My absolute favourite books from 2018

Or rather, how many books can Sally possibly read before the end of December.

Picking just ten books that stood out for me over the past twelve months was harder than I thought it would be, and involved a lot of last-minute reading to ensure I managed to finish as many as I could. So I didn’t stick to ten and included all the books I loved and more.

I took the decision to mostly read books written by women this year. I say mostly, because I do review books professionally, and can’t always choose what I’m sent. But for my personal reading pleasure, it was something I really wanted to do.

For me, books are an anchor. Reading books told from the female perspective keeps me moored when I’m feeling adrift, and helps me make peace with myself and my choices.  As a writer, I know that it’s impossible to write fiction without some of your own beliefs and experiences seeping through. It’s this insight and familiarity that resonates with me. I want to hear more women’s voices, live through their experiences and marvel at their stories.

So in no particular order, here are my absolute favourite books of the year.

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

The latest Poirot mystery, written by one of my favourite crime writers. I am a huge Agatha Christie fan and Hannah has managed to recreate the grande dame’s signature style with skill and finesse, giving the classic whodunnit a new life.

Read my review here.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Oh, how I gushed over this book. Madeline Miller has taken a bit player from the male-dominated Greek myths and given her a mighty voice. This is the powerful tale of Circe, the sea-witch, whose tribulations can teach us all something about survival.

Read my review here.

The Wren Hunt by Mary Watson

A lyrical, atmospheric, young adult novel set in Ireland. Mary is one of South Africa’s most important writers, and this wonderful novel reimagines the myths and lore of her new home. It’s truly magical.

Read my review here.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

A magical, evocative novel that plunges the reader headfirst into the sights, sounds and smells of Georgian London where a grieving merchant is about to find new life with a little help from a mermaid and a courtesan.

Read my review here.

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

This rich and dreamlike novel follows the parallel journeys of two young Islamic women searching for their place in the world – one story is set in the past, the other in the present. This beautiful novel offers so much more than breathtaking prose, it plunges the reader into the midst of the Syrian conflict, and shows us exactly what it is to be human in a time of catastrophe. It is, without doubt, the most haunting and important book I read this year.

Read my review here.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

A gothic masterpiece that reimagines an old biblical mythical figure as a woman. Perry is an expert at using creeping fear and suspense to keep the reader on edge. It’s a gorgeous piece of work and features some of the best writing out there.

Crudo by Olivia Laing

Crudo is a clever little novel structured as a seamless stream of consciousness that covers everything from wedding jitters and a couple’s arguments to Trump and the Greenfell Tower fire.

You make me possible: The Love Letters of Karina M. Szczurek & André Brink

There is nothing more beautiful than a love letter. Szczurek, who is the fifth wife of author Andre P. Brink, has shared the couple’s correspondence written during their courtship. In so doing, she has gifted the world with an invitation into the late author’s most intimate of places – his heart. An accomplished and brilliant author herself, the letters are also an interesting glimpse into Szczurek’s earlier career. This is one for the historians.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Full of pop-culture references, memes and millennial dialogue, Emergency Contact is the sweetest, cleverest book I’ve read about modern young people finding love. I smiled and laughed out loud all the way through.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This book earned so many accolades this year that it was hard to ignore. Normal People focuses on two young people trapped in each other’s orbit, and the stranglehold their love has over them. It’s a skillful study of the minutiae of relationships, and how fragile the lines really are.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Echoes of Nigeria abound in this young adult fantasy set in the mythical land of Orïsha, where magic is real and young people have to fight against a brutal regime. The pace is fast, the stakes are high and the characters will have you rooting for them with every word.

Books still in progress and a sneak peek at 2019.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

A punchy, entertaining young adult filled with drama galore. I’m not entirely done with this one yet, but I’m enjoying it so much I had to include it on the list.

The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger

This is a 2019 title, but I was sent an advance copy this year and I loved it so much I had to include it in my top ten. This is historical fiction at its most exquisite with prose that blooms on the page. Read my review here.




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