I’ve noticed a lot of people on blogs and Booktube have been doing their highest and lowest ranked books on Goodreads, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon! So I went onto my rated books on Goodreads, and sorted them by highest average rating. And my top 5 was interesting; if I had to guess beforehand what would have made it, none of these books would have. For one thing, no classics made the list. Whilst novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, and Half of a Yellow Sun made the top 20, they never got to the final five. Also, three of those five books are non-fiction. I would say the majority of my reading is fiction, so it is surprising that my reading tastes do not necessarily align with my tops reads.
It should be noted that I have only ranked books that have had over 1,000 ratings on Goodreads, just so I had a variety of opinions reflecting on these books. I’ve left links if I have reviewed them on my blog, along with the Goodreads synopsis and my thoughts reflecting back. But I shall stop rambling and dive straight in:
5. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (avg. rating: 4.37)
Plot: It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
Thoughts: I know a lot of people dislike The Book Thief or believe it is overrated, but I really enjoyed this one. This could purely be because I read it at the right time for me. I was not in a good place and wasn’t reading an awful lot (if anything), and this novel really helped rekindle my love of books. Is it the best written book, or the best one I’ve ever read? No; I’ll admit there are some flaws in the plot. But, for pure nostalgia factor alone, I have a major soft spot for The Book Thief so I can’t really dislike it.
4. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah (avg. rating: 4.46)
Plot: Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Thoughts: I reread this recently, and I really enjoyed it both times. Noah weaves both comedy and drama throughout the narrative, and the snippets he gives of his childhood are by turns hilarious and horrific. It is a great introduction for someone who knows little about apartheid in South Africa and wants to learn more, because it is very informative but also entertaining. Yet, the highlight for me is Trevor’s relationship with his mother. He never shies away from the uglier side of it but there is still this incredible love between them. Would recommend if you’re a fan of his comedy.
3. In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park (avg. rating: 4.48)
Plot: Park’s family was loving and close-knit, but life in North Korea was brutal, practically medieval. Park would regularly go without food and was made to believe that, Kim Jong Il, the country’s dictator, could read her mind. After her father was imprisoned and tortured by the regime for trading on the black-market, a risk he took in order to provide for his wife and two young daughters, Yeonmi and her family were branded as criminals and forced to the cruel margins of North Korean society. With thirteen-year-old Park suffering from a botched appendectomy and weighing a mere sixty pounds, she and her mother were smuggled across the border into China.
Thoughts: This book destroyed me when I read it. It was harrowing and just deeply disturbing; I wanted to stop reading but I couldn’t put the book down. In a similar way to Noah’s memoir, whilst Park’s is also dealing with incredibly dark subject matter, there always felt like a glimmer of hope. I think it was this that made me continue reading; this idea things can and will be better. Again, similar to Born a Crime, the importance of family also shines through, and the writers’ ties to their mothers in particular. It was also a fascinating glimpse into life in North Korea; a country I’ve never visited and only know some things about. A disturbing, but worthwhile read.
2. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas (avg. rating 4.51)
Plot: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Thoughts: Out of all the books on this list, this is the least surprising. YA tends to be popular, and thus rated highly, on Goodreads so I was expecting at least one YA book. Looking back on The Hate U Give, it was fine. I enjoyed it while reading it; I gave it a good review on the blog once I’d finished. But reflecting on it now, I don’t remember many details from the book. I remember the vague plot and the characters but nothing specific. Admittedly I don’t read a lot of YA, and I am not a part of its intended audience, so that could factor into why I’ve forgotten a lot of it. Teenage me would probably enjoyed it a lot more if it had been released in her time, but my tastes have changed since then so that probably accounts for my thoughts now.
1. Letter from Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King Jr (avg. rating: 4.54)
Plot: This landmark missive from one of the greatest activists in history calls for direct, non-violent resistance in the fight against racism, and reflects on the healing power of love. This edition also contains the sermon ‘The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life’.
Thoughts: What else is there to say about Martin Luther King Jr? Letter from Birmingham Jail, despite being a slim volume containing only two of his speeches, managed to make my top books of 2018. It is an incredibly powerful, moving piece of work, highlighting Dr King’s passion for civil rights as well as his incredible skills as a writer and orator. He gets his points across in a clear, articulate manner whilst never losing the anger at the injustices he witnesses. A book everyone should read at least once.
And that’s my top 5 highest rated books on Goodreads! This was interesting looking into what others liked vs what I did. Tempted to do the lowest rated and see if I agree with the Goodreads community too! I will be back to reviewing on Monday, and might even have a fun wee post up on Saturday too, so look out for that! Until then, let me know what you think about any of the books mentioned.