It confuses and thrills me how I’ve managed to read so any books this year – 145 books. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never, ever read as many books in one year as that again and I’ve (almost) made my peace with that. But the thing is, that means there are loads of books to choose from for the ‘Top Ten Books of 2018.’
Ususlly I split this into Gold and Silver Tiers. Gold books are the ones that I immediately think of, that definitely have to be included in this list. Silver books are those that didn’t quite spring to mind, but I saw them and thought ‘oh yes!’ when flicking through my LibraryThing.
Find my previous ‘Best of… Lists’ below.
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.’
3) 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.’
4) Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by (unsurprisingly) Agatha Christie
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.’
5) Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Neverworld Wake completely blew me away, to an extent that I really wasn’t expecting. I thought it would be a cheesey, teenagery twee thing and it completely wasn’t. It was one of the most engrossing things I’ve ever read – dark, and twisty, and just amazing.
This book kept me awake at night. Partly because I kept imagining The Keeper (played by Cristoph Waltz) stood in the corner watching me, but mainly because I could not get it out of my head. I was lying there, tossing and turning, unable to stop trying to unravel it in my head and figure out where it was going to go. Any book that can do that to me doesn’t deserve less than 5 stars.
6) The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Argh, The City of Brass. It’s a high fantasy novel set in a world similar to an ancient Turkey (alright, Constantinople then), and it pretty much jumps off the page. Honestly, you can almost smell it. It has djinn with kick-ass personalities and some twists that I just couldn’t see coming. I’m so excited for the next book, The Kingdom of Copper, which is out at the end of this month.
The City of Brass is honestly incredible. I’d be very, very surprised if it doesn’t make it onto my eventual Top Ten list at the end of the year. The world, the story, the characters are all masterfully crafted and I’ll be devouring anything that S.A. Chakraborty writes. If she wrote a cereal packet blurb, I’d read it.
I don’t actually read a huge amount of middle grade (says the girl who read both Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books this year). I actually had to go and investigate the depths of Huddersfield Children’s Library to find this one. But oh my god did I love it. I’d read the second book within days of it being released. It’s so imaginative, quirky, and just fun.
The world-building in The Trials of Morrigan Crow is incredible, both in Morrigan’s normal, home world where there is a whole system set up to deal with cursed children, and also in the magical world of Nevermoor. It’s not really reminiscent of any other fantasy novel I’ve read, children’s or otherwise, albeit it there is a sort of magical school. It doesn’t matter, it’s not the same. I loved the idea of a magical society and the children having to undertake special trials to get in.
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.’
9) Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott/Agatha Christie
Alright, so nothing happens in this book. There’s a middle-aged woman stuck on her own in a resting house with zero forms of entertainment; nothing to do but sit there and mull over her life and relationships. It’s not exactly pleasant reading, watching the poor woman essentially assassinate her own character but it is fascinating. I was glued to it the whole time.
This book is brutal, there’s really no other word for it. The reader has to sit idly by whilst Joan Scutamore performs a vicious character assassination on herself. It’s actually quite hard to read, in parts. Not because of the prose or the structure, but because it apparently struck a raw nerve for me.
10) Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
So, having only finished this a couple of weeks ago, I lack the required distance to really say whether it deserves to be on this list or not. All I know is that I gave it five stars and I read the next book almost immediately, which I never do. The world-building is incredible and the plot has so many twists. It’s slow, but in a good way, and I’ve already run off and read Grey Sister!
Calling them ‘assassin nuns’ doesn’t really do them justice, because they are bad-ass. Essentially we have a training academy, but the students head off into four different disciplines – some of them go down the religious worship route, but others become poisoners or assassin-type figures. We’re not talking a Harry Potter or Morrigan Crow type school though. The Convent of Sweet Mercy is very dark and brutal and, for clarity, Red Sister is not a Young Adult book. There are some brutal fight scenes and a smattering of torture-esque grossness. But, it is relevant to the plot. Honestly.
Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts?