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Book Chat > Best books of 2018 (so far)?

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message 1: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments More than halfway through the year now - people must have some opinions on new releases...

And what are the best older books you've [re]read so far this year?

(Will add my own once I've actually read some 5-star-worthy fiction.)


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments Lucia by Alex Pheby by some distance.

More recently I really enjoyed Three Dreams In The Key Of G by Marc Nash which was published this month.

And the Women's Prize shortlist was outstanding, although I think half are 2017 publications.


Possibly in Michigan, London (possiblyinmichigan) | 47 comments Loved My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Perfidious Albion, Ironopolis, The Water Cure...


message 4: by Hugh (last edited Aug 11, 2018 03:16AM) (new)

Hugh (bodachliath) | 3164 comments Mod
My favourites so far (books read this year, not all new) include Flights, Under The Rock: The Poetry of a Place, 2666, Attrib. and other stories and the aforementioned Lucia.
Also Milkman and We That Are Young.


message 5: by Neil (new)

Neil | 1884 comments My two favourites are Lucia and Flights. Also Tumours was so startlingly different that I still often think about it.


message 6: by Neil (new)

Neil | 1884 comments On the older books front, I finally read Don Quixote and I re-read DeLillo’s Underworld.


message 7: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1995 comments Patty Yumi Cottrell - Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Chay Collins - Tumours

Rachel Kushner - The Mars Room

Richard Powers - The Overstory

Tim Winton - The Shepherd's Hut

Leni Zumas - Red Clocks

Xan Brooks - The Clocks in This House All Tell Different Times

David Whitehouse - The Long Forgotten

Charlotte Wood - The Natural Way of Things

Jesmyn Ward - Sing, Unburied, Sing

As for older books:

Xiaolu Guo - A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Cormac McCarthy - The Road


message 8: by Maddie (new)

Maddie (ashelfofonesown) | 113 comments I've had a pretty good reading year so far, a lot of five (nine out of 44 books read) and four star reads (which indicate very good books in my "rating system"). But the highlights of the year are:

Elmet by Fiona Mozley;
The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton;
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie;
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje;
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller;
The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel.

I think only two of those are 2018 releases, but the others aren't very old either.

I also think there should be a distinction between "best" and "favourite" books as sometimes they don't mean the same thing, especially to people (like me) who have a very emotional reaction to books. I can point out flaws in most of the books mentioned above, but because I loved the reading experience and they've left such a long-lasting impact on me, they're my "favourite books of 2018". For example, Warlight is a favourite and also one of the best books I've read this year. The Vegetarian, for example, was only a 3 star read but I can aknowledge it as one of the best books I've read this year. Does that make any sense? (Probably not.)


message 9: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments I also think there should be a distinction between "best" and "favourite" books as sometimes they don't mean the same thing,

Yeah, absolutely. I often find myself differentiating between these too. There's a partial overlap, but they aren't always the same thing.


Possibly in Michigan, London (possiblyinmichigan) | 47 comments Along the lines of Maddie and Antonmasia's comments about 'best' and 'favourite', I try to reserve five stars for favourites. It's probably not hugely helpful to other readers, but I think an objective five stars is impossible - so I might as well as use the extra star for that mysterious quality that lifts a book above 'engrossing and masterful' to 'personally meaningful/affecting.'


message 11: by Maddie (new)

Maddie (ashelfofonesown) | 113 comments Exactly, Dorothea! Thank you and Antonmasia for validating my thoughts, as I feared I was alone in them, haha.


message 12: by Robert (new)

Robert | 1995 comments I'm generous with my ratings so best and favourite are interchangeable in my case. Saying that i have had a first class reading year.


message 13: by Doug (last edited Nov 06, 2018 01:03PM) (new)

Doug The best books I've read so far this year (I won't include play scripts, which comprises half of my reading material, since few are interested in those):

The Maze at Windermere - a tremendously brilliant book that, sadly, few know about.

The Heart's Invisible Furies - a modern picaresque that is as funny as it is heartbreaking.

A History of Loneliness - another John Boyne, who is quickly becoming a favorite author.

A Ladder to the Sky - and another Boyne, what can I say? - the man can do no wrong.

Montpelier Parade - should have won the Costa Prize ... totally transcends its somewhat clichéd subject matter.

Kudos - I re-read Cusk's first two volumes also, so this is actually a placeholder for the entire trilogy, which I really enjoyed.

Indigo - A quirky sui generis work I am not sure I totally 'got', so I'll have to re-read at some point.

All the Lives We Never Lived - Have loved all of Roy's books, and this SHOULD have gotten a Booker nod.

The Great Believers - Not everything works, but what does, is exceptional.

Take Nothing With You Patrick Gale's beautiful and moving memory novel.

Warlight - Should have won the Booker, instead of that horrible mess.

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography Levy's second volume of living biography is outstanding.


message 14: by Neil (new)

Neil | 1884 comments Doug - thanks for reminding me - Indigo should be on my list, too. And I also need to re-read that one for the same reason!


Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer | 5390 comments And thanks for reminding me of Kudos.


message 16: by Val (new)

Val | 1016 comments I am keeping my fingers crossed that All the Lives We Never Lived makes it onto the Women's Prize for Fiction list next year. I haven't read any of your others yet, but they look promising and I will be reading some of them, so thank you.


message 17: by Nadine in California (last edited Aug 11, 2018 03:03PM) (new)

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 203 comments I've had so many favorites this year (9 out of 61), which I think of as books I loved by authors who also have tremendous writing chops, in my humble opinion. And I discovered a new favorite author for my pantheon, along with his translator, who made it possible - Evgenij Vodolazkin, trans. Lisa Hayden.

The Aviator - Vodolazkin
Laurus - Vodolazkin
The Friend - Sigrid Nunez
The Maze at Windermere - me too, Doug!
Ransom - David Malouf
Too Like the Lightning - Ada Palmer
Sacred Hunger - Barry Unsworth
Smoke City -Keith Rosson
Freshwater - Ekwaeke Emezi I'm only 1/3 of the way through, but I have no doubt.


message 18: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Great to hear that another Vodolazkin book might be as good as Laurus.

All the Lives We Never Lived - lovely cover.


message 19: by David (new)

David I might be a bit of an outlier here since I tend not to read a lot of new books. In fact, the most recently published book of the last nine I have read came out in 2004. But the book right before that was Akwaeke Emezi's Freshwater, the only book published in 2018 that I have read so far.

Freshwater was very good, but the best recently published book that I have read this year would have to be Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1. The best book I've re-read this year would be Hugh MacLennon's Barometer Rising and the best book I've read for the first time this year, regardless of year of publication, would be Anita Brookner's A Start In Life.

Note to self: I must get another book by Brookner to read soon.... Hmmm....]


message 20: by Paul (last edited Aug 11, 2018 09:14PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments I would add to the Lucia, Kudos and Flights praise although on the latter The White Book was my personal MBI favourite.

But my highlights have been:

Isobel Fargo Cole's translations of the late Wolfgang Hilbig's work for Two Lines Press, The Tidings of the Trees and Old Rendering Plant. He has become one of my all time favourite authors.

The translation of the untranslatable Tutunamayanlar was an incredible achievement.

And Doestevsky Wannabe continue to produce books like no other publisher, this year Girl at End and Liberating the Canon: An Anthology of Innovative Literature


message 21: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments And Doestevsky Wannabe continue to produce books like no other publisher

This is a a fantastic name for an indie publisher. It kind of makes me want to read something of theirs for that reason alone.


message 22: by Neil (new)

Neil | 1884 comments They are a wonderful publisher. They publish some of the most “out there” fiction you can (or can’t) imagine. Gaudy Bauble made the Republic Of Consciousness List recently and is a book you have to read twice. But other books they publish are equally innovative. Definitely worth experimenting with.


message 23: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments Interesting business model as well - there is a thread devoted to them here

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


message 24: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 8744 comments And given the stick he is getting on the Sabrina thread worth noting that none of us would have known of them were it not for Neil Griffiths and the RoC Prize.


message 25: by Alysson (new)

Alysson Oliveira | 82 comments I agree with the other members who mentioned Freshwater and The Mars Room.
The books books that were published this year and I enjoyed most are
The House of Impossible Beauties
An American Marriage
Kudos
West
In Our Mad and Furious City
Warlight

And the books that are not new, but I read this year:
The Skin
Beloved (I reread)
Moon Tiger
The Bookshop (I reread)


message 26: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1651 comments At the very top
Border Districts: A Fiction
This was easily my most unique read since I hadn't bothered to read Murnane in the past. For those that also haven't, I strongly recommend starting. For those that have, Murnane has built and developed his theme and style over time in a way that makes him a candidate for those that are completists. This book may not be a conclusion or summary of his previous work but definitely has a sense of the author's awareness of the ending of that lifetime's work, so if you liked him before, you'd probably like this.
Just a quick note, Murnane reads very slowly, akin to Proust or James, and while reading this slow paced book around the climax I noticed the pace had subtly changed, quickened, in a way i cannot describe without reading the book again. This change of pace resulted in an uplifting relief that led to utter satisfaction at the book's finish. I hope one of you shares that experience when reading the book.

The Sparsholt Affair
I have a caveat. I had not read much of A Line of Beauty when it came out and it remained a DNF which I mean to get back to but haven't yet. Hence Sparsholt could be considered my first Hollinghurst and I noted in some of your reviews that you preferred A Line of Beauty to this book. I can't compare the two and am not sure it would have lessened my enjoyment here, but in comparing it to this year's reads it is tied in top place. Hollinghusrt IMO did something fascinating here. In telling the story of his characters and their descendants in their few described scenes over generations, he gives us a sense of history of the gay experience through those same years of his story. Further, by descibing the family-like intimacies between the characters in those everyday scenes, he builds in us a sense of empathy for those characters, not as gay persay, but as any group of friends or family over generations of life and death. Yet overshadowing this group that Hollinghurst portrays are the two elements, the persecution and prejudice against homosexuals, and the AIDS crisis, neither of which are emphasized in the novel. So we are left with nothing but compassion for this group's struggle for survival and acceptance in society and more universally ALL struggles for survival and acceptance. This book was full of optimism contrary to much of what is happening in the world.

Rounding things out.
Freshwater
There There
The Maze at Windermere
The Overstory

And to show my love of genre
Space Opera

My older reads and rereads
American Pastoral
Absalom, Absalom!
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Distant Light
Death Comes for the Archbishop
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky

And an important read, The Outline trilogy
Outline
Transit
Kudos


message 27: by Stacia (new)

Stacia | 54 comments This year (haven't read very many published in 2018)...
Comemadre by Roque Larraquy
Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston

Ones from 2017 & earlier I've read this year that I rank among the best ones I've read this year...
Shantytown by César Aira
A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman (like a train wreck -- hard to read but you can't look away either)
Morning in Serra Mattu: A Nubian Ode by Arif Gamal
Augustown by Kei Miller
The Illustrious House of Ramires by Eça de Queirós
Revulsion: Thomas Bernhard in San Salvador by Horacio Castellanos Moya ("liked" is not the word, more "appreciated" the brilliance of it)
Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America by Laura Wexler


message 28: by Alysson (last edited Aug 12, 2018 11:03AM) (new)

Alysson Oliveira | 82 comments Stacia wrote: "This year (haven't read very many published in 2018)..."

Stacia, have you read Queirós's Os Maias? I think it is so beautiful! Probably his best.


message 29: by David (new)

David Sam, I want to echo support for two books you listed. Absalom, Absalom is a book I have also read more than once and probably will read again one day. Great book. And last year I read Transit, which was an excellent read. I have not read Outline or Kudos yet, but I definitely plan to do so.


message 30: by Doug (last edited Aug 12, 2018 11:36AM) (new)

Doug Sam wrote: "At the very top
Border Districts: A Fiction
This was easily my most unique read since I hadn't bothered to read Murnane in the past. For those that also haven't, I strongly recomme..."


First off, thanks for championing The Maze at Windermere also, as it is THE book I am pushing everyone to read. And your mini-review of Sparsholt was also spot-on, and it's terrific that the Faulkner and Capote also made your list.

Oddly, and unfortunately, I began reading Border Districts just the other day ( as something short to tide me over till my Booker noms arrived) ... and I stopped at around page 22 - it just wasn't grabbing me at all - but I am pretty sure it was a case of 'It isn't you, it's me', or more likely 'wrong book at the wrong time'. I intend to try it again at some point, but I needed something a bit livelier and not quite so downbeat at the moment. :-(


message 31: by Sam (last edited Aug 12, 2018 02:24PM) (new)

Sam | 1651 comments Save Border Districts for a cool autumn day when you would prefer to sit inside and read it by a window where you can occasionally look up from the book and out at the changing light of the day. It does read slow almost to a crawl. It also is probably not the best place to start with Murnane unless you like that style, anymore than Absalom would be the best start with Faulkner. I found that the work with Murnane was worth it in the end. I'm doing my first read of Absalom since my college days and enjoying it just as much as I did back then. I'll be looking at the four you mentioned which I haven't read. If you like Nigerian fiction take a look at When a Man Falls from the Sky. It is short stories and won the Kirkus last year. (Speaking of the Kirkus Prize, the finalist's are about 2 weeks away) Oops, I mean 6 weeks away
The Maze at Windermere may have a problem with period appropiate prejudices that were included but I found it a wonderful read and a must read if you have visited and know Newport. I especially liked how the author wrote the novel in very accessible prose if you didn't have a strong literary background, and yet had enough depth to keep the interest of the well read. I hope it makes a prize list so it gets more discussion. I also hope our British friends aren't offended by the caricatured British soldier.


message 32: by Sam (new)

Sam | 1651 comments David wrote: "Sam, I want to echo support for two books you listed. Absalom, Absalom is a book I have also read more than once and probably will read again one day. Great book. And last year I read Transit, whic..."

I can't imagine the other British prize lists excluding Kudos and can't wait for the stimulating discussion that should be prompted by the novel's last scene which alone made the trilogy worth reading.


message 33: by Stacia (new)

Stacia | 54 comments Alysson wrote: "Stacia wrote: "This year (haven't read very many published in 2018)..."

Stacia, have you read Queirós's Os Maias? I think it is so beautiful! Probably his best."


No, not yet. The Illustrious House of Ramires was the first work I had read by him. Thanks for the recommendation of Os Maias as I plan to read more of his work.


message 34: by Alysson (new)

Alysson Oliveira | 82 comments That's nice! And, please, let me know when you read any of his books, and how you like them.


message 35: by Tommi (new)

Tommi | 490 comments This is an inspiring thread, although it’s making my tbr pile even heavier!

Limiting myself to novels published in 2018 for now, I can actually think of only a few that I consider to be perfect, whatever it means: intellectually, aesthetically, and/or emotionally extremely stimulating works, which have left some sort of a mark in me. These are:

The Overstory by Richard Powers – deepened my respect for the natural environment in unexpected ways

Sight by Jessie Greengrass – each sentence utterly beautiful and perceptive, no matter if some think it’s pretentious, for me it was an absolute philosophical marvel

River by Esther Kinsky (tr. Iain Galbraith) – meditative to the extreme, near-magical observations and reminiscences of places around the world, and surprisingly emotional for me

That’s about it, although I’ve given 5-star ratings to several other books too.


message 36: by Tommi (new)

Tommi | 490 comments Sam wrote: "I can't imagine the other British prize lists excluding Kudos and can't wait for the stimulating discussion that should be prompted by the novel's last scene which alone made the trilogy worth reading."

I agree. The ending of Kudos is fantastic, so vivid. (I’ve only listened to the book, which means I won’t consider it a perfect read, although it could be. I’m reading it later properly.)


message 37: by David (new)

David Sam wrote: "I can't imagine the other British prize lists excluding Kudos..."

Also worth mentioning is that Outline and Transit were both nominated for the Giller Prize, the top literary prize for novels written by Canadians. From all the buzz, I would expect Kudos to also be nominated. Maybe as it is the end of a trilogy and the previous two books did not win the prize she might even have an advantage to win it this year. Although we Canadians tend to be a "share the wealth" bunch generally and they might decide that all three being shortlisted is an impressive enough achievement that they don't need to do more than that.


message 38: by Val (new)

Val | 1016 comments Tommi wrote: "River by Esther Kinsky (tr. Iain Galbraith) – meditative to the extreme, near-magical observations and reminiscences of places around the world, and surprisingly emotional for me"
I only started reading it yesterday evening, but that is a very good description of the effect of the book.


message 39: by WndyJW (last edited Aug 16, 2018 04:53PM) (new)

WndyJW | 4863 comments I have to thank this group for introducing me to the world of the indie press books. My life outside of books has been busier than usual so my list is short, but here is the best of what I’ve finished.

#1 The Gallows Pole favorite book!
Then in order read:
Feeding Time
Pig Iron
Beastings
Attrib. and other stories
The White Book
We That Are Young
Frankenstein in Baghdad
Tin Man
Missing
In the Distance

The Moonstone was a fun older book and The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock was a much appreciated diversion from the relentless daily pronouncements of bigotry and violence in the US and UK.
Lucia is brilliant and intense, too intense for me to finish reading right now when I am feeling that the world is too ugly and I need to escape. I am reading pieces from the smart and quirky Darker with the Lights on: S tories and when I have my treasured quiet Sunday mornings I drink coffee, watch our bird feeders and read the very engaging Under The Rock: The Poetry of a Place.

If anyone has any recommendations of true escape books please share them. I’ve never read fantasy, the closest to fantasy I’ve read and enjoyed is Marquez and Rushdie type magical realism, but lately I’m seeing the appeal in magical, mystical worlds, anything to forget the real world for a few hours a day.

River arrived in my mail box the other day, it sounds like this might be just the book.


message 40: by Michele (new)

Michele | 46 comments WndyJW wrote: "I have to thank this group for introducing me to the world of the indie press books. My life outside of books has been busier than usual so my list is short, but here is the best of what I’ve finis..."

For fantasy, A Game of Thrones, The Night Circus, Night Watch. I listened to The Night Circus which I think made it much better. I really loved the feel of it. I also learned when reading George R. R. Martin to just skip parts that list a bunch of names, it's a quirk he has, like he's writing the Bible or something.


message 41: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 4863 comments Thank you, Michele!


message 42: by Michele (new)

Michele | 46 comments WndyJW wrote: "Thank you, Michele!"

You're welcome. I hope you find something truly juicy!


message 43: by Antonomasia (last edited Aug 16, 2018 05:18PM) (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments WndyJW wrote: "If anyone has any recommendations of true escape books please share them. I’ve never read fantasy, the closest to fantasy I’ve read and enjoyed is Marquez and Rushdie type magical realism, but lately I’m seeing the appeal in magical, mystical worlds, anything to forget the real world for a few hours a day."

I find comic fantasy best for escapism, e.g. Terry Pratchett, or in more recent publications, Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, and Gideon Defoe's The Pirates in an Adventure with... Also Douglas Adams, though that's comic SF.
Some of the tropes in Pratchett's Discworld come from Tolkien (who's the foundation of much subsequent fantasy anyway) so if you've never read Tolkien and you don't want to start with him, it might be an idea to watch at least one of the films, which would take less time.

Neil Gaiman's work, including that for adults, has an escapist quality similar to children's books although less humour than Pratchett et al.
A lot of people would probably include Philip Pullman's Dark Materials here. I was in a lot of pain at the time when I read it so don't have very good memories of it, but it is probably another one to look at too.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 203 comments WndyJW wrote: "If anyone has any recommendations of true escape books please share them. I’ve never read fantasy, the closest to fantasy I’ve read and enjoyed is Marquez and Rushdie type magical realism, but lately I’m seeing the appeal in magical, mystical worlds, anything to forget the real world for a few hours a day."

Have you tried Binti? It's first in a trilogy, but each is novella-sized.


message 46: by Michele (new)

Michele | 46 comments Would anyone be willing to update their 2018 favorites so far?


message 47: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 2629 comments Plenty that is very good (why did I used to think lots of 4 star books was a problem?), a few I really connected with personally, but the only thing I'm confident is 'great' beyond that is still Bill Johnston's translation of Pan Tadeusz.


message 49: by Jess (last edited Nov 05, 2018 02:01AM) (new)

Jess Penhallow | 1 comments I've not read any new books this year but o]f the older books that I've read my favourites have been.

The Goldfinch
Middlesex - The best book I have read in a long time
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
The Book Thief - This was going to be a 4 star read until the last 50 pages made me bawl my eyes out and that upgraded it for me
To Kill a Mockingbird - I am embarrassed that I got to the age of 27 before reading this classic.


message 50: by Jibran (last edited Nov 06, 2018 12:19AM) (new)

Jibran (marbles5) | 283 comments Antonomasia wrote: "Plenty that is very good (why did I used to think lots of 4 star books was a problem?), a few I really connected with personally, but the only thing I'm confident is 'great' beyond that is still Bi..."

Same here. I also used to consider as 'best' only what I thought were five-star reads and omit the rest from my own list of best books, but that's no good anymore. Some are best by virtue of what they are rather than what I had wanted them to be, and also for their often special position in the tradition whence they come, or for more personal reasons.

Embarrassed to say, I haven't read much literature this year, or read as widely as I'd have liked, having been busy with work and then the all-consuming extended travels for the better part of the year. Here are some English and translated, old and new books. Some are best, others very good. In random order...

Quincas Borba by Machado de Assis (Brazilian Portuguese, 19th C)
Milkman by Anna Burns
The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish)
A Universal History of Infamy by Jorge Luis Borges
Azazeel by Youssef Ziedan (Arabic)
The Epistle on Singing-Girls by Al-Jahiz (Arabic, 9th C)
The Cemetery in Barnes: A Novel by Gabriel Josipovici
The Pages of Day and Night by Adonis (Arabic, poetry)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

An Urdu novel I'm currently reading is already one of the best reads of '18. This sprawling, playful, mock-serious, frank, open-ended, multimodal montage is many things at once and one of the best in the tradition any language can produce and ought to be taken notice of by the 'Untranslated' blog. I'm glad to say we are definitively moving away from the drudgery of muaasharti haqeeqat nigari (social realist novels) of old days and making use of the new possibilities of language and narrative in a setting that is more authentic than in those novels written by the natives directly in English, for a foreign/international audience. Good stuff!

Hassan Ki Surat-e-Hal: Khali...Jaghein...Pur...Karo / حسن کی صورت حال:خالی۔۔۔جگہیں۔۔۔پر۔۔۔کرو

English: Hassan's Dilemma: Fill...in...the...Blanks

Also reading from the complete works of another before-his-time modernist Urdu poet who is one of the best, remained underappreciated for so long, but now being recognised for his explosive creativity and groundbreaking innovations in the history of modern Urdu verse.

Kulliyat-e-Meera Ji /کلیات میراجی by Meera Ji

@Anto: I'm very interested in Pan Tadeusz and would some day love to read it. Haven't thought about the question of its availability over here, though.

@Hugh: that is a splendid list. Well done!


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