a kindle and a cup of coffee - aurooba ahmed

The Books I Read in 2018

In 2017, I was shocked to discover I had read less than 3 new books in the whole year. For someone with a reputation as a bookworm who used to go through 70-100 books a year, this was..appalling.

I know my life has become increasingly hectic and my capacity to concentrate is deeply thwarted by distractions like YouTube, Netflix, and general aimless net surfing (so bad, I know). Knowing I would need to work back up to reading lots of books, I set my goal for 2018 for 12 books.

Then I promptly forgot all about it amidst wedding and marriage planning until September. In the last four months of the year, I read all 12 books. (Yay! Mission accomplished!)

Here are some notes and thoughts on each book I read:

  1. Touching Spirit Bear – Surprisingly enough, I never read this in school! This was the assigned book for my English tutoring student, I read it so I could help her with her work. A slow, deep, and just harsh enough book that felt age appropriate for middle school but not written well enough to capture the attention of your average middle school student. I enjoyed the book, although some of the themes felt a little heavy handed.
  2. The Graveyard Book – I read The Dollhouse by Neil Gaiman in university for my first year English class. Later I discovered him to be a rather famous author with notable speeches and talks, so I decided to check out another one of his books. A quick Google search led me to choose this one, and I quite enjoyed it! But I’m not sure Gaiman’s work is really the kind of thing I go for normally.
  3. Atomic Habits – I’ve been reading James Clear’s blog off and on for several years and knew he was working on a book. I found out about its release on Instagram and was super excited to check it out. At the time, I was thinking more about my habits and routines so it felt like the perfect read. It’s an interesting book that expands on a lot of concepts Clear blogged about and goes fairly in depth. Although I took my time and did my best to really digest the information and methodology, I know I’ll be going back to the book again and again as I focus on building better and more lasting habits in 2019. Great book.
  4. Artemis – The Martian is one of my favourite movies, although I know it’s not as good as the book, however, I never did read the book. So I decided to read Artemis by the same author because I knew I would surely enjoy his sci-fi style. I did. I especially liked that the main character was partially of Arab descent and female. Entertaining story set on the first colony on the moon – I found the technology details fascinating.
  5. The Genius Plague – I heard about this book and Rosewater on the podcast Flash Forward one day. The discussion surrounding the concepts and ideas in these books captured my both imagination and fascination. Although this book is not particularly popular and may not be mind blowing for many people – it thoroughly blew my mind. I don’t mind how it stretches plausibility in some areas. The concept of this fungus using humans as hosts to advance its own existence in such an incredible way was both frightening on deep levels and so interesting. My imagination definitely ran wild with this one. I still get shivers when I consider the implications of such a reality.
  6. Dune – I first heard about this book (this series, rather) when I was working at Coles as a part time customer rep in 2013. My coworker gushed about it and how it was one of the most amazing sci/fantasy books, ever. However, I felt no compulsion to pick it up and read it. Now having read two sci-fi books in a row, I decided to pick up Dune, because it’s very highly rated on Good Reads as well, and definitely seems like a foundational piece of literature in the genre. Dune is good. It’s deep. At first, it’s confusing, but you’re drawn in nevertheless. There is a lot of modern criticism about the writing and dialogue. However, I personally found it a pleasure to read. The world of Dune is crafted with incredible detail in just the right places. It feels positively real because of the level of depth you can feel in the characters, traditions, and culture.
  7. Dune Messiah – This is the second book in the Dune series. This one felt like a bridge book, something that needs to be written in order for the story to make sense going forward. The politics was interesting, the world was still real and deep, but I found the book a bit slow. Although a shorter book than Dune, this took me the same time to read because I kept having to take breaks. After finishing this, I went link jumping on Wikipedia to find out what happens in the rest of the books to satisfy my curiosity. Perhaps I’ll finish the series eventually, but for now I’m content with what I know and enjoyed these two books.
  8. Ender’s Game – I watched Ender’s Game a while ago and the whole concept captured my imagination. The movie was obviously dumbed down and I could feel a level of depth just out of reach when I watched the (pretty juvenile) movie. Naturally, I decided to read the book. Man. What. A. Book. The movie cuts out almost 90% of the story and also significantly changes many plot points. This book is complicated, incredibly well written, and just wow. If you like sci fi or just really good stories, read this WHOLE SERIES.
  9. Speaker for the Dead – The author often says he wrote Ender’s Game as a prequel to this book, which he felt was the book. I completely understand. This book would make less sense and have less impact if Ender’s Game didn’t exist. But this book is even more incredible.
  10. Xenocide – Third book in Ender’s series. There were parts in this book that were really hard to read. Why? Because they poignantly and matter-of-factly presented the ugly side of humanity and our behaviour when we are fear-ridden and feeling threatened. The book personally stung and I was appalled because it rang so true – I didn’t want it to. Beautiful, beautiful book.
  11. Children of the Mind – This is the most recent book in the series, with another book coming soon! If Xenocide was beautiful and harsh because of the laid out ugliness of humanity, then Children of the Mind is a love letter to humanity’s ability to band together, come up with innovative solutions, and do what we need to do for our survival. However, it’s also a great exploration of how we manipulate each other (that’s not so great). Such a thrilling book. I was and am captivated. I am so amped up for the next book.
  12. Rosewater – This is the other book I heard about on the podcast, Flash Forward. I am delighted that this book is the first in a series that is being written. This book is about aliens arriving on Earth and permanently altering our environment and even causing (mostly positive) biological changes in humans. I read this book so fast. It’s well written, thoroughly engrossing, and fascinating.

Twelve books. I’m so happy about this. I didn’t know how badly I missed reading and delving into new worlds and exploring new and weird concepts until I got back into it. How could I have let other things get in the way of this? My mind feels more expanded, more creative, and more alive than it has in some time.

I used to read a lot of fantasy with a smattering of sci-fi and realistic fiction. Then I moved onto reading almost exclusively nonfiction. But there’s something about fiction that nonfiction can never measure up to. The ideas, feelings, and meaning that can be weaved into a work of fiction is unmatched by other forms of writing. Nonfiction certainly has its place and I enjoy reading it, but fiction is a necessary component of a deeply engaging and mind-expanding reading habit.

I’m so excited to read more in 2019. I’m aiming to read 24 books in 2019, and it’s going to be lit. Follow along on Good Reads.