The Best I Read in 2018

So many books to choose from, and yet so few. I’ve boiled it down to the top 20 contenders that continue to haunt and astound me long past their finales, with what I found to like so much about them. This list is somewhat biased towards darker genres, but that’s me. I should note that these books did not necessarily come out in 2018, that’s just when I read them for the first time. I haven’t reviewed some of these yet, or don’t plan to soon.

20. #NotYourPrincess by Various Authors
Genre – Nonfiction / Poetry

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to read this book before it was published, and I have to say it’s about damned time they brought more Native American writing into the mainstream, especially as beautiful as these women’s imaginations have proven to be.

19. Blue Bird by Magda Ayuk
Genre – Poetry

An unexpected independent gem that stands out in a sea of other modern poetry with the same topics, just because it’s written with so much heart and passion.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

18. Bittersweet Symphony by Rebecca McNutt
Genre – Fiction

A writer friend of mine wrote this book, but that’s not why I’m adding it to the list. It is a genuinely great novel with wonderfully quirky characters, and that shows a very personal facet of the 9/11 tragedy.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

17. Claudine by Riyoko Ikeda
Genre – Romance

Ahead of its day with its themes of gender dysphoria and female masculinity, and a rare example of romance that I can actually ingest without repercussions. Ikeda’s characters are so elegant, and Claudine is incredibly tragic.

16. A Midsummer’s Equation by Keigo Higashino
Genre – Mystery

This was my first solidly good read of the year. Despite having a sharp twist to it, this is a comfortably oceanic, gradual and intelligent sort of mystery that is a nice break from the bleak thrillers I’m used to seeing.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

15. Darkness Visible by William Golding
Genre – Fiction

Golding is one of my favourite writers, and this book is… it’s something else. I thought Lord of the Flies (which also made this list) was difficult to dissect, but I was wrong. Darkness Visible outdoes LotF as far as Golding’s signature primal, almost abstract exploration of the human psyche, though it did not quite speak to me as much. I highly recommend, as I feel Darkness gets quite overlooked in favour of LotF.

14. A Hundred Tales of Karma by Natsuhiko Kyogoku
Genre – Horror / Paranormal

Kyogoku is a phenomenal author with a… not-so-phenomenal track record as far as English translations of his work. Fortunately, his most famous series, Kōsetsu Hyaku Monogatari did not meet the fate of his other translated works – it’s still in print, for one thing. If you like Japanese horror and urban legends spanning centuries, this’ll be one for you. It also has an offbeat but pretty enjoyable anime adaptation.

13. Thornhill by Pam Smy
Genre – Horror / Mystery

A monochromatic, bleaker blend of Frances Hodgson Burnett retellings. I expected an average sort of ghost story but got something much more powerful and intriguing than that.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

12. The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn
Genre – Horror

The Asylum used to be a rare and highly sought after novel, but this recent re-release is aeons better, honestly. This memoir-slash-supernatural-horror story is a fantastic example of feminist fiction that is actually effective and deals with real issues, namely the sordid history of mental healthcare for women, while also staying imaginative and mysterious.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

11. Zerostrata by Andersen Prunty
Genre – Bizarro / Magic Realism

Hansel and Gretel is my jam. Surreal fiction is my peanut butter. Combine them, you get a weird-tasting sandwich. I mean, a great-tasting book. With an awesome title to boot.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

10. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Genre – Classics

I feel I missed out on something by never reading Burnett before this. A Little Princess was the precursor to most of boarding school fiction and fully deserving of that place and a place on this list in every way. It’s beautiful and sad and not remotely cloying, a problem that still tends to pervade children’s literature.

9. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Genre – Fantasy

Throne of Glass is ridiculously popular, so you may think is a bit overrated, but I thought it was phenomenal. You know, just because something is fashionable does not mean it’s bad literature.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

8. The Nightmare Factory by Thomas Ligotti
Genre – Horror / Fantasy

The title gives you no indication as to how utterly unsettling this book is. I don’t think anything could, you will just have to read it. Ligotti is like Lovecraft but with quadruple the existential horror and none of the unfortunate racist overtones.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

7. Winterwood by Patrick McCabe
Genre – Thriller

Disturbing, so disturbing. Winterwood is another one of those books that tends to be obscured by the author’s “hit” book, in this case The Butcher Boy. I love most McCabe books but holy crap, this book is just so revoltingly creepy it’s unreal. My review of this is coming up soon, so I shan’t go into it more, but Winterwood exudes an emotion that is like waking up and realizing you’re permanently conjoined at the arm to someone dead. It’s just that sort of upsetting, bizarre book.

6. Shiver by Junji Ito
Genre – Horror / Science Fiction

Normally, Ito would be higher on the list than this. He is my favourite author and artist in existence, but this was an oddball assortment of stories, most of which I’d already read in other omnibuses and not all of which I was crazy about. It is also missing some quintessential pieces of Ito’s that really should’ve been included, but that might be nitpicking.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

5. Slices by Scott Cole
Genre – Bizarro / Fantasy

Slices is the literary equivalent of discovering a song that is so new and addictive that you have to listen to it about three thousand times before you can pull yourself away from it. It’s witty yet pretty much insane, it would be hard not to appreciate this book in some way.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

4. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
Genre – Horror / Mystery

Haunted is an infamous book with many different interpretations, all of which will make you miserable but in ways that ultimately improve your life. Or maybe not. Controversial books are quite my forte, and rarely as hideous as their hype. I found Haunted to be nightmarishly realistic and definitely enjoyable, it’s just the squeamish details that made it what it is.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Genre – Fiction

I was genuinely surprised to see that there was no cannibalism that took place in this book. There isn’t, though. Spoiler alert! Many media I adore were inspired by this book, and I feel subconsciously it was sort of destined to be a book that chimes with my nature. I read this twice and even watched both of the films and still can’t quite form what I want to say about it. Indeed, it’s like trying to describe what your soul looks like to a stranger.

2. Nothing is Strange by Mike Russell
Genre – Fantasy / Magic Realism

Nothing is Strange is one of the most fun, genuinely entertaining books I’ve read in a long time. It doesn’t take itself too seriously yet manages to be incredibly insightful to the oddities of the human condition while also being just insanely creative. There are no limits with this one. As far as books that are written to mimic the beauty of lucid dreams, Nothing is Strange might be the best one. I also recommend its sort-of-sequel, Strange Secrets.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

1. Perfect Blue – Complete Metamorphosis by Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Genre – Horror / Thriller

Perfect Blue and its peculiar sequel do not seem to be widely liked, except by me. I would go so far as to say the first book is amongst my all-time favourites. I think it is poetically bizarre, grotesque and discomforting in all the ways that click with me, but more than that it is ridiculously relevant in this age, and it will continue to be until fame no longer transforms a human into an object or a collectible, which I’m afraid will probably never happen. The symbiotic relationship of a creator and fan when it goes… strange, is something that fascinates me a lot.
[Read my full review of this book here.]

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