Favourite Books of 2018

Here are some of my favourites of the books that I read in 2018.

Not the best books of 2018. That makes it sound like an objective assessment, rather than just my opinion. Also, it implies that the books are all from 2018. That’s not the case – these are just books that I read in 2018, regardless of publication date. They’re also in no particular order…

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

This was actually the final book I read last year, and I think it’s my favourite. It’s a beautiful, tender novel; essentially a love story between three characters. It’s very short, which makes its emotional impact even more impressive.

 

 

Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

This is one I’d had on my pile for ages (at least a couple of years). I can’t remember what made me finally pick it up, but I’m glad I did. It’s about a young boy who goes missing in the eponymous small town. Except it’s also about the town itself; we get sections from the points of view of lots of different characters, yet none of them feel superficial. It’s humorous, human and, by the end, quietly devastating.

 

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly

If I’m honest, whatever book John Connolly brings out in any given year will probably be on my list of favourite books for that year. This is the 16th book in his Charlie Parker series, which I’ve been following from the beginning (which, now I come to think of it, means I was surely far too young to be reading such things…) and it is, I think, one of the best. Dark, violent, yet profoundly humane. It also veers further into supernatural territory than I can remember the series going before, and yet it in Parker’s world it all seems perfectly, well, natural.

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

A murder mystery with a difference (to say the least) from Adam Roberts. It’s set in a ‘near-future England’, where most people spend their lives plugged into the Shine, the immersive successor to the internet, while their bodies sit doing not much in the real world. Alma, a private detective, is called to investigate when a body is discovered in the boot of a car — except the car has only just been built, in a fully automated factory, and there’s no way it could be there. I’m not even going to begin to describe the rest of the plot. Suffice to say it involves a conspiracy theory, a political coup, Alma’s gigantic partner, and features a cameo from Alfred Hitchcock. It’s Adam Roberts at his insanely inventive best.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

I was hugely impressed by Jane Harper’s first novel, The Dry. This follow-up features the same protagonist, Federal Agent Aaron Falk, this time involved in an investigation to find a woman who has gone missing in the Australian bush while on a team building exercise (who can blame her?). The tone is somewhat different to The Dry, and it’s less of a personal story for Falk, but it’s still a cleverly-constructed and well-observed crime novel.

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

Another mystery with a difference, Jon McGregor’s Booker longlisted novel is, ostensibly, about the disappearance of a 13 year-old girl in the Peak District. It becomes, however, less about the story and more a meditation on loss and the passing of time. Free of paragraphs and direct dialogue, the book is written very simply yet lyrically. It’s a style that, described like that, sounds like it would be distracting, but conversely it pulled me in and made me forget I was reading at all.

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

I love Stephen King, but he blurbs a lot of books. I’m not questioning the sincerity of any of those endorsements, but it does mean they lose their impact somewhat. When, however, he tweets, presumably unprompted, about a debut novel by a British author and says “If you like my stuff, you’ll like this” – that has an air of spontaneous, unfiltered recommendation that it’s hard to ignore. And, indeed, it is very King-esque, and I loved it.

This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay

This runaway bestseller hardly needs any plugging, but it was one of the best books I read in 2018, so here it is. It’s everything you’ve heard it is from everyone else: hilarious, heartbreaking, fascinating, infuriating. I just hope some politicians read it.

Resolutions

New year, new blog.

I don’t believe in resolutions. I think they’re at best arbitrary and silly, and at worst potentially quite harmful. On the other hand, goals, aims, ambitions – they’re all good things to have at any time of year.

Starting a website-slash-blog has been on my list for a while. Not least because a writer with no online presence these days may as well not exist. But also because it’ll be good for me – in terms of flexing my writing muscles, acting as an incentive to get stuff done, and hopefully even gaining a bit of an audience. You see, I’m going to try and be interesting and useful, rather than just yelling into the void. Time will tell if I achieve that.

I’ve blogged before. I ran a crime fiction blog for a few years. It was a lot of fun, but it became a victim of its own success and eventually just grew too time-consuming. One of the reasons I gave it up was because I wanted to spend more time on my own writing. That was three years ago, so I should really have something to show for it by now.

Which brings us back to goals and ambitions (but not resolutions). I currently have three works-in-progress. I’m only counting novels that I’m working on in earnest, and not the scribbled first chapters or dozens of unfinished short stories. My goal (not resolution) is to finish a first draft of at least one of these. I’ll track my progress (or lack of it) here.

Onwards!