Beth’s Top 10 Reads of 2018

 

Thanks for taking a look at my top reads of 2018. I’ve included titles that moved me in some way.  Below you will find memoirs, fiction, children’s books, and pop-up books.  These books range considerably.  Some of the titles display magnificent examples of paper engineering, while others humanize very real social justice issues.   Thanks to my profession and personal responsibilities I have the opportunity to explore a wide array of books.  I hope you find something from this list that sparks you.

 

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Ann’s 2018 Favorites

 

My reading gravitates to mysteries and suspense and this year to the British Isles, particularly Ireland.

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan. Debut novel that draws you into the dark heart of Ireland.

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear. Debut procedural featuring Cat Kinsella as a young London policewoman whose investigation takes her to her own family secrets back in Ireland.

The Witch Elm by Tana French. The talented French is back with a non-series title about a happy-go-lucky young man whose fortune takes a terrible turn.

The Child by Fiona Barton. The skeleton of a baby found on a building site sends reporter Kate Waters scurrying over London to unravel the mystery of the child.

These novels are all set in the U.S. and while not strictly mysteries, each one has twists and turns and some mysterious goings-on.

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker. Three years earlier the Tanner sisters disappeared. Now one is back, but where is Emma, the other sister?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl become entangled in the lives of the Richardson Family. Set in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown. Billy Flanagan disappeared on a hiking trip a year ago and is presumed dead. But now her daughter is having waking dreams that her mother is still alive.

A year is not complete without a couple of scifi/fantasy titles.

The Book of M by Peng Shepherd. In a dangerous future world, where people lose their shadows and their memories, a group of survivors search for answers. Those who loved Station Eleven and The Passage will love this as well.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers. “From the ground we stand. From our ship, we live. By the stars, we hope.” This is the code of the Exodans, the decendants of those last humans who left Earth and reside in The Fleet, stationary ships in space. Third in the Wayfarer series.

And last, but not least, a picture book for cat lovers.

Niblet & Ralph by Zachariah O’Hara. Two look-alike cats mistakenly switch places in this in this sweet and delightful book for all ages.

 

                                                                                                                                                        ~Ann

Sara’s Top Ten of 2018

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The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

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Four girls attending boarding school participate in a sinister game which involves lying to everyone except each other.  However, years later when a body is found, it becomes obvious that someone broke the only rule of the game.

 

 

The Day She Disappeared by Christobel Kent

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When Beth disappears, everyone says she’s run off with another man.  But her best friend Natalie, doesn’t believe that at all, and proving it just might get her killed. A perfectly paced psychological thriller that keeps you wondering until the end.

 

Where I Lost Her by T. Greenwood

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After heartbreaking infertility and failed adoption attempts, Tess sees a young, half-dressed little girl in the road who disappears into the woods.  But with no other sightings, missing child reports or  witnesses, Tess begins to be doubted by the townspeople and herself.

 

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

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Young Eddie and his friends develop a game using chalk figure codes which leads them to a dismembered body and to the end of their game.  Years later chalk figures are showing up again, and one old friend turns up dead.  Eddie must figure out what happened years ago in order to save himself and the others.

 

Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon

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A young female artist accidentally photographs a boy falling to his death—a breathtaking image that could jumpstart her career, but would also devastate her most intimate friendship.

 

 

 

The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

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Essie is the youngest child on Six for Hicks, a hit reality TV show about her family’s life and fire-and-brimstone religious beliefs.  When Essie winds up pregnant, will she be forced into an arranged-blockbuster-marriage episode? Or will she escape her strange, always-on-display life?

 

 

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

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Charlotte and Samantha Quinn’s happy, small-town life is torn apart by a horrifying attack which leaves their mother dead, and their family forever shattered.  Twenty-eight years later, another violent act forces them back together, and brings up long lost secrets and questions.

 

 

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

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Five-year-old Madison disappeared while chopping down her family’s Christmas tree.  Three years later, her parents are still desperate to find her and hire a private investigator known as “the Child Finder,” who is their last hope.

 

 

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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Tarot card reader, Hal, discovers she has been left an inheritance.  She is certain it is a mistake, but is desperate for cash and decides to play along. But once at the family estate with the brooding, mysterious heirs, she wonders if she has made a terrible mistake.

 

 

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

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Adrian Wolfe has been divorced twice and recently lost his newest wife to suicide or so it seems.  As Adrian searches for answers, he discovers his perfect modern life with two amicable divorces and 5 step children who love each other seamlessly may not be as perfect as it appears.

Megan’s Favorites of 2018

Trent’s Top Ten of 2018

The top titles I read this year turned out to be mostly crime fiction.  A few other genres sneak in, but I have them mostly relegated to honorable mentions and to a special section for on-going graphic novel series.  Even if most of the titles are contained with the crime genre, I have tried to read from a diverse array of authors.

36301046Bearskin (2018) – James A McLaughlin

Rice Moore to find safety seclusion from his past has taken a job as a caretaker of a remote Appalachian nature preserve.  However, when he comes across a poached black bear in the woods things start falling apart as soon as he starts making inquiries with the locals who are generally wary of outsiders.  Rice spends a lot of time in the untouched Appalachian wilderness which McLaughlin lovingly writes at length in vivid prose.  This is a thriller that will be enjoyed most by those that also enjoy a walk in the woods.

36590432French Exit (2018) – Patrick deWitt

I adore reading deWitt.  I honestly do not much care what is happening in his stories.  Rather, it is his unique perspective and witty presentation of absurd situations that cannot get enough of. This is not my favorite deWitt book – like I said above, I enjoy a western, and The Sisters Brothers is a masterpiece – but it is a great deal of fun all the same.  In French Exit, deWitt lampoons New York high society.

34219838Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) – Attica Locke

Lark is a rural East Texas town that has had two suspicious deaths in quick succession; one a black out-of-state visitor, the other a white local girl.  Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, decides to head on up to Lark and take the lay of the land.  However, Mathews is still suspended from the Rangers, and the local white sheriff is more interested in sweeping things under the rug than stirring up trouble.  And a strong undercurrent of racial tension running through Lark means there is a lot of trouble to be had.  Full of flawed and interesting characters, rich East Texas atmosphere, and compelling story this was my favorite of the year.

77588The System of the World (2014) – Neal Stephenson

The conclusion of Stephenson’s nearly 3000-page trilogy, Baroque Cycle, is just as ambitious as the first two volumes.  A dense, complicated series that sprawls through history as Europe begins to enter the Age of Enlightenment.  The Baroque Cycle defies to be pigeonholed to a genre; it is part swashbuckling pirate adventure, part history of calculus, part political thriller, and so much more.  Though this series was sometimes a slog it is also the series I continue to contemplate and itch for more.  Perhaps, Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon will be the balm.

11866295Doc (2011) – Mary Doria Russell

I enjoy a western.  There is something about the legends we have constructed around the historical figures and locations of the time that captivate me.  In Doc, Russell does just that by blending fact in fiction as young Dr. John Henry Holliday, also known as Doc Holliday, begins practicing dentistry on the Texas frontier.  Holliday finds it difficult to pay bills on dentistry alone and soon takes up professional gambling and befriends the Earp brothers.  The rest is history… mostly.

9547675A Drop of the Hard Stuff (2011) – Lawrence Block

A Drop of the Hard Stuff is the seventeenth, and likely final, book in the Matthew Scudder series.  While this is a good installment in the series, its selection in this list is so that I can recognize the phenomenal series.  The series begins with a disillusioned Matthew Scudder in 1970s New York that has quit his job with the NYPD and taken up unlicensed PI work and drinking.  Scudder ages in real time and as the series progress Scudder grows and changes with the world around him.  He stops drinking, starts attending AA, and makes and loses friends and relationships.   By the end of the series, Scudder is both the same man and a very different one.  The series spans four decades and it is intensely rewarding to journey along with Scudder as he and New York evolve with time.

52408Queenpin (2007) – Megan Abbot

This was the most fun I had with a book this year. The unnamed narrator, a young woman with limited prospects, takes a job keeping books at a small nightclub.  Soon she begins practicing some shady accounting and is taken under the wing of the infamous and ruthless Gloria Denton.  Casinos, racetracks, heists – all the money in the city runs through Gloria before it makes its way to the big bosses out of town.  Gloria will provide access to the action and the lavish lifestyle if only the narrator can keep from falling for the wrong guy.  Megan Abbott takes the bones of the same old, time-tested gangster story and gives it new life.  By the end symbols of toxic masculinity are kicked apart and lay shattered and bloody on the floor.

7896558The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) – George V. Higgins

Eddie recently got jammed up by the cops while driving around Vermont with a truck full of stolen booze.  Now that he’s back in Boston with a little time before his sentencing, he’s hoping Foley, a local cop, can put a good word in for him if he feeds Foley a little information.  Eddie, who’s still running guns for the local mob, wants to rat on his source of guns, not the mob boss that Foley is aiming for.  Eddie might not want to go to jail but he’d in an uncomfortable position if people knew he is ratting.  Everyone has an angle and friends are friends only until they aren’t.  Elmore Leonard style dialogue drives this novel that Leonard also called the best crime novel ever written.

592676.jpgThe Grifters (1963) – Jim Thompson

Jim Thompson is not exactly known for invoking the warm and fuzzies with his novels.  If you are searching for something to brighten your day or your view of humanity, look elsewhere.  The Grifters starts with Roy Dillion, a successful short con man, having a bad day.  An easy con goes awry, and he gets an unlucky slug in the stomach that causes unexpected and lasting damage.  While laid up healing Roy’s structured life continues to slip away as he tries to balance the three competing women in his life.

33275967In a Lonely Place (1947) – Dorothy B. Hughes

For the last several years crime novels are the genre that has made up the majority of my reading.  So, when I stumble across an article from an author that I respect, Megan Abbott in this case, and she is calling out In a Lonely Place as a groundbreaking, and subversive novel canon to the genre, my ears perk up, and my to-read list grows and so should yours.  Read my recent Read it or Weep summary here.

Best Continuing Series:

35606630Giant Days, Vol. 7 (2018) – John Allison (Author) and Liz Fleming (Illustrations)

This British bildungsroman centers on three university students as they transition into the complex world of adulthood and living on their own.  Even though the young adults are frequently melodramatic and angsty – as one would expect – it is a series that is immensely humorous, fun, and finds the joy in life even feels hopeless and chaotic.

34228009Lumberjanes, Vol 7: A Bird’s-Eye View (2017) – Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Ayme Sotuyo

Though I no longer even make an attempt to maintain an up-to-date awareness of teen and juvenile publishing, I make sure to know when the next Lumberjanes is to be released.  I was on the verge of dropping the series as a few of the volumes had been a little lackluster, but A Bird’s-Eye View was so pleasantly absurd that I am fulling back on the Lumberjanes bandwagon.  The Lumberjanes inhabit a diverse and adventure-filled world where obstacles are overcome through teamwork and acceptance.

Honorable Mentions:

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Varina (2018) – Charles Frazier

Monstress Vol. 3 (2018) – Majorie Liu (Writer) and Sana Takeda (Artist)

The Bear and Nightingale (2017) – Katherine Arden

The Fifth Season (2015) – N.K. Jemisin

Out (1997) – Natsuo Kirino and Stephen Synder (Translator)

 

Greg’s Top Reads of 2018

The Elements of Spellcrafting : 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery
by Jason Miller

A great read for any practitioner or follower of any path. Gives some very practical tips for spellwork and working with spirits.

The Chaos Protocols:Magical Techniques for Navigating the New Economic Reality
by Gordon White

A practical guide that is based in chaos magic but has some great tips for all. Looking about how one can use your individual spiritual/occult practice to deal with the practical concerns of life.

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The Invisibles
by Grant Morrison

Though this comic has been out for decades, it was only this year that I got to it. An absorbing graphic novel that explores themes of oppression, control, and the various prices of bucking the status quo.

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The Ballad of Black Tom
by Victor D. LaValle

A great example of not only building on top of but expanding the source material. This book starts with the framework of Lovecraft and addresses historical and contemporary issues.

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Sheila Hicks : Lifelines
edited by Michel Gauthier

A wonderful visual retrospective of the artist’s work, this volume explores every stage of the artist’s career. Hick’s is a master of color and form and her work is carefully reproduced here.

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Promethea
by Alan Moore

Again another graphic novel that had been on my radar but I hadn’t gotten to. Promethea is a story that not only explores mythology and the the last 100 years of occultism but seem to reflect many of the author’s own beliefs.

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The Power
by Naomi Alderman

Alderman’s work explores the dynamics of power and gender and how old patterns can reemerge when the world is made new again.

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg

A collection of stories about stories, archetypes, and culturally created gender. These tales are filled with horror or uncanniness as Ortberg picks apart the very idea of a fairy tale and our own “norms”.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Book one, The Crucible
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa

Read the graphic novel that the Netflix show is based on. There are many differences from the show and this source material and it guaranteed to help tide fans over as they wait for season two.


Clive Barker’s next testament. Volume On
by Clive Barker

A truly terrifying look at what it would be like if our creator came back. An engrossing story, but Barker definitely maintains his horror aesthetic throughout.

Top Ten(ner or so) of Twenty-Eighteen

In no particular order (such a rebel this year!):

Nonfiction
Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife
Ok -so now I want a raven!

Becoming by Michelle Obama
Funny, kind, and honest look at who she was, who she is, and who she’s becoming.

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro
The American Plate by Libby O’Connell
I do like to read about food -we really are a reflection of what we eat.

Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
If it’s a “no” on the raven, I’d be happy with a European starling like Carmen…

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
The care and attention paid to the production of this book matches the content.

Rescue Board by Rebecca Erbelding
There’s always more history can teach us, if we’re willing to learn.

Fiction
The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Suspenseful, with nuanced characters.

Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Oh my! Great story about the Great War!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Even the people closest to you have hidden stories.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
Little white lies, neighborhood gossip, and friendship in tough times.

The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
Unnerving! -with a great, twisty ending!

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
Western + fairy tale + suspense = this book.

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan
Hello Cleveland! Hello CMA’s Jazz Bowl! hello hankie (to dry my tears.)

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
100%! (bonus -if you like audio? Sound Up!)

Teen Fiction
Girl at the Grave by Teri Baily Black
Historical fiction mystery with a touch of feminism.

The Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman
Steampunk joy

Juvenile Fiction
Penderwicks at Last by Jeanne Birdsall
Sad to see the series end but loved the journey.

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrack Kelly
A Newbery Medal winner -for a reason!

 

I’m excited to see what 2019 will bring!

-Stacey