Book Therapy's Best Books of 2018
Posted by Bijal Shah on
It’s the holidays and the perfect time to catch up on all your holiday reading. Here’s our roundup of the books in 2018 that have touched us, made us laugh, made us cry, made us think and wonder with awe and made us fall in love with reading all over again. Any others that should be here? Feel free to comment below.
Best Literature and Fiction Books of 2018
Poetic fiction based on the fascinating story of the peculiar daughter of the sun god, Helios. Choosing to build relationships with mortals on earth, Circe discovers her power of witchcraft, transforming enemies into monsters.
Zeus banishes her to an island where she perfects her talent for witchcraft. However she is cast as someone who must be tamed and choose between her God family and the mortals she loves.
The book itself relays many analogies of being true to one’s self and discovering our own magic and abilities. It also explores what it means to be a powerful woman amongst powerful men and acknowledges that women often cannot enjoy a similar status to successful men. Instead she is viewed as a scary sorceress.
A unique story created by Madeline Miller — if you love Greek mythology, you’ll love this.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2KGzfkj
2. A Place for Us: A Novel by Fatima Farheen Mirza
A story about belonging, identity, culture and what it means to be American and Muslim, bridging the old with the new.
An estranged son, the youngest of three strives to balance being true to himself whilst remaining loyal to the family and culture he comes from. The older two siblings marry for love and not tradition. All reunited at a family wedding, the parents come to terms with their children, reconciling strong family bonds that made them a close-knit family in the early years to weakened ties and betrayal as they find themselves caught between two different cultures after immigrating to the US from India.
A colourful story from an upcoming literary genius, the book will touch your heart.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2u2aTqV
3. You Think It, I’ll Say It: Stories by Curtis Sittenfeld
A wholesome collection of short stories exploring the human experience — serendipity, surprising coincidences, debatable decisions, missed opportunities and chances.
Each story is filled with wonderful characters “that take up residence in your head” as quoted by the Washington post.
A talented storyteller, Sittenfeld crafts tales about envy, affairs, business empires built on lies, difficult childhood friends that resurface from the past and your enviable high school friend whose life may not be what it seems. Engaging human stories that draw you in, you’ll enjoy each and every one.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2MOMTyv
4. The Overstory by Richard Powers
Richard Powers’ 12th novel, The Overstory tells the tale of two very different worlds — one of humans and that of non-humans (trees) caught up in the timber wars of the Pacific Northwest. A beautiful novel of humans reconnecting with nature with a select few having access to an invisible yet fascinatingly inventive world.
A complex plot with colourful, rich characters — a revealing and rewarding read that will re-kindle your love for nature.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2tYAEIu
5. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
Eleven years since The Book Thief , Zusak entertains us with Bridge of Clay, a novel about five young brothers who are reunited with their father after a long absence having lived on their own with no adult guidance. An emotional tale about family, forgiveness and loss as they discover the secret behind his disappearance. A life-changing literary remedy for life itself.
Grab a copy here.
6. Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
My favourite Japanese author, Murakami brings forth his latest offering after four years of solid writing about a Tokyo artist who paints portraits and embarks on a journey of self-discovery after running away from his divorce-seeking wife. He seeks comfort at a mountain retreat owned by the famous father of an artist friend who suffers from dementia. Here he discovers a painting that moulds reality into odd shapes.
With an intriguing plot about the friend’s father, a teenage girl and the supernatural, he discovers truths about love, art, war and loneliness. A feast for your imagination, the novel draws haunting parallels with the Great Gatsby.
Grab a copy here.
7. Transcription by Kate Atkinson
After the success of Life after Life, Kate Atkinson brings us this fabulous spy novel set post World War II. Impeccably researched, capturing the horrors and trials of war so meticulously, the story tells the tale of Juliet Armstrong, a BBC producer, who is recruited by MI5 to listen to World War II archived tapes and transcribe the dialogue into reports.
As she listens, she discovers secrets of undercover agents and fascist traitors and is forced to reckon with unfinished consequences even after the war is over. Dark humour, haunting and harrowing, this book time travels to different decades and is a fresh take on a World War II story.
Grab a copy here.
8. Normal People (Novel) by Sally Rooney
A Man Booker prize nominee and Sally Rooney’s second novel exquisitely narrates a human story about two romantically-linked young adults, finding their place in the world amongst societal and family pressures to fit in. An intimate coming of age story filled with humour and heartfelt romance. Rooney’s writing will make you feel you are part of the story.
Grab your copy here.
Best True Crime Book of 2018
9. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
A true crime masterpiece by a talented yet obsessed author, Michelle McNamara’s pursuit of the truth of the elusive Golden State Killer who raped and murdered his victims first in Northern California and then Southern California led her to investigate the case till her death.
For more than ten years, the serial killer managed to evade some of the best police forces in the state. Michelle diligently searched through online reports, interviewed victims and articulately recounted the true crime story. The Golden State Killer was between the ages of 18 and 30 and always targeted suburban homes, attacking families whilst asleep, blinding them with his torch. Often wearing a mask, these families could only identify him through his voice.
Completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and colleague after her death the book serves as a great tool and resource for hopefully a case that will be solved someday.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2IYa472
Best Business and Leadership Books of 2018
10. Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World by Nomi Prins
A meticulous and detailed exposé of the actions of central bankers as they attempted to calm the markets post the 2007–8 financial crisis. Ironically, the crisis catapulted central bankers into significantly more power than they had experienced before. Their policy initiatives led to unthinkable money pouring into financial markets through the very masterminds who had created the crisis in the first place: the private banking sector. This resulted in an immediate devaluation of people’s savings and income.
Governments were indirectly endorsing the creation of asset bubbles and market manipulation. The EU, by far, led the worst crisis management response. Featuring in-depth conversations and detail from the key players, Ben Bernanke, Christine Lagarde, Mario Draghi and Janet Yellen, the world feels a lot smaller than it is, with the actions of one country having rippling effects on the rest of the world economy.
Impressive, detailed and heavily researched, this is definitely one book that makes this year’s best business books’ list.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2MWi3UN
11. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start Up by John Carreyrou
One of the biggest corporate frauds since Enron, prize-winning journalist John Carreyrou, ambitiously tells the story of a young female CEO and Stanford dropout, Elizabeth Holmes, and her company Theranos who sought to change the medical world through the provision of instant blood testing. So powerful was the idea, concept and story, the company was initially valued at US$9 billion only to come crashing down on the stark realisation that there was no technology that could do this yet, despite Holmes’s persistent claims to the contrary.
Endless testing at Walgreens led to inaccurate results putting patients at risk. Theranos struggled to get it right.
A fine piece of good old-fashioned investigative journalism by Carreyrou, who interviewed more than 60 Theranos employees as well as test patients and doctors to get to the bottom of the story.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2u3udE8
12. Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr
OKRs stand for Objectives and Key Results, metrics that help determine how top-priority goals will be attained with specific, measurable actions within a set time frame. Google uses it, Bono uses it and so does Bill Gates. Filled with anecdotes and case studies from companies who have successfully used these to grow and prosper, John Doer, the prolific Silicon Valley venture capitalist tells a story of how operational excellence is achieved through the use of these OKRs.
He first came across these when he worked at Intel for Andy Grove however has since adopted them and imposed them on most of his portfolio companies including one of the best investments he made, Google.
If you are an entrepreneur or business owner, you’ll be compelled to adopt these before you finish the book.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2KCvFYl
13. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
A unique and unusual book narrating the power of gatherings and how to make them remarkable so that they benefit each and every person at the gathering.
A gathering is defined as an event where three or more people come together for a specific purpose.
As someone who has researched and facilitated highly effective gatherings for the World Economic Forum and the Museum of Modern Art, Parker pulls together elements of what makes gatherings so great and how to incorporate these in your next event, whether that is a simple home barbecue, a work meeting, a dinner party or a wedding. An innovative and creative read.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2KB1yAJ
14. On Grand Strategy by John Lewis Gaddis
As the title suggests, this book is a masterclass on strategic thinking by Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis who taught strategic decision-making as a year-long seminar at Yale.
For the first time ever the sought after theory and content covering strategic decision-making in crisis situations is neatly captured in a succinct book.
A fascinating book on the art of leadership using strategic insights and pulling together learnings and wisdom from historical events.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2MSp2xY
15. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better And Achieve More by Morten T. Hansen
“Do less, then obsess” is the motto of this book. The idea is to focus on two to three clear challenges and goals that will really make a difference to your work. Effectively prioritising these will make a bigger difference than trying to do everything well. In addition, working out what NOT to do might be the most productive thing you could do.
Based on a five year study where 5,000+ people participated, the book is filled with stories from people all over the world who have had a huge impact on the people around them. Examples include that of an Indian farmer made a dramatic improvement to the lives of women in his village, a sushi chef who was awarded the maximum 3 Michelin stars and the reason for why Alfred Hitchcock’s movie ‘Psycho’ proved to be hugely popular with audiences.
The book helps you assess your strengths and weaknesses and use this to develop your own unique style that will help you be the most productive version of you. This includes developing individual strategies that increase your productivity over your peers. To quote The Washington Post, Great At Work is one of the best books on leadership to read in 2018.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2KYUTw8
16. The Myth of the Nice Girl: Achieving a Career You Love Without Becoming a Person You Hate by Fran Hauser
When I first saw the title of this book, I thought this would be yet another book on how to help women thrive in the work place with the usual strategies and tips. However as I progressed through the book, there were an incredible amount of valuable lessons: authenticity, integrity and kindness can get you very far without having to fall into the ‘nice’ category or the ‘bitch’ category.
What makes the book so appealing is Hauser’s knack for story telling and use of a huge number of personal examples to illustrate powerful messages that help navigate tough work environments.
Although not obvious from the title, the book is also a great lesson in leadership — how to mentor yourself as well as mentor others. Whilst it appears to be written for women, I would classify this as an intelligent and intuitive personal development book that applies to men and women equally.
Life-affirming, liberating and powerful, it definitely serves as a top ten career and personal development guide for 2018.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2u0ellQ
Best Memoir Books of 2018
A fascinating true story about a young girl who grows up in an isolated community in the mountains of Southeastern Idaho. The youngest of seven siblings, at age 30 she has never left home, has been homeschooled and works for her mother and father, who don’t believe in western medicine.
Her father, who suffers from bipolar depression, sells scrap metal from his junkyard and builds barns and hay sheds for farmers in nearby towns. Her mother is a herbalist and works as an assistant to an unlicensed midwife. Tara helps both her father in the junk yard scrapping metal and her mother preparing herbs and helping with live births.
Her father’s rage from depression often manifests as violence, inflicting wounds and burns on all the siblings. They are not allowed to see a normal doctor and any illness must be treated using herbs from their mother’s ‘herbal’ pharmacy. Once Tara suffered from tonsillitis and her father made her stand with her mouth open in the sun for a whole month.
In her early 30s, Tara does something prolific. She follows her older brother’s example and secretly learns how to read. Tara eventually passes her ACT and is accepted to Brigham Young University. Her relationship with her father worsens and she leaves home in pursuit of further education. She has no idea about the Holocaust or Napoleon or other remarkable historical events. However her hunger to learn and her capacity to self-educate is recognised by her professors and she manages to secure a fellowship at Cambridge University first and then at Harvard University where she completes a PHD in history.
After what she has achieved and her enlightening journey, it is difficult to transition back to life in Idaho and the family she loves whose values and way of life are so different. A beautiful tale of inner conflict balancing family loyalty and the pain and loss that comes from the inevitable weakening of ties with the people so dear to your heart. A summer must-read.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2zCrFlS
18. The Line Becomes A River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú
At a time when the US-Mexican border is so topical, this book provides a moving account into the tragedies that take place on both sides of the border. Cantú — a second generation Mexican — American was born to an immigrant Mexican mother who is also a park ranger.
He grew up in the national parks and was very fond of the border which he visited so frequently. He pursued a degree in border relations and eventually joined ‘Border Patrol’. Having to enforce immigration laws as an agent is a difficult path to follow when you see the struggles of many immigrants who come from a similar path to his.
There is no right or wrong, only the grey zone — Cantú struggles with what he observes day-to-day — the drug cartels, the human trafficking, dealing with death and murder and having to send to detention the ones they find alive.
After a while he leaves this path to work in an office job instead. However he is haunted by the non-return of one of his friends who travels across the border to visit his dying mother in Mexico. His friend is detained for the simple crime of not having ‘proper papers’ to re-enter the US. His friend’s wife and sons are still in the US. Cantú is caught up in his friend’s civil trial, desperately trying to draw on his knowledge and contacts from his previous role in ‘Border Patrol’ to help him.
The memoir calls for the need to look beyond the black and white requirements of state policy and make a judgement call for the sake of humanity. A heart-breaking account that highlights how complicated the whole US-Mexico border issue really is.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2lXJjqr
19. Becoming by Michelle Obama
From one of the most influential women of our time, comes her highly awaited memoir, “Becoming”. Michelle Obama’s new memoir is out in November and it promises to be an intimate portrait of a lady who has inspired millions around the world. The book delves into her childhood, her work at the White House, her prolific public health campaign and motherhood.
Grab your copy here.
Best Political Books of 2018
20. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey
We see a personal side to Comey in this book as he conscientiously sets out to tell his side of the story. The memoir details Comey’s time at the FBI including his work under the Bush and Obama administration as well as his short stint working for President Trump.
He uses his legal training to present a compelling case for the decisions he made and the consequences of these decisions on the conclusions of the Clinton email scandal and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia.
And if you thought this book was about Trump-bashing, its not — 80% of the book is about Comey’s life and reads more as a fascinating and informative biography of his life than anything else, including some great anecdotes on what makes a great leader.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2MVuXlW
21. The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
The narrative king has once again churned this page-turner, spinning a political narrative on the inner workings of the Trump Government, pre-election to present day; depicting what we should be shockingly scared of. Understaffed departments, neglected agencies and unthinkable risks lurk round the corner. For example, black market uranium monitored by the Department of Energy lacks sufficient inspectors to prevent it from falling into terrorist hands — what does this mean? Well uranium is used for nuclear warfare and so the biggest nuclear risk is coming from the White House itself. Surprising insights into the most dysfunctional and complicated government on the planet.
22. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump Whitehouse by Michael Wolff
A fast-paced and dynamic account of what it is like to be part of the presidential team of one of the most controversial, hot-headed and outrageous president in US history in the first 9 months of his presidency.
The book includes details you will not find elsewhere including the conflict between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his chief strategist Steve Bannon, the letting go of James Comey and what it is like to work for Trump from the horses’ mouths.
Humorous and explosive, the book holds high entertainment value and confirms most things you might perceive Trump to be.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2IXSS1v
Best Mysteries and Thrillers Books of 2018
23. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
An adult thriller, The Woman in the Window, is a fast-paced page-turner that will leave you wanting more every time you put it down.
A woman living in New York city, separated from her husband, spends most of her day at home drinking, watching old movies and avoiding leaving the house. One day she comes across her new neighbours across the window who appear to be a normal family — a couple and their son. However the more she spends her time checking out their activities, the more she begins to see disturbing things.
Unclear as to whether it is the alcohol and pills and her own mind playing tricks on her or whether it is in fact hauntingly real, she cannot stop thinking about whether she needs to act on what she has seen.
An intriguing, psychological thriller. If you don’t want to read this one, wait for the movie as I am almost certain there will be one.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2ucdiP0
24. The President is Missing: A Novel by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
One for the political junkies who also enjoy a bit of drama and suspense. An unprecedented attack is set to hit the United States of America. It is not clear whether the President himself is the key suspect with talk of a traitor in the cabinet. The plot thickens as the President himself goes missing.
A dramatic thriller that takes place over three days, you’ll find yourself devouring the book. Authentic, with the detail only a president would know, both Patterson and Clinton are great content collaborators resulting in a fabulous cyberterrorism thriller that is due to translate into a TV series next year.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2J15cyl
Best Romance Book of 2018
25. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
If you’ve never been interested in the romance genre or have lost interest in it, then this is the book that will rekindle it. The book’s protagonist, Stella Lane, is a highly successful mathematician who uses data to determine what customers will purchase next.
This skill has allowed her to become wealthy at age thirty however where she excels in her money-making abilities, she struggles in the relationship category. Stella suffers from Asperger’s and barely has any dating experience. She decides to hire an escort to help her practice french-kissing with a professional.
Escort, Michael Phan, is a wonderful teacher whose lesson plan goes beyond the french-kissing to include foreplay and the missionary position amongst other things. Soon Stella finds herself craving more and more of the sexual activity with Phan, and she discovers the logic behind this craving.
Refreshing, unique and a different take on romance, Helen Hoang has carved out a name for herself and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2KBaGFm
Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books of 2018
26. The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
Short fiction with only a 100 pages of reading, Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing intertwines two very different stories: one about a group of female factory workers who die of radiation poisoning and that of an elephant put to death using electricity. Highly creative, Bolander weaves together two violent and abusive stories and leads us into a moral debate about the meaning of humanity and justice.
Whilst it may take a while to into, it is worth sticking out till the end — trust me you will be glad you did and its a short read anyway. Don’t forget the Kleenex too.
Grab a copy here: https://amzn.to/2J1ri3p
27. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan, a prolific writer on food, a Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley and a long-time contributor to the New York Times, talks about his new book on the potential benefits of psychedelics on the mind and their ability to fundamentally cure chronic mental and physical illnesses.
The book called How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence is largely inspired by his dying father who struggled and died from terminal cancer before the book was published.
Recent research suggests that psychedelics could amplify the power of psychiatry comparable to what the ‘microscope did for biology’ or ‘the telescope for astronomy’ as quoted by Stanislav Grof.
The book offers hope to readers that one day psychedelics might help treat people with life-threatening conditions such as cancer or difficult mental illness. Pollen, through his writing, offers hope and respite to others as a tribute to his 88-year old father. Compelling and beautifully written.
Grab a copy here: https://amzn.to/2J2mSJF
28. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking
This one was hungrily anticipated — it’s his final book and the last we’ll hear from him on the big questions of life (namely does God exist, threat of nuclear war, artificial intelligence, space colonisation and climate change) as he leaves us with his final thoughts on an unfinished quest of understanding the universe. The book comprises material from his personal archives and includes a foreword from Eddie Redmayne (the Oscar-winning actor who portrayed Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”) and an afterword from his daughter Lucy.
If you’re a first time Audible user, read it for free by signing up.
Best Humour and Entertainment Book of 2018
A collection of short stories, filled with humour and sharp observations on real life. “Calypso” by David Sedaris, will make you feel like you are hanging out with your favourite quirky friends — the ones who make you feel glad you are not one of them but whose company, thoughts, insight and stories you enjoy very much.
The stories are centred around his family relationships including his sister’s suicide, his obsession with the Fitbit and even include some funny observations on astrology.
If you are looking for something hilarious to read this is by the far one of the funniest books of 2018.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2zi1C39
Best Young Adult Books of 2018
30. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi
A debut novel from the Nigerian-American writer Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone is a wonderful fantasy novel set in Orïsha, and tells a tale of a battle against magic and those who wish to destroy it forever.
There is on-going violence against the maji people and the current monarchy. The setting draws parallels with the tribal warfare that still exists in many African countries today. Zélie, the heroine of the book, works closely with a rogue princess who has betrayed the monarchy to bring magic back and overthrow the monarchy.
Fast-paced, compelling with a colourful cast of characters it is little surprise that the book is due to be made into a movie by Fox Studios in collaboration with the producers of Twilight and the Maze Runner. And if you prefer to read the book then to watch the movie then read this and keep an eye out for the next one.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2MVKqCe
31. A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi
Written by a refugee herself, this is perhaps Abawi’s bibliotherapy.
The story unfolds in a city that is in the midst of war, and Tareq, the book’s protagonist, has to make some important choices if he is to survive. Daesh fighters threaten to kill and with daily public beheadings Tareq and his family have no choice but to leave their beloved country.
On a mission to flee through Syria, Turkey and Greece, the book tells a tale of resilience and courage in order to complete a harrowing journey for the sole purpose of surviving.
A powerful story that touches on rape, child trafficking and death it is a heavy read that is very well-written. It will give you full access to what it is like to be a refugee on a horrifying journey.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2uceAtk
Best Cooking, Food and Wine Books of 2018
32. Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook: 100 Tested, Perfected, and Family-Approved Recipes by Jennifer Segal
Popular food blogger and chef, Jennifer Segal, shares 100 tried and tested recipes for every meal of the day. The recipes are geared towards the busy working parent who is short of time but wants to cook a wonderful, gourmet meal for the family.
Full of helpful tips on seasoning and balancing flavours, it’s a great addition to any collection of cookbooks. And if that’s not enough the great selection of photos of each of the 100 recipes are delightful.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2KB4Yn3
33. Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines and Marah Stets
A number one New York Times bestseller, Magnolia Table, is a wonderful family recipe book of 125 recipes that range from American classics to ethnic delicacies. The book caters for a variety of meals throughout the day.
Personal stories, great photos and helpful notes make the book unique and different to other recipe books on the market with a delicious emphasis on farm-to-table methods. Simply mouth-watering.
Grab your copy here: https://amzn.to/2IZNo6F
Related articles you might enjoy:
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7 Books on finding greater connection to people and life
The Power of Self-love and Books to Get You Started
2019’s Best Summer Nonfiction Reads So Far
11 Fascinating Books on Motherhood
A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I create reading lists/personalised book prescriptions based on your individual needs, this is my signature personalised reading service. My book recommendations have featured in The Guardian, NBC News and Marie Claire. You can also check out Book Therapy’s free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation. And if you’d like to connect, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.booktherapy.io.
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Fabulous selection of the best of the best for 2018 – can’t wait to start adding to my list