Best (Nonfiction) Books of 2018

FYI: I often post about what I’m reading on Instagram, and always give the highs and lows in the monthly Secret Post emails. You can browse my favorite books of all time

First, the stats. I read 72 books total in 2018. This is up quite a bit from my yearly average of 52 - 55. I generally get through about one book a week, give or take. When I travel, I squeeze in a few more than that, and I read several epic novels a year that take me longer than a week, so it all averages out. 2018 was a personal roller coaster of a year, and I tend to escape in my books, so that explains the few extras. Another difference in 2018 was adding audiobooks into my reading repertoire. I only listened to 7 audiobooks this year (they’re still not my favorite, and I can only do non-fiction), but it definitely bumped out my reading log. 

In all, I read:

36 Novels/Fiction

36 Non-Fiction 

(This exact symmetry was not purposeful.)


Of the Non-Fiction:

14 Memoir

15 Self-Help/Business

7 Political/Other

(Some of these non-fiction categories overlap)

You can listen to a longer discussion about some of my favorite books of 2018 on Episode #38 of the podcast Smartest Person in the Room

But if you’re a list person (and I am a list person), here are my 10 Favorite Fiction Reads of 2018:

(Click on any cover or title to take you directly to the book.)

#1. Educated by Tara Westover

I knew while I was reading this one that it would end up on this list. It’s one of the few books this year that I texted to reader friends immediately. This memoir about growing up with religious fundamentalists parents (also highly suspicious of the government, with a slice of doomsday prep) in Idaho, without a proper education and surrounded by abuse and delusion on every level, ranks among the most interesting stories I’ve ever read. Westover eventually educates herself (along with help from a brother) enough to get into college, only to realize how much basic knowledge she lacks about history and the world and even how to be in relationship with other people. Educated has be likened to The Glass Castle, which makes sense, but I think it comes closer to one of my other favorites The Sound of Gravel. In some ways it’s a cross between the two, and I soaked it up. I’m still thinking about that book nearly a year later, and I know it will be one to stay with me.

#2. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo  

In the last several years I’ve been seeking out books like this one in an effort to learn more about the racial divide in America. So You Want To Talk About Race does the best job of speaking to the many issues around this topic, and it reinforced many of the conversations I’ve been having publicly with my friend Yasmin on the BIAS series of the Smartest Person in the Room podcast. This book is blunt and powerful, and I learned a lot from it. If you want to further your own self-education on race, I really recommend this one. 

#3. Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

I picked this one up after recording the eating disorder episode in the Mind/Body series of Smartest Person in the Room. As I’ve gotten more into understanding the mind/body connection, my thoughts about food have obviously changed. I felt like the women who wrote Intuitive Eating were speaking directly to me when they outline the many contrasting and complicated ways we feel about eating and food. They cover everything from comfort eating to a scarcity mindset and I found myself nodding along and occasionally tearing up. Eating intuitively is harder than it sounds, but I really do think their strategies around making food choices has impacted me and my health this year. This is a book I will be recommending over and over.

#4. This Will Only Hurt A Little by Busy Phillips

All told, I actually read less memoir this year than usual. It’s my favorite genre, but somehow it got lost in the stacks in 2018. This Will Only Hurt A Little was an exception and I was absolutely surprised by Busy’s candor and story telling. This is a good book, equal parts personal story and Hollywood insider. It’s not all unicorns and fairy tales, Busy writes emotionally about a teenage rape and her abortion. She tells some stories that generally don’t get published, like a script that was stolen and then produced by her longtime boyfriend. As well as the rejection and elation familiar to actors. I don’t read a ton of celebrity memoir (Rob Lowe is another exception, his books are great), but I thought This Will Only Hurt A Little was really well done.

#5. You Are A Badass At Making Money by Jen Sincero

I was a big fan of the original You Are A Badass (so much so that I bought a big box of copies and shipped them to a girls retreat weekend), but now I think You Are A Badass At Making Money is even better. Sincero delves into everyone’s emotional issues surrounding money (if you think you don’t have money issues…you’re wrong), and how to reverse your thinking about success and finances. Like the original Badass book, this one involves a lot of the woo-woo, like using affirmation and manifesting good things for yourself. So if you’re looking for an investment book, this is not that. This is about changing your emotional ties and your money making mindset. I loved it. 

#6. The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

I listened to The Big Leap on a long airplane ride and have been referencing it ever since. Hendricks explains why and how we so often sabotage our own success - inadvertently, it seems on the outside, but maybe there’s more to it - just before we are able to advance to the next level. Like we hit the ceiling and instead of breaking through it (taking a big leap), we….get diverted, break our ankle, make a major mistake. So many of the patterns he points out resonated with me. 

#7. Calypso by David Sedaris

I enjoy Sedaris’s writing and recollections, his humor and thoughtfulness. This book had all of those moments, and he handles some difficult family situations with care and tenderness. As always, my favorite stories are those about his sisters and extended family and I read Calypso on a lazy weekend Saturday and it was just what I wanted. 

#8. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

This is a book I picked up after seeing it all over instagram, and I’m so glad I did. Maybe of Brown’s stories stem from a church and faith perspective, which I was very interested to read more books about race and realized this element was often missing. Austin Channing Brown writes clearly and boldly about her experience as a person of color in a very white evangelical world. 

#9. Loving What Is by Byron Katie

This is as self-help as a book can get, and I loved it. I ordered this one after a friend told me how much Katie’s process had helped her through some difficult years. Reading through the deceptively simply process and the chapters with examples and transcripts of Katie working with others was really illuminating about the stories we tell in our head versus what actually IS. 

#10. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

This medical memoir is several years old and I bought it on kindle sale ages ago. I finally got to it this summer and my mouth hung open almost the entire time I was reading. Susannah survived something truly terrifying and lived to write (well) about it. The brain trauma she endured was interesting, but it’s the medical pieces that stayed with me the most. If Cahalan hadn’t pushed for her own answers and wellness, she might very well have become just an unusual statistic. It made me think about all the cases throughout history where people are simply written off as crazy or brain damaged, when there might have been an explanation and a treatment available. 

That’s it! My favorite NONFICTION books of 2018.

Read my choices for Best FICTION Books of 2018 here