What to Read Right Now: Best Books of 2018

Books a Million: Magic, Suicide and a Disastrous Flight Gone Wrong

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I’m not going to sugarcoat things: My reading has really taken a nosedive this past year (on the up side, I’m getting more sleep!). I aim to change that in 2018, as my to-read list is a mile, but here are the books I closed out last year with.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

I’m not sure where I found this one—likely from another blogger’s book report post—but I devoured it in less than two days. From the get-go, you know that Amelia commits suicide (…or did she?) in this somber read, which is tough at times but heavy on suspense as Amelia’s lawyer mother, the protagonist, aims to figure out what led her daughter to this point. There’s really not much more I can say without spoiling the plot, but if Girl on a Train and Gossip Girl had a baby, I figure it would look something like Reconstructing Amelia. I’ll admit to loving anything that highlights the shady underbelly of UES prep school life, even though my upbringing in public school in the South couldn’t have been more different. Highly recommend for those of you who like Mary Kubica-style novels.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This came highly recommend by several friends and, thankfully, lived up to the hype. It starts with a plane crash from Martha’s Vineyard en route to JFK—so if you’re terrified of flying, maybe don’t read this book—and chronicles the lives of the two survivors in the aftermath, as well as reconstructs the crash from each victim’s standpoint (and their lives before it), as you the reader are left figuring out who was responsible for the plane going down. I appreciated the way the book jumped back and forth throughout time without losing me at any point, and what I loved most about this book was the eloquent prose and how well-written it was, beyond the narrative alone. I was on a roll this month! Until I wasn’t…

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

It took me nearly three months to get through Spoonbenders, and it was so painful at times, I’d put my Kindle down for weeks; to say it starts off slow is an understatement, and I never had any motivation to read it before bed, so instead I’d turn to the news or YouTube. When I finally did finish it at the beach, I thoroughly enjoyed the last 15 percent or so, but was it worth enduring the first 85? I’m not entirely sure. The novel, set in the 80’s, follows a family with supernatural and psychic abilities, the late matriarch who assisted the government in catching Russian spies during the Cold War. Given the premise, I expected to be sucked in from page one—especially as a lover of fantasy fiction—when the youngest of the clan discovers his ability (to leave his body) early on in the opening chapter. But the mob storyline was just one that didn’t interest me at all, and while many critics hailed Spoonbenders as one of the books of 2017, I wouldn’t advise anyone to prioritize when there are so many other better reads out there.

A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

How I never read this in my Gender Studies classes is beyond me—but I’m glad I have now. This is one of the few books you can read after seeing the series (or movie) and actually feel as if you didn’t backtrack, even though the show pretty much shadows the book exactly. And even though I knew the story already and ultimately what happened at the end, I still found myself on the edge of my seat while reading this dystopian tale about a theocratic society that overthrew the government and enslaved all child-bearing women as concubines to high-ranking male officials. Even if you’ve seen the popular Hulu show, I urge you to read the book, as well. Any Atwood fans out there have other favorite books of hers that I might try out next?

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I guess I’m on an “as seen on TV” kick as I read Big Little Lies next on the plane last week, also having seen the show. It threw me off a bit with the book being based in Australia, while the show takes place in snooty Monterrey, but I quickly got over that—though I did imagine Reese as Maddie and Nicole as Celeste the entire time. In case you’re the last person in America to see the HBO show, in a nutshell Big Little Lies chronicles the lives of a handful of kindergarten moms and the gossip that links them all together and all leads up to one deadly trivia night—though the author starts from the climax and works her way backward and forward in time by weaving in testimonials given to the police on that fatal night every chapter or two (a literary tool I quite like). I had tried to read another book of Moriarty’s, Truly Madly Guilty, but just couldn’t get into it, so I was pleased this one was a bit far more engaging.

So that’s it: a whopping five books for you. If you’re the type who speeds through multiple novels a week, I urge you to check out my pal Lindsay’s more frequent book posts. I’m starting Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water on my cross-country flight today, then have Krysten Ritter’s Bonfire queued up next. And knowing there’s a new Andy Weir novel out means hopefully I’ll speed through the aforementioned two so I can tackle Artemis next.

What’s the last great book that you’ve read?

  • January 15, 2018

    Everything by Margaret Atwood is amazing – I devoured every single book she’d written not long after I read The Handmaid’s Tale. Here are my thoughts:

    The Robber Bride, The Blind Assassin, and Alias Grace – loved them all.

    The Heart Goes Last – Good, read this past year, but not my favorite.

    Her Oryx & Crake and the MaddAddam series, including Year of the Flood, are more like The Handmaid’s Tale, but far more futuristic. Not sure sci-fi is the right word here. Some of the settings and characters remind me (loosely) of The Capital from The Hunger Games – a world that’s sort of relatable, but sort of not. At first I wasn’t sure about them, but was bummed when I finished them as I ended up loving the stories. Highly recommend.

    I know I read Cat’s Eye and Surfacing, but didn’t love them as much as the others. But even my least favorite Atwood book is still a great read.

    If you haven’t, Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff is great, too. Read this past year. Loved it. David Benioff’s City of Thieves is beautifully written – if historical fiction is up your street, it’s worth the read.

    Thanks for the book post. Just getting back into a rhythm of reading again, and always love hearing what others enjoyed.

    • February 5, 2018

      OK, I legit just restarted my Good Reads account to keep track of all of this. LOVE these recommendations, and I haven’t read any of them yet (other than watching Alias Grace). Thank you, Sarah!

  • January 15, 2018

    Great books on your list! And thanks for the shout-out. ☺️ I loved The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin. Looking forward to reading Alias Grace soon.

    • January 16, 2018

      Have you seen Alias Grace (the show) yet? SO good! Come to think of it, I should read the book, too…

  • January 16, 2018

    A Handsmaid’s Tale is next on my list! Alias Grace is now on the small screen if you’re looking to continue your books to TV/series trend.

    I read The Robber Bride in high school but I loved it!

    Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things and David Sedaris’s Theft by Finding diaries were both excellent, engrossing recent reads.

    • January 16, 2018

      Yes! I saw all of Alias Grace and LOVED It. Have you read the book?

      • January 16, 2018

        I haven’t read Alias Grace yet. A Handmaid’s Tale first! But I have heard many rave reviews about the TV series, Alias Grace and know S2 is on its way with A Handmaid’s Tale.

    • January 22, 2018

      I second the recommendation for Tiny Beautiful Things! So incredible and heartbreaking and inspiring and completely lovely.

  • January 16, 2018

    I don’t want to dampen your spirits, but I do want to set your expectation level correctly. Artemis is nothing like the Martian.

    I loved Atwood’s Alias Grace. I haven’t watched the series though, so I don’t know how it compares. I still have to read and/or watch Handmaiden’s Tale and I’m trying to figure out which order I should do it in!

    Also, sleeping should never trump reading 😉

    • January 16, 2018

      I have seen Alias Grace! SO good. You’re right: That should be my next Atwood read.

  • January 16, 2018

    So many good books! The last great book I finished was also my last beloved book of 2017 (Rupi Kaur’s stunning poetry collection, Milk and Honey), and I’m currently reading Fantasyland (fantastic nonfiction by Kurt Andersen), which is riveting.

    Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime was also one of my last reads of last year, and definitely one of the best celebrity memoirs I’ve ever read (and I hear the audio version, which he himself reads, is aces).

    I could talk about recently read books for days, so instead of doing that here’s where my full 2017 reading list lives on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/7037598

    (Yay, books!)

    • February 5, 2018

      You’re amazing with all you manage to read! I just rejoined Good Reads and downloaded the app (we were already friends apparently but I hadn’t logged in in 4+ years!) so I can keep up 😉

  • January 17, 2018

    The Blind Assassin is in my top 5 favourite books ever!

    • February 5, 2018

      OK, I just rejoined Good Reads and added this to my Shelf!

  • January 22, 2018

    Great list – it is so hard to read sometimes! And I think pushing yourself through “Spoonbenders” is admirable! I have a rule for myself: if I make it through 1/3 of the book and still hate it, I am allowed to quit. You’re too busy to waste time reading something you don’t love!

    My favorite book last year was “The Nightingale” followed closely by “The Lilac Girls”. If you like historical fiction those two are for you! Also, if you aren’t already on it consider getting the App Goodreads. It’s a great place to track what you’ve read, how you’ve enjoyed the books, and find recommendations for similar reads.

    I’m going to read “The Handmaid’s Tale” next. It’s on the list, but I moved it up thanks to your recommendations. And if that weren’t enough, I posted a blog in 2016 of my favorite books of the previous few years: http://kristinatravels.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-reading-rainbow-of-my-heart.html

    • February 5, 2018

      The Nightingale is one of my favorite books EVER! So obviously we have similar taste and I just added The Lilac Girls, too =)

      And after hemming and hawing for some time, I finally downloaded the Good Reads app on my phone simply to organize my to-read list. You can friend me on there if you want (I should be searchable via Kristin Luna)!

  • January 23, 2018

    I totally forgot about Reconstructing Amelia until reading this. I read it a few years ago and really, really liked it. Handmaid’s Tale and Big Little Lies are two of my favorites as well.

    • February 5, 2018

      Because we are the same person. #duh

  • February 3, 2018

    I read “A Handmaid’s Tale” maybe 3 or 4 years ago for the first time, and I am STILL haunted by the imagery Atwood lays out. Dah, gives me the shivers (not because it’s terrible or creepy, although it is, but because it’s so spot on for so many women in so many ways.)


    • February 5, 2018

      She is a master of building worlds that aren’t so far off from reality. *shivers*

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