Gosh, is it that time of year already? With the last few pages of 2018’s books being feverishly read and the first titles of 2019 knocking at the door, it is indeed time for The Shelf’s annual Books of the Year post.
And whilst it might not have been the best year out in the big wide world (in fact, the less said about 2018 the better really), 2018 really has been an excellent year for books. I’ve read some fantastic titles – the ones selected here really had to work hard for their place on the list – and have many more 2018 publications still waiting in the TBR pile.
The books selected here then are, in my humble opinion, the best books that I read this year. They might not have necessarily been published in 2018 but I read them this year and they’ve stayed in my mind, haunting me in the way that only the very best books can do. Clicking on the title link will take you to a full review of the book in question (if available) for more information and thoughts. So, without further ado, I present to you (in no particular order), my Best Books of 2018!
As mentioned in my review, I have genuinely enjoyed every single one of Matt’s Six Stories series. Combining an addictive podcast style format with a dash of the supernatural and a drop of danger, all three books are page-turning and compelling crime thrillers. Changeling is Matt’s best work yet, combining all of the usual Six Stories elements with a profoundly relatable and relevant tale of domestic noir as podcaster Scott King struggles to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of little Alfie Marsden. To say any more would be to spoil the book but I’d urge any crime fan to read this book – in fact, go and treat yourself to all three!
I do love a good book memoir and this is one of the best I’ve read. Filled with all the warmth and nostalgia that you could want from a book about childhood reading, Lucy’s story is also laugh out loud funny and incredibly relatable. I think most bookworms can relate to arguing over whether they can read at the dinner table, or wondering why reading a book in a corner is deemed unsociable at family gatherings. Lucy’s memoir covers all of the childhood favourites – Narnia, The Famous Five, Milly-Molly-Mandy – and she successfully balances a personal memoir with a nostalgic romp through childhood literature. Perfect for any reader who spent their childhood with their nose stuck in a book!
A brilliant graphic novel that perfectly captures the experience of being an introvert in a world that won’t stop talking. Tung’s simple and effective illustrations capture everything from FOGO (Fear of Going Out) to the terror of unexpected visitors and the nervous anticipation of being made to meet new people. The black and white panels also capture the joys of simple pleasures – finding someone who understands your fears and your need for alone time, the joy of curling up with a book on a rainy day, the pleasure of coming into a quiet house when you’ve had a busy day at work. Utterly wonderful – if you’re an introvert, you need this in your life!
Definitely the most sumptuous book that I read this year, The Mermaid & Mrs Hancock was a joyful romp from first page to last. Fabulously realised, the book brings Georgian London to life with the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the city practically bursting off the page. Filled with colourful characters and larger-than-life events, get beneath the surface of Mermaid and you’ll find one of the most touchingly sweet love stories I think I’ve read as merchant Jonah Hancock and courtesan Angelica Neal discover their mutual appreciation. Bold, witty, funny and sweet, this is a brilliant historical novel.
This mind-bending novel has a brilliant concept pulled off with panache: what if Quantum Leap met Agatha Christie and then experienced Groundhog Day? Sounds mad? Well, it is a bit mad – how Stuart Turton ever kept hold of the plot I’ll never know – but it’s also utterly brilliant and fiendishly clever. I raced through the pages as body-hopping protagonist Aiden relieves the same day from different perspectives, all the time trying to find the killer of beautiful, tragic Evelyn Hardcastle. A country house murder with a unique twist, this is perfect for crime fans and science fiction aficionados alike.
An eye-opening piece of investigative journalism by Guardian journalist James Bloodworth, this book examines the truth of life in low-wage employment. From the Amazon warehouse that borders my hometown of Rugeley, Staffordshire to providing home care in Brighton and Uber services in London, this is a thought-provoking look at life within the workforce that supplies our cheap goods and instant services. Going undercover to live and work within these firms, Bloodworth exposes an employment system with few opportunities for progression or self-improvement, encountering employees from all walks of life including ex-miners, school leavers, students, and migrant workers. A startling examination of the labour system that props up the British economy, this book takes a long hard look at the ethics of low-wage employment and is unflinching in what it reports. A must read.
Another series that just goes from strength to strength is that of Sarah Ward’s DC Connie Child. Whilst I’ve been a fan of the series ever since the publication of In Bitter Chill, which introduces intrepid Connie and her insightful, long-suffering boss Francis Sadler, The Shrouded Path is definitely the best book in the series yet. Featuring a mystery from 1957 that might be getting too close to home for one of the team, it’s a brilliantly crafted police procedural with a page-turning quality. Sarah’s writing always reminds me of P D James, with meticulous attention to detail and some wonderful psychological insights. Definitely a series to track down if you’re looking for fantastic British crime fiction in your life.
So that wraps up my Best Books of the Year! Yes I know seven is an odd number to go for but, hey, my bubble, my rules and all that! In all seriousness though, these are the seven books are the ones that really stuck with me in 2018. I read plenty of books this year that were very good – take a look over my blog tour posts and reviews, or go take a gander at my Goodreads, and you’ll find a ton of fantastic reads in there – but these were the ones that had that something special. That kept me thinking after I had turned the final page and that earned a coveted place on my ‘For Keeps’ shelf. I’d heartily recommend every single one of them.
So with that over and done with for another year, here is to 2019!! Thank you so much for sticking with The Shelf over 2018. I really appreciate every single like, comment and RT and I love my little online bookish community – Book People really are the best – so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year. I shall see you on the other side in 2019 to do this all over again! And, as always, until the next time…
HAPPY READING!!! x