Are ready to see which books made the 2019 Read This Not That List? Find out which bestselling books I loved, and which overrated books I didn’t like.
It has officially been one year since I launched my first blog. My, how much changes in a year. A year ago, my sister and I launched our website for savvy millennial women. We wanted to help them live, work, and travel better. And as a side note, I also wanted to write about books.
One of our very first posts was a book list I wrote – Don’t Buy the Hype: Read This Not That. I decided to pick 7 bestselling books I loved and 7 overrated books I didn’t. It was a great idea, terribly executed. Luckily, my sister was there to help teach me how to write better book descriptions.
My post was an instant success. It single-handedly fueled almost all our page views – for months. Even now a year later, it still gets thousands of page views a month, only surpassed by our 2019 Reading Challenge.
To commemorate the first birthday of my blog, it’s time to do it again. From all the books I read in 2018, I selected 7 bestsellers worth the hype and 7 more overrated books. Some are recent bestsellers, some were on The New York Times bestselling list years ago, But all have some name recognition.
I tried my best to group the books into similar pairs. I started with the overrated books and picked a bestseller I loved that would pair well.
Don’t agree with me. Let me know! I promise I can take it. I’d love to hear which bestsellers you think are overrated books and which are worth the hype.
Coming off The Nightingale, her wildly successful World War II novel, Kristin Hannah’s next book explores the untamed wilds of Alaska. A recently returned Vietnam War POW, Ernt Allbright decides to move his family to the Alaskan frontier. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers and just what Ernt needs. But when the harsh Alaskan winter approaches and Ernt’s mental state begins to deteriorate, his wife and daughter must fight to survive. A captivating, stay-up-all-night novel that is one of 2018’s best reads.
Celeste Ng made my Read This Not That list last year with her beautiful novel Everything I Never Told You. Well, she’s back this year, but not on the same side of the list. Little Fires Everywhere combines the story of the Richardson family and their free-spirited renters the Warrens, while describing a custody battle for a Chinese-American baby. Maybe I’m being too harsh. Ng is a great writer – but I didn’t feel like I got anything out of this story.
Book Club Favorites
For years, Kya Clark has survived alone in the marshes of the North Carolina coast. Dubbed “The Marsh Girl” by the locals, she was abandoned by her family and has been raised by nature itself. Now, as she comes of age, she begins to yearn for something more than her loneliness – maybe even a connection with the locals. An exquisitely written tale that quickly became one of 2018’s bestselling books, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of 2018’s must-reads.
Hoping that the local historical society will pay for much-needed repairs, Willa Knox starts digging into the history of her house. What she finds is a kindred soul in Thatcher Greenwood, a science teacher who lived there decades ago – an early proponent of Darwin’s theory of evolution. I loved her novel, The Poisonwood Bible, but this tale was dull, dull, dull. Comparing the upheavals of financial troubles with evolution seemed a bit much. Plus, whenever you start to get a tad bit into the story, it switched time periods, and you have to start all over again. Also, did I mention it was dull?
Mystery & Thriller
A. J. Finn
Imagine Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rear Window meets the novel The Girl on the Train. 2018’s hottest psychological thriller peeks into the life of Anna Fox, a New York City recluse who, spying on the family across the street, witnesses a shocking event. With its unreliable narrator and layers of secrets, The Woman in the Window will keep you guessing to the end. If you read lots of thrillers, maybe you’ll be able to guess the twist, but I sure didn’t. This fun read kept me up late into the night because I simply had to know what was going on.
Happy-go-lucky Toby’s life changes in an instant when he startles two burglars and is then beaten and left for dead. Trying to recover from his extensive injuries, Toby moves back to his family’s estate to care for his dying Uncle Hugo. Yet, when a skull is found in a trunk of an elm tree in the garden – Toby is forced to reevaluate what he knows about the past. Unfortunately, The Witch Elm takes 200 pages just to get to the discovery of the skull. You’d think from there it would pick up, but no. From there it plods along ever so slowly, without much of a thrill, to cap it off with a “plot twist” that felt all wrong. Most aggravating read of the year for me.
Selected by Oprah Winfrey for her book club, An American Marriage is one of the top fiction books of 2018. At first glance, newlyweds Celestial and Roy seem like the perfect American couple. He’s a young executive, and she’s an emerging artist. However, when Roy is falsely imprisoned for a crime, their marriage struggles to survive the strain. Discussing love, marriage, and race, this thought-provoking read is one to add to your to-read list.
Marketed as the perfect spot to turn over a new leaf, Tranquilium House is a luxurious and remote health resort. Ready for a change, nine strangers gather together for their life-changing stay. Could these ten days of pampering, relaxation, and mindfulness have all the answers they are seeking? Or would it be better to leave this resort and never look back? Or is it already too late? I know I’m being a bit harsh here. At the time, I enjoyed reading it, likey because I had just read the horribly dull books The Witch Elm and Unsheltered. However, I have to admit that objectively I think this book belongs on the overrated books list. Especially since the ending veers way off into left field.
Sometimes it takes doing something crazy, like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, for you to truly put your life in order. By 22, Cheryl Strayed’s life felt out of control, so she decided to make a life-changing decision to hike the PCT. Her story (and the subsequent movie) have inspired many women to search to find themselves in a similar fashion. While I don’t think everyone needs to go on a crazy hike as she did, all of us could sometimes use a reset on our lives. You’ll laugh at Strayed’s mishaps, be in awe had her stupidity and bravery, and, if you are like me, really want to go for a hike.
At the top of my overrated books list would probably be Eat, Pray, Love. Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir of self-discovery as she eats her way through Italy, studies meditation in India, and finds love in Indonesia was not for me. Watching a 30-second segment of Julia Roberts eating glorious food in Italy – entertaining. Having Gilbert drone on about it for chapters – boring. I feel as if I got conned into paying for the vacation of a very whiny rich lady.
Continuing my bestsellers list, I thought I’d jump over to science fiction. Living in a highly segregated society on Mars, Darrow belongs to the Red caste, the lowest of the low. Darrow is happy with his lot in life knowing that the Reds’ hard labor is getting Mars ready for future generations. Until Darrow realizes it’s all a sham. The elite Gold Caste is simply using the Reds as slave labor. Can Darrow overthrow the Golds and restore freedom for the Reds? For the first book in the series, picture The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game – giving you an exciting and fun read full of action.
Is it fair to compare Artemis to Andy Weir’s bestselling novel The Martian? Maybe not, but I’m going to do it anyway. While The Martian is every bit a bestseller worth the hype, Artemis is completely not. Set on a lunar city, Artemis follows brash smuggler Jazz Bashara accused of murder. Artemis tries to be a sci-fi murder mystery and thriller all rolled up in one and fails miserably. It doesn’t help that I disliked all of the characters. Can we just bring back Mark Watney?
Young Adult Fantasy
The book world was abuzz in 2018 with excitement for this fantasy Young Adult novel, and rightfully so. Zélie Adebola watched as a ruthless king ordered the death of her mother and all the other maji attempting to rid the world of magic. With one last chance, Zélie must use the help of a rogue princess to restore magic before the crown prince manages to eradicate magic for good. Beautifully blending Nigerian mythology, symbols from the Yoruba religion and young adult fantasy, Tomi Adeyemi shines in her debut novel.
I’ll probably get a ton of flak for listing this one among my overrated books because Cassandra Clare has a much-beloved fandom. However, I could not stand her first book in The Mortal Instruments series. Clary Fray goes to a club not expecting to witness a murder – a murder only she can see. From there, she is thrust into the world of the Shadowhunters – a society dedicated to protecting the world from demons. Think Twilight meets Supernatural / Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you prefer well-written novels – I would suggest giving this one a pass and leaving it to the teenagers.
Let me hear it! What overrated books have you read recently?