2018 Reads: Exceptional Books

Hi, Nerdies! And Happy New Year!

Before I say anything, there is one thing that you should know about me. It is that I am a complete control freak, thus I categorize, categorize and categorize. Categorizing is basically what I do for living. So be aware of highly incessant categorizing ahead! #lol

I read 39 books last year, 12 of them are exceptional, 10 of them are less exceptional, and the rest of them (17, to be precise) are downright fun. And for obvious reasons, I want to blog about the 12 exceptional books first. I’ll cover the second and the third category in separate posts.

And one more thing,  please pardon me for this interminable commentary.

I divided my recommendation into three sections: Must-read which is pretty much self-explanatory; Recommended books which are the books that I think will provide meaningful reads; and Personal Favorites which are my own favorites from 2018 reads.

I intentionally added Classics as the fourth category only because I have this one classic book that I think absolutely deserves a shout out to the world. Which one, you say? Keep on reading and you’ll find out. #winkwink

In lieu of me rambling on and on, let’s just jump right in!

Must Read

These are the books which either have changed the trajectory of my life completely, or the books that hold invaluable information – the kind of books that are so important they might as well be textbooks (in my opinion). 

I’m afraid I would be doing a disservice to these books if I were to disclose too much of my opinion regarding them, thus I only provided a glimpse of what the books are about. Therefore you can decide whether you want to read them or not based on the topic. But I say you should read them, because!, these are must read books after all!

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

This book is about general history of Homo Sapiens, or if you prefer the generic word, Humankind. Looking back to history, human as a species should have been merely one of various animals existing on the earth. But rather, we currently hold overwhelming power on the earth and its inhabitants, the power that we should not have had let alone used. In short, Harari brilliantly summarizes how human race gets from the middle of the food chain to the very top of it.

Grit by Angela Duckworth

In her book, Duckworth asserts that Grit is the one thing that successful people have in common.  Ensuring the accountability of the conclusion, her argument is built on a basis of endless psychological researches.

A little tip: This is my life-changing book.  Now I know that Grit is not merely hard work. It is hard work and MUCH MORE. 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

This one is a memoir of a young man from Appalachian Mountain area. He is a part of so called hillbilly society. If you already decided that memoirs bore you, all I can say is if you give this one a chance, you’re not going to regret it. This book is such an exemplary memoir.   


Muhammad: The Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong

I highly suggest everyone who loathe or outright hate Islam in any way to read this book. As we all know, all this hate-for-Islam runs from the tragedy of 9/11 in 2001 as the outset to the fact that now we all are jumbled in the danger of ISIS threats wherever we live. Armstrong however, never ceased to refute some of the most distorted opinion about Islam.

Even the term for a criminal suspect in a court is defendant. And it’s requisite that a defendant is accompanied by a defendant attorney during a litigation process. Because all people including the bad ones deserve to defend for themselves.

There is a little bit of truth in every lie, and there is a little bit of lie in every truth.

So I entreat you to hear out the side of Islam written by a person who genuinely intends to defend for Islam’s unfairly judged disposition. Cause you know, you can always go on and hold your opinion of hating it after reading the book. Eventually, it’s entirely your decision to hate or love anything in the world.

And for what it’s worth, Armstrong herself is not a Muslim.

Recommended Books

Three recommendations: two memoirs broaching the subject of inequity and one worthwhile self-help book.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have.

said by every black person in USA

This very sentiment is affirmed that it is (still) real and deeply instilled in black society vulnerable daily lives through such a poetic memoir written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

In Order To Live by Yeon-Mi Park

A North Korean girl telling her story of how she managed to escape the renown tyrannical North Korea passing its impervious borders and to elude extremely suffocating poverty In Order To Live.

Btw, the way the title perfectly sums up the gist of the book in one sentence is simply impressive.


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

I think all people might have read this book as of today because this one is such a popular book. But if you haven’t, better read it asap.


This section will come across as highly biased because it’ll totally look like I dedicate this section to Michael Meyer.

Michael Meyer is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh who spent his young adulthood in China volunteering with the Peace Corps. He spent time teaching there, and he recorded some of what he perceived as China’s condition after Mao’s government in his books.

I am not gonna smooth-talk you into reading his books, because I admit that his books are a bit dragging reads if you’re not so into architectural stuff. In his books, Meyer pivots his narration on historical buildings, ruins and landmarks.

But I still love Meyer anyway, because he is such a funny  writer and his writing feels very personal. He is that kind of writer which makes you feel like you’ve known him personally for a long time.

Also: I even emailed him to ask a silly question. And yes, I like him that much. #lol

And these are two of his books that I read in 2018: In Manchuria and Last Days of Old Beijing.


I finished perusing three classics last year: Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

I am particularly far from thrilled to discuss any classic, because I feel like I am only going to give a distorted opinion of them. The thing is, I always think that classic stories are old as in its complexity is obviously nothing compared to contemporaries’, and the English is very very old in some of them. And to be frank, I think you need to at least have interest in linguistic history in order to completely appreciate classic materials. And as for now, I am not that kind of person. Yet. (I hope)

But I still put this section out because one classic struck me as beyond an astounding piece, and even if you are not a huge fan of classics like me, I assure you that you still will absolutely love To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

If you want to know why I deem very high of To Kill A Mockingbird, see you in my next post! h

But I need to mention this.

To Harper Lee: Thank you for writing this masterpiece.  

And to you Nerdies, Thank You for reading.


22 thoughts on “2018 Reads: Exceptional Books

  1. Hi Carissa, great list. Sapiens literally blew my mind. I had no idea that multiple species of humans co-existed on earth for as long as they did, or that Homo Sapiens were merely the species which “won.” Crazy stuff.


    • Hi!! Exactly!! Have you read Homo Deus? I am reading it now, and it blows my mind even more!! Now I feel like humanity is unimaginably greedy and selfish, I cringe whenever I am on pages talking about those poor hopeless domesticated animals.


  2. I’m pleased to meet you. Thanks for visiting Under Western Skies.
    I enjoyed reading your book list. I’m NOT one who classifies my own list so obsessively as do you, probably to my discredit. I may simply not be so decisive.
    I’ll take at least a couple of your suggestions. For one, I don’t know Mr. Coates’ work as well as I should. I’m also interested in reading Mr. Meyers, because I AM a fan of architecture.
    As for the classics, welcome to my world. I’m fascinated that you consider “older” language to include books written from just before I was born. Obviously, Hawthorne was writing in a different vernacular, in an extremely different cultural context. All the more reason, I think, to read some classics, for the insight they CAN provide (not always) into how humans exactly like ourselves dealt with a very different world.
    I’m pleased you liked To Kill a Mockingbird. Published when I was 9 years old, it had a big impact on me when I read it in high school and — obviously — millions of other people.
    Happy reading in 2019.
    I’d welcome a suggestion from you: an accomplished Indonesian writer of fiction an inquiring American should know, and may be able to find in English translation? I don’t know where to begin.
    Thanks very much.


    • Hi, Brad! You know what, as a matter of fact I do have a great suggestion of an Indonesian writer for you. His name is Pramoedya Ananta Toer. He was jailed almost for all of his adult life for writing and publishing his books. His most eminent work is the tetralogy of The Buru Quartet, it consists of This Earth of Mankind; Child of All Nations; Footsteps; and House of Glass. Those books are available in English translation.

      Thank you for stopping by, btw!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sapiens is suchhhh a good book! Have you thought of reading’ 21 Lessons for the 21st Century.’ I only just got it for xmas, so have read a few pages, but the premise is really interesting. If you’re interested in the future of our planet, I would highly recommend.



    • I’m currently reading Homo Deus, and probably will read 21 Lesson as well in the near future. These books are mind blowing and so well-written.


  4. Thanks for sharing your list! I’m an obsessive book reader but never thought about categorizing books I’ve read throughout the year as you’ve done. I’ve been debating reading Grit by Angela Duckworth. I saw her TED Talk and after your review here, I’m going to pick it up and read (or listen, I love Audible). Great post!


  5. I enjoyed your book list and added your books to my already long list. I was happy that I”d already read Hillbilly Eulegy. I also like your Classics list and have read all 3. In fact, The Great Gatsby is my all time favorite book.


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