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The Best Books of 2018

The Best Books of 2018

There were so many books published last year we can’t believe people are still talking about print dying. As a society, haven’t we put that concern to bed? If you still doubt it, just look at 2018’s published works. The diversity of the field was crazy high, with stories we’ve never heard and could never have anticipated filling up our bookshelves. These are our picks for the best books published in 2018.

An American Marriage

Tayari Jones

We’ve written up An American Marriage a few different times, so regular reads should be familiar with the title if they didn’t pick up the book themselves. For those of you who haven’t, or who plan to and have been procrastinating heavily, let’s reiterate why you should read this book. It tackles the issue of wrongful imprisonment and large-scale incarceration on a deeply personal level, following a newly married couple as they’re torn apart by the man’s prison sentence. The two of them grow in very different directions after that, meaning they’re essentially different people when he’s finally released. It’s a situation most of us are aware of but may not have personal experience with. An American Marriage gives us an opportunity to understand it better. $16

The Fighters

C.J. Chivers

It’s weird to reflect on a war that still going on, but that’s what happens when the country gets involved in a decades long quagmire. The Fighters is part of that reflection, telling the stories of six combatants who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are stories worth hearing, considering what the government has been asking of our soldiers and what our constant involvement in the area has done to US foreign and domestic policy, as well as the morale both overseas and at home. It’s a distinctly modern book and will hopefully allow Americans to form educated opinions on two wars we hear so little about but affect so many people. $13

Eat the Apple

Matt Young

Where The Fighters told a few different stories about the war in the Middle East, Eat the Apple is Matt Young’s memoir of his time in the Marine Corps and his three deployments in Iraq. Young uses a few different writing styles in the book and jumps between a handful of formats, but instead of creating a disjointed work, it all comes together to tell a focused story about a young man’s time in a 21st century war. If the book seems crazy or manic at times, it’s because it’s a faithful retelling of what war has become. $23

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

Michelle McNamara

Passion projects, no matter the medium, are always better than run-of-the-mill stuff and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a joint passion project. Michelle McNamara spent years as a true crime journalist and put all that experience to work in her drive to figure out who was the Golden State Killer, a sexual predator and murderer who stalked Northern California. She was recording her investigation in this book at the time of her sudden and tragic death, which is when the second passion project takes over. Her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, made it his responsibility to get the book finished and published. Between the two of them (though, by his own admission, she did all the hardest work), they created one of the definitive entries in the true crime genre. $14

Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami’s name has appeared on this site more than a few times, so you should know by now any time a book of his is coming or comes out, we have our eyes on it. His latest is Killing Commendatore and it’s definitely the weirdest. It jumps all over the place in setting and time, but in a testament to Murakami’s talent, the story never gets away from him. For as weird as it gets and for all the places it goes, it never feels like it’s lost. He’s one of the only authors we know of who could tie together an Idea, Nazi assassinations, a young teenage girl, and a haunted underworld into a cohesive book. He’s at his best here. $20


David Mamet

David Mamet’s unique dialogue is an absolutely perfect fit for a 1920s mob-run Chicago. To prove it, imagine if everyone in The Untouchables talked like they were in Glengarry Glen Ross. You’d have a bunch of gangsters and cops verbally ripping each other to shreds. Which is exactly what happens in Chicago. These pages are thick with dialogue, all of it following David Mamet’s enthralling style. $12


Lauren Groff

Living in Florida has to have a ridiculously strong psychological effect on people. We’ve seen too many wild news stories come out of that state to believe it’s a normal place to live. Lauren Groff’s Florida explores that exact effect with a book of short stories focused on the Sunshine State. It’s a state where you’re as likely to get in a boxing match with a meth-head or wrestle your car keys from an alligator as you are to build loving relationships between family members or find personal fulfillment in a career. The books covers all that and more and in a much better way than a steady stream of weird news ever could. $19

Ghost Wall

Sarah Moss

We’re cheating a little bit here in that Ghost Wall hasn’t actually been released in the US yet, but let us describe the plot and see if that convinces you it should be on this list. An obsessive man forces his family to take a two week vacation with an anthropological study where students live like Britons during the Iron Age. They can only use era appropriate technology and methods, meaning they’re essentially living off what they can scavenge from the land. During the vacation, the man’s daughter, who was raised within the limitations of his obsession, begins to imagine a life closer to the students’, while the students are getting pulled deeper into their Iron Age lifestyle. The premise of this book is completely unlike anything we’ve read recently, so obviously we’re going to put it on a list like this. $15

There There

Tommy Orange

We never thought you could get a better version of The Canterbury Tales, but Tommy Orange has put a hell of a lot of work into proving us wrong. His book, There There, follows twelve Urban Indians (which is a term we’ve never heard until this book) on their journey to the Big Oakland Powwow. Each of them has a different reason for attending the powwow and each is revealed over the course of the book. These are stories we’ve never heard in a format we know we love. $18

Washington Black

Esi Edugyan

On a very basic level, without getting into any of the deeper political or social meaning in the book, Washington Black is an exciting story. It’s about a young slave, George Washington Black, who works on a sugar plantation in Barbados but is chosen to be his master’s brother’s manservant. Though instead of the emotional and physical torture the young boy expects, what he finds is that his new master is far more of a humanitarian than his old. Obviously everything can’t go smoothly for the two of them though and they soon find themselves fugitives traveling up and down North America. It’s a classic adventure story with a new take on the hero. $18


Anna Burns

The Troubles in Northern Ireland feel like a conflict out of time. The fight there was a thousand-year-old conflict brought into the mid to late 20th century, making it almost surreal in the way people talked about it and conducted themselves during it. Milkman leans into that surreal nature. It’s experimental, weird, cruel, and poignant, which may be why it won this year’s Man Booker. Even if you don’t have personal history in Ireland or with the Troubles, Milkman deserves a spot on your bookshelf. $13

The Cabin at the End of the World

Paul Tremblay

Outside of a few mainstays, we don’t really think about horror as a written genre. It’s not that we think it can’t be done, it’s just more something we associate with watching or, with horror podcasts, listening. But with The Cabin at the End of the World, Paul Tremblay is showing us just how well someone can craft a suspenseful, paranoid, and downright scary novel. For all our love of the outdoors and vacationing in wild, far flung places, Tremblay has us second guessing ourselves. $14