As 2018 draws to a close, we all look back at the things we did and try to figure out the best and worst of it all. With 155 books read so far this year, I have a lot of titles that I read and loved. Unsurprisingly, most of these books are fantasy or science fiction, but there are some from other genres that I really enjoyed, too. Most of these were not published in 2018, but I read them for the first time this year.
So in no particular order, here are some of my favorite books I read in 2018:
- Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress #1) by Julie C. Dao
- Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga #2) by Lois McMaster Bujold
- Memory (Vorkosigan Saga #10) by Lois McMaster Bujold
- The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden
- The Long way to a Small Angry Planet (Wayferers #1) by Becky Chambers
- A Novel Bookstore by Laurance Cosse
- The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
- The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis
- A Sea of Love by Wilfrid Lupano and Gregory Panccione
- Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Bailey Tolkien
- Blood is Blood (Barker and Llewellyn # 10) by Will Thomas
- Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4) by Tana French
- The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was one of the first books I read in 2018. It is a Snow White retelling set in a land inspired by Imperial China. The first book in the duology is about Xifeng, a beautiful and cunning young woman from the impoverished countryside who goes to the imperial capital to find her destiny. Thanks to her beauty, ruthlessness, and her skills with magic, she rises high in the imperial court, and ultimately must choose between love and power.
Barrayar and Memory are two volumes in the lengthy Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. If you remember all the way back to March and April, I was obsessed with this series, which is largely military SF, but blends in a variety of other genres. I was hooked on this series from the first book thanks to Bujold’s brilliant writing, deep characters, and wonderfully empathetic insights into humanity, no matter the setting.
The Girl in the Tower and The Winter of the Witch are the final two volumes of Katherine Arden’s brilliant Winternight Trilogy. It blends medieval Russian history with Russian fairytales to a magical effect. I can’t think of many current authors who have Arden’s grasp of the atmosphere and language of fairytales, and I am eager to see where she takes her writing skills next.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers has been described as ‘comfort science fiction’. It is about the crew of a spaceship that, in effect, lays down the trail for interstellar travel lanes. They’re hired to take the long way to a little planet far, far away in order to set up the necessary mechanisms for fast space travel. The story is about their journey there and the interactions between the wildly different people who make up the crew. It’s light on plot, but this book is all about the wonderful interactions between the characters. I didn’t think the second book, A Closed and Common Orbit, was as good, but I was completely charmed by The Long way to a Small, Angry Planet.
A Novel Bookstore by French author Laurence Cosse was a book I found for my Read the World Challenge. It is about two bibliophiles who find each other by chance and decide to open a special kind of bookstore where only the best novels are sold. Said novels are chosen by a secret committee of the country’s best authors. Their plan is massively successful until jealousy and conceit drive a conspiracy to shut down the bookstore. I don’t read much in the way of contemporary novels, but A Novel Bookstore has such charm and a deep love of books that I quickly got lost in it and wished that a bookstore like that actually existed.
The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima is a mid-century Japanese novel about a boy and a girl from different social classes. He is poor and working class, while she is the daughter of the wealthiest man on their remote island. They fall in love but must deal with the prejudice, gossip, and outright hostility their relationship provokes. It is a beautiful novel that tells its story so elegantly you hardly notice how short it is.
The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis is set in early twentieth century Argentia. A young Italian woman arrives in Buenos Aires intending to live with her husband, but when she gets off the boat she finds out that her husband has been dead for weeks. She has no money and no prospects, just her father’s violin. She falls in love with a new dance called the tango, but because it is a scandalous dance only performed in brothels, she must pretend to be a man in order to follow her passion for music.
A Sea of Love by Wilfred Lupano and Gregory Panccione is a wordless graphic novel about a little old fisherman who goes out to sea every morning and returns every night to his doting wife. One day, though, he fails to return and while everyone in their little Cuban village says the fisherman must be dead, his wife embarks on a search for him. This was a beautiful story that was by turns charming, hilarious, and heartbreaking, and proves at a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
Letters from Father Christmas is a collection of the letters and drawings that Tolkien created for his children when they were young. They told of the adventures of Father Christmas and the Great North Polar Bear as they prepared for Christmas each year. The Great North Polar Bear’s antics are hilarious, and Tolkien’s illustrations are amazing. What’s crazy is that Tolkien’s children didn’t realize that he had kept the letters. They only found them after his death in 1973, after which Bailey Tolkien (his daughter-in-law) compiled them and had them published. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read.
Blood is Blood (Barker and Llewellyn #10) by Will Thomas is the newest volume in my favorite mystery series. A lot of overarching plot points have come to a head in this one, and it was wonderful to see the characters achieve certain goals and reach milestones in their lives. Revisiting this series every year is like meeting up with old friends.
Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4) by Tana French is a mystery about a family that has been murdered in a remote and dilapidated subdivision on the eastern Irish coast. Detective ‘Scorcher’ Kennedy and a rookie are assigned the case, and Kennedy finds that his own history with the area, once known as Broken Harbor, isn’t as far behind him as he would like. Of all the Dublin Murder Squad books I’ve completed so far, this one is my favorite, thanks to the nuance of character, the psychological insights, and the way the mystery unfolds right up to the shocking ending.
I liked most of what I read in 2018, but these were the most fun or the most memorable books of the year.
What were your favorite books you read this year, and what do you plan to read in 2019?