My Top 12 Reads of 2018

Wednesday, 29 April 2020
Ok so, I think it's pretty safe to say that my blogging has dropped off substantially over the last year or so. I started this post at the end of 2018/beginning of 2019 and I'm ashamed to say that I'm only just getting round to finishing it now. And by this point, my 2019 round up is well overdue too. But hey, better late than never. As usual, these are my favourite books that I personally read in 2018, not necessarily books that were released in 2018. And they're in no particular order, but may help anyone looking for some recommendations for lockdown reads.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid was one of my favourite books of 2018. So I started off the year by checking out some of his other work. This was another favourite of mine. The Reluctant Fundamentalist has a bit of a weird set up, so I'll try my best to explain. This book reads like someone is talking to you. You have to imagine that you are an American citizen who works in security in Pakistan. You are eating in a restaurant when a stranger approaches you and starts to tell you his story. He tells you, he went to university there and worked in New York City for a while before moving back to Pakistan after 9/11. This book is spectacularly written but is an uncomfortable read at the same time. I think its main goal is to show how people develop an anti-American sentiment. It challenges your views when you read it. This book is powerful.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan
I must admit that I was a little shocked when looking back at the list of books I read in 2018, to see that this one was even in there. I pretty much fell in love with this book from the first page and it's been a favourite ever since I couldn't really believe that this time last year I hadn't read it yet. This book follows Lois, a busy tech worker in San Francisco. One night she decides to order takeout from a leaflet she gets through the door for a soup place. She falls in love with their soup and bread combo and quickly becomes friends with the brothers who run the place. When they suddenly up and leave, they leave their sourdough starter behind and Lois tries making some for herself. She quickly gets drawn into the world of breadmaking, although the sourdough starter is not quite what it seems. Robin Sloan is a phenomenal writer, his books walk the line between real life and magical fiction and they are sublime.  This book made me fall in love with bread baking. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This novel follows two half-sisters and their separate bloodlines. Effia and Esi are half-sisters, born into two different villages in Ghana. Effia marries an Englishman and remains in Ghana whilst Esi is imprisoned and sold into slavery, then shipped off to North America. This novel has one chapter from a member of each bloodline at each generation. I think that this is one of the best books I've ever read, it grips you right in from the start and addresses many big issues in a powerful and punching manner. Even years later, I'm still blown away by how clever this book is and I would really recommend it. 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Ok so, everyone and their dog read this book and it's easy to understand why after the first few pages. It's incredibly gripping. This book follows Eleanor. Who likes her routine thank you very much. Her life begins to change when a new friendship blossoms, which forces her to confront some realities. This book became very popular and it's easy to see why. Eleanor is a very endearing and lovable character and this book gets you very invested in her very quickly. I expect this one to be made into a movie within the next few years. 

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
This is the novel that the 2015 film starring Saoirse Ronan is based on. It follows an Irish girl as she emigrates to New York in the 1950s. I had seen the film before and enjoyed it, but the book knocked it out of the park for me. It somehow captures the feeling of moving to a different country in a way that is timeless. Bearing in mind, at the time I was living abroad and miserable. And some of the ways that homesickness is described in this book, mirrored the way I felt about things exactly. If you've seen the movie and enjoyed it, then you need to give this one a read. 

Between Shades of Grey by  Ruta Sepetys
How much do you know about the Russian occupation of Lithuania? Not much I'd imagine? I, personally, was pretty clueless until I read this book. The novel is narrated by teenager Lina, the daughter of a Lithuanian academic, as her family are exiled to a Siberian forced labour camp. The story is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. It opened my eyes to a chapter of history that I had previously been ignorant of. 

Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
I could wax lyrical about this book for hours and not get bored. Ruby Tandoh has written an absolute masterpiece. This non-fiction book explores the human relationship with food and diet. Drawing on personal anecdotes and scientific studies, she breaks down diet culture one step at a time. This book makes it impossible not to look at food with a newfound appreciation and I absolutely adored it. 10/10 would recommend to anyone. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Everyone and their dog read this book this year. Except for my dogs, who are quite frankly a bit thick. This fiction novel starts with a house that has burnt down. Then we go back in time, looking at the family who lives there and eventually finding out who lit the fire. A lot of the books on my list this year fall into a genre of contemporary fiction where the writing is really rich and descriptive, making it feel like a fantasy despite there being no magical elements. This book is no different. The real enjoyment of this story comes not from the plot twists but at how great the writing is. I also read another of Celeste Ng's books but this was my favourite out of the two.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
In this award winning fiction novel, the underground railroad is imagined as exactly that. An actual railroad underground. This books follows the story of Cora, a slave who escapes and crosses America on the railroad. This book is tense, well written and deserving of all the awards it's won. I had to wait weeks to get this from the library and it was worth it. 

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
In this thriller novel, our alcoholic and agoraphobic main character witnesses a murder. From her house. The murder takes place across to road in a neighbours house. The neighbours she spies on. The police, however, aren't taking her too seriously because she's an alcoholic. This book is gripping. I read the whole thing in like a day. It was the perfect weekend read and I would encourage everyone to just get their hands on a copy and snuggle up with it on a cold day. 

The Leavers by Lisa Ko
This book tells the story of Deming Guo, the son of an undocumented Chinese immigrant in NYC. One day, his mother just doesn't come home from work. With no idea what happened to her, he ends up in care where he is adopted by a white, American family who change his name to Daniel in an attempt to assimilate him. He struggles with his cultural identity and the mystery of what happened to his mother. As an adult, he vows to work out what happened to her. I haven't heard many people talking about it but it absolutely sucked me in and is a very interesting story. 

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
Adam Kay was an NHS doctor before quitting because of the pressure our underfunded system puts on doctors. This novel is an edit selection of his diaries from the time. It is both heartbreaking and laugh out loud funny. Read this one, you won't regret it and you'll be even more grateful for universal healthcare. There's also a 2nd book now - Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas - which I recently read and also really enjoyed.

And those were my favourite books from 2018! Hopefully, I won't leave it so long before writing my next round up. 2019 edition: coming soon. 

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