Ten Best Books of 2018
It’s time for what might be my favorite post of the year to write- the best of 2018 list!
I created this list by first going through all of the books read in Goodreads. I only wanted books that were published in 2018 (my best of the backlist is here). I narrowed it down to the books that resonated the most with me that were also very of the moment. My picks have strong writing, memorable characters, and/or a plot that I couldn't stop thinking about. These are books that I must have on my bookshelf and ones that I want to share with my friends.
For the last two years, my favorite books of the year were also picked by Book of the Month as the best (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things for 2016 and The Hearts Invisible Furies in 2017). My top 2018 top pick was also a BOTM book- but it remains to be seen what their “best of the year” will be.
Here, in no particular order, are the 10 Best Books of 2018. According to me.
My #1 Favorite of 2018
An American Marriage | Tayari Jones | Review
Oprah's Book Club Pick, Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction
A young black Atlanta couple are on the come up until the husband gets thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. This was the 2nd book I read this year, but the story of Celestial and Roy had enough staying power to keep its hold at the top of my list. Their plot is told told via alternating viewpoints and through letters, and I was angry, sad, and moved by each of the players at different times. Read this if you’d like to think about social issues via one couple's story.
The Best of Rest
There, There | Tommy Orange
10 Best New York Times, Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction
Tommy Orange is a Native writer who created a story about modern day Native Americans. This novel opens with a provocative essay dismantling the stereotypes most Americans have about the Native American culture and goes on to share individual stories about a lot of loosely related characters. They’re all meant to converge at the Big Oakland Powwow- some with nefarious intent. I typically don’t like books with elaborate writing or too many characters, but Orange made it work.
Becoming | Michelle Obama
I was absolutely blown away by Michelle Obama's memoir. Of course I loved reading about her time in the White House and her thoughts politics, but I was even more interested in her life before being the First Lady. Her story was honest and inspiring. It made proud to be from Chicago and miss the Obama White House more.
Book Riot Best Books of 2018
This is why we true crime. Michelle McNamara was a true crime journalist determined to unmask the criminal that she dubbed The Golden State Killer. He was a violent predator who terrorized Northern California for over ten years, before disappearing for decades. In April 2018, just two months after her book was published, he was caught. The writing is strong and she seamlessly weaved facts in with a narrative. There was immense detail and the book could have been extremely dry, but she brought a human element into the victims and survivors. I also appreciate that the book wasn't exploitative. This is a must for fans of true crime.
I think this is my most underrated pick. This is the fictionalized account of what happened to the real life Donner party with a supernatural twist. The Donner party was a group of 90 pioneers who set off for California in 1846. Only half made it to their destination and it's thought that they had to resort to cannibalism to survive. This book was spooky, atmospheric, and totally chilling. I think this would be a great pick for fans of Stephen King.
The Great Believers | Rebecca Makkai
10 Best New York Times, Finalist for the National Book Award
This is a look at the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s via the story of a Chicago group of friends. The story will stay with me and I called Fiona one of my all time favorite characters. This is a longer book but I was happy to be with these characters to see how everyone's lives turned out. This would be a great companion book to A Little Life and The Heart's Invisible Furies.
Bad Blood | John Carreyrou
Book Riot Best Books of 2018
This is the incredible true story of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos, that alleged to be able perform over 200 blood tests from just a finger prick. She was able to get investors and scientists to sign on and grew it to be a multi-billion dollar company. Problem is- the technology never worked. A perverse piece of me is happy to see a woman the helm of such a massive scam, but then I think about all of the wasted resources and the feeling passes. John Carreyrou did a fantastic job investigating the story and synthesizing all of the information into an incredible narration. If you're at all interested in true crime (or just unbelievable true stories)- definitely read this one.
The Great Alone | Kristin Hannah
This book finally proved to me that historical fiction isn't boring. Young hippie parents move their daughter to Alaska to get off the grid and start a new life. Problem is, they were horribly unprepared to survive in this climate and have to rely on their neighbors for help, much to the father's dismay. I loved the characters, Hannah's beautiful writing, and the vivid setting. It's a story about family, resilience, strength, and survival. I didn't always agree with the characters choices but damn it if this book didn't make me feel.
Educated | Tara Westover
10 Best New York Times, Book Riot Best Books of 2018
A young woman goes from being “home schooled” in rural Idaho with her survivalist family to getting her PhD from Cambridge. I was initially reluctant to read this because I thought it was going to be preachy and self- congratulatory but it wasn’t at all. I loved the author’s tone and was continually shocked that the events she outlined weren't fiction. Fair warning- these stories are brutal!- but that makes her success all the more impressive.
Waiting for Eden | Elliot Ackerman
This was a big surprise to me. Think The Things They Carried meets The Lovely Bones. Eden is a Iraq war veteran who's badly burned, bed ridden, and on the verge of dying. His story is told via the viewpoint of this best friend, who is in a state of purgatory after being killed in the same blast that injured Eden. Eden's wife Mary is struggling between taking care of their young daughter and doing what's best for her, and making the best choice for her husband. This book is short but so moving- with themes of family, friendship, and the price of war.
I’d love to see your favorites of the year- let me know in the comments below!
I somehow missed writing an overall “best of” post in 2017- but here were my 2016 favorites. I’d still recommend each of these, so it’s nice to see my recommendations have staying power!
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