It is always an interesting task when one looks back on their reading year to select their best books. For me, it has been a relatively light reading year and there have been many books that I simply haven’t got round to, but amongst those that I’ve read there have been some brilliant and unexpected highlights.
1. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I think this may have been my very first read of 2018 – and what a book to start the year. I’m very exacting when it comes to giving a book top billing but from the first page of Heather Morris’s debut, I knew I was reading a special book – in fact, on finishing I wondered if anything else I would read in the coming twelve months would live up to it. There were, of course, other great contenders across the year, but I have to admit that this book above all others has stayed with me all year.
2. We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt
Another debut, Luke Allnutt’s book was one that came with a lot of hype, and I am always a bit wary about such books as they often fall a bit flat of the huge expectations, but this book absolutely did not. However, in many ways this was not an easy read as it is such an emotional roller coaster, so much so that it is almost too much at times and it made me rethink the emotional limits in a book. But there is no escaping the fact that this is an utterly compelling and poignant read.
3. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
I think I may be one of the few people that sadly never got round to reading Joanna Cannon’s run-away debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, but I was quick to snap up the author’s second offering and I wasn’t disappointed. I love books which centre on an older generation and have characters representing this generation and context and Cannon draws her protagonists with authenticity and charm.
4. Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh
In recent years, I’ve very much become a fan of the thriller genre, so much of my reading in 2018 was in this vein. Whilst there were a number of books that I enjoyed, none of them ever quite hit every note for me, except for Steve Cavanagh’s Thirteen. The book came with the impressive tagline ‘The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury’ and Cavanagh manages to make the book as dramatic and exciting as that sounds.
5. Anna/Theo by Amanda Prowse
I only discovered Amanda Prowse a couple of years ago but how glad I am that I did. Ever since, I’ve looked out for her new releases and have been blown away every time. So when I heard about Amanda’s spring project, which saw her release two novels – the two sides of one story – in consecutive months, I was doubly excited. I think both Amanda and her publisher deserve huge credit for being so innovative and mindful – it’s a simple idea to release two books in a sequence virtually simultaneously but one that is really appealing to any reader who doesn’t want an interminable wait for the next book. And testament to Prowse’s talent, both books are equally brilliant.
6. Killing It by Asia Mackay
One of NB Magazine’s recommended reads, I only came across this book in preparation for the magazine, otherwise it may very well have slipped under my radar, but I’m so glad it didn’t as it was an absolute joy to read. A female-led satiric answer to the typical spy novel, it is fun and light-hearted but also perceptive and subversive. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is the perfect antidote to the macho, red-blooded world of James Bond et al.
7. The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle
For a long time I’ve been wanting to read a Mike Gayle book but never got round to it. Finally, 2018 was the year and what a treat this book was. It was really refreshing to read a novel centred on male friendship and one so rich in emotion and sentiment. There is no doubt that on the back of having read this book I’ll be seeking out Mike Gayle’s next release.
8. The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus
As far as romcoms go, Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus came up trumps with their debut collaboration. Naturally it’s rather predictable and soppy, as are most romcoms, but it’s also funny, warm and, as the title suggests, has a bookworm for a protagonist, and it’s this bookish bent that gives this story its magic. I’ve already earmarked the authors’ next book, While You Were Reading, which is due out in summer 2019.
9. The Adults by Caroline Hulse
For me, if there’s one thing lacking in the world of publishing, it is genuinely funny books. Most genres are satisfyingly catered for each year, but fiction with a funny bone is generally less well subscribed, and finding a book that will really make you laugh can be difficult. Caroline Hulse’s The Adults answered that call superbly in 2018, but here’s hoping 2019 has a lot more comic flair.
10. How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch
Speaking of comic flair, Peter Crouch may not be the first name that comes to mind, but this is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read, not only in 2018, but for a long while. Best known for being a footballer (or perhaps for his robot celebration), Crouch proves to be a good sport in this book, which takes a humorous look at the weird and wonderful world of football. It is great to see a different side to Peter Crouch and read an autobiography so rich in personality.