Ahoy there, long forgotten and much-missed corner of the internet. I’m just dropping in to forcefully recommend my ten favorite books that came out in 2018, then I’ll probably forget to post for another year or so. Sad but true! Let us not delude ourselves with thoughts of extra-curricular productivity in this shiny new year.
Anyway, here are the ten new books that brought me the most joy in 2018. Not included: old books, dead authors, advanced copies of books that will come out in 2019.
- Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
- French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
- The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
- City Of Crows by Chris Womersly
- Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
- A Very Large Expanse Of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
- The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
- City Of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
- Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
- Born To Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery
Diary of a Bookseller
I cannot over-emphasize how much I adored this memoir. I’ve read it three times, and have underlined so many wonderful observations I have barely any blank space left. Shaun Bythell puts into words what so many of us booksellers can only think to ourselves, and I love him for it. It’s impossible to choose a favorite line because the whole book is just so damn quotable. Not only are Bythell’s observations incredibly spot-on, his descriptions of the customers and his idiosyncratic staff are the stuff of a masterpiece. Excuse me while I go read the whole thing again.
Is this a black social comedy? A tragedy of manners? Akin to Fitzgerald or Waugh or Daniel Handler? I have no answers for you, I can only say that French Exit was an absolute delight to read, with incredible characters (most of whom I wanted to slap at one point or another) and ruthless observations about the wealthy, expats, and life in general. If you’ve had your doubts about De Witt before, I promise this is nothing like his previous books – it’s an entirely new creature and my favorite of his to date.
The Hazel Wood
Books about books are my favorite books. Inkheart has been a favorite forever. Melissa Albert’s magical debut has a bit of that same vibe: the feel of a classic but with contemporary stakes. It’s beautiful in places, spooky in others, and totally engrossing. You can read my full review here.
City Of Crows
I’m a sucker for stories that make me wonder “is it fantasy or is this all just a coincidence?” City Of Crows made me wonder that at first, then convinced me one way, then another, and left me thinking about it for days after. The setting – 17th century France – and all the true historical details – witches! charlatans! plague! – left me with a new appreciation for how dismal life was back then, as well as how mysterious it could be. Another win for Europa editions.
Katherine Arden’s first middle grade novel kept me reading late into the night. Set up in the spookiest corners of Vermont, it has everything one needs for a chilling October read. Arden mixed classic ghost story tropes with a fast-paced adventure, and the results were fantastic. I couldn’t stop recommending this to customers, but I did have to mention that it frightened even me at times. And I was a scary kid.
A Very Large Expanse Of Sea
I was never 100% sold on Mafi’s earlier YA thriller series, but this standalone YA novel has me convinced of her talent. A Very Large Expanse Of Sea takes place one year after 9/11 and follows Muslim teenager Shirin as she navigates the hatred directed at her from other citizens. It’s not disheartening, though, because Shirin is a strong main character and the descriptions of the strength she finds in break dancing made me truly happy. Mafi is writing what she knows and she shines on every page. Also, the romance was both sweet and realistic.
The Cruel Prince
It’s impossible for me to describe how much I love Holly Black’s new series in coherent sentences. Fairy courts! Changelings! Murder! Betrayal! Enemies who can’t stop looking at each other! Siblings! Poison! The sequel just came out and I cannot wait to start it. This might turn into one of my favorite YA series of all time.
City Of Ghosts
V.E. Schwab’s fantasy novels are pretty good, but her middle grade ghostly stuff is fantastic. She captured the atmosphere of Edinburgh so bloody well, and managed to write a creepy book without alienating her more sensitive readers. I so rarely read more than the first book in a series, but I’m committed to following Cass wherever she goes next.
I’m not usually a fan of Civil War novels, and I’m very rarely a fan of zombie stories, but Justina Ireland combined the two and suddenly I’m a real big fan. She focuses on the people who got the worst end of the stick in that time period: Native Americans and Black people. In the world of Dread Nation, these exploited groups fight the undead that have started rising up from the battlefields. But it’s not just a zombie hunting novel. There’s mystery, social commentary, conspiracy, and some incredibly bad-ass characters.
Born To Be Posthumous
Edward Gorey was massively influential to my personal style as a youth, though I refuse to post a photo to prove it. This biography was my first in-depth peep into his life. What a dude. What a fella. I can’t get enough of his illustrations and comics, and knowing more about the man behind the pen only made me love him more. I’m not always a biography enthusiast but sometimes a subject is enough of a character to keep my interest, and this was definitely one of those times. And what a perfect title, right?
Alright, friends. That’s all I’ve got today. Please remember to shop indie! All these titles are available at indiebound , and I’m sure your local bookshop would be delighted to order them for you, provided you ask nicely.