Am I too late to join the party? We’re a week into 2019 and I feel like everyone was done and dusted with their best of 2018 posts before the end of December. Ah well! Here we go anyway.
In 2018 I read 115 books (my goodreads challenge was 100) but looking back on it I feel like I can barely remember anything from before, ooh, about November?
Still, I’ve dug back into the recesses of my dusty memory and picked my top 5 books from 2018! These aren’t necessarily books published in 2018 (although a couple were), just ones I got my hands on during the year and loved entirely.
in no particular order…
I read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine because a friend of mine enjoyed it and encouraged me to pick it up. Well, thanks Martyn (he’ll definitely never read this but hey credit where credit is due)! I read this book in one day over two plane journeys, literally unable to put it down. The inside look into the mind of someone with mental illness was profound and touching; the fact that Eleanor went from being kind of unlikeable to a character I cared about deeply was a stark reminder to not judge people by their habits and different personality ticks. You truly never know what is going on inside, but it only takes one patient person like Raymond to give you the opportunity to open up and get the support needed. Eleanor is a beautifully intricate character which is hidden by her routines and straight forward thinking – you have to dig deeper into the book to see her dig deeper into herself and discover her own strength. The plot follows her attempt to make herself into a new person, but I think it becomes clear that who she was to begin with is actually pretty phenomenal.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this book! Part Agatha Christie, part Doctor Who, part Downton Abbey, this mind-bending thriller still has me hooked several months after I finished it. You really have to focus and pick up on as many details as possible to see how extraordinarily clever this novel is; it easily could have been a smart premise that fell flat, but Turton has nurtured a real head scratcher with a sci-fi twist. I’m not normally a fan of mysteries because I’m too impatient to wait for the big reveals, but there were so many reveals that you were constantly having questions answered even as more were asked. The eclectic cast of characters are all nuanced and even ones who initially appear to be a stereotype have new depth added as the story whips along. It’s the kind of book where you have to pause and flip back a few pages when new information is presented, but I love that it made me active as a reader, almost like I was a participant in the mystery too. I have a feeling this one will offer new perspectives on every re-read and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in it again soon.
As soon as I finished this book, I immediately loaned it to two friends – one a big reader, one not so much – and our general consensus was that we’ve never read a book that has made us happier. Move over Becky Albertalli, because my favourite gay teen romance is right here. Two best friends meet the new girl in school and over the course of ‘their most excellent year’ fall in love, pursue their dreams and document it all in their school assignment diaries. The main characters of this novel are so diverse yet not defined solely by their ethnicity or sexuality but instead by their interests and personalities. I’ll be honest; there’s very little conflict. But if there had been much more, it probably would have broken my heart! This book is so uplifting and joyous, covering everything from Broadway to baseball and celebrating life as a teenager and the seemingly endless possibilities that offers. It’s cheesy and sugary sweet but you’re rooting for these kids all the way through. If you’re ever down, I urge you to pick this book up and promise you’ll finish it feeling like you can take on the world.
Has there ever been a collection of characters more heartwarming and utterly bonkers than those who grace the pages of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? And if so, have we ever been able to read each voice so clearly with insight into every mind and story? When I first saw this novel was written in the format of letters, I was a little put off; I like different mediums in books, but generally not when the entire thing is breaking from the norm. However, I can’t imagine reading this any other way. Each character was so distinctive that about half way in, I could guess who was writing without having to check. Juliet is an absolute gem of a leading lady, flawed but compassionate, headstrong but caring. Her intelligence shines through even her most pigheaded moments, but she wins over every member of the society with her passion before all else. The descriptions of Guernsey are lush even as the atmosphere and damage of surviving an occupation creep in. The plot doesn’t shy away from the harsh truths of war either; among the beauty of the island and camaraderie of the characters, a bleak storyline makes you grateful for the optimism of the novel without cheapening its darkness.
In 2018, I set myself the challenge of reading 25 books which had gone on to become the basis of musicals (niche, I know); I found a list and picked ones I thought looked interesting. I knew next to nothing about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and kept putting off reading it, but when I finally did it instantly became a favourite. This novel is so raw with every emotion under the sun: grief, triumph, love, heartbreak. Semi-autobiographical, it follows a family living in Brooklyn, focusing on the oldest daughter’s childhood and teenage years at the start of the 20th century. The contrast between life 100 years ago compared to today is fascinating but it can be easy to forget that characters from history have the capability of emotions and thoughts like we do now. There’s no chance of that with this book though, as every character is deeply explored, no flaw left uncovered and no good quality uncelebrated. At the heart of this family drama is a lot of honesty and ambition – it’s impossible not to admire their resilience and the bittersweet conclusion is very richly earned by both the characters and the reader for making it through to the end.
Have you read any of my favourite books from 2018? If so, please let me know what you thought of them! And don’t forget I’m taking part in Comment 4 Comment 2019 so I’ll be replying to every comment I get as well as returning the favour 🙂
I hope you’ve all had a fab first week of January and that the rest of your year is full of great reads!