Our Top 5 Books of 2018
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I don’t know that I can put my books in any particular order, they’re all so different, but these are the books that will stick with me the most, and are ones I’ve gifted and recommended repeatedly. Despite feeling overall like my reading year wasn’t the best, these books redeemed 2018 for me. I can’t wait to read more from these authors in 2019, and have more of their works waiting for me on my shelves as priority reads.
I Am I Am I Am | Maggie O’Farrell- My first 5 star read of the year and one that left me a little stunned and shivery when I closed it. This memoir explores Ms. O'Farrell's life through a series of her near death experiences that are brilliantly woven together and work to explore larger concepts while maintaining a really life-affirming, if tense, tone. The entire book was taut and beautiful and a little heartbreaking, but also proud and strong, and complex, and interesting. Stunning. This one is going to haunt me for a long time.
War and Peace | Leo Tolstoy- It deserves 5 stars for sheer scope alone, but the characters, the playing with micro/macro, the themes, just everything, all combined to make one seriously (giant) powerful read. I also learned arguably too much about 19th century warfare tactics and logistics. Truly though, this book is obviously very long, but it is actually beautifully, compulsively readable, and the characters, their choices, their romances, their lives are the heart and drive of the novel. Stunning, emotional, pwoerful, and unlike any other reading experience I’ve ever had
Mrs. Dalloway | Virginia Woolf- This book is dense. So dense, so magically, beautifully brilliantly dense. I can’t even describe how much I loved this novel, and I’m shocked it took me so long to pick up Woolf. I can’t wait to read more from her, because I was completely blown away, and it’s going straight on to my all time favorites list. Hands down one of the best things I’ve read in the last couple years. It’s all the atmospheric nostalgia, and all the genius, and insight, and lyrical prose I could ever want.
This Is How You Lose Her | Junot Diaz -I was shocked at how much this collection burrowed into my brain. Diaz is clearly a ridiculously gifted writer, and the stories are compelling in a way that I almost never find. Yunior's voice is so electrically alive as he talks to the reader about losing love, about his various identities, about his alienation, his family, the complexities of his life and the tumbling mess of his emotions. I loved this one and can't wait to read more from Díaz. I spent weeks unpacking this collection, and rightfully so. I know Diaz is controversial….but goddamn.
The Best We Could Do | Thi Bui- I am decidedly not a crier, but this graphic memoir was so impactful it had me misty eyed at the end. The focus is on one family's immigration story from Viet Nam, but manages to wrap in so much history and culture and personal history and relationship drama so elegantly and meaningfully. I loved this so much, I immediately bought myself a copy after returning it to the library. No question, this was one of the best books I read this year.
This was a defining and pivotal year for my reading life. It started with a recommendation, continued on with classics I’ve wanted to read, books for school, and buddy reads. In sum, I read a lot of amazing books this year. It was hard to decide which ones were the ultimate favorites of the year, but it came down to which books moved me the most and changed my reading life. Also, these are definitely not in order.
A Little Life | Hanya Yanagihara - I kept hearing this book mentioned as a favorite, an emotional rollercoaster, and by the time I got to it, I dove in without hesitation. I loved everything about this book, but the characters and their stories will stay with me always. For the writing alone, Yanagihara has something to offer that you truly should not miss, but the story is equally immersive.
As I Lay Dying | William Faulkner - It took me a little bit to understand what Faulkner was doing, as far as understanding his style and the prose, but after 20 or so pages, I found myself completely swept up in it. This book changed me.
The Picture of Dorian Gray | Oscar Wilde - Wilde is the epitome of satire and humor and brilliance. I first read The Importance of Being Earnest and didn’t get it as well at first, but this one changed me completely. I laughed out loud so many times, this is another book I’d love to read again and again.
Fahrenheit 451 | Ray Bradbury - Checked this one off the list, and wondered why on earth it took me so long to pick it up. There is so much packed in between the lines in this story, I was so swept away and of course, held my books a little tighter that night. This is one I’ll need to read a few times to really unpack all this novel holds.
Homegoing | Yaa Gyasi - This book was AMAZING. One of the most powerful, timeless, incredible pieces of literature I've had the pleasure of reading. Spanning generations of two families from Africa to America and back, and the harsh reality and truth of African culture and life in the 19th century to 20th, this book is sweeping, emotional, and yet, you cannot turn away. During an interview, Gyasi said she had visited Ghana and decided to tell an untold story that didn't have faces and names, and she felt compelled to tell a version of their story. And she did it beautifully.