My Favourite Books of 2018

Well, that was a year. A year in which a lot of my favourite reads involved escapism and humour, because the real world was not an especially fun place to be. I read 54 books that were new to me (I don’t count re-reads). About a third of these books were adult non-fiction, a third were adult fiction, and the remaining third were books for children and teenagers. Here are the books that I liked the most in 2018:

Adult Fiction

'Behind The Scenes At The Museum' by Kate AtkinsonBehind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson was a brilliantly funny account of a Yorkshire childhood, related by a not-entirely-reliable narrator with a lot of eccentric relatives. I don’t know how I managed to get this far in life without reading any Kate Atkinson novels, but clearly I need to read the rest of her work. I also enjoyed whimsical, meandering Winter by Ali Smith, another new-to-me writer whose work I need to explore. I have read most of Alan Hollinghurst’s books and The Sparsholt Affair was optimistic and heartwarming (not words I ever thought I’d use to describe a Hollinghurst novel), a beautifully observed story about the families that gay men and lesbians construct for themselves.

Non-Fiction

'Girt' by David HuntThe Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell, the hilarious story behind one of the worst movies ever made, was a truly fascinating read. I also enjoyed Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt, a very silly and mostly accurate history of the first decades of colonial Australia, and How Not To Be A Boy, Robert Webb’s funny, thoughtful memoir about a boyhood spent absorbing toxic messages about masculinity.

'Depends What You Mean By Extremist' by John SafranI also liked John Safran’s Depends What You Mean By Extremist: Going Rogue with Australian Deplorables. Safran gets to know Muslims who support ISIS; Muslims who hate ISIS but also hate Jews, Christians and gay people; Jews who hate Muslims; white supremacists who aren’t as white as you’d expect; anarchists who hate racists but think anti-Semitic violence is okay; and conservative Christians who hate Muslims even though there doesn’t seem to be much practical difference between their belief systems. While most of these extremists come across as confused attention-seekers with no real ability to threaten society, Safran makes the serious point that most Australians – secular, rational, democratic Australians – don’t understand “the mindset of the devout: magical thinking, seeing patterns in the world, a sense that there are no coincidences, a determination that friends and strangers must be saved, karma and providence”. This was a timely read, full of Safran being his usual annoying but hilarious self.

Children’s Books

'The Terrible Two' by Jory John and Mac BarnettFor some reason, none of the Young Adult books I read this year captured my interest. I’m sure it was me, rather than the books, which were mostly well-reviewed and award-winning. I had more luck with books aimed at younger readers. I liked The Endsister by Penni Russon, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and Peter’s Room by Antonia Forest. I also enjoyed the first book in The Terrible Two series by Jory John and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Kevin Cornell, with well-drawn characters, a clever plot and lots of humour.

Thank you to everyone who read and commented on Memoranda posts this year, with special thanks to the Antonia Forest fans who make such thoughtful contributions whenever I do a Forest read-along. I haven’t been blogging much lately due to um, life, but I hope to get back into it now that I’m on holiday. Happy Christmas to everyone celebrating it and Happy End of 2018 to everyone else!

11 thoughts on “My Favourite Books of 2018”

  1. You’ve reminded me that I really must read more Kate Atkinson–I’ve read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, A God in Ruins and Life after Life and found all these offerings decidedly enchanting. I think the best non fiction I read this year was All you can Ever Know, I loved Nina LaCour’s YA and Spellbook of the Lost and Found, and really appreciated the graphic not-really-a-novel Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing.

  2. I have read a lot of Kate Atkinson, but funnily enough, not that one — must get to it.

    All your non-fiction favourites sound fascinating! I will have to hit the library, since I’ve sworn off purchasing any more books till I get through the enormous stockpile I’ve amassed.

    1. Behind The Scenes isn’t perfect (it loses momentum towards the end), but it’s an amazing debut novel. I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

      Nearly all of these books were library reads for me. Hooray for libraries! And happy new year to you!

  3. I’ve only read a fraction of the number of books you’ve read this year but several of the ones you’ve reviewed are on my To Read List.
    My favourites this year – Adult Fiction – ‘Crooked Heart’ by Lissa Evans.
    Non-Fiction – ‘Bookworm’ by Lucy Mangan
    Best YA book – not sure if this strictly fits the genre, but I gave a copy to my teenage daughter – ‘How To Be A Woman’ by Caitlin Moran.
    Happy New Year!

    1. You are the second person to recommend Lucy Mangan’s book to me, so it’s going on my To Read list! Thanks for all your comments this year, Ann, and happy new year!

  4. I’m very much looking forward to your impression of The Thuggery Affair. And I’d like to put in a word for Kate Atkinson’s crime fiction books as well, starting with Case Histories. There are four to date, with a fifth promised for 2019.

    1. Case Histories was the first Kate Atkinson I read, and I loved it. I do think the petering-out-toward-the-end thing affects most of her novels, and it affected the crime series as a whole too. But still definitely worth the read!

      And yes, roll on Thuggery 🙂

    2. I have just reserved Case Histories at the library!

      Alas, there is no mention of The Thuggery Affair on the Girls Gone By website, so I don’t know if they’re planning on publishing that one…

      Also, Kate – did you know there’s a new Rivers of London novel out (and another novella planned for 2019)? Lies Sleeping is on top of my holiday reading pile and I have been valiantly avoiding online spoilers since I bought it last month.

  5. I love Kate Atkinson and have such a powerful crush on Jackson Brodie–thus I hope you do read Case Histories at some point. I’ve read everything by Atkinson except A God in Ruins (which I tried and gave up on, perhaps prematurely) and Transcription. I do think she’s a marvelous writer.

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