The start of July. Halfway clear of the dystopian wastes of 2018, with the days threatening to get shorter again. A time to stop and think about all the things we thought we’d achieve back in January that we then got distracted from by US politics. More importantly, a time to think about the books we’ve read.
At the end of last year, I posted a short list of the best books I’d read in 2017. That was from a total of some 45 books. As July loomed, it dawned on me that I’d already read some 34+ books in 2018. More than enough to discuss without waiting for the year to end. And being a writerly sort, I’d already made an annotated list of the books I’d finished. How very shareable.
I’ve abridged the list to ones I’d really recommend from what I’ve read so far this year. If you’re interested in the rest (many of which I did enjoy, but would have to cavaet), I’ve included the titles of the rest below. There’s little particularly current or newsworthy about these titles, just the random tract of reading that my mind and bookshelves have taken me on.
The books are listed in the order that I read them, nothing more. I’d have no idea how else to order them, truth be told. Except that Blood Meridian would be on top.
Top Reads of 2018 So Far
The State of the Art – Iain M Banks – sci-fi short stories; a solid collection of dark and humorous vignettes from the Culture series, with the titular tale seeing the Culture coming to Earth
Maskerade – Terry Pratchett – fantasy, humour; light read laced with Pratchett’s usual wittiness, as the witches solve an Opera mystery
The Demolished Man – Alfred Bester – sci-fi, dystopian; classic crime procedural packed with emotion and creativity – angry, raw and brilliant
Wired for Story – Lisa Cron – non-fiction, writing/psychology; excellent exploration of how people respond to stories, neurologically and psychology, shedding light on why stories work – and why they matter
Tishomingo Blues – Elmore Leonard – crime; criminal conspiracy against a background of high diving and Civil War re-enactment – slickly on par for Leonard
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanne Clarke – fantasy, historical; exceptionally stylised alternative history of magic (re)emerging during the Napoleonic wars – surprisingly readable considering the Victorian style adopted
Blood Meridian – Cormac Mccarthy – western, literary; described by a critic as a “nightmare odyssey”, no better way to say it – haunting, enthralling, stunning
C is for Corpse – Sue Grafton – crime; another perfectly enjoyable mystery for Kinsey Millhone
When God Was a Woman – Merlin Stone – non-fiction, religion/gender studies; survey of the history of gendered worship and patriarchal society – should be required reading
Pagan Babies – Elmore Leonard – crime; curious blend of Detroit mafia and the Rwandan genocide – Leonard’s usual stylish caper with an added touch of social conscience
Stardust – Neil Gaiman – fantasy; a great deal of imagination in a relatively short tale – efficient and charming
The Examined Life – Stephen Grosz – non-fiction, psychology; easily digestible anecdotes illuminating problems both unique and universal
Before They Are Hanged – Joe Abercrombie – fantasy; takes the distinctly unheroic heroes of the First Law series on a saga across the world – dark, humorous and immersive
Influence – Robert Ciadini – non-fiction, psychology/marketing; the first book in decades that I’ve read multiple times, a revealing study of the powers of persuasion
Last Argument of Kings – Joe Abercrombie – fantasy; the First Law trilogy comes to a neatly wrapped, violent close – a fitting end to a consistently engaging epic
Black Holes and Time Warps – Kip T. Thorne – non-fiction, relativity; surprisingly accessible approach to a difficult topic – will leave you questioning reality
Mona Lisa Overdrive – William Gibson – cyberpunk; the concluding chapter in the Sprawl trilogy, every bit as frenetic and inventive as the rest
Other titles that I’ve been inclined to read…
Of the rest, there’s a fair few I’d say were worth a read. Some I did not get on with but others might like. There’s about 3 here that I feel like I shouldn’t have bothered finishing.
- Barricade – Jon Wallace – dystopian adventure
- Angels of Darkness – Gav Thorpe – sci-fi, action
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams – sci-fi, time travel
- The Dog Listener – Jan Ferrell – non-fiction, dogs
- The Clearing – Tim Gautreaux – historical, crime/drama
- Mastering AMS Ads – Brian Meeks – non-fiction, marketing
- Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card – sci-fi, military
- Predator’s Gold – Philip Reeve – dystopian, steampunk
- Death – Todd May – non-fiction, philosophy
- Storm Front – Jim Butcher – urban fantasy, crime
- The Death of Bunny Munro – Nick Cave – literary
- Where the Wild Ferns Grow – William Rawles – literary, coming-of-age
- The One – John Marrs – sci-fi, literary
- Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel – post-apocalyptic, literary
- Wilderness Tips – Margaret Atwood – literary short stories
- The Wind Up Girl – Paolo Bacigalupi – dystopian, biopunk
And there’s one book, not on this list, which I actually gave up on (after reading a substantial amount – I expect there’s a handful I never got into). But we won’t go into that.
Onward to the next 40. I’ve already got my first book of July read, and especially look forward to exploring some indie fantasy in the coming months as I’m gazing with intrigue at the SPFBO list. More on that soon…
Got any recommendations, anything that’s particularly stood out for you in 2018? Let me know!