My Reading Year: A Recap of My 2018 Books

by | Dec 30, 2018 | Books, Reading | 11 comments

I found such joy in my 2018 Reading Challenge and my ongoing quest to find wondrous new books to inspire my writing. Throughout the year, I delved back into some of my favorite stories and rediscovered them with fresh eyes. I also made it a goal to read at least one book by a new author each month, and I ended up reading the works of twenty new authors! So with a mix of old and new, a bit of genre variety, a sprinkling of nonfiction, a blend of the humorous and thought-provoking, here is a general overview of my 2018 reading year. I’ve organized my favorites into fun categories, most of which are in no particular order. Happy Reading!

Favorite Heroines

  1. Jo and Beth March
  2. Anne Shirley
  3. Judy Bolton
  4. Cherry Ames
  5. Beany Malone
  6. Edith Adelon (from The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott)

Favorite Book Families

  1. The Marches (Little Women)
  2. The Melendys
  3. The Ridgeways (Family Grandstand)
  4. The Malones (Beany Malone series)
  5. The Moffats
  6. The Carrs (What Katy Did series)
  7. The All-of-a-Kind Family
  8. The Vanderbeekers

(I have discovered that *many* large book families have surnames starting with the letter M!)

Favorite New (to me) Authors of 2018

  1. Jennifer Trafton
  2. Helen Wells
  3. Karina Yan Glaser
  4. Lenora Mattingly Weber
  5. Carroll Watson Rankin

Best Description/Environment

  1. A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter
  2. Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  3. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
  4. The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
  5. Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright
  6. Just David by Eleanor H. Porter
  7. The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts
  8. The Baker’s Daughter by D.E. Stevenson
  9. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  10. The Sea is All Around by Elizabeth Enright
  11. Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

Books with the Best Endings

  1. The Penderwicks At Last by Jeanne Birdsall
  2. Dandelion Cottage by Carroll Watson Rankin
  3. Mine for Keeps by Jean Little
  4. Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott
  5. Magic or Not? by Edward Eager
  6. The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton
  7. North Winds Blow Free by Elizabeth Howard (Okay, the last page fell out of this book so I have no clue how it actually ends. But fortunately, the second-to-last page was unbelievably sweet, despite its abruptness.)

Favorite Rereads

  1. Emily of Deep Valley & Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace
  2. What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge
  3. Jane of Lantern Hill, Anne of Windy Poplars, Emily Climbs, & the Pat series by L.M. Montgomery
  4. The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
  5. Gone-Away Lake & A Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright
  6. The Secret School by Avi
  7. The Gemma series, The Magic Summer, & Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  8. The Pollyanna series by Eleanor Porter

Favorite Nonfiction

  1. Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs
  2. The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
  3. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
  4. Caught Up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson
  5. The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid

Favorite Novels

  1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery
  3. Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright
  4. The Vanderbeekers series by Karina Yan Glaser
  5. All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
  6. Just David by Eleanor H. Porter
  7. Beany Malone by Lenora Mattingly Weber
  8. The Baker’s Daughter by D.E. Stevenson
  9. The Penderwicks At Last by Jeanne Birdsall

Praise for my Favorite Novels of 2018

It was such a joy to discover brilliant new novels this year that I excitedly added to my collection of favorite reads. Little Women tops my list first and foremost (as evidenced by my LW retelling novelette). I read this one in February when looking for a good classic to brighten up the dreary winter days—and it didn’t disappoint! I started reading LW at age ten but couldn’t get into the story, and indefinitely set it aside, but this time I loved the heartwarming, inspiring tale of four unforgettable sisters. (I also wanted to read the original LW to hunt for possible clues to the outcome of the Penderwicks series, which I’ll discuss later.) I quickly read Little Men and Jo’s Boys as well, which were entertaining but not nearly as good as their predecessor. If you haven’t read this one yet, don’t delay as long as I did!

A close second is Anne’s House of Dreams, which is simply stunning. Montgomery’s vivid descriptions and multifaceted characters are breathtaking. I read it during a very rainy week in June that was couldn’t have been better suited to the moodiness and melody of this mysterious story set by the sea. I’m sad that I have read every Anne book now, but they are quite re-readable, and I’m already looking forward to returning to this one soon.

It seems to be a year for finishing series, because I also read the third (and for me, last) book in Elizabeth Enright’s Melendy Quartet from the 1940s. You can read my quick recap of this enchanting story here. In addition to reading the first book in the lovely All-of-a-Kind Family series, I was also delighted to discover Karina Yan Glaser’s Vanderbeekers books, which feature a family enjoying plenty of fun adventures. You can read my interview with the author here. (Fortunately, book three comes out in 2019, so this series certainly isn’t over!)

I’ve always been an enormous fan of the Pollyanna books by Eleanor H. Porter, so I was *glad* (🙂) to discover that the author had also written another wonderful book. Just David is a sweet, uplifting story about an unusual boy who changes the lives of every person he meets.

Two others I loved this year include Beany Malone and The Baker’s Daughter, both of which featured determined heroines struggling to navigate the challenges of life, love, and family—but aside from that, the stories couldn’t have been more different. Beany Malone centers on a chaotic but cozy family in post-WWII Denver, while The Baker’s Daughter features a solitary girl who falls in love with an artist in a picturesque Scottish village in the 1930s.

I’ll admit, The Penderwicks At Last could have been better. I would have loved to see more of the original cast of characters (perhaps an explanation for why Skye has altered so drastically), and fewer new characters with somewhat irrelevant storylines, but the overall ending–and the adorable epilogue—more than made up for the novel’s shortcomings. Batty and Jeffrey were the highlight of the story—especially their matching cell phone ring tones. (Beethoven, naturally!) So this one was incredibly fun, and well worth the three-year wait.

My 2018 Reading Challenge

I pledged to read 100 books on Goodreads, and ended up finishing 115, which made me very happy. I found some wonderful new stories to read this year, and I found myself enjoying old favorites more than ever.

My 2019 Reading Challenge

My Goodreads goal for 2019 will be to read 75 books. I want to read some longer classics this year that might cancel out a larger volume of books. I have an ongoing list of books I’d love to read, and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell heads the list. (One of my sisters has been endeavoring to convince me to read Pride and Prejudice, so we’ll see if I can squeeze it into my reading schedule.)

I’d also love to peruse some poetry and read even more books by my favorite authors—and hopefully discover some new ones to love. And of course, I will mainly be reading the vintage children’s books that give me so much inspiration for my own middle grade novels.

I’d love to read more books by Jean Little, Gene Stratton Porter, Jane Austen, E. Nesbit, Janet Lambert, and Hilda van Stockum in 2019, and also give Mary Norton, Grace Livingston Hill, Jacqueline Kelly, and Catherine Woolley a try. I might even attempt a Charles Dickens book….well, we’ll see. 😉

All in all, it was a fabulous book year and I can’t wait to read more! What were some books you loved in 2018? (Feel free to pass along some recommendations to me—I’m always on the lookout for new reads!)


  1. Debby Jewett

    You MUST read Pride and Prejudice!! As should, every English-speaking reader, if not all readers.

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thanks for the comment, Debby! I’m looking forward to giving it a try 🙂 I love Austen’s “Emma.”

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thanks so much, Sherry! That’s so cool. I will check out your post! 🙂

  2. Joan

    You have a great list. Many of the m I agree with you in the like department.
    I have read “Listening Valley” by D.E Stevenson

  3. Marion

    Anna Rose I love ,love your books. This year I read a 10 book series “Northwest Adventures” It is a series for pre teens to early teens. Also read quite a few Christmas books. “A Tree Grows IN Brooklyn ” was read many years ago but seems to have resurfaced as a must read on book lists. it is one of my favorites along with “Lorna Doone”,”Ramona” and “Ivanhoe”. Have you ever read “the Quiet Soul” about Charlotte Bronte?

    • Marilyn

      You have great taste in books, Anna Rose. I read “The Ballet School” series recently and many Christmas reads,too. I enjoy reading children’s books. “The Moffetts”,anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery, “All of a Kind Family”, Louisa May Alcott’s books, “Little House On The Prairie” books , “Betsy Tacy” series,The original “American Girl” series,”The Bobbsey Twins”, “Nancy Drew” and my all time favorite series “Honey Bunch”. Among the Christmas books I read “Christmas At Carnton” by Tamera Alexander is a favorite This is the first in a series. As far as Charles Dickens is concerned, “David Copperfield” is a favorite. When I was in school[many years ago] my English teacher had us read a chapter every Friday. We would have a class discussion. It helped to understand the book and I enjoyed the read.I am going to try to get re-acquainted with Jane Austen. Have a new year filled with happiness and blessings.

    • Marion

      Anna Rose The title is “The Unquiet Soul” by Elizabeth Gaskell.

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thank you so much, Marion! Those are great suggestions 🙂

  4. Cathy H-S

    Since you enjoyed Family Grandstand, I highly recommend Family Sabbatical for more Ridgeway adventures. I think that Catherine Woolley’s Ginnie and Geneva series will hold up well. Lastly, D.E. Stevenson is a favorite light romance novelist, and many are available on Kindle, with four more due next week. I love “real” books, but prefer Kindle to ancient, spine-cracked paperbacks.

    • Anna Rose Johnson

      Thanks for your comment, Cathy! I enjoyed Family Sabbatical as well 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading Ginnie and Geneva. And thanks for the heads-up on more D.E. Stevenson books–her stories are wonderful!


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