2018 Reading Challenge Completed

This is usually the kind of post I write at the end of the year.

Meaning: it was supposed to be written and published sometime close to December 31st, 2018. We are well into September 2019 as I write these words. Whoops.

It took me a while, and I have a few things that will excuse me – we were traveling for Christmas/New Year, things got busy when we got back, then we traveled some more – oh well, lots of reasons.

Let’s not dwell on that, though – shall we? The important thing is: I finally have some time* to write this post, and in time to leave some space between the retrospect for 2018 and 2019.

*Funny enough, I have this time because we are traveling again and missed our flight. We are stuck in the Vienna International Airport on a rainy day, with plenty of time on our hands! Might as well make the most of it. 

Without further ado, here is the complete list of the 80 books that I read in 2018:

Who Is This Man?, John Ortberg *****
Draw the Circle, Mark Batterson***** 

Logo Design Love, David Airey *****
When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi *****

The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp *****
Called to Create, Jordan Raynor *****
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni *****
Playing Big, Tara Mohr *****

Maman’s Homesick Pie, Donia Bijan ****
Whisper, Mark Batterson ****
Anne of Green Gables, my Daughter, and Me, Lorilee Craker ****
Keep Your Love On, Danny Silk ****
Love Does, Bob Goff ****
Daring to Hope, Katie Davis Majors ****
If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name, Heather Lende ****
Please Understand Me II, David Keirsey ****
The Well-Lived Laugh, Rachel St. John-Gilbert ****
Happy Wives Club, Fawn Weaver ****
Nobody’s Cuter Than You, Melanie Shankle ****
The Antelope in my Living Room, Melanie Shankle ****
Home is Where my People Are, Sophie Hudson ****
Loving My Actual Life, Alexandra Kuykendall ****
Think and Eat Yourself Smart, Caroline Leaf ***
Straight Talk on Insecurity, Joyce Meyer ***

Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear *****
Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear *****
Pardonable Lies, Jacqueline Winspear ****
Messenger of Truth, Jacqueline Winspear *****
An Incomplete Revenge, Jacqueline Winspear *****
The Chosen, Chaim Potok *****
The Promise, Chaim Potok *****
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan *****
Requiem for Ashes, David Crossman *****

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, Fannie Flag *****
My Italian Buldozer, Alexander McCall Smith *****
A Conspiracy of Friends, Alexander McCall Smith ****
The Bertie Project, Alexander McCall Smith ****
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie *****
Lord Edgware Dies, Agatha Christie ****
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley *****
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, Alan Bradley ****
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle *****
A Dog Named Christmas, Greg Kincaid *****
A Christmas Home, Greg Kincaid *****
Anne of Green Gables, L.M.Montgomery *****
Maggie’s Miracle, Karen Kingsbury ****
A Portrait of Emily Price, Katherine Reay ****
The Ladies Room, Carolyn Brown ****
The Secret to Hummingbird Cake, Celeste Fletcher McHale ****
The Vanderbeekers of 141 Street, Karina Yan Glaser ****
Paige Torn, Erynn Magnum ****
Paige Rewritten, Erynn Magnum ****
Paige Turned, Erynn Magnum ****
Need to Know, Karen Cleveland ****
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson ****
The Ringmaster’s Wife, Kristy Cambron ****
Between Friends, Debbie Macomber ****
Love Walked In, Marisa de los Santos ****
Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, Joanne Fluke ****
Persuasion, Jane Austen ****
Perennials, Julie Cantrell ****
A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes), Arthur Conan Doyle ****
Christmas on Jane Street, Billy Romp ****
The Red Gloves Collection, Karen Kingsbury ****
A Quiet Life in the Country, T.E.Kinsey ****
Maggie’s Miracle, Karen Kingsbury ****
Her Sister’s Shoes, Ashley Farley ****
Boots And Bedlam, Ashley Farley ***
Low-country Stranger, Ashley Farley ***
Tangle of Strings, Ashley Farley ***
Saturdays at Sweeney’s, Ashley Farley ***
The Code of The Woosters, P.G.Wodehouse ***
The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan ***
Marry Poppins, P.L.Travers **
The Invisible Man, H.G.Wells **
Willow Cottage series (2 books), Bella Osborne **

Bible Studies
Entrusted: 2 Timothy, Beth Moore *****
The Miracles of Jesus, She Reads Truth *****
All Things New: 2 Corinthians, Kelly Minter ****
The Resurrected Life, She Reads Truth ****

: 80 books

Non- fiction: 29 books

Fiction: 51 books

Kindle: 60 books (is it me, or this number grows every year?)

Audiobooks: 2 (new category! I listen to these with hubs, in the car)

Most Read Authors: Jacqueline Winspear and Ashley Farley with 5 books each.

Book of the Year: Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear.

Discovery of the Year: The Maisie Dobbs series, by Jacqueline Winspear.
Hands down, this is one of my favorite series and author to this day, and I discovered them in 2018.

It is a mystery/detective/history series, but it is also so much more than that.
I find Winspear’s writing mesmerizing. She weaves bits and pieces of history,  life between the great World Wars, life in the post-war London, stories of individuals who’ve lived through the First War. Individuals who unveil their hearts, struggles, aspirations and above all, ability to stay human, to love, to hope, to believe.

Maisie Dobbs is also an incredible detective/psychologist, that you grow to like and respect, even though there is a certain reservation about her. She’s not your chummy, funny heroine – but she is authentic and brave in ways that keep astounding me in book after book.

You might’ve noticed that Birds of a Feather – book #2 in the series – got the highest honor “Book of the Year”.

Why not the first book in the series? While I like that one too – it gave me a context, focusing mostly on Maisie’s background, her story and how she got to where she is today – the second book is where the author truly started to define her heroine and her style.

– I have put Bible Studies in a category of their own, because while I count them as non-fiction, they are somewhat different. I usually work my way through them with a group, over the course of a few weeks. Hopefully, this can also be a reference list – I would love to tell you more about them, if interested!

– I re-read quite a few of my favorites with the ICF Women’s book club (just like in 2017) and some of the I appreciated anew, like Chaim Potok, Donia Bijan and others.

Highlight: Kathryn’s Kindle – I have far exceeded my goal for 2018, from 55 planned books to 80. There is a very simple explanation to that.

Way back in February, I asked my friend Kathryn to lend me a book we were reading with the Ladies’ Book Club. Generous soul that she is, not only did she do that – she gave me her spare Kindle, with access to her entire ebook library! Chuck-full of great reads, too.

I have sheepishly asked her if I can keep it a bit longer. So this is how I read about 13 books in that one month. I was one happy bookworm, I tell you.

Everyone needs a friend like a Kathryn and this is my opportunity to tell her once again: Kathryn, you are WONDERFUL. Thanks for blessing me in this way!

For 2019, my goal is to read 65 books. I am well on my way to reaching that number as I currently have 50 books read. Amongst those are some true gems – true gems, I tell you! – I can’t wait to share my entire list in December. So do come back!

Until then, follow me on Goodreads? Here is my profile -> Elena’s Goodreads.

I’ve been documenting my reading challenges since 2011, and they’re all well documented on Goodreads, as well as in yearly retrospective posts. Check them out here:

2017 Reading Challenge – 80 books
2016 Reading Challenge – 63 books
2015 Reading Challenge – 65 books
2014 Reading Challenge – 60 books
2013 Reading Challenge – 60 books
2012 Reading Challenge – 64 books
2011 Reading Challenge – 56 books

Goodreads also has a fun little statistics page called Year in Books – here’s mine, if you want to check it out: My 2018 Year in Books.

How many books have you read this year?
Any good ones you’d recommend?

RATINGS explained:
*****  excellent
**** great!
*** pretty good
** will do when bored
* why did I waste time reading this?

10 Christmas Books to Read in December

gribook christmas books
Reading Christmas books is one of my favorite things to do in December.

It makes sense, when else would I read them? June? January? It’s just so fun to cuddle up in a blanket with a cup of tea or coffee, and read. Especially when it snows. Even if it doesn’t, there’s still something festive yet comforting about a good Christmas read.

How do you find those GOOD Christmas reads, though?
Every year, the challenge is the same. Most of the available titles out there are either Amish Romance or chick flicks. Nothing wrong with either, but you can only read so many of those before you simply cannot stomach another one. Maybe it’s just me.

This year, we’re also looking for a good Christmas book to read with our Women’s Book Club. Which is double the challenge, because we all read and enjoy very different kinds of books.

After doing some research, I came up with a list of titles that piqued my curiosity and will hopefully give us a good variety to pick from, for our December book club read. My criteria: lighthearted, clean and with a happy ending.

This list includes 10 book titles, with a picture of the book cover, a link to Amazon – most of them are great deals this time of the year! – a little comment about why I included it in this list and the description provided by Amazon.
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Books To-Reread in 2017


Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.
~ François Mauriac

This phrase stuck with me. Made me ask what books I read. Not many, turns out. I do have my excuses: I’m still young and I want to read as many books as possible, not waste time on something I already read.

Lately though, I’m drawn to old favorites. I noticed I keep quoting and referring to them, so they obviously made quite the impact on me.  It is time for a refresher and I have high expectations reading them the second time around.
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2016 Reading Challenge Completed


I read a little over 60 books in 2016.

Granted, I had to sacrifice some sleep to read 4 novels in the last 10 days but I made it! Competitive? Not really. Terrified of the fact that if I don’t complete my challenge, Goodreads will not keep my 2016 books in a neat virtual bundle. This is probably some kind of OCD, but it sure is motivating!

Here’s the complete list, with links and ratings – entirely subjective, with rating explained at the end of this article – only reflecting my own personal opinion.

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