10 best books I’ve read in 2018

In 2018 I did better than a year ago. I have read 28 books which are 3 more than last year. At this pace, I will reach one book a week within a decade :). Such small progress is caused by the fact that I have been occupied by other projects (you can read more about that here) and those have consumed a lot of my time and attention. Reading this year was an escape for me, a refreshment for my mind. Anyway, I am still satisfied because it is MORE and we should all listen to wise people, like Confucius: 

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Most of the books that made it to top 10 are coming from foreign authors but what a patriot I would be if there weren’t any written by Polish authors? Not a very good one I guess. Especially that this year Poland celebrated 100 anniversary of independence! The positions in below list are in reading order. I couldn’t put them arranged up to the best cause they are simply too different from one another. 

The Light Between Oceans [Światło między oceanami] – M. L. Stedman 

At first glance, this is a book about love. Love to a partner and love to a child. About marriage and devotion. However to me, this story is all about being human – our weaknesses like selfishness, being narrow-minded and driven by stereotypes. About coping with grief and loss, but also hope and honor.

There is a movie based on it, starring Alicia Vikander, Michael Fassbender and Rachel Weisz. I had watched it right after I finished reading and it is a pretty close adaptation.

I had really liked this story even though it is profoundly sad, the characters face difficult decisions and the way they deal with them isn’t making it easy for a reader (or viewer) to like them. But that’s exactly what I like most about it – the kaleidoscope of feelings connected to these choices. 

One Hundred Sunless Days [Sto dni bez słońca] – W. Szostak

This position I haven’t picked myself – it was the first assignment from the book club I joined (created with some friends and friends of friends). Honestly, I wouldn’t read it otherwise because I usually don’t pick this kind of stories. It is written by a Polish author – Wit Szostak. A parody of academic environment along with fantasy literature. 

The reason this book made it to this list, is because of the discussion it caused between members of the book club and my personal sensations experienced while reading it. I think what I liked most was the variety of feelings I had for the main character – first he was irritating me and I didn’t like him at all (very condescending!), then I felt sorry for him and at the end, to my surprise, I even became to like him a little. 

Thinking, Fast and Slow [Pułapki myślenia – o myśleniu szybkim i wolnym] –
D. Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman is Noble Prize winner for his contribution in Economy. Thinking, Fast and Slow is a great book on human behavior that hands over to the reader tools to more conscious living by explaining how our minds work. Very interesting position highly recommended to everyone! Opens eyes and provides you with many fascinating stories about behavioral science experiments that you can use to shine at a social party. 

The Inner Life of Animals [Duchowe życie zwierząt] – P. Wohlleben

Mr. Wohlleben is a woodsman with over twenty years of experience so you can sure trust what he is talking about! You don’t need to be an eco-freak, hippie or vegetarian to enjoy The Inner Life of Animals. In fact, I dare to say you will be constantly amazed and sometimes even shocked while reading this book. Peter Wohlleben proves that animals can experience a wide variety of feelings and have their own personalities. 

The book has beautiful cover illustrations (in a similar style as first one published – The Hidden Life of Trees) so it is a pleasure even just to look at it.

Oh, and The Guardian loved it!

The Sellout [Sprzedawczyk] – P. Beatty

Another one from the book club! Was entirely not what I was expecting it to be. A great parody of American society, intelligently touching such issues like race identity and racism itself. It is funny, it is deep, it is smart, it forces you to think and reconsider your own judgments. Honestly, what more can you desire from a good book?

Woman in Science – R. Ignotofsky

A beautifully illustrated kids book that I fell in love with when I first saw it in Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum souvenir shop, in New York. I just had to have it. The Woman in Science – 50 Fearless Pioneers – Who Changed the World – states the full title – contains 50 inspirational life stories of a woman like: Hypatia, Ada Lovelace, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Edith Clarke, Rachel Carson, Hedy Lamarr, Mamie Phipps Clark or Katherine Johnson. Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, that is a shame because these brave women were all brilliant, brave and successful, making careers despite widely spread stereotypes.

I was saying to myself that I am buying this book for my future daughter or niece but really I did it for myself. I am afraid I will need to grow inventory of it for gifting :). It has the power to encourage and spread confidence among young women so they can follow the footsteps of amazing pioneers pictured in the book.

Move the Horizon [Przesunąć horyzont] – M. Wojciechowska

Martyna Wojciechowska is a polish journalist, chief editor of National Geographic and NG Traveller, writer, tv presenter and a woman who inspires thousands of people, including myself. Move the Horizon is a very well written, real story about challenging the Mount Everest. It gives an insight on how it is really like to be there, without pink sunglasses, only truth about many obstacles. Everyday fight with your own body, the weather, the mountain. Finally about strength, respect for nature and proving that impossible is nothing. Equipped with beautiful pictures from the Himalayas. This book gives me chills every time I think of it. Martyna Wojciechowska has a talent for writing about very difficult topics like death, without glorifying it, making it very human but still extremely emotional and touching.

Memoirs of a Space Traveller: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy
[Dzienniki gwiazdowe II] – S. Lem

Since I am a huge fan of Lem’s work – he had to appear here. Memoirs… are a set of stories describing adventures of space traveler Iljon Tichy. This book is the second part. I haven’t put here the first one because this one contains The XVIII-th Travel  – how Iljon is responsible for world creation – which is the funniest thing I read this year. Seriously! Other stories are quite amusing too, very bright and bringing afterthoughts to the reader. Extraordinary literature!

A Brief History of Time [Krótka historia czasu] – S. Hawking

Copy of this book that I own is actually the illustrated version. It is big and heavy, not really the first choice when considering a book for holidays. There is a more handy version of it available too – fitting nicely in a carry-on bag on a plane. I do think though that it is a book we all should have at home. Stephen Hawking is someone who doesn’t need any introduction, his books are explaining complex problems of theoretical physics in an easy to follow and understandable way for people that aren’t scientists. A Brief History of Time brings up topics of The Big Bang, black holes, nature of time and physicists‘ attempts to defying the grand unifying theory. It is a must-read for every geek interested in today’s science. It answers fundamental questions to our existence.

Alice in Wonderland [Alicja w krainie czarów] – L. Caroll

Obviously, it is not the first time I got familiar with this fairytale. I do have a copy of it at home among Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and others that were my bedtime stories when I was a child. The difference is that I read it now in the original version, not in polish. I did that in order to catch the small language jokes that almost always are lost in translation – and believe me, there are plenty of them here! 

‘I’m a poor man, your Majesty,’ the Hatter began, in a trembling voice, ‘- and I hadn’t begun my tea – not above a week or so – and what with the bread-and-butter getting so thin – and the twinkling of the tea-‘

‘The twinkling of the what?’ said the King.

‘It began with the tea,’ the Hatter replied.

‘Of course twinkling begins with a T!’ said the King sharply. ‘Do you take me for a dunce? Go on!’

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