It’s never a bad time to celebrate great books, so I am happy to recognize my favorite titles from 2018. I read 80 last year (28 more than in 2017), and I had a lot of good reading to choose from.
I have narrowed them down to my top ten fiction and nonfiction titles and have included a short review of my favorite in each category, followed by the nine others on each list.
These books are my personal favorites, and though I try to be a critical reader, I understand that we all have a wide variety of reading tastes. My favorites might not (and probably won’t be) exactly what you would choose.
My reading preferences include southern fiction; books about family relationships and friendships; books with connections to Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas; memoir and history. I do read outside my “preferences” and have discovered many wonderful books and authors through recommendations, award nominees and winners, and reading reviews. If you do find that my preferences are similar to yours, you might consider connecting with me at Goodreads.
Favorite Fiction Title – Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
If you enjoy a book that will take you to a different time and place, one that has a bit of folklore, a bit of fantasy, and a bit of mystery, this might be the book for you. If you would like an excellent lesson in establishing tension and keeping a reader enthralled, you’d probably find it here. (Note: The author even spells it out for you at the end of each of several chapters with these words, “Something is going to happen”.)
These words have special meaning to the people who gather at an inn on the River Thames, because they are natural and practiced storytellers. So when a seriously injured man turns up at the door one dark night, carrying a small dead girl, their stories begin and we are invited in. And when the dead child comes back to life, we really must stay to find out whose conjectures are correct about the child and the man who carries her to the inn.
This book kept me enthralled from beginning to end and I moved on to another novel by Setterfield at the beginning of the New Year. The Thirteenth Tale is sure to be on my next list of favorites.
Other Fiction Favorites for 2018
One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain
November Road by Lou Berney
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Southernmost by Silas House
Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier
Promise by Minrose Gwin
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Cove by Ron Rash
Favorite Nonfiction Title – Literature and the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior
This superlative memoir makes the case for literature, especially the classics, forming our own character and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. I hadn’t revisited many of these works since high school and college and it was a great pleasure to do so through the author’s eyes.
Our own “hero’s journey” through life will usually include mentors who will point the way to what we seek. We who read books understand that these guides don’t all inhabit our own lives, but that they can be encountered through literature. Karen Prior Swallow has introduced us to her own and what they have taught her. That is truly a gift we can emulate.
Other Nonfiction Favorites for 2018
You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide by Michael E.Kinsley
Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
Growing Up by Russell Baker
The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Mama’s Table by Rick Bragg
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels by Jon Meacham
Barbara Bush: A Memoir by Barbara Bush