At the end of December, I always look back and review the books I read over the past year. I have been keeping track of the books I have read since 1989. Keeping these lists has been wonderful for it allows me to look back over the many books I have read in my adult life. Through this exercise I get to remember great passages, great themes, and great ideas. When I look back, I also remember the titles and authors I have particularly enjoyed which often brings me back to read those same books again. I love reading and believe that our lives are infinitely richer through the books we read.
Here is a list of the best books that I read in 2018 with a short summary of each. (Quick note – not all of the books listed below are pictured in the graphic.)
MY FAVORITE BOOKS 2018
We Belong To The Land by Elias Cachour – This book was given to me as a gift from a good friend. I loved it. Elias Cachour writes about love and giving from the heart. He talks of being good and doing good even in the most trying circumstances. This is a book that teaches us all to be better people.
Urban Shocker: Silent Hero of Baseball’s Golden Age by Steve Steinberg – This book was given to me by my uncle. I wasn’t sure that there was enough about Urban Shocker to interest me for the length of a 250 page book. I was wrong. This is a great book, well-told, and very interesting. I learned a lot.
Marathoning by Bill Rodgers – Bill Rodgers is great. He is a hero to many runners including myself. I have read and enjoyed Rodgers’ other books and came back to this one – his first. As I was struggling with coming back from a tough injury, I enjoyed the sport of running seen through this great runner’s eyes even though I wasn’t doing much running myself.
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck – John Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers. I usually enjoy one or two Steinbeck books a year. I have never gone wrong when I’ve picked up a Steinbeck novel (although I have not read them all).
Be Our Guest by Theodore Kinni – This book shares some of the Disney secrets. As the principal of a school that I believe follows many of the same values as Disney (working to be one’s best, focusing on children…) It’s great to learn from the company that has mastered so much of this. I shared this book with my staff and we set up a book club at the school with a number of teachers who used some of the themes in the book to make our school an even better place.
The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber – This is a collection of some of Thurber’s best writings. It’s the best! I love Thurber and have probably read almost everything he wrote. Some of his humor is dated today, but much (most) of it still gets me to smile and sometimes even laugh out loud.
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade – I picked this up at a used book sale and gave it a try. It was written in an easy to read style and told the compelling tale of this lesser known part of early American history. A quick, but engaging read. I learned a lot about a period of history I didn’t know much about.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – Each year I read this book aloud to the fourth graders at my school. I visit the classes once a week to read to each class. The book takes all year to read, but it is so fun to share this delightful book, reading in different voices and watching the children’s eyes alight as I share this story them. I have read this book countless times over the years (this year I’m reading it in three separate classrooms) and it never gets old.
The Execution of Major Andre by John Evangelist Walsh – As a historian and resident of Bergen County, New Jersey, I have visited many of the “Andre sites” in the area. I’ve always been interested in his tale. This was a compelling book. I read it previously, and enjoyed it just as much, if not even more, this time.
NORTH! Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek and Jenny Jurek –This book tells of Scott Jurek’s quest to run the A.T. in record time. The book is set-up so that we read Scott’s perspectives and those of his wife, Jenny, who served as his primary support “team.” For a guy who loves to run (and greatly enjoys) hiking, I found this book fascinating. I’d love to hike the A.T. I’m in awe of this man who ran it.
Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson – (Quick aside: Bryson’s book on the A.T., A Walk In The Woods, is one of my favorite books of all time.) Bill Bryson is another one of my favorite writers. This was a great book. I’m not well-read enough to truly enjoy Shakespeare. (I need to get better at that.) Still, I loved how Bryson searches for the true William Shakespeare as only Bryson can. Factual, interesting, and, at times, silly and funny, I really enjoyed this book.
John Adams by David McCullough – This is The John Adams book. I think it’s a million pages long. Its length always scared me away. But my oldest son Ryan read this and LOVED it. He compelled me to read it. I am so glad he did. For a huge book, it reads quickly. I learned so much about this oft-forgotten American legend. Through the text, I gained a new appreciation for our second President. McCullough is a great writer, in this he does not disappoint.
Designated Hebrew by Ron Blomberg – Blomberg was baseball’s first designated hitter. This is a quick but very enjoyable read. Ron Blomberg’s life story was compelling to read. I loved this book.
Shifty’s War by Marcus Brotherton – I’m a big fan of the stories about the Band of Brothers from World War II. Since my boys and I ran Currahee Mountain again last summer, we also visited the great museum dedicated to the Screaming Eagle paratroopers in Toccoa, Georgia. I bought this book at the museum gift shop and devoured it in about a day or two.
Running Man by Charlie Engle – Engle tells the harrowing tale of his battle with drugs and alcohol and how running has helped him overcome this daily struggle. This is a sad book, very sad at parts, but there is inspiration therein as well.
Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson – I didn’t know if I’d enjoy this Bryson book as much having never been to England myself. Why did I doubt? I laughed out loud time and again as I read this book. Bryson is a master. A master. I love the way he writes.
His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis – I had read this book about fifteen years ago, but after picking up a copy at a used book sale (I love used book sales), I decided to read it again. This is an excellent book that makes me appreciate George Washington and his greatness even more. (It seems I read a lot about the Revolutionary period this year – Nothing wrong with that!)
The Pride of the Yankees by Richard Sandomir – This was an excellent book that shared the story of Lou Gehrig and the making of the great movie The Pride of the Yankees. This book shares the story of Gehrig’s life a little differently than most and also tells a great deal about his wife Eleanor as she coped with his tragic death. The story of how the movie came to be made, including Gary Cooper’s role, was also compelling.
Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel (edited by) Michael Barson – I’m not totally though this book and will actually finish it in January. This text contains all the scripts from an old Marx Brothers radio show that starred Groucho and Chico. I have always found Thurber’s humor and the Marx Brothers’ humor to be very similar. I have read almost everything about the Marx Brothers and never even knew this book existed until I found it in a used book store. The jokes are sometimes pretty predictable, but it is not often that one gets a chance to read new Marx Brothers material. I’m taking my time with this and enjoying it.
The Rational Bible: Exodus by Dennis Prager – OUTSTANDING. Simply outstanding. I am always looking for books to read to help me in my faith and to help make sense of the Bible. This is the first book in a five part series (The second book on Genesis comes out in May 2019). In this text, Prager looks at the book of Exodus line-by-line and explains so much of what the Bible is saying. It was fascinating. This might be the best book I read all year – and I read a ton of great stuff. I can’t wait for the next book to come out. If one is interested in the Bible, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.