Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2018!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a lovely, safe New Year’s Eve last night whatever you decided to do – whether that was going to a party/event or staying in with the dog and reading (which is what I did). This is my list of my favourite books of 2018. I did try to cut it down to ten but just couldn’t do it so it’s my top twenty!

1. Hunger by Roxane Gay

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Summary: from Amazon

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she casts an insightful and critical eye on her childhood, teens, and twenties-including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life-and brings readers into the present and the realities, pains, and joys of her daily life.

Why:

This book was  the first one I read in 2018 and I actually listened to it on audiobook as well. Hearing such searing honesty in Gay’s own voice was an incredibly emotional experience. It is such an important book and everyone should be made to read it before they even think about judging someone else’s body. Hunger is not always a pleasant read but it is a vital one.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay Review

2. Beartown by Fredrik Backman

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Summary: from Amazon

In a large Swedish forest Beartown hides a dark secret . . .

Cut-off from everywhere else it experiences the kind of isolation that tears people apart.

And each year more and more of the town is swallowed by the forest.

Then the town is offered a bright new future.

But it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act.

It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done.

Who will speak up?

Could you stand by and stay silent?

Or would you risk everything for justice?

Which side would you be on?

Why:

I love Fredrik Backman. Every single one of his books has been phenomenal to me. Beartown is no exception. It is darker than a lot of his other work but it retains the heart that makes his books so great. His characters feel so real and I felt so much for them as they struggled through the events of the story. The sequel, Us Against You, is equally as fantastic.

The Scandal (Beartown in the US) by Fredrik Backman – Review

3. The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

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Summary: from Amazon

Izzy O’Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by . . .

Izzy never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay.

Why:

I found this book a joy to read. The main character, Izzy, is funny and realistic and she felt like the sort of person I would love to be friends with. The story is an exploration of the way young women are treated in the face of scandal and whilst the topic is serious and often dark, the book never feels depressing. It’s well written, fun and important. I would absolutely recommend it!

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven – Review

4. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

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Summary: from Amazon

Rebecca Solnit’s essay ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ has become a touchstone of the feminist movement, inspired the term ‘mansplaining’, and established Solnit as one of the leading feminist thinkers of our time – one who has inspired everyone from radical activists to Beyonce Knowles. Collected here in print for the first time is the essay itself, along with the best of Solnit’s feminist writings. From rape culture to mansplaining, from French sex scandals to marriage and the nuclear family, from Virginia Woolf to colonialism, these essays are a fierce and incisive exploration of the issues that a patriarchal culture will not necessarily acknowledge as ‘issues’ at all. With grace and energy, and in the most exquisite and inviting of prose, Rebecca Solnit proves herself a vital leading figure of the feminist movement and a radical, humane thinker.

Why:

This is a very slim collection of essays but a very powerful one. It had so much relevant information and brought up quite a few points I hadn’t considered on the subject of feminism. Solnit is intelligent and acerbic in the way she approaches some very complex topics and if you haven’t read this book then I highly recommend it!

5. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michele McNamara

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Summary: from Amazon

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

Why:

I read a fair amount of true crime but this one was unlike any of the others. McNamara was clearly totally consumed by her investigation on the Golden State Killer and her sudden death whilst finishing the book is heartbreaking. The book is meticulous and doesn’t fall into the trap of many true crime books where the victims are pretty much forgotten. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a special book and a powerful legacy for the author.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara – Review

6. The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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Summary: from Amazon

Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Two centuries ago, in the small, isolated town, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town. Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return from the depths, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them down to their watery deaths.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…

Why:

I loved this wonderfully atmospheric book about mystery, witchcraft and love. The writing had a beautifully melancholic feeling to it and the characters were complex and intriguing. It is a Young Adult novel but it had such maturity to it that I think anyone would enjoy reading it.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw – Review

7. Circe by Madeline Miller

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Summary: from Amazon

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Why:

Song of Achilles is one of my all time favourite books so I was incredibly excited about a new book from the author and I wasn’t disappointed. The world of Greek Mythology has been covered a lot in literature but Miller always manages to find a unique story and craft a mythical goddess into a real person. On top of that the writing is lyrical and gorgeous, just like the cover.

Circe by Madeline Miller – Review

8. The Hunters by Kat Gordon

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Summary: from Amazon

Theo Miller is fourteen years old, bright and ambitious, when he steps off the train into the simmering heat and uproar of 1920s Nairobi. Neither he, nor his earnest younger sister Maud, is prepared for the turbulent mix of joy and pain their new life in Kenya will bring.

Their father is Director of Kenyan Railways, a role it is assumed Theo will inherit. But when he meets enchanting American heiress Sylvie de Croÿ and her charismatic, reckless companion, Freddie Hamilton, his aspirations turn in an instant.

Sylvie and Freddie’s charm is magnetic and Theo is welcomed into the heart of their inner circle: rich, glamourous expatriates, infamous for their hedonistic lifestyles. Yet behind their intoxicating allure lies a more powerful cocktail of lust, betrayal, deceit and violence that he realises he cannot avoid. As dark clouds gather over Kenya’s future and his own, he must find a way back to his family – to Maud – before it is too late.

Why:

The Hunters is set in a time and place that I haven’t read a great deal about and the story opened my eyes to a lot of the injustice that went on in colonial Kenya. The story is so interesting to follow and there are some truly heart wrenching moments in it. I loved these characters and it was absolutely one of my favourite books this year.

The Hunters by Kat Gordon – ARC Review

9. The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke

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Summary: from Amazon

A SENSELESS MURDER. A TERRIFYING LEGEND. A FAMILY HAUNTED.

1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.

2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.

2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.

Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.

He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…

Why:

I love a creepy, sinister book and this one was exactly that. The idea is clearly inspired by Slenderman – which is a true life phenomenon many young people were apparently obsessed with but the story also feels really original. The writing is mystical and I was genuinely scared at times whilst reading this.

The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke – Review

10. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

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Summary: from Amazon

In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.

So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.

Why:

This book is a strong contender for my book of the year. It is just the most beautiful story and whilst there is obviously a great deal of suffering in the book, it never felt depressing. There is always hope, and The Tattooist of Auschwitz portrays that message in such a real and special way. If you haven’t read this one then seriously go buy it right now!

11. All of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

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Summary: from Amazon

MIRI loves the novel Undertow like it’s a living being. So when she and her friends get the chance to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they plot a way to get closer to her. As for what happened with Jonah . Well, obviously none of that was Fatima’s fault.

SOLEIL wants to be a writer herself one day. She can’t believe it when Fatima asks them to hang out with her – and having Jonah there makes it even better.

PENNY is more than the party girl everyone thinks she is, and she’s willing to share her darkest secrets with Fatima to prove it. But what will happen when Fatima finds out about Jonah?

Why:

This was one of the books I received in my Book Box Club subscription and I completely devoured it. It had so much going for it in the respect that the characters felt totally plausible and the story keeps the reader guessing about the motivations of these characters beautifully all the way through. Highly recommend.

All Of This Is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor – Review

12. Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

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Summary: from Amazon

You’ve known her your whole life…
Andrea Oliver knows everything about her mother Laura. She knows she’s always lived in the small town of Belle Isle; she knows she’s a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life.

but she’s hiding something…
Then one day, a trip to the mall explodes into a shocking act of violence and Andy suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura.

and it could destroy you both…
Hours later, Laura is in hospital, her face splashed over the newspapers. But the danger has only just begun. Now, Andy must go on a desperate race to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past. Unless she can, there may be no future for either of them…

Why:

Karin Slaughter is the undisputed queen of crime in my book. I have yet to be remotely let down by any of her books and Pieces of Her lived up to her very high standard. The plot is gripping and fast-paced and kept me guessing until the end. Honestly just a great thriller and if you are looking for a new obsession then definitely start reading Slaughter’s work!

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter – ARC Review

13. Life Honestly by The Pool

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Summary: from Amazon

Within these pages you’ll find an un-airbrushed selection of advice, comment and opinion. These are intimate stories from bad sex to bad boys, from workplace inequality to the sheer joy of learning something new, that will spark hope, triumph and occasionally outrage. In Life Honestly you will find fresh perspectives on everything from age milestones and friendship, motherhood and weddings, and why you should always, always, tell someone when you like their earrings. This book will make you feel empowered, supported and more prepared than ever to take on anything life has to offer because, honestly, we’re all in this together.

Why:

I loved this collection of essays from all different kinds of women on a huge range of topics. Even when the subjects didn’t really relate directly to my life I still gained so much from reading the views of these smart women. There are so many different opinions here and every single one is valid and important.

Life Honestly by The Pool – ARC Review

14. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby

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Summary: from Amazon

With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette–she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”–detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms–hang in there for the Costco loot–she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.

Why:

I think this book cover might be one of my all time favourites. I seriously relate to that cat! This book was hilarious, honest, harsh and unflinching. There were dark moments but always tinged with the author’s wit and I will happily read anything she writes.

15. Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay

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Summary: from Amazon

In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz.

Why:

This one definitely didn’t make for pleasant reading but it is such an important and timely collection. It covers the full spectrum of issues relating to sexual violence and shows that every single person’s story has value and relevance in today’s society. I wish everyone would read this book and I think the contributors are incredibly brave for putting their stories out there.

Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay – ARC Review

16. Little by Edward Carey

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Summary: from Amazon

Born in Alsace in 1761, the unsightly, diminutive Marie Grosholtz is quickly nicknamed ‘Little’. Orphaned at the age of six, she finds employmet in Bern, Switzerland, under the charge of reclusive anatomist, Dr Curtius. In time the unlikely pair form an unlikely bond, and together they pursue an unusual passion: the fine art of wax-modelling.

Forced to flee their city, the doctor and his protégée head for the seamy streets of Paris where they open an exhibition hall for their uncanny creations. Though revolution approaches, the curious-minded flock to see the wax heads, eager to scrutinise the faces of royalty and reprobates alike. At ‘The Cabinet of Doctor Curtius’, heads are made, heads are displayed, and a future is built from wax.

Why:

This book is honestly one of the most wonderful and quirky stories I have ever read. It is delightfully weird and the book is full of the author’s fantastic illustrations which added a whole other level of enjoyment to reading it. I had no idea what would happen next in the fascinating life of Little and I love that, whilst a fictionalised account, it is based on a real and clearly very interesting human being.

Little by Edward Carey – ARC Review

17. Sadie by Courtney Summers

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Summary: from Amazon

A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial – like podcast following the clues she’s left behind. Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him. When West McCray – a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America – overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late. Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

Why:

This is another of my contenders for my book of the year. I had heard loads of good things about it so my expectations were high and Sadie totally delivered. I loved the podcast aspect of the structure but the real strength of the book is the character of Sadie herself. She is so heartbreakingly real and I felt so much empathy for her. Seriously – read this book – I don’t think you will be disappointed!

Sadie by Courtney Summers – Review

18. The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

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Summary: from Amazon

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter – a wealthy senator and recent widower – and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets – the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

Inspired by the classic novel Rebecca, The Winters is a riveting story about what happens when a family’s ghosts resurface and threaten to upend everything.

Why:

I adore the Du Maurier classic, Rebecca, so I was sceptical of a modern interpretation but I was pleasantly surprised by The Winters. It evokes the same gothic atmosphere of the original and also feels like a story in it’s own right. I found it hugely enjoyable to read.

The Winters by Lisa Gabriele – Review

19. The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elizabeth Gifford

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Summary: from Amazon

Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha’s mentor, Dr Janusz Korczak, care for the two hundred children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls.

As the noose tightens around the ghetto Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. They can only hope to find each other again one day…

Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness.

Why:

This is another book based on a true story from World War Two and it is devastating and optimistic in equal measure. It tells two stories really: the love story between two youths and the story of a brave and genuinely kind doctor of Warsaw. Both stories are connected and they are both powerful and compelling.

20. Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

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Summary: from Amazon

It’s been five years since Mia and Brynn murdered Summer Marks, their best friend, in the woods

Increasingly obsessed with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn and by their fan-fiction imagining of its sequel, the girls were drawn by an undertow of fantasy into the magical world they’d created. But eventually, their delusions turned sick, and the Shadow, Lovelorn’s central evil, began to haunt them.

Or so the story goes. The only thing is: they didn’t do it

Brynn and Mia have both found different ways to hide from their notoriety, seeking refuge from a world that hates them-a world that will never feel magical, or safe, ever again.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as past and present, fiction and reality, begin again to intertwine, Brynn and Mia must confront painful truths they tried for so long to bury-and face the long shadow of memory that has, all this time, been waiting.

Why:

I read Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series when I was younger and really enjoyed it so I was excited to learn she was releasing a new book. Broken Things is a great story that is unpredictable and kept me guessing. I loved the characters and I almost wish there was a sequel because I wanted to know where their lives took them. The plot also felt believable and current which is something I always look for in a book.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver – ARC Review

Well that’s it! I would love to hear your thoughts on my list and please feel free to link to your own great list! Happy New Year!

xxx

10 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I Read in 2018!

  1. curlygeek04 says:

    I’m hearing a lot of great things about Tattooist, so I’ll have to check that out. There are so many good reads about the Holocaust, and they can be so hard to read. I also thought Circe was very good. Hunger was good but I was blown away by Gay’s first novel, An Untamed State. I highly recommend it. Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lifewithallthebooks says:

      The Tattooist of Auschwitz does have a lot of awful things happening but I didn’t think it was a depressing read – it’s about love and hope as well as the horrors of the holocaust. I totally agree with you about An Untamed State – it was brutal but a fantastic book! Happy New Year! 😊

      Like

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