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2018 Book Review

2018 Book Review

I’m a big reader, but until I started this list I didn’t actually realize how many books I manage to read in a year. I quite honestly thought I was low on the numbers because I’m so busy during the school year but this list has shown me that is anything but true! I do however supplement my love for the smell of books with audio books and indicated it whenever a book was via audio.

So without further ado, here are the books I have read during 2018:

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Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen…again

This is my all time favorite book and I turned back to it during the move into our house. It’s an oldie but a goodie! Our wedding was even centered around the opening line of it. 🙂

Pillars of the Earth & World Without End by Ken Follett (audiobooks)

As a die-hard medievalist, so I was bound to pick up these books at some time and I guess 2018 was my year. I had already watched the mini-series and the books made me fall in love with the medieval world even more. I love the storylines and the author did so much research as to make it historically plausible.

It was the Serra Chapel in San Juan Capistrano that I visited most often.-2
Blackwood Farm, Blood Canticle, Angel Time & Of Love and Evil by Anne Rice (audiobooks)

I love the Vampire Chronicles and have pretty much read them all (P.S. Angel Time & Of Love and Evil are not from the Vampire Chronicles but from the Songs of the Seraphim series). Anne Rice is a wonderful storyteller and I love how she interweaves history, religion, culture, and intrigue into every character. Out of the three, Angel Time has to be my favorite because it’s about a serial killer who goes back to the Middle Ages. 🙂 I quite obviously have a “type” when it comes to books.

Read more: Angel Time & San Juan Capistrano


Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession by Anne Rice (audiobook)

As you can see, I read a lot of Anne Rice’s novels, especially her Vampire Chronicles. But this book is different. This book is about her journey back to Catholicism after decades of atheism, but for me, this book was all about reawakening my deep seeded search to intensify my Catholicism. Her descriptions of life in pre-Vatican II New Orleans made me want to pack my bags in search of the heavy oaks and candle-filled chapels. Religious or not, this book is a fabulous journey!

On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis of Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century by Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) & Abraham Skorka (audiobook)

I was searching for a good Catholic book and boy was this it! The book is set as a dialogue between the now Pope Francis and a Jewish rabbi. Each chapter is a range of topic from death to money to society to politics. They are insightful and thoughtful speakers who present their religions perspectives while having meaningful dialogue. Gosh I wish more interfaith dialogue could go this way!

Read more: Learning not Converting
Why We Get Sick: The New Darwinian Medicine by Randolph M. Nesse & George C. Williams

This was part of our annual summer book swap! Will assigned it to me to read knowing how much I love evolutionary biology (seriously!). This book was great, it is not meant to be read as a medical text but a glimpse into some of the “whys” of humanity and it begins to scratch the surface of how our bodies have evolved into where we are today and what that can mean for future medical treatment and research.


Ways of the World: A Global History with Sources by Robert W. Strayer

Ok so don’t make fun of me, yes this is my AP World History textbook, and yes my nose has been in it a lot this year! I don’t particularly like reading textbooks as a hobby, and I’m sure my students don’t either. So I was reading it this summer to try to streamline the notes they have to take to make the nightly homework a little less painful.

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels

One of my students gave me the book…lol yup I have those kinds of kids! Love em. But in all honesty, as a history teacher this really should have been on my list a long time ago! Overall I enjoyed the book and I think it’ll help me teach the ideology of Communism better.

The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad by Lesley Hazelton (audiobook)

In preparation for my NEH Summer Institute I decided to get more familiar with the initial development of Islam by listening to this audiobook. The book is really well done and provides a thorough and detailed look into the world of Muhammad and the rise of Islam. A definite read if you teach any kind of world history or humanities.

Read more: The Diversity of the Islamic World
Rick Steves Spain by Rick Steves

Although I only read the sections pertaining to the three cities we were visiting: Córdoba, Granada, & Seville, I still count this as a book I “read.” Personally I love Lonely Planet and Rick Steves’ travel books; they’re easy to follow and provide lots of options without being pushy into one-way itineraries.

Confessions of a Mega Church Pastor: How I Discovered the Hidden Treasures of the Catholic Church by Dr. Allen Hunt

I picked up this book during Small Business Saturday in a little Catholic shop. I had already heard of Dr. Allen Hunt and his conversion story but this book was certainly on my list to read! I think I devoured the book in 24 hours it was that good. Not only was it a compelling story but it was amazing to see the transformation of a life, a family, by the awesome power of religion. Overall really cool read even if you’re not Catholic, but an obvious good read if you are. 😉

Read more: Travel Tips: Visiting Catholic Churches
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Compendium: Catechism of the Catholic Church by the Vatican Press & The Catechism of the Catholic Church for Adults by the United States Council of Bishops

All three of these are reference books so I will not pretend to have read them cover to cover but considering I am sponsoring someone into the Catholic Church and still teaching Faith Formation for 7th graders, I have been reaching to these books a lot this year to check my knowledge of Catholic doctrine. It’s funny because many people think Catholics “added” things to the Bible but nearly everything in these books has a reference to Bible verses that they are based on. I am growing in appreciation of my faith with every passing year.


The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs

I stumbled upon this book while creating some extra credit assignments for my Humanities class through A.J. Jacobs’ TED Talk which was incredibly funny and well researched so I decided to pick up the whole book. This book is perfect for me because I am always seeking to learn and understand about different religions and religious viewpoints in daily life.

Animal Farm by George Orwell (audiobook)

As I was teaching the Soviet Revolution my AP kids kept making references to Animal Farm but I hadn’t read it yet. They were shocked, I was embarrassed. Nothing like 80 AP kids to shame you into adding a literary classic to your reading list! Although, in all honesty, the talking animals thing really bothered me and I just couldn’t get into the book like I normally do. However, the end was fabulously creepy & perfect.

The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life by Kendra Tierney

This is meant as more of a reference book and I certainly will be going back to it time and time again! This book is written by my favorite Catholic blogger and mega mom, Kendra Tierney (check out her blog at Catholic All Year). She has been my main go-to this whole year in trying to figure out our family’s Catholic identity. If you are searching for more practice to your faith, or answers to why catholics are weird…lol …this book has a lot of those answers. 🙂

Read more: Catholic Culture: Liturgical Living


Naked by David Sedaris

I picked up this book for $1 at the Strand Used Bookstore in New York City and all I have to say is thank goodness I only paid $1. Ugh, not a fan. I have read a bunch of other books by David Sedaris and seriously loved them but not this one. I think it’s the subject matter, just kind of creepy.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Considering that Vermeer is my FAVORITE artist, I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up this adorable historical fiction. Maybe I didn’t want to ruin “my” idea of Vermeer??? I dunno. But I do not regret picking up the book. It was an easy bedtime read and such a lovely world to step into.

Read more: Weekend in D.C.: Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting
Origin by Dan Brown (audiobook)

I am a big Dan Brown: art, history, mystery, religion, science = my perfect pleasure. However, this wasn’t my most favorite of his novels, not exactly sure why. Maybe it’s that I felt he bent the rules of science just a tad bit too much to make it believable?


The Liturgical Year: The Spiraling Adventure of the Spiritual Life by Joan Chittister

So I thought this book was going to be bit more academic, instead it is more on the spiritual side. Not totally out of my comfort zone but not what I was expecting, that’s not always a bad thing though! Overall, I learned a lot from this book about how to historically, spiritually, and liturgically look at the different seasons of the Church. And I even got a project idea for the Early Christianity unit for my Humanities kids so it was a total win-win.

Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth was (is) one of my favorite childhood books. I remember being introduced to it by my mom and I fell in love with the fun play on words throughout the book. I found a free copy during planning week so I picked it up and decided to reread it for some nostalgic fun. It was just as good as an adult as it was as a kid.

Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody by Dr. Allen Hunt

I picked up this book because it was short and lying around the house and I struggle with forgiveness. I mean I can hold a grudge for decades. This book wasn’t exactly what I personally needed but it did have some really good stories people forgiving others in the most unimaginable circumstances.


The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by Stacy Schiff (audiobook)

Overall I thought it was a great October/Halloween read but a little heavy in the historical details department. This book isn’t classified as fiction, because it does closely follow history, but the author took a few liberties filling in the historical record. However I would only recommend this book if you love history, it can be a lot of minutia.

Read more: Seeing Salem
Orthodoxy: Catholicism without the Additions, Protestantism without the Subtractions – literally one of my AP kids lost this book when I let him borrow it..ugh

A student of mine invited me to her Syrian Orthodox Church one Sunday and I felt this short read would help me understand Orthodoxy a bit more. This book is definitely meant for Orthodox individuals so it is not written “non-partisan” (you could probably figure that out from the title). It didn’t insult me or anything and it really helped me to understand some of the basic differences between the three main Christian branches, but this book should only be the start of your research, not the end.

Read more: Student Series! My Big Fat Greek Orthodox Wedding
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (audiobook)

I had tried reading this book twice before and just could not get through it but this time I fell in love with this book! All I can say is that it continued to surprise me with the storyline all the way through. Gosh I loved this book; the story of complicated love and the character development was just spot on.

Made for this: The Catholic Mom’s Guide to Birth by Mary Haseltine & Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception by Amy Ogle & Lisa Mazzullo

No, we are not pregnant but I am a researcher and I don’t like to be rushed so I am starting my research early and slow. Don’t bug me about it! Both of these books provided great perspectives on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood and I will certainly continue to research all sorts of best practices on this before we start our potential parenting journey.


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