I have been on a reading tear this year. 212 books and counting. Of those 212 titles, 51 were graphic novels while 70 were 2018 releases.
We’re still a long way off from my end of year rankings and countdown but, for now, I’d like to give a halfway-mark shout-out to The Best Books of 2018 so far.
Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, thrillers, graphic novels, general fiction, and non-fiction – a little something for everyone in no particular order…
A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa
In this memoir translated from the original Japanese, Ishikawa candidly recounts his tumultuous upbringing and the brutal thirty-six years he spent living under a crushing totalitarian regime, as well as the challenges he faced repatriating to Japan after barely escaping North Korea with his life. A River in Darkness is not only a shocking portrait of life inside the country but a testament to the dignity—and indomitable nature—of the human spirit.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
When Myriam, a mother and brilliant French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work, she and her husband are forced to look for a caretaker for their two young children. They are thrilled to find Louise: the perfect nanny right from the start. Louise sings to the children, cleans the family’s beautiful apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late whenever asked, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on each other, jealousy, resentment, and frustrations mount, shattering the idyllic tableau.
Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates
The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah—are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again—with even more devastating results.
A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis
Though her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, Elsa cannot refuse a call for help. A teenage girl has gone missing from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads hides the fact that she did not go willingly.
With each passing hour, as the hunt for Ruby deepens into a search for a man who may have been killing for years, the case starts to get underneath Elsa’s skin. Everything she has buried – her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother’s death – threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.
In order to save the missing girl, she may have to lose herself…and return to the darkness she’s been hiding from for years.
The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.
While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.
Spider-Men II by Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli
The sequel five years in the making! The first time the Amazing Peter Parker and the Ultimate Miles Morales met, things ended with a question – who is the Miles Morales of the Marvel Universe?! Now that the Miles you know and love shares a world with Peter in the mainstream MU, you’re finally going to get that answer! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…because as the mystery deepens, the wall-crawling wonders will be targeted by Taskmaster!
Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen
The day nine-year-old San San and her twelve-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandmother taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that forever changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the Party, Ah Liam reports his grandmother to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events.
Now they must flee their home on Drum Wave Islet, which sits just a few hundred meters across the channel from mainland China. But when their mother goes to procure visas for safe passage to Hong Kong, the government will only issue them on the condition that she leave behind one of her children as proof of the family’s intention to return.
Cyanide & Happiness: A Guide to Parenting by Three Guys with No Kids by Kris Wilson, Rob Denbleyker, and Dave McElfatrick
Finally, a definitive and reliable manual that demystifies the complicated world of parenting while delivering crucial tips and sage advice—all from three guys who make comics instead of children. This informative guide for breeders tackles all the big parenting issues: Finding messages in your alphabet soup, drawing the perfect hand turkey, getting away with kidnapping, telling your kids you don’t love them anymore, and making out with your kid’s best friend’s dad.
Semiosis by Sue Burke
Forced to land on a planet they aren’t prepared for, human colonists rely on their limited resources to survive. The planet provides a lush but inexplicable landscape–trees offer edible, addictive fruit one day and poison the next, while the ruins of an alien race are found entwined in the roots of a strange plant. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
My Boyfriend Is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris
Nora has bad luck with men. When she meets an (actual) bear on a hike in the Los Angeles hills, he turns out to be the best romantic partner she’s ever had! He’s considerate, he’s sweet, he takes care of her. But he’s a bear, and winning over her friends and family is difficult. Not to mention he has to hibernate all winter. Can true love conquer all?
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
Blood of Assassins by RJ Barker
The assassin Girton Club-foot and his master have returned to Maniyadoc in hope of finding sanctuary, but death, as always, dogs Girton’s heels. The place he knew no longer exists.
War rages across Maniyadoc, with three kings claiming the same crown – and one of them is Girton’s old friend Rufra. Girton finds himself hurrying to uncover a plot to murder Rufra on what should be the day of the king’s greatest victory. But while Girton deals with threats inside and outside Rufra’s war encampment, he can’t help wondering if his greatest enemy hides beneath his own skin.
We’ll Fly Away by Brian Bliss
Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.
But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love.
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind–one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.
As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of violence puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on this high-stakes plot only burns faster.
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty
Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece
Doctor Star & the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows by Jeff Lemire and Max Fiumara
An aged crime fighter desperately wants to reconnect with his estranged son, who he hoped would one day take the mantle of Doctor Star. Over the course of the story we learn his World War II-era origin, how he got his powers, his exciting astral adventures, the formation of some of Black Hammer’s greatest heroes, and more in this heartbreaking superhero tale about fathers and sons.
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
How far does the apple really fall from the tree?
Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.
But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.
When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.
Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
Harley McKenna is the only child of North County’s biggest criminal. Duke McKenna’s run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley’s been working for him since she was sixteen–collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he’d deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he’s built.
Her time’s run out. The Springfields, her family’s biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother’s death, and now they’re coming for Duke’s only weak spot: his daughter.
With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father’s violent world will destroy her. Duke’s raised her to be deadly–he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she’s got to take out Duke’s operation and the Springfields.
Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father’s daughter. And McKennas always win.
There were a few pretty good books that missed the cut as I tried to limit myself to a Top 20. They’ll no doubt make an appearance in my end-of-year rundown.
So, any 2018 releases you’d like to recommend?