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  • Writer's pictureSarah Sisson Rollandini

10 Fiction Books That Swept Me Away in 2018

Hey blog friends. I just started keeping a written record of my reading in the last few years and was surprised to tally up how many books I'd tackled in 2018. I like to read a wide range of authors, genres, and topics, perhaps especially those that might be outside my wheelhouse or belief system. As a Christian, I feel the need to constantly challenge my worldview in order to strengthen my faith, as well as to equip me to have educated conversations with people from diverse backgrounds.

My favorite two people from whom to get book recommendations are Ann Bogel at and Crystal Paine at

Ann's site is a bibliophile's dream with book lists galore. Crystal's site has a variety of content, including deals and steals along with Christian worldview posts and recommendations.

My 2018 reading, though highly recommended by Ann, Crystal, or dear friends, brought some winners and some duds, which goes to show how each person's taste in books cannot be hammered out using the scientific method.

My enjoyment of fiction books is based solely on how much I am able to get lost in the story. Here are 10 of my faves from this past year:

1. The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker

From Amazon:

Ten-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him. So begins a new adventure for Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?

In a nutshell:

I got lost in this YA genre book and couldn't wait to learn more about the characters in book 2, The War I Finally Won.

2. The War I Finally Won - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

From Amazon: Ada’s first story, The War that Saved My Life, was a #1 New York Times bestseller and won a Newbery Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, and the Josette Frank Award, in addition to appearing on multiple best-of-the-year lists. This second masterwork of historical fiction continues Ada's journey of family, faith, and identity, showing us that real freedom is not just the ability to choose, but the courage to make the right choice.

In a nutshell:

Book 2 (and 3) in a series is often a disappointment. This book was not owing to Brubaker Bradley's ability to write believably from her characters' perspectives.

3. Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult

From Amazon:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

In a nutshell:

As usual, Picoult weaves a story that is hard to put down.

4. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

From Amazon:

When Death has a story to tell, you listen. It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In a nutshell:

I gave up on this book twice after reading the first chapter. So glad I stuck it out this time. The characters are unforgettable.

5. Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel

From Amazon:

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

In a nutshell:

A fascinating dystopian look at a post-apocalyptic world.

6. The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton

From Amazon:

During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—whose lives are forever after entwined. A gripping story of deception and passion, The Secret Keeper will keep you enthralled to the last page.

In a nutshell:

Rich characters with a keep-you-on-your-toes trip through two eras.

7. Bear Town - Fredrik Backman

From Amazon:

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever-encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

In a nutshell:

Many readers I spoke with were disappointed with this book, but for me it was worth the read simply for the expanded perspective it gave me on hockey towns.

8. Nice Try, Jane Sinner - Lianne Oelke

From Amazon:

Jane tackles her housing problem by signing up for House of Orange, a student-run reality show that is basically Big Brother, but for Elbow River Students. Living away from home, the chance to win a car (used, but whatever), and a campus full of people who don't know what she did in high school… what more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that understands why she’d rather turn to Freud than Jesus to make sense of her life, but she'll settle for fifteen minutes in the proverbial spotlight. As House of Orange grows from a low-budget web series to a local TV show with fans and shoddy T-shirts, Jane finally has the chance to let her cynical, competitive nature thrive. She'll use her growing fan base, and whatever Intro to Psychology can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard TV—that she has what it takes to win.

In a nutshell:

Though the book's protagonist is a potty-mouthed agnostic, I found her refreshingly real and the story original.

9. Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult

From Amazon:

For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts. Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers.

In a nutshell:

Oh. My. Guh. This book is a must read for elephant lovers everywhere. The twist alone will have Leaving Time stuck in your head for weeks.

10. Under a Cloudless Sky - Chris Fabry

From Amazon:

A charming and engrossing novel for fans of Southern fiction and the recent hit memoir Hillbilly Elegyabout a lush and storied coal-mining town―and the good people who live there―in danger of being destroyed for the sake of profit. Will the truth about the town’s past be its final undoing or its saving grace?

In a nutshell:

I often find Christian fiction sappy and predictable. This gem was a pleasant surprise.

7 Books People Raved About That I Found Just Meh...

This Must be the Place - Maggie O'Farrell

Our Souls at Night - Kent Haruf

This is How it Always is - Laurie Frankel

Rules of Civility - Amore Towles

The Almost Sisters - Joshilyn Jackson

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry - Frederick Backman

Not That I Could Tell - Jessica Strawser

How about you? What are you reading these days? I'd love to add some of your picks to my 2019 reading list!

Until Next Time,



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