I love book lists, but I get so anxious around the end of the year because all of the “best of” lists are so subjective! I prefer to hear about everyone’s favorite books in any given year, especially when they include backlist recommendations. (Because books don’t cease to exist after their release year, and to prove that it’s never too late to pick up a great book!)
Despite the deep internal agony that it inflicts upon my soul, I was bitten by the end-of-the-year book list bug! Here are my favorite reads of 2018! I could only narrow it down to 20, and already I feel bad about (most) of the 125 I excluded, and the 5 I left out that I hope to read by the end of the year. And all the books I didn’t read this year. There are just so many books, okay!
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
I spend approximately 1/4 of my life in the library and I still got really nerdy excited about all of the behind-the-scenes library work, especially since LA’s library system is about 1,000 times larger than my library. Plus, this book melds true crime and beautiful odes to library work and books and history so well. I was enchanted. Listen to the audiobook! Susan Orlean narrates and it’s wonderful.
Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner
Adrienne has mastered the precise flavor of self-deprecating, cutting sarcasm that I adore in a character, especially in underdogs like Brynn. Brynn has taken a few hits–her girlfriend broke up with her, her brother died, and she lost her position on the school paper. But she’s unable to let injustice slide by in her school, so she decides to do something about it (reluctantly), all the while writing her hero Rachel Maddow.
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
I’ve been looking for another author to add to my roster of “people to read in between Tana French’s releases” and Dervla McTiernan’s debut ticked all my boxes! It’s a great mystery that centers the victims and survivors of the crime to the story, while also bringing in a detective that I just really like. I’m already tapping my fingers impatiently for her next book!
The Last Best Story by Maggie Lehrman
This is the funny, smart rom-com of my dreams, and it has the best banter I’ve read all year! I love, love, love Rosie and Graham’s dynamic in this His Girl Friday retelling, and I’m in awe of Maggie for writing a novel about a very serious topic (guns in schools) that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the issue while still being a very funny story.
Force of Nature by Jane Harper
Jane Harper is my Australian Tana French. The Dry, her first novel, was one of my favorite books of 2017, and this one was just as good. I inhaled it in one afternoon, and I’m already antsy for her next release! Aaron Falk is a fascinating investigator, and I loves how she split half the book in his POV, and half in the POV of the group of women who go missing.
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Pride is definitely on my list of top five favorite Pride & Prejudice retellings. A lot of retellings tend to focus on the romance or crazy character dynamics, but I love that Ibi built her retelling on social commentary about changing neighborhoods and gentrification, which makes this book just so relevant and urgent. (And would make Jane happy, I think!) And the characters were brilliantly done, of course. Also–THAT COVER! 🔥
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
You know when you’re reading a book that’s so good that you can scarcely believe your lucky and your heart starts racing a little and your palms sweat, and you’re so thankful that you have at least a few hundred more pages but at the same time you want to call in sick so you can finish it right that second? Yeah, that was Tess for me. This is a beautiful, adventurous, moving fantasy. I loved it. I would hug it to my chest forever if I could.
Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough
Fun story, I was such a huge fan of Erin Gough’s first book, Get It Together, Delilah!, that I ordered this book from AUSTRALIA where it is already published and the website was sketchy and the shipping cost as much as the book, but reader, it was worth it! (A week after I finished the U.S. publication was announced, so you don’t have to go through what I went through…unless you can’t wait for May 2019, that is!)
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
This book has one of the best opening chapters I’ve ever read. I’m a huge Lily Anderson fan, but this book might be her best yet–a fat, unapologetic witch raises her recently-murdered best friend from the dead to find out who killed her…and gets more than she bargains for. It’s so funny and smart and if you’ve ever wanted to burn everything down, this book will satisfy your soul.
Florida by Lauren Groff
Believe it or not, this is my first Groff book! (Although I’ve been a huge fan since her takedown of men who don’t read women in NYT’s By the Book!) These stories are excellent–simmering with tension, passion, and unexpected danger. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Groff, and it was an experience I would actually repeat. I never re-listen to audiobooks, but this one would be worth it.
Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
I almost didn’t read this book, but I’m a sucker for a good family story, and this one turned out to be magnificent. I loved the tension between the three generations of mothers and daughters, and how we got to catch glimpses of each one through the years.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Look, it’s not every year that I predict the National Book Award winner, but I knew about halfway through this splendid audiobook (read by the author!) that it was going to win some awards. HAD to win awards. This is a most excellent, urgent, powerful story about finding your voice. Read it read it read it!!
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
I am a little in love with Maggie Hoskie, the badass heroine of this new series. Rebecca Roanhorse gives us the perfect example of a great emotional arc, and this book was just so much fun. Is it weird to think of post-apocalyptic Navajo nation plagued by demons as fun? Either way, I’m itching for the sequel!
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
I listened to this book early in the year, when I was making a sincere effort to get into audiobooks, because someone mentioned in passing that there were lesbians (I am predictable, okay?). You guys!!! Karen Memory is gay! Now, that’s not the only reason I liked this book (the voice is magnificent, the world is really fun, and it’s got a nice little murder mystery tucked into it), but I would’ve read it a lot sooner if someone had told me there were lesbians, so maybe you needed to hear that, too.
You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
If I were to write adult fiction, I think I’d want to write like Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved Eligible (another one of my top 5 fave Pride & Prejudice retellings), and this collection of short stories just solidified my love. I read this book in an entire morning, and I was sad for the rest of the day that I’d finished so quickly.
Emergency Contact by Mark H.K. Choi
I picked this book up in the bookstore on a whim, and I knew by page two that it would be coming home with me. The dry humor, the crippling self-doubt, the desperation to make something of yourself–it was all too real! Plus, the friendship-turned romance was excellent.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Look, I’ll read anything that Maureen Johnson writes, but an Agatha Christie-esque YA murder mystery set in a boarding school in Vermont??? Did Christmas come early?? I loved the humor in this one, and the puzzles! I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel!
The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the best burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding
This is the cutest book I read all year, and I mean that as a high compliment. I listened to the audio, which explains why I walked around with a dopey grin on my face for a week. Abby is just so funny and sweet and her crush on Jordi was relatable. I loved this fluffy romance.
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Earlier this year I finally read Gabi and I hated myself for not reading it sooner! Gabi reminded me of my teenage obsession with the Georgia Nicolson Diaries–Gabi is similarly uncensored and confessional, but I found her struggles and the questions she asked in her journal to be much more emotionally hefty and thoughtful, though no less hilarious. Her Halloween alone made me crack up.
Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks
I read a LOT of middle grade graphic novels for work, and this one leaps above the rest! It’s such a funny and adventurous friendship story with scary-fun stakes and a great sense of humor. I would read 10 more graphic novels about Sanity and Tallulah!