For the past few years I’ve done the goodreads 50 book challenge. This year I baaaarely got there by reading plenty of graphic novels and novellas throughout the year. But! I had an AMAZING year of reading – it was my most diverse year of reading yet and I plan to keep it that way. I read some of my favorite books of ALL TIME and had a very difficult time picking my top ten.
And now what I like to call, “I read a ton of books so that you don’t have to”, here are my top 10 reads of 2018! (in descending order! stick around til the end!) (Note:these books were not all released in 2018)
Here’s a sneak peek and if you want to keep up with my reading in 2018 follow my cat on Instagram @tonksreads :
10. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers
What it is: A space opera about a small crew of motley characters journeying through space together and hanging out.
Why I liked it: It felt like Star Trek meets Serenity but more gay and weird and that’s honestly exactly the content I’m looking for.
Memorable quote: “Do not judge other species by your own social norms”
9. An Unkindness of Ghosts – Rivers Solomon
What it is: This is a slavery-meets-space novel in which our protagonist, Aster, lives on the lower decks and works the fields so the folks higher up on the ship can live in peace and wealth but a whoooooole lot is about to be revealed about why the ship is structured the way it is and where exactly they are all going.
Why I liked it: The book tackles just about every issue there is in a sci-fi setting. Our protagonist is black and queer and neuro-atypical but none of these things felt forced down my throat. It was a super refreshing perspective wrapped in an engaging plot.
Memorable quote: “I am a boy and a girl and a witch all wrapped into one very strange, flimsy, indecisive body. Do you think my body couldn’t decide what it wanted to be?”
8. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing – Hank Green
What it is: When the aliens land April May simply thinks they are a very cool statue so she makes a video…that goes viral. She then must confront both her sudden overnight fame AND first contact.
Why I liked it: You can probably tell from the synopsis: this book is nonstop fun from beginning to end while also having a ton of interesting things to say about the modern internet, fame, and humanity’s capacity for good and evil.
Memorable quote: “It’s so much easier for people to get excited about disliking something than agreeing to like it. The circle jerk of mockery and self-congratulation was so intense I didn’t even notice I was at its center.”
7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz\
What it is: Ari and Dante are high-schoolers that meet at the pool one summer and they have not a lot in common except that they’re both loners and slowly they begin to connect more than they have ever connected with anyone in the universe.
Why I liked it: Boys can be affectionate? And boys can love each other? And it can be beautiful and they can connect and teenagers need this kind of content and apparently so do I because I sobbed for a loooong time when it was done.
Memorable quote: “The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.”
6. The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle
What it is: Tom is an excellent conman, and manages to always avoid the white police officers in his community by saying the right words and wearing the right clothes but when he takes the job of delivering an occult tome to a sorceress he gets introduced to a darker world than he has experienced before.
Why I liked it: I thought I wasn’t a horror fan and then I read this and couldn’t stop thinking about it for days and days. It’s a retelling of a Lovecraft Cthullu tale but it’s also an EFF YOU to Lovecraft who was a huge racist and overall a dark, captivating, unforgettable story.
Memorable quote: “There were others who would have called him a scammer, a swindler, a con, but he never thought of himself this way. No good charlatan ever did.”
5. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
What it is: Hill House is haunted. Everyone in the surrounding community knows it but Dr. Montague wants to write a book on the paranormal phenomena so he invites a few guests to stay there for a summer, including some that have been known to have paranormal encounters in the past.
Why I liked it: Every single sentence was beautiful. Who knew horror could be absolutely lovely to read? And the slow and dramatic build to the ending was absolutely perfect. I had to re-read sentences to try to figure out if I was going crazy or if it was the characters and had been written that way on purpose. This is some genius writing and I hope to read more Shirley Jackson in the future.
Memorable quote: “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”
4. Chemistry – Weike Wang
What it is: One day in lab, after three years in graduate study for Chemistry, the unnamed narrator throws a whole bunch of beakers on the floor and so takes a leave of absence for her mental health.
Why I liked it: It’s so freaking funny while also perfectly describing what it is like to live with a mental illness and how it can impact every part of your life even if you are smart, funny, accomplished, loved, etc. I connected with the main character on such a personal level while laughing my way through this brilliant little book.
Memorable quote: “The optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees the glass half empty. The chemist sees the glass completely full, half in liquid state and half in gaseous, both of which are probably poisonous.”
3. Exit West – Mohsin Hamid
What it is: Two lovers meet in an ambiguous Middle-Eastern war torn country. As the violence grows and the bombs drop they hear rumors about doors. If you find a door you can leave the country and appear suddenly in a western country. But how easy will it be to find a door? And once you’re in a new place how easy is it to start over?
Why I liked it: It’s pure poetry from beginning to end and tackles issues of violence, unrest, and immigration in a fantastical way without denying the horrific reality of the world. It’s a masterpiece.
Memorable quote: “To love is to enter into the inevitability of one day not being able to protect what is most valuable to you.”
2. The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
What it is: Two planets. On one a people that left the civilized world behind in order to live on a dusty planet and have their own system of government: anarchy. The other planet: beautiful with every resource imaginable that is being depleted by a capitalist society.
Why I liked it: Great books stand the test of time and this book has never been more relevant. I think this should be required reading in schools but I know why it’s not: it challenges the systems of government and doesn’t suggest a “likable” solution. In fact, the suggestions in the book are imperfect and involve a lot of hard work. (I wonder why most people aren’t agreeable to it) It’s not only the most masterful work of science fiction I’ve had the pleasure of reading, it’s a masterful novel in general that was good when it was written (1974), is still good now (2018) and will probably remain brilliant forever.
Memorable quote: “You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
1. The Broken Earth Trilogy – The Fifth Season, Obelisk Gate, & Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
What it is: Only the most amazing fantasy trilogy of ALL TIME (I said it). It begins with the apocalypse – or at least an earthquake big enough that survivors will be living under a cloud of dust for the rest of their days and can only pray their ancestors live. There is a group of people that could have prevented these quakes, powerful earth-benders called orogenes, but they have lived in a controlling and oppressive system that has held them back from their true potential.
Why I liked it: Listen: N.K. Jemisin has done something no author has done before. She won the Hugo – the highest award in sci-fi/fantasy – three. times. in. a. row. I can’t describe these books except to say that they are masterpieces. The main characters are women, children, people of color, and queer and this is their side of the story. It’s what we needed and it stands alone as a brilliant piece of work. There’s a lot of world-building in the first book that can feel overwhelming but STICK WITH IT UNTIL THE END.
Memorable quote: “This is why she hates Alabaster: not because he is more powerful, not even because he is crazy, but because he refuses to allow her any of the polite fictions and unspoken truths that have kept her comfortable, and safe, for years.”