The Best of the Bunch: Bookish’s Favorite Books from 2018

The Best of the Bunch: Bookish’s Favorite Books from 2018

best books of 2018

At the end of each year, the Bookish team loves reflecting back on the great books we’ve read. These are the books that made us laugh, cry, and swoon, and kept us talking nonstop. A lot of incredible books were published this year, and here we’ve rounded up what we consider to be some of the best books of 2018.

Tell us below what your favorite 2018 reads were!

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I can’t even tell you how many people recommended Tayari Jones’ brilliant and heartbreaking novel An American Marriage to me before I finally got around to picking it up. What I can tell you is how glad I am that I did. Jones accomplishes something incredible with her characters: I was never sure who to root for because I cared for all of them so much. I felt I knew them, and so even when they were behaving badly, I knew I would eventually understand their motives and not judge them so harshly. This is the best novel I have read in a very long time. —Elizabeth

Educated by Tara Westover

What an utterly gutting and beautiful memoir of survival. Westover manages to both inhabit her childhood trauma while showing readers the many ways she learned to survive and, eventually, thrive. I don’t know anyone whose read this book that hasn’t left it feeling in awe of not only the clear and gorgeous writing but also Westover’s ability to overcome. —Myfanwy

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

I discovered Ngozi Ukazu’s webcomic Check, Please shortly after she began posting installments on Tumblr, and I quickly became enamoured with Bitty, Jack, and the rest of the Samwell hockey team. Revisiting the crew in the graphic novel (which was packed with some delightful and hilarious additions) brought me more joy than I can say. This book follows a young college hockey player as he makes friends, falls in love with his captain, bakes pies, and belts out Beyoncé. It handles themes of identity, loss, toxic masculinity, and more—but perhaps my favorite aspect is that it’s a book that is unabashedly fun, light, and filled with kindness. This book is as warm-hearted as a slice of pie fresh from the oven, and I highly recommend reading it. —Kelly

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

This year I read I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which I also wrote about for our October Staff Reads. I love a good true crime book and this book absolutely lived up to all the hype. I was excited to see HBO picked up the book for a docu-series coming soon. Apart from the tragic crimes carried out by the Golden State Killer, author Michelle McNamara’s own story and untimely death are equally interesting to read more about and I have high hopes that the series will show all sides. When McNamara was working on this book, the GSK was still free, no one knew who he was or if he was even still alive. Although he was ultimately caught before the book was released, I still think this is such a unique book as the reader really gets the story of the actual crimes, victims, and the investigator’s side rather than being a pseudo-biography of a serial killer. I have recommended this book to anyone I see who has any kind of interest in true crime. —Amanda

Severance by Ling Ma

I’ve recommended Severance to most people who will listen. It’s a powerful blend of apocalypse, mid-20s malaise, the horrors of office culture, immigrant alienation, and the mediocre dudes you put up with as a young woman in this world. Plus it has some delicious mid-2000s nostalgia. So much of it rang true, especially the descriptions of what New York would look like after a global pandemic. Of course the young office workers would stay to fulfill their contracts because they are hoping for raises once this all blows over. And of course they have an unfounded, but somehow hard to shake, sense of responsibility to the corporations that are turning them into drones. It is also maybe one of the most realistic depictions of an apocalypse I’ve ever read. Severance was funny, strange, and sharply observant. I loved this book. —Nina

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

I can’t get enough of Emily Giffin’s writing. Her latest novel follows the story of three people forced to choose between family and morals. This novel tackles a lot of issues in the current social climate including social media, privilege, and self-worth. Giffin definitely knows how to write a story that keeps you on your toes between chapters. With different characters getting their own chapters, you can’t put this book down because she writes one heck of a cliffhanger. I can’t wait to see what Giffin writes next. —Kirsten

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Give me all of the college-set YA contemporary novels! I loved that this was set during the first year of college. I think this area of transition gets lost in fiction, especially when it concerns diverse characters who may be first-generation college students. In many ways, Emergency Contact reminded me of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell—one of my all-time favorite novels. Mary H.K. Choi’s prose was sharp, witty, and engaging. The characters were dynamic and beautifully developed as they dealt with family, economic status, and self-identity. The novel follows Penny and Sam, who meet awkwardly and exchange numbers. They become each other’s emergency contact, the person they text when they are feeling low and slowly their feelings become more than platonic. The romance between Penny and Sam made this book so enrapturing, but what I loved most were the authentic and flawed characters. I hope 2019 brings me more realistic college YA just like this one! —Dana

Paradise Rot by Jenny Hval

Paradise Rot is a short novella about two roommates, their apartment, and the ways that boundaries break down written by musician Jenny Hval. I have never read such visceral descriptions of bodies, fruits, and living spaces. Books at their best make the world around you seem strange—they make the quotidian interactions you have seem dreamlike, and they mess with your head in the best way. Paradise Rot is one of those books. Read it and share it with your fellow freaks. —Nina

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Dread Nation is one of the first books I read in 2018, and it stuck with me all year long. It tells the story of Jane McKeene, a black girl who is born in the middle of the Civil War on the same day that the dead rise from their graves. Normally, zombies aren’t my cup of tea, but Jane’s narration hooked me from the start, drawing me in with her biting humor and her kickass shambler-slaying skills. The plot is action-packed—filled with danger and a breath-stealing finale. It also offers an incisive look at how institutional racism has shaped past and present America and the role false science and news plays in holding up racist ideals. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, and I can’t wait to see where Justina Ireland takes Jane (and her friend Katherine) in the second book. —Kelly

Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach

This year I was so excited for Dathan Auerbach’s second novel, Bad Man, which came out in August. I read his short first novel Penpal last year and it was seriously creepy. I had such high hopes for Bad Man and it definitely delivered—and then some!. This is the story of a man’s tireless search to find his much younger brother who was kidnapped under his watch. Five years later, 20 years old and desperate for a job, Ben takes a night stock boy position at the grocery store his brother disappeared from, and things get very weird and super creepy from there. I flew through this novel as fast as I could and spent a few sleepless nights thinking about it after. —Amanda

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

It’s difficult to put into words how much I loved Furyborn. This high fantasy novel follows the rise of two queens and their fights for freedom, power, and the ones they love. The setup for the story involves a prophecy that says a Sun Queen and a Blood Queen will rise and readers follow to see which female narrator will be the good queen and which will be the bad. Claire Legrand makes you feel for the characters and their intense struggles. Rielle and Eliana are complicated, flawed, and dynamic heroines that at times I both loved and hated because of how unreliable they are as narrators. I love that this turns the chosen one trope completely on its head. The plot is so intricately woven and certain twists took me completely off guard. If you love Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas, Furyborn is going to be your next favorite fantasy read. —Dana

Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

John Carreyrou’s book about Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes had me riveted from the very first page. The combination of formidable research with expert narrative pacing made for a fascinating read. What made Bad Blood even more impressive was that Elizabeth Holmes never gave an interview for the book, which meant that Carreyrou had to paint a portrait without speaking to Holmes herself. —Elizabeth

A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

2018 was a fantastic year for romance novels. I read some truly incredible ones, but when I look back, the book that stands out to me most is A Duke by Default. This is the second installment in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series and it follows Portia Hobbs on her journey to leave behind her bad habits and start over in Scotland. This book not only has one of my favorite meet-cutes ever written, it also features a heroine who is strong and vulnerable in equal measure, a perfect Scottish curmudgeon hero (aka #swordbae), and a supporting cast that celebrates the importance of female friendship. The romance is swoon-worthy, and I particularly loved the thoughtful exploration of the pressures of living up to family legacies (royal or not). I can’t wait to see what stories Cole delivers next year. —Kelly

The Immeasurable World by William Atkins

My book of the year is The Immeasurable World by William Atkins—an erudite, often dark, witty exploration of the world’s deserts. Atkins writes sentences of great beauty that capture the isolation, dangers, attractions, and cultural importance of the desert, while always giving us a thoroughly immersive sense of what it’s like to be there. It will make you think of the world anew. —Stuart

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

I’ve read several wonderful books this year, but the one that comes to my mind first as the best book of 2018 is The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani. Written in the form of letters in her diary to her deceased mother, the novel pulls you into Nisha’s life on the morning of her 12th birthday. Her yearning to learn more about her mother is palpable throughout the book. Hiranandani’s use of imagery had me feeling like I knew these characters. Nisha’s letters also take you on her family’s journey as they become refugees in India after British rule ended in 1947. I found myself learning about a part of the world during a time in history I knew little about. This knowledge I gained, plus the emotional and hopeful story, make this the best book of 2018 for me. —Gerilyn

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