My Books of the Year 2018

Is it possible not to have a good year for books? Thankfully, I don’t think this has happened to me yet, so here is a list of the books I enjoyed the most in 2018.

To Be A Machine Mark O’Connell

The Secret Barrister Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

Strangers Drowning Larissa Macfarquhar

With the End in Mind Kathryn Mannix

 

 

 

 

I have read more non-fiction than ever this year, partly due to shadowing the Wellcome Book Prize shortlist in March and April which I hope to do again in 2019. To Be a Machine by Mark O’Connell won the official prize and was also our shadow panel winner – it’s a fun, informative and pretty terrifying book about transhumanism. , Yet while transhumanists are trying to avoid death at all costs, With the End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix explores the practical side of dying and what a “good” death can look like from her work as a palliative care consultant and this was a stand-out title for me this year. Another book I would happily press into the hands of everyone I meet is The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken which is an eye-opening account of the inner workings of the criminal justice system in the United Kingdom. And Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar is a book I am still thinking about regularly months after I finished it mostly because the stories of extreme do-gooders are actually more unsettling than uplifting in many cases. 

I already have my eye on potential titles for the next Wellcome Book Prize longlist due in February. Among eligible novels, I hope to see Sight by Jessie Greengrass on there – an excellent debut about pregnancy, psychoanalysis and much more. Of the three books I have read from this year’s Man Booker Prize longlist, the standout title for me is Normal People by Sally Rooney even though it didn’t progress to the shortlist. I also loved The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, an author whose work I look forward to reading more of in the future. 

How to be Human Paula CocozzaNormal People Sally Rooney

The Heart’s Invisible Furies John BoyneConvenience Store Woman Sayaka Murata

 

 

 

 

Of 2017 titles, the ones which have stuck in my mind are How to be Human by Paula Cocozza about a woman who is regularly visited by an urban fox at her home in Hackney and 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster – a Man Booker Prize shortlisted epic about the four possible paths of Archie Ferguson’s life in the mid-20th century. 2018 has also been an excellent year for unsettling novellas – from the Japanese societal pressures felt by Keiko in Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata to the archaeological dig of nightmares in Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss while the prose in The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark is a masterclass in evasiveness.

I have been to some excellent literary-related events in 2018, mostly in the second half of the year. I reread The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters in September when the film adaptation was released and saw a stage production of Angela Carter’s final novel Wise Children at the Old Vic theatre in London in October with Rebecca who also accompanied me to an event at the Southbank Centre to see Barbara Kingsolver in conversation with Samira Ahmed. Finally, the annual event in November where book bloggers meet the authors shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award is another highlight. In my view, this year’s shortlist was the most consistent in quality since its relaunch in 2015 and I particularly enjoyed the non-fiction titles: The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman about her recovery from an eating disorder through literature and Kings of the Yukon: An Alaskan River Journey by Adam Weymouth which is an excellent travel memoir of his 2,000 mile journey by canoe in the North American wilderness.

Which books stood out for you in 2018?

16 Comments

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16 responses to “My Books of the Year 2018

  1. I’m off to see Wise Children in February and looking forward to it very much. Happy 2019, Clare!

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  2. I’d not heard of Strangers Drowning but I very much like the sound of it.
    I have a list of 31 Wellcome hopefuls for next year 😉 Most of those I’ve read and a few more I want to read. I can’t wait to see what makes the longlist!

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  3. Thanks for introducing me to so many good books this year 🙂 I’ve just finished Ghost Wall, I don’t often get disturbed by fiction, not since I was a teenager (cos now I’m an adult I realise it’s not real) but I did find this a difficult read – I really hated the dad like he was a real person. I was on tenterhooks at the end and cried a bit when I finished, I found it very emotional.

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  4. Jeane

    I would really like to read How to Be Human. I noticed it on your blog earlier this year, and am more intrigued because it came up in your end-of-year favorites!

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  5. You mention a lot of books I don’t know much about, but I really want to read Sight, Normal People, and Heart’s Invisible Furies. That’s great you got to see Barbara Kingsolver! Thanks for adding to my TBR list, and happy reading in 2019!

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  6. I have The Secret Barrister – can’t wait to read that. I’ve just read the Jessie Greengrass novel and found it oh so frustrating (review coming soon), but it sounds as if you had a good reading year.

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  7. I’ve only recently realized how many book-related awards there are out there, so am looking forward to reading more nominated books in 2019 – I’ll probably start with the shortlists of some of the bigger awards before moving deeper. So I’ll keep an eye out for the Wellcome Book Prize longlist!

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  8. I really want to read Convenience Store Woman and hope to happen across it. I read some really good non-fiction in 2018 and it dominated my end of year list, posted yesterday, although Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered stood out for me too.

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  9. I don’t know how I hadn’t heard of the Wellcome prize until reading about it on your blog and on Beck’s! I’ll definitely be checking out their nominees next year too 🙂

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