2018 Goodreads Challenge: A Look Back at 57 Books

Another year, another Goodreads Challenge goal smashed and ran through! 

2018 was my third year participating in the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge, and in these last three years I’ve read more than I ever have in my entire life beforehand. I’ve discovered a lot about myself as a reader: what kinds of books I enjoy reading (and don’t); my openness to reading books recommended to me or available at Seattle Public Library’s Peak Picks section that I may not have chosen myself; and what kinds of authors speak to me.

I wanted to share all of the books I read last year along with a short, stream-of-consciousness opinion from me (and where I was in my reading journey.) Each book is linked to its Amazon listing (I get a small commission via each link.) Special shout out to the Seattle Public Library for making it possible for me to indulge all of my reading desires!

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  1. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild // This book infuriated me. I tried my best to understand “the other side” but the people interviewed in this book seemed pretty okay with maintaining the status quo (and their privilege) despite their struggle. 

  2. What Happened - Hillary Clinton // Women are constantly being criticized about everything, and none more so than the one who had the courage to make a run for the nation’s highest office. I appreciated reading her honest perspectives on the election.

  3. The Filipino-American Kitchen: Traditional Recipes, Contemporary Flavors - Jennifer Aranas // It feels like it’s kind of cheating to add a cookbook to my reading list, but I really read through the stories and historical anecdotes in this one. I’ve made a goal to read more books by and about Filipinos. It can feel like a small genre, but I’m open to reading whatever is out there.

  4. Filipinos in Puget Sound - Dorothy Cordova // For those who don’t know, Fred and Dorothy Cordova are the king and queen of Filipino-American history. I learned a lot about the migration and cultural timelines of some of the most prominent, multi-generational Filipino families here in the Puget Sound area. 

  5. Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) - Octavia Butler // One of my favorite discoveries from these Reading Challenges is how much I love Octavia Butler. She creates sci-fi works of dystopian universes rooted in real social justice issues that plague us well beyond her years. The Earthseed series is almost too close to home considering today’s political climate, but it’s completely riveting and hard to tear away from nonetheless.

  6. How to Get Sh*t Done: Why Women Need to Stop Doing Everything so They Can Achieve Anything - Erin Falconer // I was a huge fan of the L.E.A.F YouTube series that Erin Falconer created with Geri Hirsch before they sold it, and was excited to dive into this! It was pretty good.

  7. Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War - Evelina Galang // This is a heartbreaking read about the lolas (lola = grandma in Tagalog) who have lived a lifetime of PTSD from the horrors they suffered during Philippine war times. For some reason I thought it was a great idea to read this on my flight to the Philippines.

  8. So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo // If you have ever wondered how you can be an ally to black people and/or start having uncomfortable conversations about race, this is a must-read for you.

  9. Parable of the Talents (Earthseed #2) - Octavia Butler // see #5!

  10. Man’s Search for Meaning - Viktor E. Frankl // I like to alternate between quick, light reads and longer, more in-depth novels. This was a great quick read on purpose and virtue.

  11. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl - Issa Rae // This was such a great memoir about Issa’s life as the Awkward Black Girl YouTube series was popular, but before Insecure came out. I hope she’ll write another one about her life since Insecure debuted!

  12. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World - Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams // Reading the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu’s interactions with each other was a delight!

  13. Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City - Matthew Desmond // Evicted was recommended to me by a few people, and well worth its hype. A must-read if you want to understand why the cycle of poverty is so difficult to break out of.

  14. Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood - Trevor Noah // It’s rare to not want a book to end. I didn’t want this book to end! I want to follow Trevor Noah around forever. Such a fantastic storyteller.

  15. Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World - Rand Fishkin // It’s also rare to read such candid insight about the struggles and failures of startup life. I loved this read and learned a lot, even though I’m not in that field.

  16. Broken Bananah: Life, Love, and Sex…Without a Penis - Ross Asdourian // Ross is a friend and former colleague of mine, and this is exactly the kind of book only Ross could write. I loved every minute of reading/cringing/laughing through this.

  17. Still Me (Me Before You #3) - Jojo Moyes // I found Louisa super annoying in After You, the second book in this series, but I’m the type of person who needs to finish things so I made myself read Still Me. I’m so glad I did because I love a good “coming of age in NYC” story!

  18. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness - Richard Thaler // I’ll be honest, I don’t really remember much of this book or the next one. This was the part where I realized not every self-help author can change my life like Brene Brown. Haha!

  19. The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism - Olivia Cabane

  20. Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community - Joy Cho // I read this after a blogger conference I went to in May, but this book came out quite a few years ago. The blogging and influencer marketing industry has evolved so much since it came out that it just felt really outdated.

  21. The Last Black Unicorn - Tiffany Haddish // I read this entire book in her voice and I loved it!

  22. Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business - Meg Ilasco and Joy Cho // This one didn’t feel as outdated as Blog, Inc. but still a bit dated. There are some good gems for those who are interested in pursuing freelancing in a creative industry.

  23. Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford - Kristin Wong // One of my favorite reads this year. I’ve never been great about personal finance, and this book had a lot of really great tips, resources, and frameworks that helped me build my confidence in controlling my finances, rather than judging me for being afraid to approach it.

  24. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture - Roxane Gay // A tough but necessary read.

  25. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality - Scott Belsky // My passion for reading self-help books really waned this year. It just feels like I’m reading a lot of the same things over and over again but repackaged in someone’s personal experiences and privilege. Wasn’t a huge fan of this one.

  26. The Average American Male - Chad Kultgen // This parody might be too vulgar for some, but I thought it was hilarious. I want to read the follow-up book.

  27. Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice - Baron Baptiste // I think I would have been more into this if I was more of a student of yoga in all of its parts. 

  28. Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” - Zora Neale Hurston // Another necessary read!

  29. How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships - Leil Lowndes // This is a great book full of little tips on all kinds of relationships. I have this on my list to buy so I can have on hand.

  30. Push: A Guide to Living an All Out Life: The Story of Orangetheory Fitness - Ellen Latham // This is a quick read if you're interested in learning how Orangetheory has become such a phenom in the fitness industry (or you're a member and want some insight into the history of the company and its founder!)

  31. Things That Make White People Uncomfortable - Michael Bennett // One of my favorite reads this year. We take a lot for granted as sports fans; Michael Bennett gives us a sobering, humanizing look at what it's like for black athletes dealing with systemic racism in the NCAA and NFL. A must-read.

  32. Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi // RIVETING. It kinda peters out at the end but overall I really enjoyed following these stories through multiple generations.

  33. Crazy Rich Asians - Kevin Kwan // I honestly didn't have much interest in this book until after I watched the movie. This first book is a good vacation read - light & funny.

  34. Very Good Lives - The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination - J.K. Rowling // This is the transcript of a graduation speech that J.K. Rowling gave. Great for a quick motivational pick-up!

  35. I Am Not Your Negro - James Baldwin // I went through a James Baldwin binge this summer thanks to my co-workers. This one's a short but good read.

  36. That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women - Kimothy Joy // A coffee table book full of illustrations and inspirational words from legendary women. This would be a great gift for one of your favorite ladies!

  37. The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas // I wanted to read this before the movie came out - and then I got busy & never saw the movie. The story is compelling, tough, and all-too-familiar.

  38. There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyonce - Morgan Parker // I saw this book and the next in the poetry section at Amazon Books and they stood out to me. I am always impressed by the emotions and storytelling that authors are able to pull off through short prose.

  39. Night Sky with Exit Wounds - Ocean Vuong // see #38!

  40. The Sellout - Paul Beatty // This is a satire and was really hard for me to read. I just had to be in the mood and wasn't.

  41. The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin // Another quick read - two essays

  42. If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin // If you haven't read any James Baldwin, start with this one or Giovanni's Room. I wanted this story to keep going. Can't wait to see the movie.

  43. Giovanni’s Room - James Baldwin // One word: W O W. Probably my favorite read this year.

  44. Go Tell It On the Mountain - James Baldwin // Baldwin is such a master storyteller. I loved this one too.

  45. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before - Jenny Han // Like many of you, I saw this movie on Netflix & fell in love. I devoured the series pretty quickly; the movie diverges a bit from it so it'll be interesting to see how they film the sequel!

  46. P.S. I Still Love You - Jenny Han

  47. China Rich Girlfriend - Kevin Kwan // I liked this one better than Crazy Rich Asians - lots more twists and character storylines.

  48. I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyonce - Michael Arceneaux // I've seen Michael Arceneaux's tweets for many years - and who can resist a book title like that? I really enjoyed his writing style and coming of age story. I look forward to more stories from him in the future!

  49. Always and Forever, Lara Jean - Jenny Han

  50. Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay - Phoebe Robinson // I saw a lot of my Goodreads friends read this so I picked it up at the library. She writes as openly as she speaks - I think I would have enjoyed this more if I followed 2 Dope Queens regularly.

  51. Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media - Brittany Hennessy // Professional blogging has given rise to influencer marketing so quickly, and yet it's hard to find a good book that encapsulates useful advice and resources for getting started in the industry. If influencer life is interesting to you, this is a great read to have on hand.

  52. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts - Brene Brown // Brene is masterful at taking her research on shame and vulnerability and turning it into compelling (yet useful) reads for us. Dare to Lead is more focused on how to apply her work in a professional setting. I am going to have a book club with a coworker on this.

  53. Work Party: How to Create and Cultivate the Career of Your Dreams - Jaclyn Johnson // I met Jaclyn at an early Create & Cultivate in Portland a few years ago, loved her blog Some Notes on Napkins, and have been fortunate to do some work with her agency before she pivoted to focus on C&C. It's always fun reading about a boss B and her trajectory!

  54. Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life - Cleo Wade // How has it taken me so long to read Cleo Wade (beyond Instagram)? I need this book on my nightstand for regular consulting!

  55. Citizen: An American Lyric - Claudia Rankine // Another great book of poetry on social justice and life in America.

  56. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are - Brene Brown // I am trying to read all of Brene Brown's books and just recently finished one of her earliest works. I actually really like this one because she was still writing from a traditional self-help "tips" approach. Most of the book is full of guideposts that you can work on one at a time.

  57. The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino-Americans Break the Rules of Race - Anthony Christian Ocampo // This is the first book I've read that encapsulates a lot of how I've felt as a Filipino-American. His research centered in L.A. but still relatable to my life growing up in Seattle. He captures well how Filipino-Americans struggle in identifying as "Asian", and how much of our culture, history, and upbringing is actually more similar to Latinos. This book helped me make some sense of that, and will be the foundation for my ever-evolving journey in figuring out my own identity.

Are we friends on Goodreads? I'd love to follow your reading journey! I am @JessEstrada. Looking forward to reading 50(+) books this year! You can check out my 2016 & 2017 recaps too.