I read 92 books this year, the closest to 100 books a year that I have ever gotten in my adult life!!! It’s been quite interesting, as I’ve tried several new genres and some of my faves are quite surprising! So let’s get started!
Honorable mentions, in no particular order, include: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Freshwater by Akwake Emezi, Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott, Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills, One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus, Policing Egyptian Women: Sex, Law, and Medicine in Khedival Egypt by Liat Kozma, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena, and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor.
And now for the countdown!!!
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik: This is a spellbinding, gorgeously written book that takes various elements of the Rumpelstiltskin story and weaves it into an enchanting winter tale. Though slow-paced, it is never dull, and is told in multiple different perspectives, each of which has its own unique voice. The romances in this book are subtle and oh-so-slowburn.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand: This little horror story is written so viscerally that it will make shivers crawl down your spine. I couldn’t even formulate a proper review for this because I loved it so much. It’s incredibly atmospheric and does a superb job balancing cosmic horror with modern-day teen friendships. And it’s sapphic.
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang: This is one of the best fantasy books of the year. It features superb worldbuilding and a plot heavy on war and military drama, and yet it’s incredibly fast-paced. Its main character is one of the best female heroines (or anti-heroines) I’ve seen in a long time. The magic system is innovative. It’s a dark book that doesn’t shy away from depicting horrific violence and its effect on people.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: This was such a surprise. I never expected to love this book, because it’s so outside of what I usually like. It’s a contemporary bildungsroman featuring a male character. But it turned out to be a darkly comedic and even absurd story interspersed with real tragedy. It’s also incredibly compelling despite its oddly episode plot structure; I couldn’t put it down.
Creatures of Will and Temper by Molly Tanzer: I’ll just quote from my original review: “This book cleared my skin, harvested my crops, nourished my soul, and added ten years to my lifespan. It simultaneously defied all of my expectations and yet gave me everything I wanted anyway.” It’s basically lesbians and demonic cults in Victorian London, superbly written and twisty. It’s so much fun and I absolutely adored it. And that cover, Lord.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: This book is everything I ever wanted from a neo-Victorian Gothic horror novel. It’s gorgeously written, atmospheric, female-led, truly creepy, and features witchery, semi-demonic entities, supernatural forces, gruesome murders, and shocking family secrets. And I couldn’t put it down.
If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio: This was one of the first books I read in 2018, and that it’s stuck with me till now says a lot, especially considering this is not my usual genre. This is such an emotive book; it was definitely an emotional rollercoaster for me. The prose is gorgeous and rich, creating an autumnal, claustrophobic atmosphere that ensnared me. And surprisingly, it touches on the havoc wreaked by toxic masculinity and winds up subverting the reader’s normative expectations. It’s quite a delightful surprise.
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber: This gargantuan historical fiction tome is a neo-Victorian classic with an unusual narrative device that shatters the fourth wall. With a 19-year-old prostitute as its linchpin, it is brimming with period details; it mimics Victorian novels not only in its narrative form but in its style and content as well. 19th-century London comes roaring to life in this novel. It’s also surprisingly hilarious and compelling; it’s over 800 pages but I couldn’t put it down. And with so many hat tips and allusions to Victorian literature, it feels like a love letter to the entire period.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie: For me, this is the biggest surprise of the year. I mean, a literary fiction novel coming in at second place?? But this book absolutely destroyed me. It made me feel so strongly in a way that few books do. A modern-day retelling of Antigone set in England with an all-Muslim cast of characters, it is a nuanced examination of the effects of Islamophobia, corrupt states, imperialism, and alienation. The writing is quietly beautiful. And then there’s the ending. The ending of Home Fire is probably the most memorable, tragic, beautiful, and fitting ending I’ve ever read. It fucking wrecked me.
Godsgrave (and Nevernight) by Jay Kristoff: Do you know the sort of book that just makes you happy to read? Like you genuinely look forward to when you can sink back into the world because it just fills you with indescribable joy? That was Godsgrave for me; I legit looked forward to my commute and didn’t want it to end so that I could keep reading. This is such a strange fantasy series in many ways: it’s written weird, it has footnotes, and it’s really, really funny (and dark, too, quite dark, but also funny). But what sets it apart for me is its worldbuilding, which is so very dense and rich with minute details. Not only is our main character fantastic, but the series is full of minor characters with their own arcs and vivid personas, and there’s an amazing f/f relationship!!! Honestly, this is just such a thrilling book (and series) that I could just gush about it forever, but I’ll stop now.