Hi everyone! Since we’re now in the middle of June – no idea where the time has gone – I’d thought I would look at the last six months and see which books have been my favourites. It’ll be interesting to compare this list to the one at the end to see the changes (or at least I think so anyway).
All the books mentioned I’ve read for the first time in 2018 (sorry Rebecca but I still love you!) though they may not necessarily have been published this year. I’ll keep this short and sweet as I’m sure you don’t want to hear me repeating myself, plus I’ll leave a link to the individual reviews if you want to find out more.
So without further ado, here are my top 10 books of 2018 so far:
10. A Dash of Flash by Millie Thom
A really sweet collection of flash fiction, filled to the brim with hilarious and touching stories. I had never read flash fiction before this and believe this is an excellent book to start with. Thom succinctly writes, every word is used to the fullest with no fat still clinging to the narratives.
Review of A Dash of Flash
9. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My last review so it will be interesting to see how I feel about it in a few months. First impressions: loved it. It tells the story of Jojo who lives with his grandparents, drug addict mother Leonie and younger sister Kayla. When his father Michael is released from prison Leonie takes the kids on a road trip to meet him.
Lyrical, visceral and haunting, Ward successfully combines gritty realism and magic to discuss topics such as race and drug abuse. It is obvious to see why it has had such high acclaim.
Review of Sing, Unburied, Sing
8. Gary, the Four Eyed Fairy and Other Stories by Frank Mundo
My favourite short story collection so far, Gary the Four Eyed Fairy is a group of connected stories following the (mis)adventures of security guard J.T Glass.
Warm and witty, Mundo captures Glass’ voice completely that it sings off the page. Mixing humour with touches of pathos makes this an impressive collection and Mundo a writer to watch.
Review of Gary, the Four Eyed Fairy and Other Stories
7. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
My first ever Pym novel but certainly not my last, Excellent Women follows thirty something Mildred Lathbury whose live is turned upside down when she meets her new neighbours the Napiers. She has a particularly soft spot for Rockingham.
This novel cheered me up, a refreshing change from the more dramatic novels I read (and who may be making an appearance later). Pym’s eye for detail is wonderful and her descriptions of post-war English society made me laugh. If you need a good book to curl into on a rainy day; this is it.
Review of Excellent Women
6. Ponti by Sharlene Teo
This one has lingered with me for months, it felt like an injustice to not have it here. Teenager Szu lives in Singapore with her mother Amisa, a once horror film star, and her aunt. A bit of a loner at school, she feels isolated until she is befriended by Circe. We trace the lives of these women from the latter half of the 20th century to the 2020s.
Teo successfully weaves complex characters into an intriguing and thrilling plot, and it is hard to believe this is a debut. The characters of Amisa, Szu and Circe are still with me after months of putting the book down. Another author to watch.
Review of Ponti
5. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
The Waves follows a group of friends from childhood to middle age, and we watch them grow, struggling with love and loss. Told through multiple perspectives Woolf allows the reader a glimpse into the mindset of each character.
This is my favourite of Woolf’s novels that I’ve read. It seems odd to call this a novel as at times it feels poetic. As always with Woolf the language is beautiful and evocative, and your heart aches for these characters as they try and make their way through life.
Review of The Waves
4. Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr
I don’t think this small volume of two of Dr King’s works needs any introduction. A searing account of race relations in 1960s USA; yet what elevates this is King’s refusal to give up hope and believe in a better, more equal society. A fascinating, tragic book and one that sadly is still relevant in the world today.
Review of Letter from Birmingham Jail
3. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The well-deserved winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction earlier this month, the novel is a retelling of the Greek play Antigone. Set in modern day London, we follow the lives of siblings Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz. While Isma and Aneeka study at University, Parvaiz is drawn to darker forces and ultimately joins ISIS.
Like Dr King’s book previously, this is highly topical for today, discussing the experience of being Muslim and how people can be radicalised. Shamsie never tells you what to think; she only provides you with what happened and it is up to you whether to forgive or condemn.
Review of Home Fire
2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I read this all the way back in January but it is still seared into memory. It also has the dubious honour of being the only book this year to make me cry (seriously don’t read this while in public. It’s embarrassing). Lincoln’s young son Willie dies after suffering an unknown illness. He is interred in the cemetery where he meets a group of ghosts who refuse to acknowledge that they are dead.
Combining the heart-wrenching sorrow of losing a child with dick jokes, Lincoln in the Bardo certainly isn’t for everyone. Saunders’ structure is odd too; as the novel reads more like a play, giving an intimacy and urgency to the story. One that isn’t easy to forget.
Review of Lincoln in the Bardo
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Does this one really need any explanation? Tolstoy’s masterpiece follows the eponymous Anna as she begins an affair with Count Vronsky; much to the scandal of Russian society.
And if you’re thinking; ‘How has it taken you this long to read Anna Karenina?!’ My only response is that I’m a total moron. It has everything; love, loss, despair, humour that it is obvious why it is considered a classic. And Anna is probably one of my favourite characters of all time, with the supporting characters all well-developed.
Review of Anna Karenina
That’s it! If you made it through the list, well done! I tried to keep the waffling to a minimum.
Let me know down below what your favourite books have been so far.