Originally published December 2018
… and in the blink of an eye, we are halfway through December.
Why, at the end of a year, does it always seem like it flew by? Based on how much I actually accomplished in reading, it seems like I should have at least another 6 months to tackle my TBR list. Which, by the way, grows exponentially, in contrast to my “Finished” list which sputters and stalls based on work, kids, family, life. I never read as much as I set out to at the beginning of the year.
That said, what I did read was FANTASTIC. And while I have still have another two weeks before I put together the entire list for the year, I didn’t want to wait any longer to share my favorites — my best books of 2018 — the ones that had me running to tell friends to read it immediately:
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
I think it may just be a tie between this and “Less” as my favorites for the year. “The Great Believers” is on a lot of “Best Of” lists and deservedly so — a heartwrenching story about friendship, love and loss in the ’80s and family in our modern-day present. Also, based in Chicago, which makes it one of those, that at least for me, I can completely immerse myself in, having a general idea of where Makkai is centering her characters.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
So, yeah, a 2017 book, but I didn’t get to it until this year. And from what I read in the press, it seems like a lot of people were also slow on the uptake, as “Less” is one of those reads that has continued to gain momentum, especially after its Pulitzer win. Don’t skip this — like “The Great Believers,” this novel is ultimately about love and friendship, wrapped up in a comedy about a soon-to-be-50-year-old looking to escape his life and find one, all at once. Arthur Less is one of my favorite people and even though he is not real, I still hope to bump into him at a cocktail party someday.
The Outsider by Stephen King
I’m warning you now — the story is gory, the crime is beyond heinous and you may occasionally ask yourself “Why am I reading this?” That said, King still reigns supreme as a master of mystery, the supernatural and suspense. And “The Outsider” allows us to continue to pretend as though Holly Gibney really does exist somewhere in the universe. It’s another wild ride as the good guys try to track down the bad guy/ghost/evil juju that picks its personas to do its evil bidding.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Oh my gosh, YES, this was so good too! One of those reads that makes you think — in this case, about how you might live if you knew when you were going to die. For these four siblings, it is a toss up as to whether that knowledge was a blessing or a curse, and you keep hoping that maybe, just maybe, one of them is going to escape their predetermined death sentence. But really — if you DID know, what would you change?
Educated by Tara Westover
This was one of those books I heard everyone raving about, but I, for whatever reason, was hesitant to pick up. I couldn’t understand why people were crazy for a story about how someone from the rural West made it to college. Then I moved it to the top of the TBR pile and subsequently berated myself for waiting so long to read it. Dr. Tara Westover’s story isn’t just about her schooling — it’s about survival in a family that relies only on itself to make it from one day to the next. And that’s not an exaggeration. If you caught more than a cold in that family, there was likely as much of a chance you were going to meet your maker as there was you’d feel better the next time the sun came up. It’s also about estrangement and abuse and how one person stands up for themselves against all odds. Really, just super inspirational.
Ohio by Stephen Markley
So, kind of a funny story — I was in a car with a friend, talking books, and I had mentioned my post about book suggestions for summer reading. He starts talking about how a friend of his has a book coming out — he knew him from a writing group, and knew the book was getting some buzz. “What’s the book?” I say, and he comes back with “I think it’s called ‘Ohio'” to which then I begin fangirling over the fact my friend knows Stephen Markley in real life. Following along with what seems to be a theme of friendship in my reading this year, Markley’s tale of four high school era friends converging on their small hometown in Ohio one night years later makes you think about the very different paths we all take when we graduate, the secrets we keep, and the stories we’ll never know about people that we were once close with. So, so sad and heartbreaking and honest and sometimes disturbing an really, just wonderful prose.
So, so many good books this year — keep an eye open on New Year’s Day for my full reading list from the year. Maybe if I get lucky I can pack a few more in before time runs out!
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Other great Best Of lists (which you will look at and think, “Oh my God I don’t read enough and how will I ever get to all of these”):