Books You Can Read in One Day or Less

You’ve still got almost a month to hammer away at your reading goal for 2019. Here’s a list of short works (around 200 or fewer pages) that I’ve collected. And below my list you’ll find a list of other lists.

Good luck. Read on!

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker 

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy

An Untouched House by Willem Frederick Hermans

The Hole by José Revueltas

The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg

A Week at the Airport by Alain De Botton

I Am Sovereign by Nicola Barker 

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy, translated by Tim Parks

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Hit Your End of Year Reading Goal with These Fast Reads

14 Feel-Good Books to Read in a Weekend

Lamenting that her reading time is often confined to weekends, Lorraine Berry here offers a list of books that can be finished over a weekend, which “means a book that clocks in with fewer than 300 pages — and sometimes, even fewer than 200.” An added bonus is the wide variety of titles here.

50 MUST-READ SHORT BOOKS UNDER 250 PAGES

This list includes fiction and nonfiction.

50 MUST-READ SHORT BOOKS IN TRANSLATION

This list will help me tick off two categories on my reading plan for this year: (1) total number of books read and (2) translated works. Pierce Alquist says she has included here books of “less than ~200 pages.”

11 Short Novels from Around the World that You Can Read in One Sitting

A Very Short List of Very Short Novels with Very Short Commentary

From writer Alice McDermott

7 SHORT BOOKS TO READ AT THE END OF THE YEAR TO FULFILL YOUR GOODREADS GOAL

“If you are looking for quick reads under 300 pages to help increase the number of books you’ve read this year, here is a list of short books to read to fulfill your Goodreads goal.”

The 5 Best Audiobooks Under 5 Hours

10 New Books You Can Read in One Sitting

These books all clock in at “around 300 pages or less.”

7 SHORT READS THAT YOU CAN FINISH IN ONE SITTING

32 Short (and New) Books to Help You Crush Your 2019 Reading Challenge

Goodreads suggests both fiction and nonfiction books of fewer than 300 pages.

12 Addictive Reads You Can Finish in a Single Flight

From Danielle Bucco for Off the Shelf comes this list of “books that you can absolutely finish in one flight!”

25 (MORE) CRIME BOOKS YOU CAN FINISH IN AN AFTERNOON

Because who doesn’t want to read more crime books?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Let the Best of 2019 Lists Begin!

A few of these lists began appearing in early November, but I refuse to start my year-end summaries that early. I haven’t put my Christmas decorations up yet, either.

Our Fiction Editor Shares Some Favorites From the Best Books of 2019

From the fiction editor of Kirkus

The Best Books of 2019

Amazon’s portal to its choices in the following categories:

  • literature and fiction 
  • mystery, thriller, and suspense  
  • romance  
  • cooking, food, and wine  
  • children’s books

Best Books: 2019

This is the portal to Publishers Weekly’s many lists of the year’s best.

Reader’s Picks: Favorite Books of 2019

From publishing conglomerate Penguin Random House comes this list of readers’ choices in categories such as romance, historical fiction, and memoir.

Best Books of 2019

From The Washington Post. At the bottom of the page you’ll find links to the Post’s list of best books in the following categories: thrillers & mysteries, romance, science fiction & fantasy, children’s books, poetry, nonfiction, audiobooks, graphic novels, memoirs, and story collections.

Best Books of 2019

From the New York Public Library

THE BEST BOOKS OF 2019

“In our efforts to increase and diffuse knowledge, we highly recommend these 45 titles released this year,” declare the editors and writers of Smithsonian Magazine. Their subject matter includes “science, history, art, world cultures, travel and innovation.”

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Because 2019 is the final year of the decade, there’s also an emphasis on “best books of the decade” among the lists.

The 20 Best Novels of the Decade

From Literary Hub

THE 10 BEST CRIME NOVELS OF THE LAST DECADE

From CrimeReads

The Breakthrough Books of the Decade

Editors at BookBub present one book from each year, 2010-2019, “that resonates deeply — the book that caused a sensation, revolutionized a genre, established a cultural touchstone, or launched itself into the zeitgeist.”

THE RISING STARS OF CRIME FICTION IN THE 2010S

From CrimeReads comes this “celebration of the best new crime and mystery writers of the decade.”

The 10 Best Translated Novels of the Decade

From Literary Hub

The Best Books of the 2010s Nudged the World in a New, Better Direction

Esquire’s choices, both fiction and nonfiction

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

5 Domestic Thrillers: Terror at Home

Related Post:

The characters in “you can’t go home again” novels discover that going back home can often be a mistake because the secrets, lies, and betrayals they had hoped to leave behind are still there waiting to suck them back in. 

The characters in domestic thrillers often share backgrounds similar to their counterparts in “you can’t go home again” novels. But instead of venturing back home, they have tried to construct a fortress in a different home to protect their families by shutting out past events. 

But even characters who don’t have significant pasts to hide discover that, no matter how hard they try, they can’t always protect those they love from trouble, because sometimes trouble enters the seeming stability of home through the front door (or the back door, or a window. . .).

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Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

Jackson, Joshilyn. Never Have I Ever  
Harper Audio, 2019  
Narrated by Joshilyn Jackson  
ISBN 9780062933546

Recommended

cover: Never Have I Ever

This is the novel that prompted me to make this list. It’s the story of Amy Whey, who has built the perfect life: a loving husband, a burbling baby boy, a young teenage stepdaughter with whom she shares a loving relationship, a best friend named Charlotte, and a close-knit neighborhood social network. 

Then one night, just as the monthly book group gathering is about to start, Amy’s doorbell rings. A sultry, fashionably dressed woman offers wine and asks to join the book group. She’s just moved into the empty house on the cul-de-sac, she explains. Her name is Angelica Roux: “Just call me Roux.”

Roux makes sure all the wine glasses stay full and engages the group in “never have I ever,” a party game that involves the spilling of secrets. Everyone else sees the drunken game as harmless fun—except for Amy. She realizes that Roux’s questions are aimed at her. When the two women are alone together, Roux warns that if Amy doesn’t give her what she wants, Roux will make her pay. 

Who exactly is this woman, and what soes she know? More importan, what’s her endgame?

When Roux’s teenage son, driving a red sports car, begins to hit on Amy’s stepdaughter, Amy comes to rue the day she opened her front door to this intruder. For, Amy realizes, Roux’s threats apply not only to herself, but also to those she loves—her family, her friends, the entire life she’s built for herself. The only way to protect it all is to beat Roux at her own dangerous game of digging up past secrets and answering threats with even bigger counter-threats.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


The Wife by Alafair Burke

Burke, Alafair. The Wife   
HarperAudio, 2018  
Narrated by Xe Sands

Recommended

cover: The Wife

Angela met Jason Powell while catering a party in East Hampton. She assumed their romance would be just a summer fling, like most other affairs between locals and the wealthy summer visitors. But the relationship blossomed, and they were married a year later.

The marriage to Jason, a well-known economics professor at NYU, allowed Angela a new start. She and her son moved to Manhattan, and the three of them built a happy life together. But six years later, Jason’s best-selling book brings them media attention. When a college intern accuses Jason of inappropriate behavior, another woman, Kerry Lynch, steps up with her own allegation. Jason insists he’s innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry Lynch disappears, Angela must rethink her position. 

But this is not just a case of a woman having to decide whether to stand by her man, because Angela has her own reasons for needing to avoid the spotlight. The strength of this novel lies in the way Angela weighs her moral options as her situation changes.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

Kubica, Mary. Every Last Lie  
Harlequin Audio, © 2017

cover: Every Last Lie

Clara Solberg, holding her four-day-old infant in her arms when she answers the door bell, can’t believe what the police are telling her: her husband, Nick, has been killed in a car crash, though their four-year-old daughter, who was in the back seat, is unhurt.

As Clara faces the first few days of a life without Nick, paranoia threatens to overwhelm her. She can’t believe the investigators’ conclusion that Nick simply took a dangerous curve too fast. Another car must have been chasing Nick. Who? And why? There must be some explanation for what happened. Random accidents don’t simply happen and shatter one’s world, do they?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Finn, A.J. The Woman in the Window  
HarperCollins Audio, 2018  
Narrated by Ann Marie Lee  
ISBN 9780062678430

cover: The Woman in the Window

Anna Fox is a child psychologist recovering from a personal trauma. She drinks heavily and suffers from agoraphobia so crippling that she can’t even step outside her front door. One day she looks out her window and sees a confrontation taking place in the window across the courtyard. When the teenaged boy who lives in that house visits her to bring a gift, she begins to sympathize with him.

So she begins to monitor what goes on inside the house across the way. As long as she stays inside her own house, nothing can harm her. Right?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown


Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Jewell, Lisa. Then She Was Gone  
Dreamscape Media, 2018  
Narrated by Helen Duff  
ISBN 9781520098289

Every book I’ve written has been about family, in one form or another. . . . family forms the skeleton of every story I want to tell. And the backbone of every family is, as we all know, the mother.

Lisa Jewell
cover: Then She Was Gone

In this novel Lisa Jewell puts her own spin on the standard missing child trope. Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together 10 years after the disappearance of her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie. In those 10 years Laurel and her husband have divorced and Laurel has grown distant from her other daughter.

What Jewell does so well is flesh out the characters so that readers become engaged in their lives. Jewell is also adept at creating plot points that go beyond the standard bare-bones formulas to produce surprising but credible events. It’s impossible to say much more about this novel without spoiling it, so sit back and appreciate how Lisa Jewell pulls off this domestic thriller. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

5 “You Can’t Go Home Again” Novels

Feature image by Hermann Schmider from Pixabay
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Recently my husband and I traveled back to our neighboring hometowns for a family funeral. We’d been back for visits periodically, of course, but we haven’t lived there for 50 years. 

Each time we visit, I feel a distinct sense of dislocation. The adage “you can’t go home again” is true for two reasons:

  1. Your hometown is not the same place as it once was.  
  2. You are no longer the same person you used to be.

Most “you can’t go home again” novels I can think of involve small towns. I grew up in a small town in New England. With only one elementary school in the town, I knew all the kids in the same grade with me, and I knew just about everybody, and all their siblings, in the entire school as well. Our parents all knew each other, and many of us had grandparents who knew each other. Some of the roads in the town were named after prominent multi-generational resident families, such as Lyons Road. Janie Lyons was a couple of years younger than me, and her mother and my mother had gone to school together.

All of this intergenerational overlapping within the same limited geographical boundaries makes privacy nearly impossible. Anybody who had a deep, dark secret in their past that they wanted to keep hidden would have to leave such a small town and start a new life somewhere else. This is probably why the protagonists of “you can’t go home again” novels come predominantly from small towns rather than from big cities. And it’s also probably why most such novels have at their heart some damning action or traumatic event from the past.

Here are five “you can’t go home again” novels that illustrate the Big Three of mystery/thriller tropes: secrets, lies, and betrayals.

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All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

cover: All the Missing Girls

In this prototypical “you can’t go home again” novel, Nicolette Farrell returns to the home town she left 10 years ago to help care for her aging father who exhibits early signs of dementia. Now engaged and working in a city, she returns to the place where everyone knew her as Nic and remembers that she, her brother, and her hometown boyfriend were involved in the unexplained disappearance of her best friend back then. 

Soon after Nic returns, another girl vanishes under similar circumstances, and suddenly Nic and those around her are once again under suspicion. To understand what is happening now, Nic begins to try to understand what happened to her friend all those years ago. But does she really want to know the answers to all the questions that her previously unexamined memories turn up?

The Dry by Jane Harper

cover: The Dry

In Harper’s stunning debut novel, federal investigator Aaron Falk travels from Melbourne back to the small Australian farming community where he grew up to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler, and Luke’s wife and six-year-old son. The Hadlers were shot in their home, with only infant Charlotte left alive. The working theory is that Luke, under significant financial pressure, killed his wife and son before turning the gun on himself. 

But Aaron doesn’t believe Luke would have killed either his family or himself. Back in their teenage years, Aaron and Luke came under suspicion for murder, but the case was never solved. Now Aaron begins investigating the Hadlers’ murders, wondering if this case could be related to that earlier one. What he learns solves both cases and explains why Aaron’s father moved his teenage son to Melbourne, a lifestyle change that young Aaron hated and resented.

 Sharp Objects  by Gillian Flynn

cover: Sharp Objects

Before Gillian Flynn wrote Gone Girl, she wrote Sharp Objects, the story of troubled reporter Camille Preaker. Camille has just returned from a stay at a psychiatric hospital to her job at a city newspaper when two young girls are murdered in her small, rural home town. When her editor tells her to go visit her family and report on the crime, Camille tries to get out of the assignment, which will reunite her with the domineering, narcissistic mother who never loved her and the much younger half-sister whom Camille barely knows.

But keeping her job depends on her compliance, so Camille goes back to the poisonous environment she’s been trying all her life to escape. The assignment forces her to experience some of her childhood pain all over again but also suggests she may begin to find a pathway toward healing.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

cover: The Lying Game

This novel (my least favorite of Ruth Ware’s novels so far) illustrates a variation on “you can’t go home again” novels: the return not necessarily to home, but to a place where a significant childhood action or event occurred. The crucial location here is Salten, a girls’ boarding school in a small English village near the cliffs of the English Channel. Four girls—all misfits for various reasons—meet here as teenagers and form an exclusive clique. They alienate everyone else by their constant lying game, unending attempts to pass off outlandish claims as true. The main rule of the lying game is that they are never to lie to each other.

Seventeen years later three of these women, now in their 30s, receive a text message from the fourth, Kate: “I need you.” The three women, all living near London, drop their professional and family lives to run back to Salten, no questions asked, to help Kate. The novel then proceeds in two separate strands, one the present time and the other in the past, the year the girls spent at school together. Kate is still living in the home she shared with her father, the school’s art instructor, during that year, and much of the backstory focuses on how much idyllic time the four girls spent together in that house, a kind of surrogate home for the other three with unstable family lives, before their antisocial behavior got them all expelled.

As the complex mystery unfolds, the changed situations of the adult characters strain relationships formed around such a tenuous bond so long ago. As the women come to understand how both their schoolmates and the village residents viewed them back then, they discover that they truly can’t go home again.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor

cover: The Chalk Man

This novel illustrates another variation on the “you can’t go home again” formula: Sometimes you can’t go home again even if you never left in the first place. 

In 1986, 12-year-old Eddie and his friends rode bikes around their English village. To stave off boredom they developed their own secret code, chalk stick figures they used to send messages to each other that no one else could understand. This was great fun—until a mysterious chalk man message appeared and lead them to a dead body.

Thirty years later, Ed still lives in the same village. When he and a friend each receive a letter in the mail containing a chalk figure, they think it must be a prank. But when another death occurs, Ed realizes that to save himself, he’ll have to figure out what happened in the village all those years ago.


© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Lots and Lots of Reading Recommendations

Naturally, I read a lot of literature-related articles every day. In the last few days I have come across a number of reading lists suggesting the best books for various reading tastes. 

There’s probably something here for you.

30 HAUNTED HOUSE BOOKS THAT WILL GIVE YOU THE CREEPS

“in haunted house books the monsters are inside, with you, violating that sense of security.”

Sure, I’d read The Turn of the Screw by Henry James and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. But this list contains 28 more examples.

14 Technothrillers to Keep You Up Past Your Bedtime

Like the preceding list, this one contains a few I’ve read (Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and Neuromancer by William Gibson), but there are also a lot I haven’t read.

10 BOOKS LIKE STRANGER THINGS TO FEED YOUR NEED

Here are some suggestions if you’ve finished watching season 3 of the Netflix series Stranger Things and are waiting impatiently for the arrival of season 4. 

The Books *You* Need to Read This Summer

The editorial team at Read it Forward provide a list of the best fiction and nonfiction books for your reading pleasure this summer. They boldly proclaim, “we know something on this list will appeal to everyone.”

JUMPSTART YOUR ROMANCE READING WITH A COMPLETED SERIES

I don’t read romance at all, but if you do, the folks at Book Riot have you covered with this list.

The 5 Best Books for Your Beach Bag

There are some big-name authors on this short list.

50 MUST-READS FROM IOWA CITY: A CITY OF LITERATURE

Only two cities in the U.S. have earned the UNESCO City of Literature designation, and one of them is Iowa City. (The other is Seattle.) To earn this designation, a city must have “a diverse publishing industry, exceptional educational programming and literary events, spaces which preserve and promote literature, and media outlets that supports readers and reading.”

One thing that contributed to Iowa City’s designation is the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, a famous writing workshop that has produced many well known authors. All 50 entries on this list were written by writers who spent time in Iowa City, including Raymond Carver, T.C. Boyle, and Alexander Chee.

How Many Of The “Top 100 Books Of All Time” Have You Actually Read?

OCLC, the Online Computer Library Center, has shared a list of the Top 100 novels of all time found in libraries around the world. How many have you read?

I come in at 72 (although some I read so long ago that I don’t remember much about them).

25 GREAT NONFICTION ESSAYS YOU CAN READ ONLINE FOR FREE

Here, finally, is something especially for lovers of nonfiction. The “you can read online for free” part is particularly appealing. Authors represented here include James Baldwin, Joan Didion, and Roxane Gay. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

15 Novels: Learning History through Reading Fiction

Novels Mentioned

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, translated by Berliani M. Nugrahani
  2. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  3. My Brilliant Friend (and 3 companion novels) by by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
  4. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu
  5. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  8. Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy
  9. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  10. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
  11. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra 
  12. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
  13. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  14. Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  15. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

About a year ago, when I was setting up my reading plan for the upcoming year, I came across one challenge that included this entry: “Read a book to learn something.”

My immediate reaction to this directive was, “Every book I read, I read to learn something.” Nevertheless, within the context of that particular reading challenge I interpreted this entry as a directive to read a nonfiction book.

But every time I finish a novel I remember anew that I do learn something from every book I read, not just from nonfiction. I’ve learned a lot from novels explicitly categorized as historical fiction, but I’ve also learned from novels in various genres such as science fiction, mysteries, and thrillers.

Here are 15 novels that have contributed to my general knowledge of several topics.

Many novels have served as fictional introductions to other cultures. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, translated by Berliani M. Nugrahani, taught me about  the ethnic, religious, and political turmoil in present-day Afghanistan. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman introduced me to what life was like for lighthouse keepers on isolated islands along the coast of Australia in the years after the first world war. I learned what life was like for working-class people in Naples, Italy, after World War II from My Brilliant Friend and its three companion novels by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein. And I got a first-hand picture of life during China’s Cultural Revolution from The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, translated by Ken Liu.

I’ve learned from novels more about war than I ever wanted to know. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier made me understand how the Civil War devastated both the land and the people who lived on it. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows both made me realize the magical power books can have for people experiencing horrors such as World War II. Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy made me marvel at how resilient and brave people can be in the face of those same horrors. Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and David Guterson’s Snow Falling on Cedars taught me how unfair and long-lived political and ethnic suspicion and hatred can be. From A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra I learned the basis for the Russian war with Chechnya.

Spies are a big part of war, and I’ve learned just about everything I know about espionage from novels. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein taught me about courage and the power of friendship in the face of unspeakable fear. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn showed me bravery under threat of death in the first world war, as did Transcription by Kate Atkinson in the second. From A Column of Fire by Ken Follett I learned about the origin of spying during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

But I don’t just learn historical facts by reading fiction. I learn about human nature, about human desires and aspirations, about the desire to love and be loved, the search for one’s identity, and the courage to act in extraordinary circumstances. And also, yes, about the dark parts of the human heart and our capacity to inflict pain and suffering on others throughout time.

I’ve had a lot of formal schooling. But much of what I know about life I learned from reading fiction.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

The Best Books I Read in 2018

As with all my annual reading lists, this one comprises books I read in 2018, regardless of when they were published.

In past years I’ve limited my list to 15 books, broken down into the best (10) and honorable mention (5). This year I found it particularly hard to distinguish between those two divisions. I was tempted to present just a single list of 15 items, but, because of that hobgoblin of little minds—consistency—I did subdivide it. However, I won’t mind if you think of this presentation as a single list of 15 items.

Listed alphabetically by author’s last name:

The Best

  • Connelly,Michael. Dark Sacred Night
  • Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend
  • Galbraith,Robert. Lethal White
  • Grann, David. Killers of the Flower Moon
  • Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven
  • Marra, Anthony. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
  • Ng, Celeste. Little Fires Everywhere
  • Piercy, Marge. Gone to Soldiers
  • Stein, Garth. The Art of Racing in the Rain
  • Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give

Honorable Mention

  • Benjamin,Chloe. The immortalists
  • Follett, Ken. A Column of Fire
  • Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • French, Tana. The Witch Elm
  • Harper, Jane. Force of Nature

How about you?

Did you read any of the same books I did in 2018? If yes, what did you think of them?

And what’s on your list of the best books you read in 2018?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Best Books of 2018: More Lists

Related Post:

The Best of the Bunch: Bookish’s Favorite Books from 2018

THE 2018 OSCARS, BUT FOR BOOKS

The Oscars (but less white and for books) is in its second year here at Book Riot, and we’re honoring the best of the best 2018 releases in Hollywood fashion!

Fiction Faves: Novels and Stories to Read Over the Holidays

From Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN, USA.

The Best Books of the Year

This list from Barnes & Noble includes these categories:

  • fiction
  • young adult
  • young reader
  • thrillers & suspense
  • best books (apparently an inclusive category that contains both fiction and nonfiction)

World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2018

Best books of 2018: Young Adult

From BookPage:

The year’s best young adult books aren’t just for teen readers. Read on for our favorite immersive historicals, sweeping fantasies, stories that tackle some of today’s most headline-grabbing social issues and more.

Best Books of 2018: Children’s Books

Also from BookPage:

Although the year has been a challenging one, the effervescent world of children’s literature has been filled with diverse voices, messages of hope and plenty of silliness. Here are our editors’ picks for the 30 best children’s books of 2018.

The Best Historical Fiction Books of 2018

From BookBub

BOOK RIOT’S BEST OF THE BACKLIST 2018

Most “best books of the year” lists prepared by the publishing profession include only books published during the year in question. But this list uses the same approach I use every year for my own list of “best books read”: It includes the best books people read during the year, no matter when the books were published.

And this list earns bonus points for including one of my Top 5 Novels of All Time.

The Best Backlist Books We Read in 2018

Here’s another list like the one above.

Readers’ Regrets: The Books We Wish We Read in 2018

It’s comforting to know that even professional reviewers can’t keep up with the staggering number of new books published every year.

Four Books That Deserved More Attention in 2018

Here’s another variant on the “best books of the year” round-up.

Editors’ Picks: Highlights From a Year in Reading

Cal Flyn—writer, journalist and the deputy editor of _Five Books_—lists the 10 best books she read this year.

Goodreads Staffers’ Top Three Books of the Year

We’ve already looked at the Goodreads Readers’ Choice Awards. Here, several Goodreads staff members each share the top three books they read this year.

The Best Science Books Of 2018

From the folks at Science Friday.

The Best Food Books of 2018

From The New Yorker.

Marilyn Stasio Plays Bad Santa in This Holiday Crime Column

Because I like mystery/thriller/crime novels, I can’t resist offering you this list by Marilyn Stasio, mystery reviewer for The New York Times:

Ho-Ho-Ho, kiddies. Here comes Bad Santa with another gift sack filled with mysteries, crime stories and body parts. Ugh, what’s that gooey red stuff dripping out of Santa’s bag? Not to worry, just some melted candy canes. Now, on to this year’s rundown of the best Good Books for Bad Grown-Ups.

See who wins her awards in categories like “most original murder method” and “most unprintable dialogue.”

CRIME FICTION SUPERLATIVES: THE BEST AND MOST OF 2018

Here’s another list similar to Marilyn Stasio’s. The categories here also vary widely: “best title,” “most studious,” “best conspiracy,” “best use of new media,” “Rotary Club Award for new small business owners.”

Favorite Books of 2018

A beautiful list from the inimitable Maria Popova of Brain Pickings.

Best Thrillers and Crime Fiction 2018: The Critics’ Picks

Again, because I like crime fiction, here’s a list from Books in the Media:

Our team have collated the best of the year selections from the following publications: The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times, Evening Standard, The Spectator, Daily Mail, Financial Times and Slate.

There are some titles here that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

The Best Thrillers Of 2018, According To One Of The Best Crime Writers

The Real Lolita author Sarah Weinman on the crime writing that burrowed deep into her psyche and stayed there for a long, long time

THE BEST NOIR FICTION OF 2018

From CrimeReads:

Trends in this year’s noir releases include a revival of PI stories and classic hard-boiled tales of the “starts bad, gets worse” type; rural noir continued to make a strong showing, while procedurals featured a wide variety of protagonists, arrayed along a vast scale of crooked to incorruptible. Noir tends to be the crime world’s voice of conscience, fully on display in many of the works below, and the prominent presence of 1970s settings harkens back to the last great era of conspiracy fiction. To make our selection process more reader-friendly, we divided our selections into three categories: Private Eyes, Police / Procedural, and that most ineffable, expansive, and existential of labels: straight-up Noir.

Criminal Element’s Best Books of 2018

The staff of Criminal Element choose their favorites.

THE BEST PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS OF 2018

It was a banner year for psychological thrillers, with Trump-induced anxieties and #metoo stories entering into prominence in a genre already concerned with dangers at home. It’s no surprise that two years after the election, a mess of crime novels newly focused on the psychology of betrayal and the effects of toxic masculinity, but it did come as a bit of a surprise to see several novels that fit in perfectly with the #metoo era, and we’re sure to see many more over the coming years. As has been the trend for the past few years, psychological thrillers have shifted towards exploring relationships between women as much, if not more, than the domestic interactions that were once the subgenre’s bread and butter (so much so that for a few years, the crime world was inundated by the aptly named sub-sub-genre of domestic suspense).

Editors’ Picks: Favourite Nonfiction of 2018

There are many interesting entries on this list by journalist and Five Books editor Sophie Roell.

More Books We Loved in 2018

More from The New Yorker.

The Best Books of 2018 (So Far)

From  Town & Country magazine.

Readers’ Choice: The Top 25 Most Shelved Books of the Year!

Off the Shelf is a web site that allows users to set up their own shelves on which to place books they want to read. This list includes the books that readers most often placed on their shelves.

Crime fiction: The best mysteries and thrillers of 2018, part 1

Adam Woog, crime and mystery fiction reviewer for The Seattle Times, lists some of his favorites of 2018. He promises part 2 of his list in his first column of 2019, which should show up on the second Sunday of January.

From me, Woog gets bonus points for describing Tana French, author of the recent hit The Witch Elm, as “ a ridiculously talented Irish writer.” That she is.

10 Poets On Their Favorite Poetry Collections Of 2018

From BuzzFeed News.

Year in review: The best books of 2018

This extensive list from John McMurtrie, book editor of The San Francisco Chronicle, contains both fiction and nonfiction.

The Best of 2018: The Top 10 Book Lists of the Year

To feed the need for a meta fix, Off the Shelf lists its lists from 2018 that drew the most reader responses.

34 of This Year’s Highest Rated Books on BookBub

To mark the end of the year, we’re looking back at the books that BookBub members enjoyed the most in 2018. With an average of over 4.5 stars each, these books are tried and true reader favorites across all genres.

26 of the Best Debut Novels of 2018

I was a bit surprised to see that a lot of these debut novels are also on a lot of “best of 2018” lists.

The Observer: Best books of 2018

Includes graphic novels, music, politics & history, art, poetry, fiction, society, cookbooks, tech, theatre, architecture, thrillers, photography, and science.

BEST EPIGRAPHS OF 2018

OK, this is not a list of the year’s best books, but it may lead you to some new books from this year. Epigraphs are those little quotations from earlier writers that are often featured on one of the opening pages of a newer work. Epigraphs are easy to overlook, but they often lead to new insights about the work. And they’re often more meaningful if we look back at them after we’ve finished the book. Imagine the possibilities.

And finally, let’s look forward:

The 10 Most Anticipated Books Of 2019, According To Independent Bookstores

Including Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

LIT HUB’S MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2019

here are Literary Hub’s most anticipated books of 2019 (so far)—look out for another installment this summer. NB: All dates listed subject to change at the whims of the publishers in question.

Books 2019: Which top fiction picks will you choose?

8 brilliant book series to start your 2019 off right

The titles here aren’t newly published books, but rather first-in-a-series books to get you started reading in 2019.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

5 Big Books I’ve Read or Reread Recently

It’s been a while since I wrote about my love for Big Books (tomes of 500 or more pages). Here are the five most recent ones I’ve read.


A Column of Fire by Ken Follett, 928 pages

This is the final entry in Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge trilogy. (The first two are Pillars of the Earth, set in the 12th century, and World Without End, set in the 14th century.) This novel begins in the latter part of the 16th century, as young Princess Elizabeth is poised to become queen. One of Follett’s strengths is the creation of strong, well defined fictional characters, and he creates a cast of them here. In their interactions with a few historical personages of the era, these characters live through the religious battles and shifting loyalties of the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.

I found particularly fascinating Follett’s picture of how the young Queen Elizabeth, facing enmity from most of Europe, created a network of spies and secret agents. This novel covers about a half century but, as in the other two novels in this series, the story never seems to go on too long. Follett is a genius at keeping a large cast of characters interesting while moving through an extended narrative arc.


Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy, 703 pages

What a gem of a novel! I discovered it through one of the newsletters of Kindle deals I receive daily.

Piercy uses 10 narrators—four men and six women—to cover the full breadth of World War II and its effects. The characters include soldiers, intelligence officers, code breakers, factory workers, French resistance fighters, and women entering jobs left vacant by the departure of the male work force. As she does in much of her work, Piercy here emphasizes the women characters, but her male characters are equally as individualized and important.

Like Ken Follett, Marge Piercy keeps a large cast of characters moving coherently over the wide sections of time and place necessary to encompass the vastness of an entire world at war. This is a novel that at some time in the future will appear on a list of Big Books that I’ve reread.


Penmarric by Susan Howatch, 704 pages

Penmarric is the only reread on this list. I think I originally read it about 35 years ago (it was first published in 1971), so I’d had enough time to forget the details and therefore relished the chance to reread it.

This is one of those big, sprawling family sagas that I enjoy so much when they’re well done. And this one is very well done. Like Marge Piercy and Ken Follett, Susan Howatch keeps a large cast of characters moving across an extended time span.

The novel covers the years 1890–1945 and three generations of the Castallack family. The story focuses on Penmarric, the huge ancestral home on the family estate of Penmar located in Cornwall (the same area where the current PBS drama Poldark is set). The house represents the family fortune and tradition, but it’s actually the Cornwall region that focuses the characters’ desires and keeps them grounded. It’s a big family, with big dreams and aspirations, and Howatch introduces us to these several characters as individuals forced to live out the consequences of a father’s decision and of the social conventions of an era.


The Fifth Heart by Dan Simmons, 624 pages

The introverted, learned, meticulous novelist Henry James meets the dashing fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. What’s not to like?

At the heart of the novel lies a philosophical conundrum. Holmes is in the midst of his hiatus after the incident at Reichenbach Falls, when he was supposedly killed by his archenemy, Moriarty. Holmes has faked his own death and disappeared because his powers of ratiocination have suggested to him that he is a fictional character. While Holmes ponders his own existence, James is left to think about how own question: If Holmes is fictional, what does that make the novelist himself?

Despite their existential crises, James and Holmes have work to do: They’ve come to America to solve the mystery of the 1885 death of Clover Adams, wife of Henry Adams, scion of the family that produced two U.S. Presidents. Was Clover Adams’s death the suicide it appeared to be, or does it involve sinister forces and matters of national importance?


Dune by Frank Herbert, 535 pages

My husband, daughter, and sister-in-law all love this novel, but I had put off reading it for 50 years because I don’t like much science fiction. What convinced me to read it, finally, is not the realization that this novel has become a major icon of science fiction literature, but rather our retirement relocation to Tacoma, WA, home town of Frank Herbert. Herbert was influenced to write his masterpiece by the presence for nearly 100 years in Tacoma’s North End, very near to where we now live, of a copper smelting and refining plant. The final incarnation of the company that owned the plant was known as American Smelter and Refining Company (ASARCO). ASARCO closed the plant in 1985 because of a decline in the market for copper and the need for pollution control.

The company that was originally one of Tacoma’s biggest employers was also one of its biggest polluters. Its giant smokestack, built in 1917, dominated the area at 571 feet tall. The smokestack finally became a symbol of environmental pollution, and it was demolished in 1993. The area became a Superfund toxic cleanup site. The soil around where we leave is still being tested for contamination as older property is sold and new building projects started.

This local experience prompted Frank Herbert to write Dune, which many people consider the seminal work of ecological science fiction. I don’t love the book anywhere near as much as my family does, but I am glad I finally read it (if for no other reason than I can now include it in my list of Big Books read).


© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

The 15 Best Books I Read in 2017

Since I’m choosy about what I read and mostly read only books I’m interested in, it’s often difficult to choose the titles that belong on my year-end “best books I read this year” list.

And this year the task was particularly difficult. After much adding and subtracting, I’ve finally hit on this list of the 10 best plus 5 honorable mention.

The Best

Backman, Fredrik. A Man Called Ove
Connelly, Michael. Two Kinds Of Truth
Crouch, Blake. Dark Matter
Harper, Jane. The Dry
Honeyman, Gail. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Jenkins, Reid Taylor. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Macdonald, Helen. H Is for Hawk
Ng, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You
Rooney, Kathleen. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Sternbergh, Adam. The Blinds

Honorable Mention

Cahalan, Susannah. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Dolan-Leach, Caite. Dead Letters
du Maurier, Daphne. My Cousin Rachel
Eskens, Allen. The Life We Bury
Fuller, Claire. Swimming Lessons

How About You?

What books made your list this year?

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown