Best Books Of 2018
For the last couple years, I’ve kept track of the best novels, poetry collections, and other books I read that particular year. So, as I did in 2015, 2016, and 2017, here now are the best books I read in 2018.
Jose Saramago: The Elephant’s Journey, The Tale Of The Unknown Island As I did in 2016 and 2017, I spent much of 2018 working my way through Saramago’s oeuvre. While did I read others, these two stood out as being among his best; the former for being a wonderfully poetic, fable-like story of an elephant taken on a long, long walk, and the latter for taking a similarly fable-esque approach to a story about a guy looking for, well, an unknown island.
James Salter: A Sport And A Pastime This classic erotic novel totally made me want to live in France. And fuck a French gal.
Kameron Hurley: The Stars Are Legion Thanks to Hurley’s penchant for biological mechanisms and upended gender tropes, this was easily one of the most unique and inventive sci-fi novels I’ve read since I tore through Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness Of Ghosts last year. (Click here to read my interview with Kameron Hurley about The Stars Are Legion.)
Aliya Whitelely: The Beauty Interesting to read the two science fiction novellas in this collection so soon after finishing the Kameron Hurley novel, given how all three really push the conventions of sci-fi in interesting ways. (Click here to read my interview with Aliya Whiteley.)
Wendy N. Wagner: An Oath Of Dogs It’s never easy to admit your prejudices, but it was my preference of trade paperbacks over mass market ones that almost made me skip this. But I’m glad I overcame my size-ism, especially given how much this fun and quirky sci-fi novel reminded me of John Scalzi’s Fuzzy Nation. (Click here to read my interview with Wendy N. Wager.)
Eric Nylund: Halo: The Fall Of Reach, Halo: First Strike; Kelly Gay: Halo: Smoke And Shadow; Joseph Staten: Halo: Contact Harvest Like with the books of Jose Saramago, I also spent much of the year getting caught up on the Halo novels, with these ranking among the best. While Nylund’s are all exciting, clever, and nicely connected to the games, Gay’s novella was gripping in a Firefly-esque kind of way, and Staten’s exciting prequel showed what happened the first time the good guys met the bad guys. (Click here to read my interview with Kelly Gay.)
Nnedi Okorafor: Binti, Binti: Home, and Binti: The Night Masqueraede This sci-fi space opera trilogy not only stood out for being immensely imaginative and beautifully written, but also for being uniquely spiritual in a way that made it like a cross between Frank Herbert’s Dune and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.
Caitlin R. Kiernan: Agents Of Dreamland Well, this was a weird one. But also cool, kind of like if H.P. Lovecraft wrote a noir episode of The X-Files in which Mulder investigates a cult who are responsible starting the fungal pandemic from The Last Of Us.
Christie Golden: Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad; Landry Q. Walker: Star Wars: Tales From A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Aliens; Daniel Jose Older: Star Wars: Last Shot; Rae Carson: Star Wars: Most Wanted; Cavan Scott: Star Wars: Adventures In Wild Space: The Escape, Star Wars: Adventures In Wild Space: The Snare, and Star Wars: Adventures In Wild Space: The Heist; Tom Huddleston: Star Wars: Adventures In Wild Space: The Nest, Star Wars Adventures In Wild Space: The Darkness, Star Wars: Adventures In Wild Space: The Cold, and Star Wars: Adventures In Wild Space: The Rescue While I’ve enjoyed a lot of the Star Wars novels that have come out since the canon was reset, some have been decidedly better than others. Of the ones I read this year, the highlights were Inferno, which was more interesting than the game that inspired it; Aliens, a collection of short stories about some of the tangential and background characters in The Force Awakens; Last Shot, an exciting but also interestingly off-kilter story about Han, Lando, Chewie, a Han impersonator, and an Ewok hacker named Miss Peekpa; Most Wanted, another Solo prequel story; and the Adventures In Wild Space series, which are supposed to be for children because they’re about two kids who have to rescue their parents from The Empire, but were, in truth, anything but juvenile.
Tom Miller: The Philosopher’s Flight When it comes to alt-history stories, I’m usually only interested in World War II ones. But I was firly gripped by this WWI one, which injects magic into that conflict in such a way that’s it was like F. Scott Fitzgerald writing urban fantasy. (Click here to read my interview with Tom Miller.)
Tomi Adeyemi: Children Of Blood And Bone Much like the Binti novellas I mentioned earlier, this fantasy novel also takes a decidedly African approach, and the result is rather inventive and unique fable-like tale that was compelling and (forgive me) magical.
Chuck Palahniuk: Adjustment Day Much as I may have enjoyed the Fight Club 2 graphic novel and his coloring books Bait and Legacy, I’m way more into the pure, uncut Chuck you only get from his novels, like this wild, smart, insightful, downright odd, and sadly relevant tale. (Click here to read my interview with Chuck Palahniuk.)
Kij Johnson: The Dream-Quest Of Vellitt Boe Though a little long — and only a little — this inventive fantasy story was like if Neil Gaiman wrote a Tolkien-esque quest tale.
Gabriel García Márquez: Memories Of My Melancholy Whores While this novella’s premise makes it seem like it was going to be a Lolita-esque erotic story, this ends up being more like a meditation on getting old…something that resonated given that I’d turned fifty just two months prior.
Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison: The Ghost Line Maybe it was because it was set on an abandoned space ship, but this gripping and rather freaky sci-fi space opera reminded me a lot of the first Dead Space game, albeit with fewer zombies and more psychology.
various writers: Robots Vs. Fairies Though it didn’t introduce me to anyone new, this short story collection did have lots of interesting stories by writers I like, including John Scalzi and Tim Pratt.
Matt Wallace: Envy Of Angels, Lustlocked, Pride’s Spell, Idle Ingredients, Greedy Pigs, Gluttony Bay, and Taste Of Wrath There was just something so unique, wicked, funny, and, at times, bat-shit crazy about this series that I tore through all seven of these Sin Du Jour affair novellas in five days. They’re like if Neil Gaiman and Archer writer/creator Adam Reed collaborated on a fictional version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidental. (Click here to read my interview with Matt Wallace about Gluttony Bay.)
Tade Thompson: The Murders Of Molly Southbourne Equal parts twisted and inventive, this sci-fi / horror / I don’t know what the hell I just read novella totally took me by surprise. So good.
Hugh Howey: Beacon 23 Even though I had already read his Silo trilogy [Wool, Shift, Dust] and his novel Sand, I was still caught off-guard by how good — and epic and odd and emotional — this space opera sci-fi story was.
Ellen Klages: Passing Strange While I enjoyed this wonderfully vivid and sexy novella as I read it — thinking it was like Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City as urban fantasy — it wasn’t until the end that it magically came together for me.
Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, a.k.a James S. A. Corey: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, a.k.a. Books One through Four of The Expanse Much like Game Of Thrones, this epic sci-fi space opera series didn’t start out reinventing the genre, or even get all that clever with its tropes, but it did inject it with some fresh energy, and became more and more inventive as it progressed, making for a very compelling saga.
Patrick S. Tomlinson: Gate Crashers Kind of like a funny version of Tim Pratt’s The Wrong Stars, this comedic space opera about first contact going very, very wrong was so clever and exciting that I tore through it in two sittings, one of which ended at 2:20AM. (Click here to read my interview with Patrick S. Tomlinson.)
Antonio Monda: Unworthy This short but intense novella — about a priest with, oh, let’s call them issues — was vivid and raw, but also oddly tender.
Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep Finally got around to reading this and hated myself immediately for putting it off as long as I had. As noir crime novels go, it’s easy to see why this is one of the classics.
George R.R. Martin: Nightflyers Having read all of the A Song Of Fire And Ice books — well, all the ones that are available, anyway — I thought I knew what I was in for with this sci-fi space opera novella. But while it was just as effortlessly readable, it was far freakier and inventive than I expected.
Neon Yang: The Descent Of Monsters Like the previous book in The Tensorate Series — The Black Tides Of Heaven and The Red Threads Of Fortune — this had a vivid and unique fantasy world, one unlike any other I’ve read. But while this novella was as compelling as the others, it told a very different kind of story in a very different way. (Click here to read my interview with Neon Yang.)
Peter Tieryas: Mecha Samurai Warrior, United States Of Japan Fast, exciting, and fun reads, both of these alt-history sci-fi stories were like a counterpart to Philip K. Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, with the former also mashing in element of Ernest Cline’s Armada and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, while the latter went a bit Apocalypse Now at the end. (Click here to read my interview with Peter Tieryas about Mecha Samurai Warrior.)
Rich Larson: Tomorrow Factory: Collected Fiction While these science fiction short stories are inventive and interesting, what made this collection work as a whole was how it covered a wide variety of sci-fi genres. (Click here to read my interview with Rich Larson about Tomorrow Factory.)
John Scalzi: The Consuming Fire I previously described K.B. Wager’s Indranan War trilogy as being like a “Game Of Thrones-esque take on Dune.” But while that’s how I’d describe this sci-fi space opera as well, it’s a very different take on that idea.
Tim Pratt: The Dreaming Stars Like The Wrong Stars, which was one of favorite books of 2017, this epic sci-fi space opera was unexpected and exciting, but also warmly romantic. (Click here to read my interview with Tim Pratt.)
Marina J. Lostetter: Noumenon, Noumenon Infinity While these epic sci-fi novels were sprawling in their scope, covering thousands of years, what made these generational ship stories so interesting is how plausible but inventive it got with the effects of all that time. (Click here to read my interview with Marina J. Lostetter about Noumenon Infinity.)
various writers: The Final Frontier: Stories Of Exploring Space, Colonizing The Universe, And First Contact While it wasn’t all good — no anthology ever is — this collection of sci-fi short stories was far better than most, thanks to such stories as Nancy Kress’ “Shiva In Shadow,” Carrie Vaughn’s “The Mind Is Its Own Place,” and Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware.” (Click here to read my interview with Final Frontier editor Neil Clarke.)
Corey J. White: Killing Gravity, Void Black Shadow, Static Ruin An effortlessly exciting and engaging sci-fi space opera trilogy, this series was like if the writer of Destiny 2 penned a Star Wars novel about a rogue Jedi out for revenge. Which is why — even though I’d read the first one last year, and the second earlier this year — I decided to start over and read all three books in a row. (Click here to read my interview with Corey J. White about Killing Gravity; here to read the one about Void Black Shadow; and here to read the one about Static Ruin.)
Martha Wells: All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy Another novella series I tore through in rapid succession, this one followed the adventures of Murderbot, who’s like if Ahnuld from Terminator 2 became self-aware…and then self-employed. (Click here to read my interview with Martha Wells about All Systems Red; here to read the one about Artificial Condition; and here to read the one about Exit Strategy.)
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: Friday Black: Stories Clearly written by someone with a vivid imagination and a large library, the stories in this fantastic collection were as creative as they were varied.
Patti Smith: M Train Given how much I loved her other memoir, Just Kids, it’s surprising — an depressing, and infuriating… — that it took me two years to read this one. Even more so after I realized it had the same effortlessly raw, poetic, and often dream-state style.
Alec Nevala-Lee: Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, And The Golden Age Of Science Fiction This is the kind of non-fiction book I really enjoy; one that’s as entertaining as it is informative, and isn’t afraid to show the truth, no matter how ugly it may be. (Click here to read my interview with Alec Nevada-Lee)
Aja Monet: My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter Just as I was starting to lament that Alice Walker didn’t have more poetry books for me to read, I came across this collection, which is Walker-esque but still unique enough to be more like a companion piece.
Matsuo Basho: The Complete Haiku After reading the first half of this collection last year, I finished off the other half and immediately tried to figure out who was the second best haiku writer after this master. I’m still looking.
Linda Pastan: Heroes In Disguise, A Fraction Of Darkness, Waiting For My Life Like last year, I spent a fair amount of 2018 catching up on Pastan’s catalog, which was time well spent.
Barry Gifford: New York, 1960 & Other Poems Never read any of his work before, but really enjoyed this collection, enough that I plan to read more of his work soon.
Louise Gluck: Faithful And Virtuous Night Though it obviously didn’t have as many of them, the poems in this collection were just as masterful, and in the same way, as those in her excellent 2013 compilation, Poems 1962-2012.
various writers: Seven New Generation African Poets; 8 New-Generation African Poets; New-Generation African Poets (Tano); Warsan Shire: Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth While poetry anthologies are a great way to discover new writers, I actually prefer ones like these where, instead of giving you one or two poems by someone, they give you an entire chapbook so you can really lets you can dig into the work of someone like, say, Warsan Shire, whose chapbook in Seven prompted me to buy her own book. Which, admittedly, had a lot of same poems, but was still a powerfully emotional collection.
Matthew Dickman: Wonderland While I wasn’t a fan of the “hours” poems in this collection, the rest, especially the most storytelling pieces, were really good. (Click here to read my interview with Matthew Dickman.)
t’ai freedom ford: how to get over This one really connected with me for how raw she was in her emotional outpouring.
Hieu Minh Nguyen: Not Here Really dug this collection of narrative poetry, especially when he was more blunt and filthy. Which is why I immediately bought his first book, This Way To The Sugar, which I enjoyed just as much.
various writers: Women Of Resistance: Poems For A New Feminism While I stand by what I said above about the African collections, I do also enjoy regular kinds of poetry collections. Especially ones like this, which not only included poems by writers I already like — including Kim Addonzio and Dorothea Lasky — but it also introduced me to such cool new ones as Ada Limon.
Yrsa Daley-Ward: bone A wonderful collection of emotionally raw and vivid narrative, my only complaint about is that it isn’t the first of many by this writer.
Chelsey Minnis: Baby, I Don’t Care Though I don’t go to poetry readings anymore, I still appreciate poems that have the energy and feel of a poem being read aloud. Which is why I so appreciated the off-kilter but emotionally available poems in this collection.
Britteney Black Rose Kapri: Black Queer Hoe If I had a dollar for every poetry collection where the title was provocative but the poems were not, I’d give it all to Britteney Black Rose Kapri and tell her to keep being her blunt, raw, and illuminating self.
Ayad Akhtar: The Who & The What Much like his play Disgraced, which I also loved, The Who & The What was as enlightening as it was entertaining.
various writers: The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2017 While a bunch of these were silly, there were just as many that were really moving, especially in the “Plays For 2 Actors” section.
COMIC BOOKS/GRAPHIC NOVELS/MANGA
Kengo Hanazawa: I Am A Hero: Omnibus 5, Omnibus 6, Omnibus 7, and Omnibus 8 At a time when zombie stories have become cliché, or at least way too reliant on the tenets of George Romero’s movies, this manga series stands out for putting uniquely Japanese take on things. And not just visually, either; also in how the character behave and interact as well.
Brian Michael Bendis: Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart: Volume 1: Riri Williams, The Invincible Iron Man: The Search For Tony Stark While Iron Man’s recent adventures are always been interesting, they haven’t ranked among his best…save (obviously) for these two. In the former, a whip-smart college student builds her own Iron Man-esque suit, while the latter has the women in Tony Stark’s life looking for him when he goes M.I.A.
Garth Ennis: Jimmy’s Bastards: Volume 1: Trigger Warning You’d think after multiple seasons of the hilarious Archer that other James Bond parodies would feel redundant. But this disproves that theory by cranking things up even further, and injecting even more politics and bloodshed into the mix.
Hope Larson: Batgirl: Rebirth: Volume 3: Summer Of Lies As someone who isn’t a fan of revisionist history, I wasn’t initially okay with Barbara Gordon being able to walk again, and thus reprising her role as Batgirl. But Larson’s comics have convinced me otherwise, especially the stories in this collection, during which Babs is not only heroic but sympathetic as well.
Charles Soule: Star Wars: Darth Vader: Dark Lord Of The Sith: Volume 2: Legacy’s End; Claudia Gray and Yusaku Komiyama: Star Wars: Lost Stars: Volume 1 Like the Star Wars novels, many of the comics have also told smart and interesting side stories to the main saga. For instance, in Legacy’s End, we find out what happened to the librarian from the Jedi temple after Revenge Of The Sith, and see how Vader became so infamous in the Empire. Though I also really dug the manga version of Lost Stars, which is one of my favorite Star Wars novels.
Tom King: Batman: Rebirth: Volume 5: The Rules Of Engagement When you think of sparkling wit, you don’t usually think of Batman. But this comic not only has some great action and an energetic script, it also has some of the best banter I’ve ever read in a Batman comic.
Mariko Tamaki: Supergirl: Being Super Supergirl stories are best when they explore both what it’s like to be a young woman with super powers and, well, a young woman. Which is what you get in spades from this smart and emotionally-impactful graphic novel.
Donny Cates: Doctor Strange: Volume 1: God Of Magic It’s funny, people complain whenever Marvel makes a major change to one of their characters, but so many of these changes — like X-23 being the new Wolverine, the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, etc. — have been some of Marvel’s best comics lately. Same for this comic, a fun, clever but brief excursion during which Loki becomes The Sorcerer Supreme and Stephen Strange becomes a veterinarian.
Tom Taylor: All-New Wolverine: Volume 6: Old Woman Laura Speaking of the new Wolverine, this collection shows why she’s such a cool character, as it has the same great mix of snappy dialog and snazzy action as, well, all of Marvel’s best comics these days. Including…
G. Willow Wilson: Ms. Marvel: Volume 9: Teenage Wasteland Since its second volume, Wilson’s Ms. Marvel has been one of the smartest, most thoughtful, and just all-around best superhero comics of the last few years. And what better testament to it, and the quality of its writing, that this volume is one of the best despite its titular hero being M.I.A. for most of it.
Jenni Cheung and Matt Hawkins: Swing: Volume 1 One of my favorite comic series of the last few years was the romantic and erotic BDSM lesbian saga Sunstone. A spin-off of that series, this equally well-written written comic takes a similarly raw and erotic approach to swinging, with equally engaging results.
Julie and Shawna Benson: Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey: Rebirth: Volume 3: Full Circle As much fun as this comic was, it instantly got added to this list for the chill I got when Wonder Woman showed up and joined Batgirl, Catwoman, Batwoman, Harley Quinn, and others to kick some butt.
Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello: Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race Both Miller and Azzarello rank among my favorite writers, and this smartly and darkly written sequel to The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again shows why by being one of the more unique superhero comics I’ve read in a long time.
Nagabe: The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, A Rúin: Volume 4, Volume 5 Thanks to its mix of dark imagery and warm ideas, this manga — about a dapper guy with an antelope head and the little girl he takes care of — always feels a wonderfully modern Gothic fable.
Sean Murphy: Batman: White Knight The first Bat-tale in DC’s new adult-oriented Black Label series, this comic naturally has some curse words and adult content. But what makes it so good is how it also bring some cultural realism and contemporary issues into what is basically a story about The Joker using his brain to beat up Batman.
Jason Aaron: Avengers: Volume 1: The Final Host After being out of commission for a while, this reunion story could’ve had Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor Odinson getting together for a bake sale and I still would’ve enjoyed it. But by giving them a threat with serious implications to deal with, Aaron made this a story worthy of The Avengers.
Jeremy Whitley: The Unstoppable Wasp: Volume 2: Agents Of G.I.R.L. Yet another snappy comic with a bunch of female heroes kicking ass and being cool. But this time with a science-y bent.
Kenta Shinohara: Astra: Lost In Space: Volume 1: Planet Camp, Volume 2: Star Of Hope, Volume 3: Secrets, Volume 4: Revelation, and Volume 5: Friend-Ship As interesting as this story about some teenagers adrift in outer space may have been when it started, it got much more so as it filled in their respective back-stories.
So, what were the best books you read in 2018? Please let me know in the comments below…so I can read them and maybe deem them one of the best books I read in 2019.