BEST BOOKS of 2018
Thank you for visiting our “Best Books of 2018” page. We hope you find these books as interesting and entertaining as we have. This year’s books were selected by a group of twenty booksellers from across the country. We had the privilege to review hundreds of books that were published this year and as always it was very difficult to choose which books made the list. If you agree or disagree with our selections please let us know by tweeting with us @HudsonBooks or by posting on our Hudson Booksellers Facebook page. Enjoy!
2018 Book of the Year
Why should you read the memoir of someone you’ve never heard of? Here’s why: if it tells a difficult story without self-pity, if it’s told beautifully yet without unnecessary frills, if you learn about a person you would like to know, and if you can look at the world differently after reading it. These are all the reasons that Educated is so wonderful. Tara grows up in a fundamentalist family in Idaho, without a birth certificate or formal education because that would allow the government to know too much, according to her domineering, paranoid, probably mentally ill father. She studies the only books at home, the Bible and Mormon texts, so she can take the ACT. This cloistered girl makes it to Brigham Young University and then to Cambridge for her Master’s and PhD. Her education gives her a view of the world and a voice of her own. –Sydne, Atlanta
The Impostor is about Enric Marco, who, while president of a prominent organization for Spanish Holocaust survivors, was exposed for lying about being a Holocaust survivor. The worst and most flagrant of his lies, it was far from the only. Cercas tries to tell “A True Story,” about Marco, but can he? Is there a single truth for anyone who lived through the last century in Spain? For any of us? What do Marco’s lies, history’s lies, novelists’ lies, tell us about ourselves? Do they tell us anything at all? The Impostor is both fact and fiction. It is biography, autobiography, history, philosophy, and more. It is focused and far ranging. It is a book of grand ambition but also humility. It is fabulously good. –Sara, Atlanta
3 Kings is a fascinating history of rap and hip hop, told through the failures and successes of its major players. Focusing on the three most successful musician tycoons of modern times - Diddy, Dr. Dre, and Jay-Z – Greenburg is able to demonstrate the choices they made to pull themselves out of their humble, and sometimes violent, beginnings. This book is not only an entrepreneurial blueprint, but also a great read for anyone who wants more of an insight into a musical genre that has been a powerful influence on culture. I found myself with a greater appreciation for these three moguls, and I look forward to seeing who else will join them on the throne. –Jenn, Atlanta
If you are in an airport you have probably read Sapiens and are probably telling the person next to you how great it is. In his latest book Yuval turns his enormous intellect to the present and you might be surprised to find out that the world is not as bad as the headlines of today’s newspaper might lead you to believe. Humanity has some really big challenges right now but if we work together and use technology responsibly we should make it through this just fine. The first step is to sit and take some deep breaths. –Justin, Atlanta
This book is about something called Classic Rock which is inclusive of, but not to be confused with, actual rock classics like “Let It Bleed” or “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” (or Axis: Bold as Love, Tommy, Village Green, Dark Side of the Moon, Ziggy, or whichever other ‘classic’ rock that floats your boat). We’re talking the radio format definition of ‘classic rock,’ so in addition to the true giants we’re also talking about the schmaltz and cheese of ‘guilty pleasure’ bands like REO Speedwagon, Journey, or Styx (no offense intended to Messrs Cronin, Perry, Shaw et al. – & also: de gustibus non est...)
Understand, this is a wonky kind of book, so the distinction is important as is often the case with things wonky. This is also a hella fun book if you happen to be a fan of the genre(s) (the definition is stretchy enough to allow for the inclusion of Purple Rain and London Calling and Vs. and anything else really that gets played on your local ‘Classic Rock’ channel these days). In it Hyden looks at the foundational myths of ROCK’s early days and contemplates what, if any, meaning can be taken from its progress to its current geriatric phase. Payola, a certain Nobel Prize winner, the Church of Springsteen, and of course the passing of our heroes; all in here and more. –Matt, Los Angeles
Equal parts memoir, history, and criticism, The Recovering is a beautifully written, direct, and unflinching look at addiction. Leslie Jamison uses her own intense struggles with addiction, along with an examination of creative genius and its often romanticized ties to addiction, to challenge the accepted narratives surrounding the topic while simultaneously exploring the historic roots of the social constructs that dictate how we approach addiction. Taken as a whole, this staggering work adds an important voice to conversations about how we understand, treat, and approach addiction, while maintaining an accessible blend of humor and conviction that make it both a powerful and pleasurable read. –Della, Atlanta
Heavy indeed. A spare and gorgeously written memoir that is heavy in the sense of being powerful, rich, sad, intense. Heavy in the sense of being physically and metaphorically burdened, with the trauma of American racism, with the struggles of poverty, with the complex and often conflicting desires individuals have for themselves, their family and their loved ones. And yet also, heavy: that sweet and awestruck slang used when in the presence of a profound and meaningful truth. –Sara, Atlanta
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark leaves you with chills and a vivid narrative of a serial killer’s crimes. Author Michelle McNamara expertly details the path of one of the most notorious serial killers in America history who committed a string of unsolved rapes and murders in California in the 1970’s and ‘80s. She takes you into every crime scene and keeps you turning pages to see what is discovered next. Michelle’s mind is so drawn into this case she continually forgets moments of her own life in the dogged pursuit of justice. The obsession is evident by her late night investigative work leading to endless clues to pursue. This is true crime reporting at its absolute best as you feed into Michelle’s obsession to catch the Golden State Killer. –Mary Jo, Vancouver
Susan Orlean's book about the unsolved 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire is one of the best of the year. Orlean explores the mystery of how (or who) started the fire, with special emphasis on eccentric actor Harry Peak, chief suspect in the case. But it's also a history of the L.A. Public Library administration and libraries themselves. The author also details some of the many tasks that the workers deal with everyday, with affection and respect for the institution itself. She also burns a book herself, just to see what it's like. The tragic burning of so many books was pretty much overlooked back in 1986 (Chernobyl dominated the headlines), but Orlean brings the day of the Fire vividly back to life. –Len, Chicago-ORD
This book will change your life and could possibly save it. I’m not joking - read the chapter on the time of day that doctors make the most mistakes! And it is not just time of day tips - learn how to sync with coworkers, the importance of mid-points, and most importantly, what a “napaccino” is. When is engaging, never boring, and impossible not to incorporate into your daily habits. –Justin, Atlanta
Friday Black is the electric debut by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya that looks unflinchingly at some of our cultures most politically and personally charged issues. Throughout twelve original and entertaining, but also painfully real and visceral short stories, Adjei-Brenyah weaves tales of racism, violence, bullying, consumerism, personal responsibility, and alienation. He presents them with freshness and sometimes a sting that heralds the arrival of a talented new voice. The characters populating these tales are all trying to make the best of tough situations and each of the stories, regardless of when or where the story is set, are relatable to all. –Ryan, Chicago ORD
All too frequently, we read books that break our hearts. Rare is the author, though, that we thank afterward for putting us through that grief. The Only Story tells us of a young man named Paul and his allconsuming relationship with Susan, a neighbor more than twice his age. Although we are afraid that their story won’t end well, the devotion that Paul shows in spite of great tragedy is nothing short of astonishing. Grab your tissues and a bottle of wine, and get ready to savor heartbreak. –Christine, Chicago ORD
Denis Johnson was one of our premier prose stylists. In this, his last story collection (completed just before his untimely passing in May of 2017), we have a book fully worthy of his reputation. With humor and grace, Johnson delves into some pretty dark subject matter rendering it fully human and even at times funny. A melancholy and elegiac meditation on aging and mortality, the title story, in particular, gutted me. –Matt, Los Angeles
Newlyweds Roy and Celestial are happy and building a good life until a false accusation leads to unjust imprisonment. Celestial returns to Atlanta and the two write letters which first show their passion but slowly evolve to show the fraying edges of their commitment and the doubt of their future together. Celestial finds solace in Andre, a childhood friend and the one who introduced the couple. This book doesn't focus on racial inequality or the huge problems with the justice system, even though they set the story in motion. This is about love and commitment, how to stay true to your vows while staying true to yourself. The characters are flawed and human, heartbreakingly universal and unique. This is a story that can't end well, and you can't turn away. –Sydne, Atlanta
Romy has a bleak life. She essentially raised herself on the streets of San Francisco, worked in strip clubs before she was 16, moved all over California with her young son, and ends up serving two consecutive life sentences in prison for murder. The Mars Room is a somber portrait of an unrelentingly harsh world. In spite of having virtually no assistance, Romy attempts to fit in on the fringes of society and build a life for her son while maintaining as much dignity as she can. –Christine, Chicago ORD
Set largely amidst the onset of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago, The Great Believers covers a tragic subject, but Makkai’s style is so weightless - Fitzgerald himself comes to mind, for which the book is named, and whose quote serves as epigraph – that reading it is genuinely a (bittersweet) pleasure. It so clearly celebrates the rewards of opening ourselves up to love, even as it amplifies the risks. Makkai draws direct parallels between the Chicago scene in the 80s to that of Paris in the first years of the last century, to Fitzgerald’s own peers, of which he said, “A strongly individual generation sprouts most readily from a time of stress and emergency.” Decimated through war and disease, his was a group whose great hope, whose great disillusionment, fueled art that still inspires us a hundred years later. Despite Fitzgerald’s self-aware observation, it is hard to recognize when we might be living in a golden age, and harder still to come to terms with the sacrifice through which it might have been forged. Makkai handles all of these ideas with grace and insight through characters I couldn’t help but love. –Sara, Atlanta
If you enjoy imaginative re-tellings of classic mythology, then Circe needs to be added to your reading list immediately. Award-winning author Madeline Miller crafts a fast-paced, absorbing, and ultimately life-affirming story. We are immersed in Circe’s fraught birth and childhood in the vicious court of Helios, the god of sun and her father. When she is banished to a desert island by Zeus for the crime of witchcraft, her long exile provides a rich environment for her practice. A veritable who's who of Greek mythology crosses the pages, and Madeline Miller breathes much-appreciated life into the old stories. – Anne, Atlanta
A wonderfully subtle, quirky story about the expectations placed on women to marry, have a family and, if neither of those, then at least to have a career! Keiko is different in that she enjoys the stability and structure that comes from working at a convenience store. She is one of their best workers and is recognized and praised for her consistency and focus on being an ideal employee. However, her friends and family don't understand her or how she could be happy with her life. When Keiko ends up with a live-in boyfriend, she has to figure out the right way forward in her life that will continue to bring her joy. Keiko is a lovable and memorable character living on her terms; a timely, unique story. –Cathy, Atlanta
There There is thrilling to read. Its brilliance just blew me away. I read half in one sitting with goosebumps up and down my arms wondering how Orange could sustain the energy, the incantatory power, the chorus of distinct and diverse voices, the dizzying breadth of references, the metaphorical and allegorical power of every choice of plot, character, style. It's a universe of a book, which Sherman Alexie calls "the first book to capture what it means to be an Urban Indian," celebrating and mourning the legacy and future of all that entails. But it's also about every one of us: individuals, yet members of myriad groups whether we identify as such or not. It’s about how we transform each other and ourselves, how we are all ultimately related. Like one of Orange’s characters says of Motown, There There carries plenty of sadness and heartbreak, but it sure does dance while doing so. My only complaint is that it was over too soon. I wanted more. –Sara, Atlanta
This epic saga is Richard Power’s twelfth novel and has been short-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize. It is composed of 4 stages, representing the parts of a tree. First are the roots, setting the stage by introducing the nine characters. They all have unique stories lying beneath the surface. The next stage is the trunk, where the lives of the characters begin to intersect. Part three is the crown, which looks at how the actions of this group have a rippling effect and the final section is seeds, offering a glimmer of hope that our society can learn from the resourceful nature of trees. –Sandra, Seattle
Best Young Readers
Zélie is a DivÎner, a person born with the potential to become a Maji and wield magic. Eleven years ago, however, magic abruptly disappeared and the king used the Maji’s weakness to wipe them out. Still scarred by her experiences, Zélie forms a reluctant alliance with Princess Amari who holds the key to bringing magic back. Zélie, her brother Tzain, and Amari set out to complete their mission as Prince Inan, determined to kill magic once and for all, is hot on their trail.
Tomi Adeyemi vividly describes a world that is not unlike our own. Racial inequality and oppression are the driving forces behind Zélie’s motivation to restore magic and save her people. It is a call-to-arms for our society today; a timely message that we shouldn’t ignore. I fell in love with Zélie’s strength and her tireless devotion to her people and was inspired by Amari’s growth as she becomes her own person, free from the influence of her father. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel! –Rebecca, Atlanta
From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are - and deciding who you want to be.
When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town - including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder - she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes.
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.
Becky - Minneapolis
Cecilia - Ontario
Mary Jo - Vancouver
M Paul - Seattle
Ray - Denver