Top Reads of 2018

 

I had a wonderful reading year, and while I’m still tallying my stats to share with you I can say I read more in 2018 than I have ever read in my life so far!

My back-list favorite was undoubtedly East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and my 2018 release favorite was a tie between Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woollett and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The rest I list in no particular order, but I wanted to share a line or two about why I loved each. I’ve also linked to my goodreads reviews in case you want to know more.

I can’t even share a lovely stack photo of them all as I read so many as e-books or passed them on to friends to read once I was done!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

This book was the complete package for me – incredible prose, a captivating story that spanned multiple generations, and has made me fall in love with Steinbeck’s writing again! I’m currently reading his travel memoir, Travels With Charley and it is just incredible! If you’re aiming to read more modern classics in 2019 I can’t recommend starting with Steinbeck highly enough! This is now a tie with To Kill a Mockingbird as my all-time favorite book!

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This had my by the heartstrings from very early on, and Kya is a character that will stay with me a long time! I adored the prose and landscape of this story so much, but most of all was floored by the way Delia Owens wrote Kya. Gorgeous story, incredibly clever, and literally transported me to the marshes of North Carolina. I loved this so much I sent a copy to my mother-in-law for Christmas!

Beautiful Revolutionary by Laura Elizabeth Woollet

I may have found a new favorite Australian author in Woollett! This looked at a cast of characters involved in the Jim Jones Peoples Temple cult, the descent into the mania and an examination of what drew these people in! The writing in this is just epic, and the ability of Woollett to give us so many perspectives without losing us along the way is just sublime!

The Air You Breathe by Frances De Pontes Peebles (more in depth review to come!)

This was a lyrical and captivating story about friendship and the quest for fame set against the backdrop of wartime Brazil and Hollywood. The tempo of the narrative matched the pace of a samba, and kept the reader’s finger on that pulse to the final page – a very moving read!

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I read this early in the year and it is one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read! Stevenson’s career is nothing short of inspirational and the cases he shares are devastating and moving – I have recommended this to friends countless times this year and will continue to do so.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro

There are few stories about marriage that really engage with the more unspoken issues of fidelity and lust in an intelligent and articulate way. This manages to be a really considered and engaging narrative, with characters that I fell into step with quickly. The prose is literary and structurally I loved the dance between narrative and epistolary content. This book isn’t talked about enough which genuinely baffles me!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

It seems an appropriate moment to talk about this other gem of a novel, which while about marriage it really goes so much deeper. It tackles racial injustices in the US and immerses the reader into some confronting decisions that immediately question where loyalties lie. I see many reviews talking about which of the male perspectives they support in this, but I am firmly #TeamCelestial. For me this was about her narrative and the impossibility of what she was asked to decide. A moving read and one that has stayed with me all year since reading it.

Unsheltered and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

This was the year I read my first Kingsolver, and then proceeded to read another two of her books soon after! The combination of phenomenal prose and the tackling of broader social issues was a winner for me, and I can’t wait to dive into more of her works in 2019.

Flames by Robbie Arnott

This was a beautiful collision of nature writing and magical realism – the stories were strange and gorgeous all at once. It is one of the most unique stories I have read in a long time, and one of the few books I’d like to re-read in the future! Cannot recommend this new Australian release enough!

Educated by Tara Westover

This was one of the most gripping and unique memoirs I have ever read. Tara’s story was as compelling as her abilities to capture it all, and the recognize the fragilities and limitations of memory in the process. A wonderful, if confronting, read.

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

One of the few hyped books this year that completely lived up to that when I read it. I think I’m realizing that multi-generational family narratives are some of my favorites to read, and this managed to also engage with expectations and identity and how those are all entwined in a migrant experience. This moved me to tears and I still think of the characters!

Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman

This is a powerful and creative exploration of the colonization experience in Australia, with a science fiction edge. It gave agency in this narrative back to those exploited by history, and has so many thought-provoking takeaways for indigenous experiences globally.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This was a quietly clever read, which mesmerized me with gloriously awkward main characters and their fumbling relationship. It engages with more meta issues like mental health and abuse by leaving so much unsaid. Usually this would drive me mad and feel like avoiding the topic, but somehow it works beautifully and is just superbly written.

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

This was an imaginative and unique perspective on the global reach of slavery, and a powerful discussion of the role of agency in these narratives. Highly recommend and still quietly shattered that this didn’t win the 2018 Man Booker Prize!

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Bri Lee is a fresh voice and a powerful young advocate who is doing remarkable work in Australia. Her writing is visceral, unapologetic and wonderful – this is an important work for putting the experience of victim’s in the criminal justice system on the agenda. It is unique to have had the experience Lee had on either side of the legal system so early in a career too, and it makes for a powerful read!

The Agonist by Shastra Deo (full review to come!)

This was a standout poetry collection for me this year, and I’ve popped it on the list near Bri Lee’s book as she was the one who pointed me in the direction of it! The writing and imagery in this is gorgeous, and I look forward to reading more of Deo’s work!

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