Book Review

18 Favorite Books from 2018

I truly believe that you become what you read.
The books you read fill your mind and heart.
They inspire you to become more and to do more.
Some books leave a lasting impression,
while others change your life.

I love looking back to the books I read over the year and reflecting on the important lessons they taught me. I read a total of 49 books this year and here are my 18 favorite books from 2018:

1) Becoming – Michelle Obama

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“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.” Michelle Obama

One of the most important lessons I took away from Michelle’s journey is the importance of nourishing children with the belief that they are good enough, smart enough and capable enough. We see the importance of this kind of teaching, as Michelle was equipped with these beliefs growing up. In turn, these beliefs helped her every time she found herself sinking in the games of the political world. I admire her strength, confidence and humility. This was one of my favorite books of the year.

2) Educated – Tara Westover    

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“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create” ― Tara Westover

Tara was born into a survivalist family in the mountains of Idaho. She lived with five siblings and Mormon parents who did not believe in formal education or medicine. Tara takes us on her journey as she breaks away from an abusive family member and her father’s extreme beliefs and travels all the way to Cambridge to pursue a higher education. The important lesson I learned from this book is how education can transform you and provide you with the tools to feel liberated and confident.

3) Good Vibes, Good Life – Vex King

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“You’ll keep getting the test until you’ve proven that you’ve learned the lesson. You’ll keep seeing the signs until you take them seriously and act on them. You’re always being guided to live a greater life, as a greater person” – Vex King

Once in a blue moon, you come across a book that opens your eyes and motivates you to become the best version of yourself. This book by Vex King did just that for me. I loved every second of it. This is the kind of book that you may revisit often when you need a dose of motivation, a reminder for self-love or a mantra about positive vibes. The importance of self-love is the lesson I took away from this gem of a book.

4) Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – Balli Kaur Jaswal,

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“In traditional Indian morality tales, wayward children were the primary cause of heart conditions, cancerous lumps, hair loss and other ailments in their aggrieved parents.”Balli Kaur Jaswal

A big theme in this book is about traditional families and the shame attached to their daughters when they step out of line from what is expected from them. Womanhood is explored through the perspectives of women from different generations. Culture is explored through the perspectives of immigrant parents and their modern children. The biggest lesson from this book is that every person has a story to tell and there is a writer in all of us.

5) Circe – Madeline Miller

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“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.” – Madeline Miller

 Circe is born into the house of Helios, God of the Sun and a Titan. Feeling like an outcast amongst the gods and goddesses in her own home, Circe turns to the mortals for companionship and soon discovers her powers for witchcraft.. It is not long until the all-powerful Zeus feels threatened by Circe’s powers and sends her into exile on the Isle of Aiaia. I love stories in which you follow a character as they endure brutal hardships only to discover their full potential. The lesson in this book was all about self-worth and personal growth. I loved watching Circe gain strength and find herself on a lonely island.

6) Sea Prayer – Khaled Hosseini

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Oh, but if they saw my darling. Even half of what you have. If only they saw. They would say kinder things surely– Khaled Hosseini 

They say great things come in small packages. Sea prayer is a very short illustrated book that took my breath away. It reads like a letter from a father to his son. The author was inspired to write this short story after the death of a three-year-old Syrian refugee as he was fleeing for safety with his family. Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body lying face down in the water is an image I may never forget. Knowing that this little angel inspired Sea Prayer made the story pull at my heartstrings. The author’s proceeds will benefit UN Refugee Agency. More information on the website: www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org.

7) Bloom for Yourself – April Green

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“Sometimes, there is no reason whatsoever than the simple truth that the universe just wants to watch you bloom”April Green

Bloom for Yourself is a lovely collection of poems about self-love and healing. April Green’s poetry is like a breath of fresh air. It is as if the words find a home inside your heart long after you have put the book down. These poems are small reminders to help you realize your worth in a world that can make you feel very small. I suggest keeping this book on your nightstand and reading a poem or two before sleeping and when you wake up. Start and end your day with these beautiful words.

8) Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

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“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun in sugar” – Gail Honeyman

 I love books that introduce us to unique characters. Eleanor Oliphant is such a memorable character. You find yourself rooting for her and wanting to give this fictional character a big hug. From her tragic childhood to her socially clueless ways, she grabs your attention from the very first page of this book. The big lesson: the journey to self-improvement is hard and long, but it is a journey we must take.

9) It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover

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“Just because we didn’t end up on the same wave, doesn’t mean we aren’t still a part of the same ocean” – Colleen Hoover 

I purchase Colleen Hoover’s books without even reading the synopsis. That is how much I trust this author to move me with her words. This book was by far my favorite book she has ever written. The theme of the book came as a surprise to me, so I do not wish to ruin it for anyone thinking about reading it. All I can say is, it is an important book for both women and men to read. I loved seeing how far the main character goes in her journey of self-development.

10) The City of Brass – S.A. Chakraborty

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“Greatness takes time, Banu Nahida. Often the mightiest things have the humblest beginnings”S.A. Chakraborty

Nahri is a con woman living on the streets of 18th century Cairo, where she swindles money from many Ottoman nobles during palm reading and healing rituals. One day, Nahri accidentally summons a djinn warrior and as a result she is introduced to a magical world and the City of Brass. This is an intriguing story filled with magic, folklore and mystery. Look out for the sequel being released in the New Year.

11) The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

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“Both love and hate are mirror versions of the same game, and you have to win. Why? Your heart and your ego. Trust me, I should know”Sally Throne 

This book was my favorite romantic comedy pick of the year. I read it during the holidays and I could not stop smiling and laughing. This is the story of Lucy and Josh, two coworkers working in a publishing company who hate each other. Or do they? The work place banter is absolutely hilarious and the more you get to know these characters, the more you will love them.


12) The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

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Sharpen your blade. Harden your heart” – Holly Black

One of my most favorite young adult books this year was The Cruel Prince. The story opens with a brutal murder that leaves three sisters without parents and at the mercy of the killer. Ten years later, the sisters are all living in Faerie having been raised by their parent’s murderer. What I love about this story is that each one of the characters is majorly flawed. I love the idea of an anti-hero and that is what you get here.

13) Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling

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“After all this time?”
“Always” – J.K. Rowlng

I reread the entire series this year and I can tell you it was like therapy for my adult heart. I spent the summer revisiting Hogwarts and tagging along with Harry, Hermione and Ron. I laughed and cried just like I did when I first read these books and it felt wonderful. For anyone looking for a fun escape, I recommend reading this series again and again.

14) Dear Martin – Nic Stone

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“Dear Martin, can you explain why everywhere I turn, I run into people who wanna keep me down?”Nic Stone 

Justyce is a good student with a bright future ahead of him. But when a police officer roughly puts him in handcuffs one night, he starts questioning the world he lives in. He starts wondering if he would have endured the same treatment if he was white. He begins writing a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in an attempt to help him work through everything that unfolded after that encounter with the police officer. This is such an important book to read and it is so well written.

15) Braving the Wilderness – Brene Brown

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“When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”– Brene Brown.

I knew I would enjoy this book when Brene mentioned J.K. Rowling in the very first chapter. One of my favorite quote from the book is when Brene imagines J.K. Rowling telling her: “new worlds are important, but you can’t just describe them. Give us the stories that make the universe. No matter how wild and weird the new world might be, we’ll see ourselves in the stories”. This set the tone for the rest of the book.

16) When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect timing

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“We all know that timing is everything. But we assume timing is an art. Timing is really a science” – Daniel H. Pink

The most interesting part of this book for me was when the author breaks down time to when we are most productive based on our sleep patterns. As we get older, we get a sense that time is just flying by. So how do we make use of the time? When is the best time to make decisions? When is the best time in the day to work on your creative projects? This book covers it all and more.

17) Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

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“Remember, every treasure comes with a price – Kevin Kwan 

 Imagine finding out that your boyfriend is one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors. Rachel Chu is stunned when she visits her boyfriend’s family home in Singapore. She never saw the big mansion and private planes coming. As she is swept into the lavish life she meets some interesting people who are hell bent on sabotaging her relationship. I loved the drama, but more importantly I enjoyed reading about the culture in Singapore.

18) Legendary – Stephanie Garber

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Not everyone gets a true ending. There are two types of endings because most people give up at the part of the story where things are the worst, where the situation feels hopeless. But that’s when hope is needed most. Only those who persevere can find their true ending.”― Stephanie Garber

I really enjoyed reading this sequel to Caraval. The world that the author creates is beyond magical and filled with such colourful characters. The writing is poetic and the villain in the story is truly captivating. We are taken away into the world of Caraval, a performance where the audience participates in the show. They are warned that it is just a game and nothing is real. But for sisters Tella and Scarlett, it starts feeling very real. This was a delight to read.

And there you have it. I’m grateful for all the amazing books I had the chance to read this year and I’m excited to see what 2019 has in store for me.

Happy reading and Happy New Year!

Shazia.