Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Best of 2018 the Books

It’s December which means an endless run of “best of”  articles, segments, slideshows and lists. To which every year I add my own.  This week rather than the usual article on my life and my struggles I'm going to be posting my favorite books of 2018.  

There is no particular order to this list just the books that I most enjoyed reading this year.

I set a goal for 2018 of 50 books. I ended up, as of writing this having read 84 books total.  That is between physical books and audiobooks. I spend a lot of time working on the computer and audiobooks are almost always on while I work.  
This year I enjoyed the books I read and listened to but it was really scrounging to find 10 that stick out so I didn’t.

Here are my favorites of the year.

I’m including the synopsis from Amazon in black and my thoughts in blue

The Escape Artist - Brad Meltzer (2018)
Who is Nola Brown
Nola is a mystery
Nola is trouble.
And Nola is supposed to be dead.

Her body was found on a plane that mysteriously fell from the sky as it left a secret military base in the Alaskan wilderness. Her commanding officer verifies she's dead. The US government confirms it. But Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run.

Zig works at Dover Air Force Base, helping put to rest the bodies of those who die on top-secret missions. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig's daughter and someone who once saved his daughter's life. So when Zig realizes Nola is still alive, he's determined to find her. Yet as Zig digs into Nola's past, he learns that trouble follows Nola everywhere she goes.

Nola is the U.S. Army's artist-in-residence-a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war's aftermath and sharing observations about today's wars that would otherwise go overlooked. On her last mission, Nola saw something nobody was supposed to see, earning her an enemy unlike any other, one who will do whatever it takes to keep Nola quiet.

Together, Nola and Zig will either reveal a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power or die trying to uncover the US Army's most mysterious secret-a centuries-old conspiracy that traces back through history to the greatest escape artist of all: Harry Houdini.

I heard about this book on a podcast and picked it up the next day.  Brad Meltzer had just started writing Superman with issue 1000 and he mentioned his new book during an interview about comics.  I had read Meltzer before but something about this book intrigued me.  I'm glad I did,
This was a great thriller, I ended up listening to it and finished it in 2 days. Brad Meltzer has found his muse in Nola Brown. I can’t wait to read more of her.  

I Declare War - Levi Lusko (2018)
Whether you recognize it or not, you're at war with yourself. There's anxiety. Selfishness. Self-sabotaging tendencies. Narcissism. The black dog of depression. The inability to do the great things you long to do because you spend so many hours mindlessly drifting through the internet.
It is war, but all is not lost. You can win—if you choose to engage.
In I Declare War, Levi Lusko candidly shares about his struggles with moodiness, bullying, suicidal thoughts, night terrors, and difficulty managing himself. He identifies four weapons you have at your disposal—thoughts, words, behaviors, and power—and illustrates how to use them to achieve ongoing victory
I can’t recommend this book enough. Not a whole lot extra to say about it. The book came at a time I really needed it.

The Cutting Edge - Jeffery Deaver (2018)
In the early hours of a quiet, weekend morning in Manhattan's Diamond District, a brutal triple murder shocks the city. Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs quickly take the case. Curiously, the killer has left behind a half-million dollars' worth of gems at the murder scene, a jewelry store on 47th street. As more crimes follow, it becomes clear that the killer's target is not gems, but engaged couples themselves.

The Promisor vows to take the lives of men and women during their most precious moments--midway through the purchase of an engagement ring, after a meeting with a wedding planner, trying on the perfect gown for a day that will never come. The Promisor arrives silently, armed with knife or gun, and a time of bliss is transformed, in an instant, to one of horror.

Soon the Promiser makes a dangerous mistake: leaving behind an innocent witness, Vimal Lahori, a talented young diamond cutter, who can help Rhyme and Sachs blow the lid off the case. They must track down Vimal before the killer can correct his fatal error. Then disaster strikes, threatening to tear apart the very fabric of the city--and providing the perfect cover for the killer to slip through the cracks.

Lincoln Rhyme is the greatest detective in modern literature.  He has the intellect of Sherlock plus all the tech of a modern lab.  Jeffery Deaver has crafted another stunning mystery with his signature twists.  There are very few authors of fiction whom I follow close enough to know when a new book will be released and Deaver is one of them.

Past Tense - Lee Child (2018)
Jack Reacher hits the pavement and sticks out his thumb. He plans to follow the sun on an epic trip across America, from Maine to California. He doesn’t get far. On a country road deep in the New England woods, he sees a sign to a place he has never been: the town where his father was born. He thinks, What’s one extra day? He takes the detour.

At the same moment, in the same isolated area, a car breaks down. Two young Canadians had been on their way to New York City to sell a treasure. Now they’re stranded at a lonely motel in the middle of nowhere. The owners seem almost too friendly. It’s a strange place, but it’s all there is.

The next morning, in the city clerk’s office, Reacher asks about the old family home. He’s told no one named Reacher ever lived in town. He’s always known his father left and never returned, but now Reacher wonders, Was he ever there in the first place?

As Reacher explores his father’s life, and as the Canadians face lethal dangers, strands of different stories begin to merge. Then Reacher makes a shocking discovery: The present can be tough, but the past can be tense . . . and deadly.

I said years ago in a year end book blog that I can’t imagine a year that a Jack Reacher book is released that it wouldn’t make it to my top ten.  This is not only a great Jack Reacher book, it’s a great book period. 

Death Wish - Brian Garfield (1972)
Paul Benjamin, a successful accountant in New York City, is enjoying a three-martini lunch when his home is broken into by a gang of drug addicts.

For just a handful of money, they savagely beat Paul's wife and daughter, leaving his wife dead and his daughter comatose. Grief-stricken and force to reevaluate his views, Benjamin becomes disillusioned with society and plots his revenge on the perpetrators, whom the police are unable to bring to justice. Armed with a revolver and total disregard for his own safety, he sets out to even the score.

Yes this is the book that the famous Charles Bronson movie is based on.  I watched the remake this year staring bruce Willis.  It was very different than the Bronson film so I wanted to read the book to see which was closer.  Neither, neither was closer. It was an interesting read and I ended up getting the sequel as well.  It's called Death Sentence and it was written by the same guy as the original

Choosing God in Hard Times - Al Carraway (2018)
Al Carraway has inspired the world with her conversion, redemption, and faith. Now you can hear Al tell her story firsthand in this recording of her award-winning talk on CD. As an author, social media personality, and award-winning public speaker, her message has reached millions. Enjoy an up-close account of Al's life and membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints and learn what it means to truly trust in the Lord.

This was an audiobook exclusive and if I had to pick one talk or sermon that I am most thankful I heard this year it would be this one.  So while it technically isn’t a book it is definitely worth your time.
I don’t agree with Al’s theology but her love of God is contagious.  The subjects she talks about are not exclusive to her.  That coupled with the way she tells a story makes this a remarkable listen. 

Fifty Shades of They - Ed Young (2015)
You’re only as great as your relationships. Show me your friends and I will show you your future. There is immeasurable growth and success to be found when you’re surrounded with the right “they”.

Do you have the right they in your life? Fifty Shades of They gives you fifty simple, yet profound insights that will help any relationship thrive, from friendships to business partnerships to marriages. Based on biblical standards and the teaching of Ed Young, this book is written for anyone who is looking to give new life to their relationships.

Ed Young has been the single biggest spiritual influence in my life. I have listened to his sermons since 2013. Be it podcast or on his youtube channel consistently for 5 years.  This was a re-read for me but it never gets old. 2018 has been a year of toxic relationships for me.  When things broke bad a month or so ago I remember talking to my counselor and he said “it doesn’t matter who’s fault something is, or why a relationship turns toxic but when it does you have to get out.”  This book is all about relationship and good motivation on when it’s healthier to walk away. 
It was another book I read at the perfect time.  

Holy Roar - Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead (2018)
In the ancient world, something extraordinary happened when God's people gathered to worship Him. It was more than just singing; it was a declaration, a proclamation, a time to fully embody praise to God for who He is and what he has done. In fact, in the Psalms, seven Hebrew words are translated into the English word praise, each of which represents a different aspect of what it means to truly praise God.

In Holy Roar, Chris Tomlin and Darren Whitehead share a fresh perspective from the worship practices of the ancient world. Grow in your understanding of praise as Darren offers unique insights. Be inspired as Chris shares how those insights take shape in the stories behind some of your favorite worship songs, including "How Great Is Our God," "We Fall Down," and "Good Good Father." Whether for your own personal use or for use in your church small group, Holy Roar provides insight and encouragement to 
deepen your practice of praise.
Become a part of the Holy Roar.

This is a really quick read. The book is based off a Darren Whitehead sermon series about the 7 Hebrew words for worship.  I've given the book to 2 different friends because I think it is a must read. 

Each chapter begins with the word and an explanation of it by Whitehead. Followed by Tomlin applying that word to one of his songs and how he came to write that particular song.  It’s a cross between a sermon and a VH1 Storytellers.
If I had to pick my favorite book of the year it would be this one.  It's something you can read completely in one sitting. Or you can read it a little at a time. Chapters are short and each one focuses on a different kind of worship.  
When you are down and out, when depression is starting to wrap its talons around your mind worship can break that hold.  

Thanks for reading, I'll be posting my top 10 movies in a week or so.


Here is a full List of the books I have read as of today in case you are curious. I did read a few books more than once.
Update: I finished the year with 101 books

  1. Abba’s Child - Brennan Manning
  2. Fifty Shades of They - Ed Young
  3. Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer
  4. Death Wish - Brian Garfield
  5. Death Sentence - Brian Garfield 
  6. Red Sparrow- Jason Matthews
  7. Presto - Penn Jillette
  8. Presto - Penn Jillette (yes I read it twice)
  9. The Chalk Man - CJ Tudor
  10. 7 Mile Miracle - Steven Furtick
  11. the Escape Artist - Brad Meltzer
  12. I am Number 8 - John Gray
  13. the Drowned Girls - Loreth Anne White
  14. Abba’s Child - Brennan Manning
  15. the Lullaby Girl - Loreth Anne White
  16. the Cutting Edge - Jeffery Deaver
  17. Meg - Steve Alten 
  18. Unsub - Meg Gardiner
  19. the Case for Christ - Lee Strobel
  20. Into the Black NoWhere - Meg Gardner 
  21. Alien Sea of Sorrows - James A Moore
  22. Everybody Always - Bob Goff
  23. Everybody Always - Bob Goff
  24. The Very Worst Missionary - Jamie Wright
  25. Real Marriage - Mark Driscoll
  26. Friend of Sinners - Rich Wilkerson Jr
  27. The Outsider - Stephen King
  28. Love Does - Bob Goff (AfterThoughts)
  29. Biblical Porn - Jessica Johnson
  30. Living with Monks - Jesse Itzler 
  31. Sifted - Francis Chan, Larry Osbourne
  32. Play the Man - Mark Batterson. 
  33. Born Standing Up - Steve Martin
  34. Praying the Scriptures- Judson Cornwall
  35. insurgence - Frank Viola
  36. the Facade - Michael Heiser
  37. Connecting - Larry Crabb
  38. All is Grace - Brennan Manning
  39. Good Behavior - Blake Crouch
  40. Supernatural - Michael Heiser
  41. Ten - Gretchen McNeil
  42. Furious Longing for God - Brennan Manning
  43. Diary of a Country Priest - Georges Bernanos
  44. Do Over - John Acuff
  45. Awakened - James S Murray
  46. The Portent - Michael Heiser
  47. Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning
  48. Lion and Lamb - Brennan Manning
  49. Counter Culture - David Platt
  50. Souvenirs of Solitude- Brennan Manning
  51. Abba’s Child - Brennan Manning
  52. A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus - John Dickson
  53. A Simple Favor - Darcey Bell
  54. Indescribable - Louie Giglio Matt Redman
  55. Counterfeit Gods - Timothy Keller
  56. Damned - Chuck Palahniuk 
  57. Bad Mommy -Tarryn Fisher
  58. It Ends with Her - Breanna Labuskes 
  59. 7 Days With a Witch - Don Allen
  60. Hope in the Dark - Craig Groeschel 
  61. Didn’t See It Coming - Carey Niewhuf 
  62. A Year of Biblical Womanhood - Rachel Held Evans
  63. Evolving in Monkey Town - Rachel Held Evans
  64. Remember God - Annie F Downs
  65. Choosing God in Hard Times - Al Carraway
  66. Lullaby - Jonathan Mayberry 
  67. H3 Leadership - Brad Lomenick
  68. Irresistible- Andy Stanley
  69. Tell Someone - Greg Laurie
  70. Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board - Zoe Aarsen 
  71. Light as a Feather Cold as Marble - Zoe Aarsen
  72. Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell
  73. Spirit Filled Jesus - Mark Driscoll
  74. Halloween - John Passarella
  75. Elevation - Stephen King 
  76. I Declare War - Levi Lusko 
  77. Jesus Revolution - Greg Laurie 
  78. Holy Roar - Chris Tomlin Darren Whitehead. 
  79. Past Tense - Lee Child
  80. Pet Cemetery- Stephen King
  81. My Best Friends Exorcism - Grady Hendrix 
  82. Drunken Fireworks - Stephen King
  83. The Gingerbread Girl - Stephen King
  84. The Perfect Husband - Lisa Gardner
  85. Wrath (Wrath Trilogy Book 1) - D.R. Roquemore
  86. Left Behind (Wrath Trilogy Book 2) - D.R. Roquemore
  87. The Rising (Before They Were Left Behind Book 1) -Tim Lahaye
  88.  The Regime (Before They Were Left Behind Book 2) Tim Lahaye Jerry B Jenkins
  89. The Rapture (Before They Were Left Behind Book 3) Tim LaHaye Jerry B Jenkins
  90. Nightflier - George RR Martin
  91. The Third Victim - Lisa Gardner
  92. The Closer - Donn Cortez
  93. The Exorcist - William Peter Blatty
  94. I’ll Be Gone In the Dark - Michelle McNamara
  95. Legion - William Peter Blatty
  96. Darkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay 
  97. Dearly Devoted Dexter - Jeff Lindsay 
  98. I Am Not But I Know I Am - Louie Giglio
  99. Nailed - David Fitzgerald 
  100. Meddling Kids - Edgar Cantero
  101. Night of the Living Dummy - RL Stine

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