The Good, The Bad, and the Bizarre: My Picks From 2018

This year marked one of my more successful reading years ever.  I can honestly say I read a bit of everything:  from Ayn Rand to Colm Toibin, Ruth Rendell to Ruth Ware……well, you get the idea.  The following titles are my personal picks from the 170+ books I read this year.  I hope it inspires you to try a new genre or author in 2019!

Favorite Fiction

I read a lot of great books this year, but these five have stayed with me long after finishing them.  In no particular order:

  1. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood — The subject matter is pretty tough to read, but I could not put this book down.
  2. Swan Song by Robert McCammon — This one gets a lot of comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand but it definitely stands out on it’s own.  A true classic in the post-apocalyptic fiction genre.
  3. Summit by Harry Farthing — The past and the present meet near the summit of Mount Everest.  Incredible adventure story.
  4. You by Caroline Kepnes — I felt like some perverted peeping tom while reading this…and I loved it!  Does that make me a bad person?!?
  5. There There by Tommy Orange — Incredible debut novel by an author I will be following in the future.
Favorite non-fiction/memoir
  1. Tracks by Robyn Davidson — Davidson travels across the Australian desert with just a few ornery camels for company.  I’m a big fan of solo excursions across great distances and this one is now up there among my favorites.
  2. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie — Alexie explores his childhood through poetry and a stream of consciousness style of writing.  If you have not read any of Alexie’s works, I do recommend checking out some of his short stories or poetry before reading this very personal memoir to get a better feel for his style.
  3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot — Science meets ethics and puts a real face on one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine.  However, it will make you wonder what exactly you are signing away the next time you have to fill out a hospital consent form.
  4. No Better Friend by Robert Weintraub — A WWII survival story of man and man’s best friend.  Very inspirational.
  5. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham — I knew a bit about this notorious murder from the movie Heavenly Creatures.  Graham offers more details on the trial, the mental health of the girls, and the aftermath.
favorite classics

There’s a first time for everything, and I’ve been working on reading classics that I’ve missed out on over the years.  My favorites this year:

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front  by Erich Maria Remarque
  3. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Favorite ya

I’ve been reading more YA recently.  These were some that really stood above the rest.

  1. The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu — A great start to a new-to-me trilogy.  Demons, magic, action and adventure…..what more could you ask for?
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — Destined to become a YA classic.
  3. The Good Demon by Jimmy Cajoleas — An unexpected surprise, and a great addition to the YA fantasy genre.
favorite new authors

Keep an eye on these authors, I predict more great books from them in the future!

  1. Tommy Orange  — Author of There There
  2. Tomi Adeyemi — Author of Children of Blood and Bone
most disappointing
  1. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero — As a Scooby Doo fan, I thought the storyline sounded fun.  Who could say no to a grown-up version of the classic cartoon?  Well, I should have.  While there were a few good moments, a lot of it felt forced and rambling.
  2. Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings — I watched the series earlier this year and was excited to find out it was based on a book (since the book is always better than the show, right?).  Sadly, I thought the book was rather boring and I can honestly say if I had read it first I probably wouldn’t have bothered with the show.
just plain bad

I was taught if I couldn’t say anything nice to just not say anything.  So I will simply share these titles and acknowledge all three as entering my Top 20 All-Time Worst Books Read

  1. The Beach by Alex Garland
  2. The Breakdown by B. A. Paris
  3. The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
and the bizarre…..but in a good way!

Some stories just break all the rules.  For me, these three stood out for their sheer originality.

  1. Hug Chickenpenny:  The Panegyric of an Anomalus Child by S. Craig Zahler — This story was small yet powerful, just like Hug.  This one combined the fantastical with the heartwarming with amazing results.
  2. The Edge of the Known Bus Line by James R. Gapinski — Nothing like getting on the wrong bus and winding up in some alternate version of today, and not in a good way!
  3. The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott — Psychotic clowns are just a part of the bizarre circus that exists next to our own reality.  Weird, wicked, and wonderful!

Happy Reading!

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