2018 was a pretty shit year for most things, huh? At least there were good books to distract us. I read 272 books this year, which is the most since I began logging my reading in Goodreads several years ago (and definitely makes it sound like I need some new hobbies). Here are some of my favorites:
The Murderbot Diaries novellas by Martha Wells (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Exit Strategy, Rogue Protocol): I just really loved these. Super fun, quick-paced science fiction with a tortured, snarky hero. I’m really looking forward to the full-length Murderbot novel the author is working on now.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai: A touching and often quite sad novel of friendship that alternates between a group of friends in 1985 Chicago amidst the AIDS crisis and 30 years later, as one of them tracks down her estranged daughter in Paris.
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant: Killer mermaids! Awesome diverse scientist characters! What’s not to love?
Broken Ground by Val McDermid: The fifth entry in the Karen Pirie series, and my favorite one to date. It centers on DCI Pirie, the head of a Historic Crimes Unit in Scotland. I love the mix of cold case investigation procedural, tough female detective, great character development, and atmospheric setting. I definitely recommend these if you are into any of those things.
The Trespasser by Tana French: The newest entry in the wonderful Dublin Murder Squad series, and my favorite so far. Each book in this series features a different detective as the main character, and this one is Detective Antoinette Conway, a bitchy badass with a chip on her shoulder. I love her.
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson: This novel centers on Andrea, a young woman who escapes her conservative Midwestern family for the insular lesbian community of 1990s Portland. When she finds herself pregnant after a short affair with a man, it upends her new found community. I found it to be charming and sweet, and I loved the 1990s setting.
Royal City by Jeff Lemire: As I’ve mentioned before, I am a sucker for sibling stories. And I’m a big fan of Jeff Lemire’s work, so I loved this series about a family coming to terms with past tragedy.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka: This memoir tells the author’s story of growing up as the son of an addicted mother. A beautifully done tearjerker.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean: I loved everything about this one. Lots of wonderfully eccentric characters from the world of libraries and Los Angeles history. I knew nothing about the story of the library fire going in, so it was all fascinating.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon: The best memoir I read this year. A powerful heart-punch of a book about the author’s childhood and his relationship with the abusive mother he idolizes.
Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century by Jessica Bruder: A compelling and really rather depressing look at the way our society is totally failing older adults (and really, let’s face it, most people). It follows several people who lost out in the 2008 economic downturn who are struggling to afford the basics (shelter, health care, food) with little to no security.
Educated by Tara Westover: This one has already gotten a ton of attention, so I don’t really have much to add, except for that it was really hard to read her descriptions of physical abuse and medical neglect. Infuriating.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara: Another one that has already been written about everywhere. Super compelling, well-written true crime. Also, it scared the bejesus out of me!