Well, I can’t believe we’re (now more than) half way through 2018. I’m reading way more than I have in any previous year ever (check out my stats post to see what I mean), and some of those have been amazing. With that mind, it would be rude not to discuss the Top Ten Best Books of 2018 So Far, right?
As always, I’ve separated them into Gold and Silver. The Gold books are the ones that instantly come to mind as amazing, the ones I didn’t have to scrabble to think of. The Silver books are still great, but I only remembered I loved them after checking my LibraryThing for a refresher. You know, the ‘I’ll use this if there’s nothing better’ books.
1) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
This book is incredible. I’ll be very surprised if it isn’t my Number One favourite book of the entire year.
It’s dark and twisty and messed up, but in such a unique and wonderful way. I didn’t see any of the twists coming, but the real joy was in the journey. I loved every single second that I was reading this.
‘…you’re better off knowing as little as possible before you go in. You know that the main character has to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle by waking up in a different body every morning for a week, but you don’t know how, or why, or what he’s doing there. I’ll just say that none of those questions have the answers that you’d expect but they are 100% answered in the most shocking ways possible.’
2) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Similar title, completely different book. Except I’ve totally just realised that I’ve referred to Evelyn Hardcastle in my review of this book.
Picture the true, unabridged story of somebody like Audrey Hepburn, if she’d been married seven times with a secret life of heartbreak and scandal. It’s glamorous, gritty and riveting.
‘She purposefully states that she wants to tell her whole story, no holds barred, free for people to judge critically. She warns that she has done some deeds she’s not particularly proud of, which may make her unlikeable in some eyes. It’s true – she’s not a saint, and she has some distinct flaws. But I love her. She’s very nuanced, even in her ‘own’ telling and it’s hard to come out of the novel not liking her.’
I really love books about the institutionalisation of death, Santa Claus, etc. Yes, I appreciate that’s a ridiculously obscure genre, but hey ho. Scythe is about, well, Scythes who are charged with ‘gleaning’ people as a way of keeping overpopulation at bay. That by no means does the plot any justice at all, but it’s brilliant and completely unique.
‘What I particularly appreciate about Scythe is that the world-building is properly and 100% established before the overarching plot gets going. I loved knowing about the details of Citra and Rowan’s apprenticeships, the gleanings that they experienced and the minutiae of how the system worked. It really established the system as a whole, and it’s so inventive and well thought out. I kept trying to poke holes to find one thing that didn’t make perfect sense, and there just wasn’t one.’
4) If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
I’ve heard it said that this is a poor man’s The Secret History, which isn’t fair. It definitely stands on its own two feet and it’s wonderful. One member of a group of elite Shakespeare students dies and suspicion falls on the other members… but this is not a crime novel. It’s dark and poetic and excellent. I stayed up until 1am just because I had to know what happened. The ending is just perfect too.
‘It’s very, very tense. It’s a slowbuild book – the tension and atmosphere builds so slowly that by the time I reached the ending, my heart was beating in my chest and I felt physically sick. What an ending. Both the conclusion of the original mystery, and the current-day ending with the detective are rough and gritty and… argh. I’m still having an adrenaline spike now.’
5) Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by (unsurprisingly) Agatha Christie
It took me eight years to read this book and I hate that. I could have read this twice over by now.
It’s not really about her writing, although of course it pops up from time to time. It’s more a chatty, informal look at her fascinating life, but only the bits she found interesting. You can definitely tell she wrote it for herself, not for her publishers. She’s very dry and funny at times, but always honest. She went on archaelogical digs, worked in a pharmacy during the war and turned over her huge home for evacuees. She’s so so interesting.
‘I love this woman. I’ve always liked her work, as I’ve read (probably) most of her books by this point, but now I like her a lot as a person. She comes across as stubborn but kind-hearted. Very shy but loyal. You can tell she wrote it for herself, and not because her publishers wanted her to. It’s mostly chronological, but not quite. She does flit around a little, but in a natural, unforced way. If something pops up, she’ll talk about it there and then, instead of waiting for the correct time period 100 pages later. She never bothers to tell you what year it was or how old she was, but I almost like that. It feels so unforced. Towards the end she says, ‘I’m not going to bother tidying this book up too much. I’m too old for that shit.’ I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but that is almost definitely what she’s saying.’
6) You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
On the face of it, this is a crime novel told entirely within the closing speech of the self-represented Defendant, during his criminal trial. It sounds gimmicky, but it works really well. It never gets annoying or stale, but instead provides a fascinating device for the narrator to explain to a white middle class Jury why everything they had been told by the two barristers was misleading at best. And yet, it’s somehow not sledgehammery! It’s really, really well done.
‘I’ll definitely be buying anything else that Mr Mahmood writes. He probably won’t use the same format again, but I’d be ecstatic if he did as it just works so well. I’d really recommend this book to everybody, regardless of your interest in law or crime. It’s very human – revealing our inherent prejudices and questioning whether we are ever really tried by our ‘peers.’’
7) The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris
I didn’t review this, although I should have done.
I do really enjoy medical history so perhaps it’s not a huge surprise that I liked this book. I’d still recommend this for anybody with even a passing interest in the topic or non-fiction in general. It’s a really interesting look at Joseph Lister as a person, as well as his huge contribution to surgery as we know it today.
I’d actually borrowed this from the library, but I made sure to buy myself a copy before I had to return it. It’s the sort of book I know I’ll go back to. Informative and entertaining!
8) The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
It’s honestly worth clicking just to see what a real silent companion looked like…
I’m probably about a medium-wimp when it comes to these things. I don’t get creeped out too easily, but then certain fictional things have popped into my head in the dark at 1am before… The Silent Companions got me though, I have to admit. It’s clever and unique, and I’ve already pre-ordered Laura Purcell’s next book.
‘It’s not a ‘jump out from the behind the door, boo!’ type of horror novel. There’s no serial killer or boogeyman. Instead, there’s a pervading, creepy mystery that emodies itself in the silent companions, realistic wooden cut-outs of servants and children. I learned just now that they are apparently REAL things and have therefore abandoned any prospect of sleep for the next five months. I’ve never seen anything similar used in a novel before, and they’re the perfect blend of unnassuming and outright terrifying.’
Aaaaaaaaand I’m going to leave it there. I’ve read lots of other books that I really liked, of course, but I couldn’t choose two more that really stood above the others. That probably indicates that I’ve already picked out the best of the best (so far)!
Come back in December to see how many make it onto the Best Books of 2018 list!