Tag Archives: Hillbilly Elegy

2018 Reading Challenge – The Mind Blowing Ones

I read 255 books in 2018. I know not everyone has the time (or inclination!) to read that many, so every year I like to compile the best and worst reads of 2018. Some years have better books than other, and this year was no exception. It is with great pleasure I present to you:

The Best, Most Blind Blowing Reads of 2018

Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis by Terry Lindvall

This book looks at the role of humor in the writings of C.S. Lewis. It covers the range of his writings and broadly quotes from his poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. I particularly loved how the author engaged with the ideas of Lewis by quoting authors who inspired or interacted with him (such as G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, or St. Augustine) to further flesh out the meaning and implications of the ideas. He layers his analysis by using Lewis’s works as a telescope to view laughter, but never treats the work as the finished goal in and of itself. It is the ideas that matter; direct quotes or themes just enhance the ideas. This was a seriously good read. Though occasionally dry, it uses repetition only to further a theme and never to make up for inadequate scholarship. Highly recommended if you love the writings of C.S. Lewis or just want to engage more with the idea of laughter in the Christian’s life.

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek

There is something a little awe-inspiring about reading a book and realizing how much personal philosophy and intellectual heritage you owe to it. I got the same feeling the first time I read Locke’s Second Treatises of Government. When I consider the impact this book has had on my life and work, it amazes me it took me this long to read it. In Road to Serfdom, Hayek looks at what it takes to have a free society. This should be required reading alongside 1984. It conveys the problems of socialism and yet eerily resembles a conversation we could be having today. Thought-provoking and inspiring, I highly recommend this one.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Any part of Louis Zamperini’s life would be worth telling a story about. From running in the Olympics to fighting sharks on a deflating life raft to surviving horrors as a prisoner of war, this man experienced the inexpressible. Yet he came through it. Unbroken tells his story in a powerful way and leaves the reader with much to ponder about bravery, optimism, and human nature. If you aren’t a big reader and just one good book to take away from this list, I recommend making it this one.

The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue EXCELLENCE by Tom Peters

I would recommend this book for the snark alone. However, I don’t need to because it also contains tons of great advice, interesting stories, and good points about business and life. The audio book was excellent; I did not want to put it down. Peters used his blog posts as the foundation of the book and the upside is that the work contains lots of profound thoughts in quick, sharp form. They get straight to the point and if he ever gets repetitive, he has the grace to recognize it. A few pop shots at books like The World Is Flat and Built To Last only add to the fun. If you are looking for a business book that won’t descend into clichés – but will, in fact, make fun of books that do – this is the one for you.

Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived by Antonin Scalia

Any author – or in this case, speaker – who compliments C.S. Lewis and quotes G.K. Chesterton will win my regard. However, in this wonderful compilation of speeches, Justice Scalia does more than honor their memory; he becomes their intellectual successor. Reading this collection, I easily imagined Justice Scalia joining the Inklings at the Eagle and Child. Although topically he addresses very different things, the attitude of academic rigor and spiritual wonder comes across the same. He shared their worldview. I gained a great deal of insight from this book. It started off a little rough and probably could have ended stronger, but everything in the middle was wonderful. This is Justice Scalia speaking to the common man on subjects ranging from President Taft to Thomas More. He brings wit and wisdom to every address. My favorites were his commencement speeches. Whether you know and love Justice Scalia, or have no clue who I am talking about, this one is worth a read.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

“With wry wit and hard-earned wisdom, popular online personality and founder of TheChicSite.com founder Rachel Hollis helps readers break free from the lies keeping them from the joy-filled and exuberant life they are meant to have.” Popular books make me hesitant, especially books written by internet celebrities I’ve never heard of. But honestly, this book blew me away. With each chapter, Hollis tackles a different lie she believed about herself and the way she overcame it. The book emphasizes that you are in charge of the person you become and what you make of your circumstances. I found it encouraging, inspiring, and comforting all at the same time. Perhaps someday I will come back and give this book a full review. At the very least, I will be returning to it again.

Finally, the best book of 2018…drum roll please…

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I do not think I will ever be able to describe the culture shock of moving to the Appalachian Mountains as an 18 year old. The Bible Belt is…different. But you know who can describe it? J.D. Vance. And he does it brilliantly. This book was amazing and everything I’ve tried – and failed – to express about my experience as a Yankee attending college in the South. But it is better than anything I could describe because this isn’t a stranger looking in. This is someone from the culture honestly communicating what it is like. He talks about hopelessness and poverty and overcoming the odds. It is honest, gracious, and real. This is a memoir worth reading.


2018 Reading Stats

My 2018 Reading Stats

255 books across 75,094 pages. Of the 255, 39 were re-reads. A disconcerting number were set in the regency era. (That kind of defined my reading this year. At this rate, I could get into a time machine to 1815 and probably survive quite nicely.)

Average rating: 3.4 stars

Average Book Length: 294 pages

Achievements: I got my to-read list under 900. For like, a day there. Currently at 901.

My Favorite Book This Year: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Read my Mind Blown post tomorrow for why!

Most disappointing book: Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Since this book received 2 stars, it does not come up again in my posts, so here is the brief version: YA novel with a K pop star love interest? Um, yes. Sign me up! But unfortunately, it was terrible. The end.

Best Re-Read: The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

This was such a hard category. I re-read several books this year that pleasantly surprised me or delighted me as old favorites. However, in the end, this one wins because it wasn’t actually an old favorite. I originally gave it 4 stars but kind of forgot about it. This time through, though, I loved it and won’t soon forget it. I ran through the gamut of emotions reading it. Jaclyn Moriarty really is a fantastic author. Her strength lies in her unique way of telling a story – in this case, through letters between pen pals at two different high schools. Warning: some language.

Best Author: Georgette Heyer

Hands down. She ties with C.S. Lewis for my Favorite Author of All Time, but I did not re-read any Lewis this year. Just Heyer. All the Heyer. (Actually, only 19 Heyer. But still. I re-read 19 of her books this year.)  

Best middle school read: All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

You’ll find a full review somewhere in my 5 Star reads posts.

Longest Read: Process of Constitutional Decisionmaking: Cases and Materials by Paul Brest at 1,856 pages

A decent textbook but heavy on history over caselaw.

Shortest Read: Thief! by Megan Whalen Turner at 8 pages

But since it was Megan Whalen Turner, those were probably the best 8 pages I read this year. If you haven’t read her Queen’s Thief series yet…go and do.