Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Best Books of 2018!

I spent most of 2018 renovating a townhouse and moving from our home of twenty-two years to our new home while work was still in progress. My ability to concentrate as walls came down, drywall went up, and dust found its way into the tiniest of openings left me questioning my sanity. Thankfully, great books offered me escape, mental stimulation, and the ability to see that life existed beyond the demands of building inspectors with Napoleonic tendencies. 

Yesterday, on the first day of the New Year, my son helped me move several boxes from our basement to the second-floor loft where the best cabinet makers built me new bookshelves. As I unloaded and began alphabetizing my favorites, I recalled how so many of them had enriched my life. These are the best books I read in 2018. Descriptions of all of them are on my annual list. Titles with a hashtag (#) have links to full reviews. See also the 2018 lists of the Best Mysteries, Suspense, and Thrillers and the Best Books for Escape. 

The Best Book of 2018!
Educated by Tara Westover will knock you over with a feather with prose that places you inside the exceptional life of Tara Westover. This memoir holds its own beside Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club, Alexandra Fuller’s Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, and Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle as the best examples of resilience and hope in modern literary history. Tara Westover’s survivalist family kept her working at home so she didn’t attend school until she was 17. With little help, she taught herself enough to get into college where she didn’t know about the Holocaust or that she should wash her hands after using the toilet. This riveting page-turner features magnificent prose. Read it and select if for your book club.

The Best Novels I Read in 2018 (in alphabetical order because I love them like my children and cannot select a favorite):
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (2017)
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais (2017)
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (2017)
There There by Tommy Orange
The Unmade World by Steve Yarbrough
Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandan Hobson

The Best Historical Novel I Read in 2018 (set at least 50 years ago):

Book shelving in progress thanks to Crestwood Custom Cabinets*

The Best Books for Book Clubs I Read in 2018 (in addition to those listed in the best books above all of which would be great for book clubs):
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue (2016)
Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (2014)
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (2017)
The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivak (2017)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy (2012)
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

The Best Debut Fiction I Read in 2018 (also great for book clubs):
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin
There There by Tommy Orange
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The Best Books for Book Clubs Looking for an Easy Read and a Good Discussion:
How Hard Can It Be? By Allison Pearson
The Story of Arthur Truluv and Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017)

The Book You Must Read After You Read Hillbilly Elegy:
What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte

The Book You Must Read to Understand the Opioid Crisis and Its Effect on All of Us:
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy

The Book You Need to Read and Discuss to Understand the Importance of the Great Lakes:
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan

The Book You Must Read and Discuss to Understand Microaggressions (and if you don’t know what that means, read this short book):
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014)

The Book You Need to Read to Understand the “Other” Border:
Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border by Porter Fox

*The world’s best cabinet makers are the team at Crestwood Custom Cabinets in Crestwood, Illinois (708-385-3167) who built our kitchen, bathroom, and wet bar cabinets and bookshelves for us. Their work is exquisite. They think outside the box and they do so in a timely manner. They're one of the reasons I survived 2018.