I’m long overdue for a proper update post (soooooo overdue!), but I figured I ought to at least get my Best Reads of 2018 up before 2019 slips away from me. Last year, I read 41 of a hoped for 50, and honestly, I’m not disappointed with that achievement. 41 books ain’t bad! And what’s more, I read a ton of great books, which made it a little tricky to select my favorites. But only a little: five really stood out from the pack. I have been meaning to read this book since I saw the IMAX movie based on its account back when I was a pre-teen. In fact, it had been so long since I had decided to read it, I couldn’t actually remember much about what happened, save that it was bad, and people died. I’ve read a lot of science-adventure books this year, but Krakauer’s Into Thin Air takes the cake for the most gripping, informative read. While it convinced me–even in the high heat of this past summer–to never attempt Everest, it did give me a healthy education and respect for those who do so with thought and preparation. I can guarantee you will not be bored. What’s more, Krakauer’s style is beautiful and thoughtful. It holds the best line I read this summer that absolutely stopped me in my tracks and made me read it aloud to everyone who was near by: “[…] I closed my eyes and let the glutinous premonsoon heat cover me like a balm” (Krakauer, 281). I now need to read everything else he’s ever written. I can honestly say I have never read anything like Saga before in my life, but in the course of a single year, I have read just about every issue I can get my hands on, bought both multi-volume bindings, and will NEVER go back. This comic series isn’t going to be for everyone. Spoiler alert: there’s NO filter on this thing. The most primary question at the heart of the series is whether or not sex is the opposite of war, and if you’re remotely squeamish, brace yourself, Buttercup. But it is also beautiful and profound and horrifying and amazing and charming and just…WOW. If you’ve read Samuel R. Delany at all and enjoyed his work, you’re probably exactly the right audience member for Saga. I mean, it has an entire planet of hierarchical ARISTOCRATIC ROBOTS. That literally spells “love” for me. This is an amazing read. It can get a bit clunkier than Krakauer, but it’s so very nearly as gripping, despite going in the opposite direction: deep down into the earth. Caving and spelunking has always held an odd fascination for me. I wouldn’t say I’m claustrophobic, but there’s something about the idea of squeezing into ridiculously tight spots that freaks me out a little. (The Enigma of Amigara Fault, any of you Junji Ito fans?) This book, for the most part, does a fantastic job chronicling the exploits of the men and women who risk their lives for the love of caves. I learned SO much reading this one, and I’ve recommended it to almost everyone I’ve met since finishing it. It drags a little at the end, but it’s absolutely worth it. Sometimes, nothing is more alien than the world we live on. This is the only “organizational/self-help” book on the list, and the reason being it actually really helped me out. Its milage may vary for different people, but for me, it was a revelation. While I haven’t incorporated every detail of the mise-en-place methodology, my kitchen is almost always tidy (which, if you know me, is INSANE and a huge stress relief, as it was not that long ago the biggest frustration of my home life), and I absolutely love the sanity behind being honest about one’s time and how long tasks will take. As a chronic over-scheduler/optimistic-goal-setter, the idea of paying more attention to how much I can actually get done–reasonably–in a day was game-changing. While I still sometimes over schedule, I almost always do so knowing I’m biting off more than I can chew, and more often than not am able to pare back non-essential tasks or rearrange my week to a more manageable and realistic schedule. One day, I hope to be able to be as efficient and cool in moments of complex task-work as a professional chef, but for right now, I’m just glad that when I’m freaking out and running behind on things, I can remember the mantra: “Slow down to speed up.” That alone is worth the price of the book. I picked this one up while doing some book research and absolutely adored it. While there are places where it drags a bit, it’s worth checking out just for the myriad stories Konnikova references from famous cons. Some of the madcap schemers in this book will have you laughing out loud, even as the stories horrify you by how much and how easily they got away with what they did. I learned so much about how our own psychology works against us when we’re face-to-face with a scam. It’s also an incredibly useful text in the current socio-political environment, which makes us all the more desperate and likely to fall for the cunning plots of con artists. Just take Anna Delvey in New York City, or watch the latest Netflix documentary about the Fyre Festival: it’s all by the books conning, and reading this book will at least help you to understand how we get suckered, especially when we think we’re too smart to get conned.