As ever, it feels like life is a wheel that I’m inside, frantically trying to keep up and save myself from rolling away entirely. So while most people are full of their looking forward to in 2019 posts, and reading resolutions, I’m still stuck on trying to assess how 2018 went and what I did. For the first Tuesday of this year, I’m looking back at what my top ten books of last year were, and a few thoughts about them. Hopefully there’ll be some equally as cracking books in my repertoire for 2019, if I have the time to read them!
I’m excluding re-reads from my top 10, because, well, I feel like it. I also excluded non-fiction, although I did rate two really excellent non-fiction books at 5 stars in 2018. In fact, I’ll just mention those here, and then I’ll talk about my top ten fiction.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Written in 2016, I read this mostly for work but also because I wanted to get a tiny insight into the lives of people of colour in the UK. This was a really interesting and phenomenally well-written primer on the experience of systemic racism which is entrenched in the lives of non-white British people, which opened my eyes even more to the privilege which I was faintly aware I hold, but often am reluctant to acknowledge. To suggest that we live in a post-racial society in 2018 is to arbitrarily dismiss the experience of millions of people who are systemically discriminated against, and this book was a hugely enlightening – although I wouldn’t necessarily say enjoyable – experience, which I would recommend to anyone.
Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men by Lundy Bancroft
I read this one because I often see it recommended on forum sites or relationship advice, especially where the poster is in a controlling or abusive relationship. Written with a very American and confusingly male-focused gaze, this book was really very interesting, but also very hetero-normative. That said, acknowledging its weaknesses, it was a fascinating and deeply disturbing insight into the mindsets of abusive and controlling men, how society reacts to them, and just why it can be so difficult to get out of a relationship which, from the outside, seems to be unrelentingly horrible for the victim of that abuse. Definitely worth reading, especially if you are struggling to understand the mindset of someone who is trapped in an abusive relationship.
With that said, onwards to my top ten (fiction!) books of 2018!
These are in no particular order, by the way, because I’m actually terrible at picking favourites. They’re just all equally ranked as ‘best’, and numbered only so that I can make sure that I’m actually talking about the correct number of books.
1. La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) – Philip Pullman
I was so stoked to read this. I LOVED His Dark Materials, even though neither of my sisters was half as keen on it, and I was so excited to return to the world of Lyra’s Oxford. Although very different to HDM, La Belle Sauvage was no less brilliant, and I cannot wait for the second and third books in this trilogy to drop.
2. The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars – Michael Dante DiMartino, Irene Koh
This graphic novel in three parts is the followup to the illustrated series The Legend of Korra, which in itself is the followup to the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender. I really loved how the creators ended the series, with a fledgling romance between Korra and Asami. Constrained by the limits of creating a PG-7 series, it was very heavily implied, but not explicitly stated, that this f/f relationship was becoming a thing. The graphic novel from Dark Horse doesn’t have those same constraints (as an aside, I don’t see how a f/f relationship depiction which is every bit as chaste as the many m/f relationships on the show would be skirting the bounds of child-appropriate, but that’s a discussion for another day), and so it allowed the relationship between Korra and Asami to flourish, against the backdrop of Republic City trying to deal with a new spiritual portal which appeared in the middle of their city. I LOVED this. It was beautifully drawn, a really engaging story, and I absolutely adored the romance between the two lead characters, because it was so supportive, and very much a relationship between equals. Even Mako’s coming to terms with his two ex-girlfriends being in a relationship was wonderfully done. I am so excited for Ruins of the Empire, the first part of which comes out in May this year, to continue on with Korra’s story.
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
I wrote a full review of this, so there’s not much more I need to say, but I can just reiterate that I absolutely adored this epistolary novel set in and around post-war Guernsey. The relationships between the Guernsey residents, the developing interest that Juliet has in the island, its residents, and the unfolding story of how they coped with occupation during the war was beautifully done. I knew very little about the Channel Islands before I read this book, not even realising that they had been occupied, and this was a really interesting and heartfelt depiction of life there. I heartily recommend. I also have been meaning for months and months to watch the film version of this, but have yet to actually get around to it.
4. Far From the Tree – Robin Benway
Again, I wrote a full review of this, so I don’t have too much to say here, but I really loved this as well. A deserved spot in my top ten, this lyrical investigation of family, love, and what ties siblings together was heartbreaking and heartwarming, and I cried buckets reading it. I only bought it because it was on special for 99p, but Robin Benway is now On My List, and I’m going to start looking at her back catalogue as well.
5. The Flatshare – Beth O’Leary
I loved this too, but because it was an ARC, I can’t share too much about it. My full review will go up on publication day, so in the mean time I just have to reiterate that this was fun, funny, sweet, and had two such distinct narrative voices that I really loved. Definitely one to watch out for.
6. Save the Date – Morgan Matson
I’ve read a few Morgan Matsons, and while they’ve been enjoyable, I don’t think I would have rated her as highly as, say, Sarah Dessen. Well this book might have changed that. Save the Date blew me away by being the perfect YA contemporary. Set around weddings (I love!), including a big family (I love!), with a quirky love interest (yes please!), and just so much heart, this was an absolutely entrancing escapist read. With cute little comics at the start of chapters! I didn’t even know that’s a thing I loved in books, but I love it now!
7. Sadie – Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers write such unflinching books. Everything she writes reaches into my heart and twists it and makes me look at things I’ve been trying to avoid. Sadie is one of those books. Starkly brilliant, it dives into the consumer culture of true crime, girls as victims, and the podcast industry, and it’s brill. It also, in a bizarrely and intriguingly meta twist, has a podcast – The Girls. Which is just wonderful. And chilling.
8. Beautiful Broken Things – Sara Barnard
I adored this book. It hit me right in the heart and made me cry (which, okay, not particularly difficult, but whatever) and lingered in my brain for ages. When I found out Sara Barnard was writing a sequel I was thrilled! I’m actually reading Fierce Fragile Hearts right now, and it’s every bit as good. So gorgeously written. So wonderfully tender. Such a great exploration of friendship and support, and how sometimes even that isn’t enough.
9. The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed
Every time I think about this book I wonder why I didn’t review it in full. It was so wonderful. The story of three girls tackling rape culture in their school, this investigation of female sexuality and the constraints that are placed on it was so delicately drawn I loved every word. Amy Reed is another author whose back catalogue I’m going to have to investigate!
10. Charmcaster/Soulbinder – Sebastien de Castell
I’m cheating with this entry, because it’s actually two books, but I don’t care, I’m doing it anyways. Books three and four in Sebastien de Castell’s Spellslinger series are every bit as snarky, witty, gross, magical, and filled with sarcastic, magical squirrel cat as the first, and I am loving them. I can’t wait to see how the story ends, as Kellen’s development from wannabe mage to outcast, outlaw, and Shadowblack has been so fraught with difficulty but still so endearing. I’m on my knees waiting for Queenslayer, the last in the series. Who is the queen being slain? Who’s doing the slaying? What’s going to happen? I’m so excited.
So those are my top ten (uh, thirteen) books from 2018 – hopefully 2019 will have as many gems in there! What should I read next, based on these beauties?