2018 was the year I rediscovered my love of books. Between classes and assignments, I had forgotten how wonderful a feeling it was to lose yourself in the pages of a good book. And so over the last few months of 2018, in a feverish frenzy, I read a very eclectic collection of 45 books. Narrowing down 10 of my top favourites was not an easy task, but I managed it (pats self on back).
One of my goals was to diversify my reading library by making a conscious effort to read more books written by and about women, LGBTQ and POC’s. And looking at my Top 10, I think I’ve accomplished this (frankly not so difficult if you try) feat.
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
“Sometimes you simply needed someone kind to sit with you while you dealt with things.”
Starting out my list at number 1 is the book that spearheaded my rediscovery. Gail Honeyman’s debut novel follows the life of Eleanor Oliphant. She is a 30-something, socially inept and troubled woman whose days are filled with work, supermarket pizzas and vodka. A life carefully engineered to avoid social interaction and people of any kind. An encounter with Raymond the IT guy however, changes it all and introduces a new aspect into Eleanor’s pizza and vodka life: friendship.
This book was marvelous. Gail Honeyman’s writing takes what could be a tedious and grating character and makes her endearing. The characters of Eleanor and Raymond are what makes this story work. They are relatable and very very real. It is a story about the healing power of friendship and simple acts of kindness that restore your faith in humanity and yourself.
2. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“When you dig just the tiniest bit beneath the surface, everyone’s love life is original and interesting and nuanced and defies any easy definition.”
Evelyn Hugo, a famously recluse Hollywood starlet invites unknown and inexperienced Monique Grant into her home and life, to write her biography. A story of love, loss, secrets, ambition and pride. Evelyn is every bit the glamorous icon you expect to see; confident and breathtaking, despite and perhaps even because, of her years.
Evelyn Hugo is a character that resides staunchly, and unashamedly, in the gray. And this is one of the best things about this novel. She is uninterested in being painted in a sympathetic light. Her only goal is to bare her truth, in all its painful and startling glory.
A heartbreaking and joyously refreshing tale of love and the extents we go to for it.
3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
“Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent.”
I have already dedicated an entire blog post to this gem of a book so all I’m going to say is; do yourself a favour and pick up The Night Circus.
4. Vicious & Vengeful (Villains 1&2)by V.E. Schwaab
“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” – Vicious
V.E. Schwaab takes the superhero trope and turns it on its head in the Villains book series. Victor and Eli, two brilliant college roommates attempt to bring their theoretical research into the practical world. Their hypothesis: under the right adrenaline inducing circumstances, ordinary people can develop extraordinary powers. Both experience success in their attempts, and thats when things start going really wrong.
For those DC fans who thought Batman embodied the true essence of an Anti-hero, think again. Schwaab takes the themes of good vs evil; hero vs villain and gives it a good shakeup. Schwaab has fast become one of my favorite authors. She manages that delicate balance of character and plot with aplomb and leaves you wanting more. I cannot wait for the rest of this phenomenon series.
5. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
“One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.”
It’s no surprise that this book made it on my list. You can barely see the cover for all the award stickers that adorn it. And for very good reason; this book is a gem. It is a sweet, warm story that hits you in the gut. This is probably my favourite LGBTQ novel, although I suppose calling it an LGBTQ novel is quite reductionist. What it is, is a coming of age tale of friendship and love and overcoming obstacles.
Dante and Aristotle will make you fall in love with them. Hope, faith and strength resonate through the pages and leave you thoroughly contented.
6. The Sun is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”
Atypical romance novels, it would seem, is an area best left to YA authors because they are knocking it out of the park. Adult romance novels rarely have the gravitas and uniqueness that stories like Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star has.
The story is told from two perspectives. Logical, practical Natasha who is frantically trying to stop her family from being deported and the young poet Daniel, the good boy striving to live up to his parents expectations. Worlds and selves collide when they meet and fall in love.
The writing is fast paced and interesting, jumping between Natasha and Daniel. The two young leads are easy to root for but their story is anything but.
7. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
“I will no longer
compare my path to others
-I refuse to do a disservice to my life”
Rupi Kaur’s debut poetry anthology, Milk and Honey remains one of the most profound pieces of poetry I have ever read. Her second book, The Sun and Her Flowers only furthers this.
Her poetry is sublime. Heart-breaking, gut-wrenching and tear jerking. It is evocative and emotional. Everything poetry should be.
8. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”
Another YA writer that has found a permanent space on my shelf. Sabaa Tahir is a truly gifted writer. Navigating the themes of fantasy, the supernatural and dystopian revolutionary she brings about a series that is a true match for series’ like The Hunger Games.
Although it is in the YA genre, it has a mature voice to it. The characters, themes and storyline would not be out of place in an adult fantasy series. Tahir does a phenomenal job fleshing out strong female characters and creates what is perhaps the only love triangle I have ever enjoyed. I wait with bated breath for the next installation.
9. Orientalism by Edward Said
“To say simply that Orientalism was a rationalization of colonial rule is to ignore the extent to which colonial rule was justified in advance by Orientalism, rather than after the fact.”
Edward Said’s Orientalism is a staple on any political science or International Relations reading list. And for good reason. In his book, Said talks about the West and its role in the creation of the myth of the ‘Orient’. The purposeful ‘othering’ of the Global East by writers, philosophers and others to further the exploits of colonialism and the posturing of themselves as superior.
A must read for anyone interested in social politics and history.
10. Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson
“I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community-and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.”
Another acclaimed work in the political science field, Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities aims to understand the meaning of nation and nationalism. Anderson argues that this concept of the nation, that of a group of people with a commonality, is imagined and created. Creation of these nations comes from a need and desire for a sense of belonging.
In todays world. with the spread of nationalism all around the globe, Benedict Anderson’s work continues to be relevant and vital in our understanding.
What were some of your favourites this year? Did any of mine make your list?