtle plot, and the setting. Despite it being long, and despite it being unfinished, I couldn’t get enough of this story. Molly is such an interesting character to follow around all day – her life is so chaotic, yet she is so down to earth. Honestly, this was a delightful little
Nelly Dean by Alison Case:
Again, this is another book I didn’t expect to love. It’s inspired by one of my favourite books: Wuthering Heights. It’s a filling in of the gaps, really. In the original, Emily alludes to a strong romantic connection between Nelly, the servant, and Hindley, the master’s son. By focusing on the bits Brontë neglected to tell, Case brings to life this relationship in the most beautiful but disastrous way.
Case managed to captured the very essence of Wuthering Heights, which was something I was worried about. I’ve been disappointed with re-tellings before, but Case somehow managed to make it feel nostalgic yet original all at the same time. I really loved the characterisation of Nelly, who had such depth and psychology to her character. Through Nelly, Cased explored love, motherhood, class, instincts, and so much more. It’s an intense, emotional, and vivid story. Honestly, so wonderful (
except the second to last chapter which I’m pretending that never happened).
…and, out of 117 books, those were my ultimate favourites!
It’s hard to find books that I genuinely love and appreciate. These five books (well seven if you count LoTR individually) were only a few that received a full five stars from me (some didn’t even get that). Nevertheless, I would wholeheartedly recommend these to anyone. They’re such lovely reads.
What was your favourite book of 2018?
Thanks for sticking around for another year! You’re the best, Lauren X