I read 131 books in 2018 so it’s a bit tricky to choose just five, but I also feel like if I tried to explain all the books I loved and why I loved them, this would be an unfeasibly long post so I’ll have to narrow it down. 2018 was a year of wonderful reads and I’m so excited to share some of my favourites with you and to hear what you think! I’m not going into detail here about the plots and intricacies of these books, but I hope my short descriptions of why I loved them are enough to get you interested.
These are obviously just my opinion and if anyone disagrees I’d love to hear your thoughts but, that said, I highly recommend all five of these wonderful books.
Best Fantasy: Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
I read ‘Uprooted’ in 2018 as well but sadly had to leave it off this list because it was released in 2016. I’m so amazed by Naomi Novik, not just because of her writing style but just because of her ideas. She creates such vivid, creepy worlds that I’ve never seen anything like. I love how ‘Spinning Silver’ is inspired by fairy tales but doesn’t use any one full story; really, it’s all Novik’s own creation. I also really enjoyed that the three main characters here are all women and all strong in different ways. It showed the different ways women can express themselves and still have value, even if their worth is shown in a different way to somebody else’s. There’s not a lot more I can say about this one because it’s so unusual, but if you haven’t read it yet and you like fantasy and originality, definitely get your hands on it!
Best Comfort Reading: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland
When I started writing this, I was considering either Josie Silver’s ‘One Day in December’ or Jules Preston’s ‘the map of us’ (both lovely reads) for this category, but then I realised ‘The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae’ was a 2018 release and I knew there was no contest. Ailsa is such a wonderful character and her story’s got moments of sadness but is so completely heart-warming that I think I smiled on every single page.There’s a love story here but it’s definitely secondary to Ailsa’s character growth. I don’t remember hearing much about this book when it came out which always confused me because it’s one of my all-time favourite reads.
Best Historical Fiction: The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
As soon as I finished this one I phoned my mum to recommend it and she chose it for her book club read. I’m very cautious about recommendations because it matters to me that people respect my taste in books and I don’t want people to waste their time on my poor advice. I knew I didn’t need to worry about this one and Mum reassured me that her whole book club loved it. ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ is a true story and I learnt a lot from it as well as finding it completely moving and brilliant. Heather Morris originally wrote the story as a screenplay and its script-origins show in the sharp, clear dialogue and crisp descriptions. This is a book I’ll definitely be rereading and recommending more in the future.
Most Unusual: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle*, by Stuart Turton
Oo, I heard about this through a friend of mine in publishing, and as soon as I read the description I knew I had to read it myself. It’s such a brilliant, creepy concept, like a spooky Groundhog Day. Aiden Bishop wakes up on the same day multiple times, each time in a different person’s body, and tries to solve a murder that will happen that evening. It’s deliciously sinister and very creative, plus I can’t resist stories set at posh parties in country houses. It’s one of those books that still pops into my head months after finishing it and I wish I’d come up with the idea myself.
Overall Favourite: Circe, by Madeline Miller
I wondered whether I should choose ‘Circe’ for best fantasy because that’s how it’s been marketed, but that didn’t feel quite right. I know that Greek mythology contains magic but it’s so steeped in history that maybe it should be historical fiction. Anyway, I decided it didn’t matter because this was my favourite read of the year so I’ll just call it that. I was lucky enough to hear Madeline Miller speak about this book recently and her passion and expertise is just so inspiring. I love how carefully she’s thought about these mythological figures and how she’s kept them grounded in their time but portrayed them in a way that resonates with 21st century life. It was especially interesting hearing her thoughts about Circe’s character in connection with 2018’s Me Too Movement. This is a must-read and I’ll treasure my signed copy forever.
*I read the UK publication, which was published with this title. I believe in the US it was released as ‘The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle’