Happy New Year! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is the top books we read in 2018. I already posted about the 30 best books I read in 2018, although that list didn’t include some recent reads like Maggie O’Farrell’s I Am, I Am, I Am, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, and Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom.
Instead of posting a list, this year I thought I’d break out favorites by categories.
Best published in 2018: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was one of my favorite reads this year. The strength of this book is in the relationship of its two main characters, but I also appreciated the issues raised about criminal justice in the United States.
Best backlist read: I loved everything about We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I’d been putting off this read for years, probably because the story didn’t sound that appealing (it’s about a family that raises a chimpanzee and their daughter together). Thanks TBR Pile Challenge!
Best ARC or review request: I stumbled across Happiness by Aminatta Forna and I loved it. Not a perfect novel, maybe, but some of the most interesting and likable characters I read this year, and it raised a lot of thoughtful issues.
Best unexpected favorite: I wasn’t sure I’d like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, because I didn’t like the beginning at all, and I didn’t want to read a book that minimized mental/behavioral health issues. But I really got into this book and it wasn’t what I expected.
Best new-to-me author: I loved Women’s Prize winner Home Fire by Kamala Shamsie, and Pulitzer Prize winner Less by Andrew Sean Greer.
Best short stories: check out Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah. I loved the writing and the diverse perspectives shown in these stories, and I also liked the mix of realism and strangeness.
New-to-me series: hands down, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I love Bardugo’s focus on the emotions of her characters and their histories. Most series fantasy books are all about magic and action, rather than character. I love this world and can’t wait to read more from this author.
Best book set in another country: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay is a book I won’t forget any time soon, a book not only about trauma but about recovery. In addition, I recommend Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao, set in India, and Who is Vera Kelly? By Rosalie Knecht set in Argentina. Both were powerful, if sometimes a bit raw, debut novels.
Best science fiction/fantasy: I was riveted to After Atlas by Emma Newman. Though a bit gory at times, its portrayal of the future is terrifying. I also loved The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden, which was just as good as her first book, and Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly, a hard to classify novel set in a 1930’s-like alternate world.
Best historical fiction: My favorite is The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gowar, set in 18th century England. Also worth reading were Transcription, Who is Vera Kelly?, and We Were The Lucky Ones. One you probably won’t have heard of is Anthony Groom’s The Vain Conversation, a book that provided a very vivid picture of the impact of lynching in the United States.
Best nonfiction: I read so much great nonfiction this year! Two of the most powerful reads were Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy (I will now be giving to the Equal Justice Initiative regularly) and David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon. But I also loved Michelle Obama’s memoir, because it gave me a better understanding of exactly why I admire both her and her husband so much. I loved America Ferrera’s essay collection, American Like Me, because it highlighted so many different perspectives. I found Maggie O’Farrell’s sort-of-memoir I Am, I Am, I Am really powerful, partly because of my own near-death experience as a teen (but mostly because she’s an amazing writer). And Sarah Vowell didn’t disappoint with Lafayette and the Somewhat United States, her clever, humorous, and enlightening take on the American Revolution.
Those were my favorite reads of 2018. Here’s to more good reading in 2019!