My top fiction and my top nonfiction reads from 2018 (roughly ranked):
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker – the combination of historical fiction and fantasy in this novel is exquisite. Special shout-out to the character of Maryam Faddoul, who I loved.
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – The friendship of the two sisters-in-law is the heart of this multi-generational story about a Korean family living as second-class citizens in Japan.
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik – fantasy storytelling at its finest.
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – loved it all, but the account of the people stranded at the airport while the world ends really pushes this novel to the next level for me. That and I adored the character of Miranda.
- Marking Time / Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard – books 2 and 3 of Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles series. Howard’s character writing is just superb, and I do love stories featuring extended families under one roof. (In this case, due to World War II).
- Persuasion by Jane Austen – a re-read. I have been told that Persuasion is a book that’s even better the second time around. I don’t remember disliking it the first time around (there’s only two Austens I’m lukewarm about), but reading Persuasion in my late 30’s did enhance Persuasion quite a bit for me.
- The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters – good creepy bits, and some nice thematic stuff to dig into (texted a lot with Teresa of Shelf Love afterward).
- Making Up by Lucy Parker – Lucy Parker’s romances delight me. This one involves a make-up artist and an aerialist. Earned angst, humor, and a just the right amount of hedgehog appearances. 🙂
- Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer – epistolary novel that engrossed me more than I expected it would. I particularly loved the character of Frances.
- The Bear and the Nightingale / Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – First two books in a trilogy (third book just came out) and it’s a dark fantasy set in 14th century Russia. The “dark” aspect is mainly due to the oppression of women in that era, and which the main character battles against just as much as the supernatural elements. I zipped right through these.
- Take the Lead by Alexis Daria – own-voices romance inspired by Dancing with the Stars. I’ve seen several seasons of DWTS, and when I watch reality shows, I like to think about the mechanics that go into the show, so this scratched an itch.
- The U.S. Immigration Crisis: Towards an Ethics of Place by Miguel A. La Torre – I read this at the beginning of 2018 and still think of it often, especially as immigration issues dominate the news. It’s a short book where the theory-laden introduction gives way to amazing insights informed by real life stories and places. It’s really influenced how I think about immigration issues. A sample damning quote: “we as a society do not seek justice, rather we follow laws.“
- Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt – A chunkster history that I’ve been off-and-on reading for over a year. Judt does a good job of conveying geopolitical and cultural trends without over-simplifying. I learned so much.
- How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed by Slavenka Drakulić – Drakulić is a Croatian writer and these essays are reflections of her and others’ experiences of living “behind the Iron Curtain”, specifically Yugoslavia.
- No Apparent Distress: A Doctor’s Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of Medicine by Rachel Pearson – I really enjoy reading work memoirs like this. Pearson tells stories from her time as a medical student, based mainly out of Galveston, Texas. She examines her own mistakes and also the failings of the U.S. healthcare system, based on her first-hand observations.