Saturday, December 22, 2018

Books of 2018

Here we go again: our 9th annual popular post of books of the year as they feature in the press (excluding papers and articles with pay-walls, such as the London Times and Sunday Times and most of the Financial Times) and on some blogs. This is a selective list of what we judge the highest-quality lists: if you want almost everything that moves, check out Largehearted Boy.

The list will be updated pretty well daily up to Christmas.

Previous lists are here: 2010201120122013201420152016, and 2017.

  • The annual Irish Times choices by writers demonstrate how strong a year it has been. Emilie Pine's powerful collection of essays, Notes to Self, features, with Pine herself going for Natalia Ginzburg's The Little Virtues. Paschal Donogue, Minister for Finance, is a rare real reader among modern politicians, and chooses Ian Kershaw's Roller-Coaster, the latest in Kershaw's overview of European history.  Joseph O'Connor points out one of our own choices, the brief collection of stories This Hostel Life by Melatu Uche Okorie, a new voice looking at Ireland from an entirely new angle. Elsewhere, Anna Carey has the standout children's titles of the year, including the excellent Louise O'Neill's The Surface Breaks, a re-imagining of The Little Mermaid. Elsewhere, Malachy Clarkin looks at the best sports books of the year: Peter Crouch turns out to produce the greatest laughs.
  • The Irish Independent has 50 top children's books from Sarah Webb, with good Irish representation. Its critics also name their best books of the year, top pick in fiction being Emer Martin's The Cruelty Men, which is 'stunningly ambitious and achingly tragic.' Michael Connelly, always reliable, appears twice in the thriller section. Another critics' selection mentions Tim Dee's Landfill, 'nature writing for the Trump era' from the excellent Toller Press, and in fiction John Boyne's amusing novel about literary ambition, A Ladder to the Sky.
  • The Guardian's selections are always interesting. This year, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister, highly recommends Anna Burns's Booker-winner, Milkman, In another selection, Justine Jordan kicks off with the always readable Jonathan Coe's Brexit novel, Middle England. The Best Children's Books for All Ages points out that one in every three paper books sold this year in the UK has been for children, and Fiona Noble writes that 'In troubled times, books have the power to help children and young people make sense of the world, and a look at 2018’s award winners reveals just how writers and illustrators are responding to our challenging times'.
  • You can also listen to Guardian choices on their books podcast with Claudia Rankine (the full list is on the podcast page).
  • The Guardian's Sunday sister, The Observer, also has a good list: their critics choose selections from genres such as Graphic, Poetry, Fiction and Society. In Art, Laura Cumming, author of the excellent The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit of Velasquez, mentions two books on Bruegel, including Winter Scenes, which looks wonderful.
  • The Times Literary Supplement is of course a key place to go. Their annual list has a lot of high-quality recommendations. The great Lydia Davis goes for two books by Natalia Ginzburg, while Roy Foster recommends Colm Tóibín's new book Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, about the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce.
  • The New York Times 100 Notable Books is always a formidable list (some great covers this year, too).  Rachel Cusk is a 'Marmite' writer; her Kudos appears here, and the very different Macbeth (the thriller-writer Jo Nesbo's version).
  • We've previously recommended the superb site Five Books: a simple idea, executed with depth and it has a series of Best Books of 2018, including for instance Best Non-Fiction by Fiammetta Rocco (with Ben McIntyre's highly-praised book about Oleg Gordievsky, The Spy and the Traitor), Nigel Warburton's Best Philosophy Books, and Charles Foster on Best Nature Books.
  • From Australia, in the Sydney Morning Herald local writers make their choices, including the great Tim Winton (author of one of our own Books of the Year: more shortly) going for a 'deadset masterpiece', The Overstory by Richard Powers (this is echoed elsewhere by Robert Macfarlane).
  • The Spectator's lists (both of best and overrated books) are always good: the first starts with Deborah Eisenberg's 'oustanding' short story collection Your Duck is My Duck, and the second includes one of our own books of the year, William Trevor's Last Stories (an extraordinarily high standard right to the end). 
  • The Spectator in the USA  has lots of interesting choices, many from the past. Keiron Pim, who is writing Joseph Roth's biography, is of course reading Roth a lot, including The Radetsky March.
  • The New Yorker's Best Books of 2018 by Kate Waldman includes that Marmite-writer Rachel Cusk's novel Kudos. Dan Chiasson looks at poetry books during 2018.
  • The New York Times Book Review has the 10 Best Books of 2018, which include Tara Westover's very successful memoirEducated, which reveals 'an irrepressible thirst to learn'.
  • The New York Times itself has Best Art Books and Best Poetry Books: Like by A.E. Stallings has been mentioned in several places this year.
  • National Public Radio from America has over 300 books from their staff, which you can filter by the usual categories, as well as 'Rather Long' (including Michelle Obama's well-received Becoming), and 'Rather Short' (Kate Walbert's His Favorites looks powerful).
  • iNews has 10 Best Books, including the ubiquitous Normal People by Sally Rooney and Tara Westover's much-noticed Educated.
  • Quill and Quire from Canada have writers' and booksellers' choices, as well as their editors', and Covers of the Year.
  • That great institution, the New York Public Library, has three selections: children, teens and adults.
  • The Washington Post's Michael Dirda's recommendations are here.
  • BBC Arts have 2018's 'biggest books' (not in physical size) with 'the perfect for...' sections, including Sarah-Jayne Blakemore's excellent Inventing Ourselves: the Secret Life of the Teenage Brain (the perfect book for parents, presumably).
  • Vulture's Best Books of 2018 by Christian Lorentzen is a good choice. Keith Gessen's A Terrible Country sounds interesting, and very much of the moment ('like a zombie parody of the Cold War).
  • Bustle is a newcomer to this round-up. Here, 14 Young Adult authors recommend their favourite YA books of 2018.
  • Another newcomer: the Church Times has readers' choices of books of the year. Anything Neil McGregor chooses is bound to be interesting: he goes for The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson, 'as exhilarating and poignant a read as watching the birds in flight.'
  • iNews has its best books of the year, including Sally Rooney, William Trevor, and Tara Westover. A different name is Zadie Smith, with her new collection of essays, Feel Free.
  • Prospect Magazine rounds up the best books in politics. An excellent writer, Sarah Churchwell (who has previously written onThe Great Gatsby and America, has a new book out: Behold, America is 'indispensable'.
  • Times Live from South Africa mentions Tim Winton's great The Shepherd's Hut (so evocative of the landscape of Western Australia) and Michael Ondaatje's Warlight, which many had expected to be getting major prizes. 
  • One of the best online magazines, Slate, has 10 Best Books of 2018 from Laura Miller, including the latest novel from Alan Hollinghurst, The Sparsholt Affair, and Tana French's latest well-received The Witch Elm
  • The Skinny's editors' choices include Sophie Mackintosh's 'utterly sublime' dystopian début novel, The Water Cure, and, in poetry, Tishani Doshi's 'captivating' collection Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods (Emilie Pine, Sally Rooney and Anna Burns are here, too).
  • Prospect Magazine has a list of 'ideas' books of the year (starting with Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now, a wordier version of Hans Rosling's Factfulness?), and one for history, including Gandhi, Churchill and de Gaulle), as well as economics.
  • Electric Lit's 15 Best Non-Fiction Books include Deborah Levy's 'memoir in essays', The Cost of Living. 
  • Flavorwire's Best of 2018 by Sarah Selzer identifies a 'mini-trend', 'books about women’s anger (both at their personal lot and at sexism at large)'.
  • No better place than Nature for Best Science Books (and shows) of the yea, such as Dermot Turing's account of the background behind his uncle's code-breaking, X, Y & Z: the Real Story of How Enigma Was Broken
  • CBC has best Canadian non-fiction, including Tima Kurdi's The Boy on the Beach, based on one of the most distressing photographs of recent times, as well as best Canadian fiction, including the internationally-successful Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, as well as plenty of individual recommendations.
  • The English and Media Centre has a great list of Christmas reading recommendations (from all years, and all the way back to Middlemarch). Perfidious Albion, the 'Brexit-novel' by Sam Byers, is one (hard to match reality, of course).
  • The Big Issue's selection by Jane Graham of best children's books includes The Dam by the 'giant' of children's writing, David Almond.
  • GQ Magazine has 17 Best Books of 2018, with Assymetry by Lisa Harding featuring, which it does in many lists: Harding herself recommends Deviation by Luce d'Eramo, 'a novelistic treatment of her life experiences with Fascists and Nazis.'
  • National Review's 2018: A Year in Reading includes When by Daniel Pink, who is always worth reading.
  • RTÉ's Sinéad Crowley's choices start with three powerful non-fiction books by Emilie Pine, Julia Kelly and Tara Westover.
  • The Seattle Times selection by arts writers includes books from previous years, but from this year comes Lauren Groff's short story selection, Florida (not all set in that state). 
  • Verso Books' authors choose their favourites here. Teresa Thornhill goes all the way back to Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves.
  • The LitHub Ultimate Best Books of 2018 list aggregates American recommendations, with Ottessa Moshfegh (My Year of Rest and Relaxation) and Tommy Orange (There, There) reaching 19 lists each. 
  • The Atlantic's readers' choices are here, with A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles appearing twice.

No comments: