2018 in Review: All About Books {Book Club}

December is the perfect time to slow in the midst of the Christmas busyness and reflect on the year that has passed. And what could be more fun to remember than the best books that you have read over the last 12 months?

That’s what we are doing today, my friends! I’m going to share my top five favorite books of 2018, and then we’re going to have a party in the comments. I hope you’ll join us and share the best book (or two or three or ten) that you read this year. Which book inspired you? Which book had you in tears or rolling on the floor laughing? I hope you enjoy this roundup as we all share together and give each other the gift of new ideas of what to read next!

Without further ado, here’s my top five favorite books in 2018 (in no particular order)!

Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours by Alicia Britt Chole—I loved Chole’s perspective on waiting. So often we want to rush through to the next big thing, like getting through the appetizers and salad so we can enjoy the main course. Using the years of Jesus’ life before his known ministry really got going, the author shares about the importance of our own hidden seasons and how to savor the gifts in those seasons.

Party of One: Truth, Longing and the Subtle Art of Singleness by Joy Beth Smith—I honestly normally avoid books on singleness like the plague. But this book was funny and challenging and lovely. The author doesn’t skip over the hard parts of singleness or elevate one relationship status over another. She also doesn’t let the church off the hook but brings up some serious issues that we all need to address as we open up conversations about singleness and support one another and interact as a body of believers.

Hope was Here by Joan Bauer—This was our summer book club read and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Anyone else read along with us? It has been awhile since I’ve read much young adult fiction but this one had some great themes for all of us to think about- supporting each other, adjusting to a new location, walking with someone who is terminally ill and forgiveness.

The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan—I’m a huge fan of any kind of historical biography! This book looks at the history of Biltmore, the huge house on expansive property that George Vanderbilt had constructed in the North Carolina wilderness right around the turn of the twentieth century. It was fascinating to learn about this family and where their fortune (and then loss of fortune) took them during a really interesting time in history.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley—On the younger end of a young adult novel, this sweet and stirring story follows a 9-year old girl named Ada who was born with a crippled foot. She and her brother are forced to evacuate London during World War 2 and end up living with a single lady who begrudgingly takes care of them. I was inspired by Ada’s courage, resourcefulness and perseverance. I would love to read this as a Book Club pick at some point!

Your turn! What books did you read in 2018? What were your favorites? Share in the comments and have fun checking out what others have been reading. 


In January we’re going to be reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. I’m excited to explore the amazing and diverse ways the Creator has formed each of us! I hope you’ll join in. Here’s a quick summary of the book and our schedule!

The Enneagram is an ancient personality type system that helps us understand both our positive and negative wiring, our fears and motivations, and our pathway for growth. Cron and Stabile explore each of the nine types with lots of stories and examples to help us learn about and appreciate each one. As we understand ourselves in deeper and more meaningful ways, the goal of the authors is to help us grow in our love and understand of the God who created us so uniquely.

Here’s our schedule:

January 8: Chapters 1-2 (Getting started on understanding the Enneagram)

January 15: Chapters 3-5 (Learning about Types 8, 9, and 1)

January 22: Chapters 6-8 (Exploring Types 2, 3 and 4)

January 29: Chapters 9-12 (Understanding Types 5, 6 and 7 and Conclusion)


  1. Adora December 17, 2018

    I’m really excited for January’s book – and my library has it, which is a bonus! 🙂

    Two books that stood out to me this year were Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong and None Like Him by Jen Wilkin. The first because it was relatable and healing, and the second because the truth it presents was more challenging to accept, but opened up my heart to a greater image of God!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 18, 2018

      Books at libraries are the best! 🙂

      I read Girl Meets Change this year too, at such an important time, and it was so refreshing! I haven’t read anything by Jen Wilkin yet but would love to too. Thanks for sharing these!!

  2. Rachel Kahindi December 18, 2018

    This year, I read a lot of Stephen King. I am finishing the last of The Dark Tower series this week. I read 5 of the 7 in the series this year, plus a few other King books. It is a long series, and not perfect, but I’ve enjoyed it much!

    Other fiction I loved this year: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman (a book club book!), The Book of M by Peng Shepherd, and my favorite to read aloud to my kids was The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.

    I never considered myself a fan of memoirs, but 2 of my favorite books this year are: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) and Things as They Are by Amy Carmichael.

    Two other favorite nonfiction books were Humble Roots by Hannah Anderson (another book club book) and one that I started ages ago but finally finished this year, The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    The most practically useful book I read in 2018 was All the News That’s Fit to Tell and How to Tell It by our friend Amy Young.

    So there’s my top 9(ish) books of 2018. 🙂

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 18, 2018

      I love reading books in a good series so the fun can keep going and going! I wrapped up the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer this year. The last book was over 800 pages which took me a good chunk of time to read but probably one of my favorites in the series. I’ve never read anything Stephen King but should one of these days.

      You are definitely a reading hero of mine! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your favorites.

  3. Johanna December 18, 2018

    My top five books were all novels this year:
    -Secrets of a Charmed Life
    -As Bright as Heaven, both by Susan Meisser
    -Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers
    -Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk
    And -Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Reilly Giff

    Page turners and full of emotion and good storytelling

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 18, 2018

      Johanna, thanks for sharing your favorites! Most of these are new to me so I will definitely have to check them out. Francine Rivers is a favorite of mine though!

  4. Michele December 18, 2018

    I’m also looking forward to this excuse to finally purchase and read The Road Back to You. I read The Sacred Enneagram by Chris Heurtz this year and have been listening to a lot of Ian Chron’s Typology podcast. I’ve taken a few free online tests, but I still can’t figure out my type for sure. I’m excited for some discussion about how long-term living overseas may make it harder to type oneself because I really feel like that’s a big factor for me- I”m not who I was twenty plus years ago and from what I’ve read and heard, you’re supposed to look more at who you were in your twenties to get your type.

    Anyway, it’s hard to choose five favorite books- I feel like this has been one of my best reading years ever, but here are a few favorites, not in any order:
    1. North and South- Elizabeth Gasel- (Book club- a classic I’d never read, but loved for many reasons)!
    2. The Piano Tuner- Daniel Mason (also book club- so thankful to VA Book Club for getting me into books I”d never have picked up otherwise)!
    3 Orphan Train- Christina Bakerline
    4. Orphan #8- Kim Van Alkenade
    5. The Book Thief- Markus Zusak
    1. All is Grace- Brennan Manning (his memoir- so rich)!
    2. Let God: The Transforming Wisdom of Francois Fenelon- Winn Collier
    3. Braving the Wilderness- Brene Brown
    4. Humble Roots- Hannah Anderson (thanks to Book Club, again)!
    5. Colored People- Henry Louis Gates, Jr (Winner of most random find- what this was doing in a little bookshop in a little town in south Nepal, I have no
    idea, but it is a memoir that is not only interesting, but just witty and excellently written)

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 18, 2018

      Michele, your comment makes me very happy! We will definitely have to explore how years on the field affects figuring out one’s enneagram type!!

      What a great list!! I read a book by Christina Baker Kline that was really good- A Piece of the World. I’ve heard Orphan Train is good too. Thanks for lots of great ideas!

    2. Michele December 19, 2018

      Just in case anyone is like me and highlights books from other people’s lists for future reads: I had forgotten to mention that Orphan #8 had some places I needed to skip over. The story itself and the historical reality it portrayed was worth dealing with that for me, but there are times in my life I’d rather not and would prefer a heads-up, so here’s a heads-up!

    3. Amy Young December 21, 2018

      “Most random find” — I love that category :)!!! And have added a few books to my list from yours. I love how these lists make list babies around the world!

  5. Beth December 18, 2018

    Some of my favorites this year:
    – The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (both are so riveting and so sad!)
    – Call the Midwife #3 by Jennifer Worth (such a fascinating memoir)
    – The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (hilarious!)
    – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (gripping and sad…)
    – Intuitive Eating by E. Tribole and E. Resch (super helpful to me and quite fascinating)

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 18, 2018

      Beth, this looks like an amazing list! I LOVE The Blue Castle and hope we can read it in Book Club some time soon!! There are several others I need to check out from this list. 🙂 Sara

    2. Bayta Schwarz December 19, 2018

      I loved both the Khaled Hosseini books but they’re definitely not easy reads…
      And “Call the Midwife” – have loved watching it but have yet to read any of the books.

    3. Amy Young December 21, 2018

      It was between North and South or The Blue Castle for the June 2018 pick :)! So many good books, I’ haven’t read The Blue Castle . . . I think I need to!

      1. Stacy December 21, 2018

        Have you seen the BBC film North and South? Worth watching. I love what they did with the snow and ash in the sky.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 19, 2018

      What a great list, Bayta! I love seeing all the book club books on there. 🙂 I read Arriving Well too and found it very helpful. I wasn’t quite sure what to think that multiple people ended up going back to work cross-culturally- it was interesting that it was a theme of the stories.

      Thanks for sharing this with us!

  6. Stacy December 19, 2018

    This year, I participated in the VA book club and another club in my city. Ladies, if you can find the time and the people, book clubs are a great way to gather people from different faith backgrounds to talk about life’s big questions!

    Following are some of the standouts from my city book club and my solo reading,

    When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. A young doctor’s memoir on living and dying well with cancer. Buoyant, but not sentimental.

    Courage, Dear Heart: Letters to a Weary World, by Rebecca Reynolds. One of my most highlighted books of the year. Wise and savour-worthy.

    God’s Wisdom for Life, by Timothy and Kathy Keller. Devos from Proverbs, anchored in the gospel. My daily bread in 2018.

    A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine LEngle, by Sarah Arthur. I never buy full-priced new releases, but for this, I made an exception. Because Madeleine. And because Sarah Arthur chronicles her life and her influence without slipping into hagiography.

    The Scewtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. We listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theater version with our teens. Just riveting. And convicting.

    Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. An epic Korean novel that spans generations and grapples with questions of identity and free will. Recommended with reservation: Rated R in a few places.

    Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. Dark, hilarious and redemptive. Yes, those three words go together!

    The Librarian of Auschwitz, by Antonio Iturbe. Because I visited Auschwitz this fall, I was carried away with the little spark of hope that a collection of clandestine books brought to a nightmarish place. Maybe because it is a translation, the writing is occasionally uneven.

    Night, by Elie Wiesel. Librarian (above) led me to this modern classic. A young man’s biographical account of the stages of the Holocaust. A difficult, yet necessary, read. Nobel-deserving.

    All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, narrates the stories of two teenagers and how their stories converge during WWII. I had my homeschooler read it as well, and it gave us plenty to talk about. When we toured Normandy, France, we had new insight into the power of radio equipment used in the war.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann December 19, 2018

      Wow, these are great, Stacy! All the Light We Cannot See was a favorite from a year or two ago. That would be so interesting to then tour Normandy and have that story in mind!

    2. Amy Young December 21, 2018

      I love annotated lists :)! So thanks for such good detail!

  7. Jodie Pine December 21, 2018

    My oldest son introduced me to Goodreads this year. It’s a fun way to keep track of books you’ve read and want to read and to see what other people are reading/reviewing. I wonder if Velvet Ashes could start something over there as a way to connect with what we’re reading?
    My favorite books in 2018:
    1. White Awake: An Honest Look at What it Means to be White by Daniel Hill
    2. The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity by Soong-Chan Rah
    3. Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores by Dominique DuBois Gilliard
    4. Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle
    5. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life by James Martin

    1. Amy Young December 21, 2018

      I read “Barking to the Choir” this year too :)!

  8. Kara December 28, 2018

    My List for 2018 –
    The Sensible Shoes series by Sharon Garlough Browne – just amazing. She manages to create an opportunity for us to join and journey with a spiritual formation group without leaving the sofa . The first book has a 12 week study guide to go with it which I highly recommend a chance to really dig in and learn with the four main characters in the books.

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer – a wonderful story told through letters that left me laughing out loud (the movie – available on Netflix – is as good but different.

  9. Abigail Zhao January 9, 2019

    I love the idea of sharing books we read in 2018. ?I don’t have time right now to include descriptions. So use your own discernment.

    Summer Rental
    The Keepers of the House
    The Sugar Queen
    The Secret to Hummingbird Cake

    Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and Overcoming Love
    Born to Run
    The Wonder Down Under: The Insider’s Guide to the Anatomy, Biology, and Reality of the Vagina

    And read this a few years ago, LIFE-CHANGING, very helpful in the human tendency to treat people as projects:
    Love Without Agenda by Jimmy Spencer Jr.

    1. Abigail Zhao January 9, 2019

      Oh, and I don’t read much science fiction but currently reading the English version of the Chinese book my husband highly recommends. Remembrance of Earth’s Past: The Three-Body Trilogy. ? Very interesting!

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