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Best Books of 2018


Initially, I wasn't sure that I would go through the painful exercise of generating a best books list again this year. I had not intended that my Best Books of 2017 post from last December would become the first of an annual tradition. But two things happened over the course of this past month to change my mind. The first was the annual onslaught of lists of the best books of the year, which included wide-ranging choices from newspapers and magazines I respect (just to share a few: NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker). Once again, I found myself surprised, bemused and kind of disappointed by the titles on the lists, and even more so by the titles NOT on the lists. The second thing that happened was that I started making a list of my favorite books of the year in my head, not deliberately, but almost instinctively. Once I had done that, I could not resist writing the list down and then looking at it, tinkering with it, adding a few, deleting a few and generally reflecting on a year of reading.


Having decided to post a list of my favorite books of the year, I thought it ought to be my very last post of the year. This maximized the amount of reading I could get done before I was forced to commit. Last year I posted my best books of 2017 list early in December, and I worried that I would read some 2017 titles later in the month that should have been on the list. Of course, holding out until the end of the year does not entirely solve the problem. There are still several big 2018 releases that I have not read yet (Becoming, for example, or Circe, or The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, or the new Churchill biography, or Lorrie Moore's essay collection) that might well be among my favorites when I get to them. So I may still come to regret the books that should have made this list and did not, due solely to my own failure to read them in time. I suspect that's a problem I'll have every year. There are worse things...


My rules this year are the same as they were in 2017. In order to be eligible for my Best Books of 2018 list, the book has to have been published in the United States in 2018 and I need to have read it in 2018. I like this rule, but it means that two of my favorites won't make the cut: Sally Rooney's marvelous Normal People, because even though I read it this year, it won't be published in the U.S. until April of 2019, and Maggie O'Farrell's gripping memoir I Am I Am I Am, because even though it was published in the U.S. in 2018, I read it in 2017. I tried to stay true to the spirit of last year's list -- 20 books in total (a nice round number, not too short, not too long), a mix of fiction and non fiction, but heavy on the fiction because I read more of it, and most importantly, only the books that I could not put down, the ones with the spectacular writing and the fascinating stories, the ones where, at some point while I was reading, I said, "Wow, this is good," the ones that stayed with me long after I finished. Here they are:

My 2018 Best Books

American by Day by Derek Miller
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller
The Comforts of Home by Susan Hill
The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash
Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Feel Free by Zadie Smith
A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon
The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
The Rub of Time by Martin Amis
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Warlight by Michael Ondaatjie
Winter by Ali Smith

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