This time of year, one is inundated with "best of 2018" lists, and I like to look at them both for recommendations and to see if there is an overlap. I frequently find the lists released by critics are far removed from the books I found to be the most enjoyable or moving, and I wonder whether many other readers feel the same. What were some of your favorites this year? Did your reading habits change at all? I started reading more nonfiction (really a change that began in 2016, I wonder why...) such as political books and cultural explorations. I also read very little YA and fantasy, staying true to my favorite genre, crime fiction. Few works of literary fiction were particularly moving or memorable for me, yet I did begin to read a little more poetry lately, which I have found to be rather refreshing.
So, without further ado and in not particular order, here are my best reads of 2018!
The Blackhouse by Peter May
This is the first in a trilogy, and though I have not yet read the others, I intend to. Peter May has a talent for creating a truly absorbing setting and the Isle of Lewis is as much a character as the compelling, if flawed Fin MacLeod.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
A graphic novel, Hey, Kiddo was definitely an unusual read for me. However, I think it can easily be counted among the most memorable I read this year. If you are reluctant to give this genre a try, I suggest starting here.
Revolution for Dummies by Bassem Youssef
I knew a little about Bassem Youssef, because I'd heard him perform as a comedian. I only recently found out he authored a book about his experiences in Egypt during and after the Arab Spring. It's at times witty and humorous and at others tragic and quite melancholy. If you are interested in learning more about this part of the world, and are reluctant to reach for a dry nonfiction tome, I would highly recommend this book.
The Piranhas by Roberto Saviano (translated by Antony Shugaar)
The Piranhas is not an easy read, because the whole time you have a slight, uncomfortable sense of doom. That being said, the language - eloquent and almost lyrical at times - provides a perfect contrast to the violence and brutality of life for these young men. Truly engaging, though very sad as well.
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry by Anthony Holden and Ben Holden
This book was quite out of my comfort zone, but I'm so glad I read it! The book is an anthology in which authors, actors, and other creatives choose a poem that moves them and explain why. While I didn't cry reading these poems, I could not help but be touched by many and the stories associated with them. A few of my favorites were: "Unfinished Poem" by Philip Larkin, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, "On My First Son" by Ben Johnson, "If I Could Tell You" by W.H. Auden, and "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night".
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Tin Man is a small book, but it tells a story I don't imagine I will be quick to forget. It's one of those quiet stories, spare in detail, but deeply moving all the same. If you're looking for something special with which to start the new year, I would recommend this one.
The Word Is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
On to something rather more humorous, though nothing with the word murder in the title should make me chuckle, unless I have a black soul indeed! Yet it was so, in this strange, original mystery which is oddly meta in that the author himself becomes a character. Looking forward to the sequel!
Yes We (Still) Can by Dan Pfeiffer
As soon as I heard about Dan Pfeiffer's book on his podcast Pod Save America, I was intrigued, and I am happy to report it lived up to expectations. It made me nostalgic and a little sad, but ultimately, the message is hopeful and it's a good reminder that the world has come through much worse than the current times. This observation should not, of course, breed complacency, but it should hopefully provide a tiny measure of relief and a bolstering of the ambition to bring about change.
The Day of the Dead by Nicci French
The final book in the Frieda Klein series did not disappoint! I was a little wary as I went into this, because I worried just how dark it could go, but I found it to be very satisfying and a solid ending to a clever series.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
I won't be the only one to mention this book on by "best of" list, but I can't omit it. It's shocking, frightening and tragic, yet the fact that the killer was actually found recently makes it truly compelling. I liked that McNamara gives so much attention to who the victims were, which brought compassion to an otherwise truly dark and horrible true story.
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
This is not a very deep or moving book, still I zipped through it, gripped from start to finish. It's a clever mystery and I kept guessing until the end. I don't even want to say more, for fear of spoiling it for anyone, but it's definitely a fun, gripping read:-)
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
This one may seem a bit of a wildcard, and to be honest, I was rather skeptical when I picked up my copy at the library. I'm glad to say, however, that I was wrong. In Other lands is a delightfully quirky book that is difficult to describe. It's part fairy-tale, part coming-of-age adventure, and part social commentary. I will definitely be reading more by this author in the future!