The Best Books of 2018 (The New York Times, WSJ, The New Yorker & Washington Post)


Below are the best books of 2018 according to the editors of The New York Times, Wall Street JournalThe Washington PostThe New Yorker, and the folks here at Your Favorites’ Favorites.  For more information on any of the following books, feel free to click on the associated image (via Amazon).


“Asymmetry is extraordinary, and the timing of its publication seems almost like a feat of civics. . . .Halliday’s prose is so strange and startingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. . . . It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years. . . . Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction.” —Alice Gregory, The New York Times Book Review

“Rebecca Makkai’s The Great Believers is a page turner… among the first novels to chronicle the AIDS epidemic from its initial outbreak to the present—among the first to convey the terrors and tragedies of the epidemic’s early years as well as its course and repercussions…An absorbing and emotionally riveting story about what it’s like to live during times of crisis.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Mesmerizingly twisted.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Bravura… There There has so much jangling energy and brings so much news from a distinct corner of American life that it’s a revelation… its appearance marks the passing of a generational baton.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Sweeping and subtle…pure soaring beauty.” 
—Colm Toibin, The New York Times

“A new kind of American epic… one that reflects his ambivalence and the complexity of [Orange’s] upbringing.”
—Alexandra Alter, The New York Times

“Gripping . . . Astonishing . . . Washington Black’s presence in these pages is fierce and unsettling. His urge to live all he can is matched by his eloquence.” —Colm Toibin, The New York Times Book Review 

“AMERICAN PRISON reprises [Bauer’s] page-turning narrative [as reported in Mother Jones], and adds not only the fascinating back story of CCA, the nation’s first private prison company, but also an eye-opening examination of the history of corrections as a profit-making enterprise . . . Bauer is a generous narrator with a nice ear for detail, and his colleagues come across as sympathetic characters, with a few notable exceptions . . . The sheer number of forehead-slapping quotes from Bauer’s superiors and fellow guards alone are worth the price of admission.” — The New York Times Book Review

“Heart-wrenching . . . a beautiful testament to the power of education to open eyes and change lives.”—Amy Chua, The New York Times Book Review

“Cinematic and deeply engaging. . . . a tour de force of storytelling.” (Brent Staples The New York Times Book Review)

“The first major biography of Douglass in nearly three decades. . . . Blight isn’t looking to overturn our understanding of Douglass, whose courage and achievements were unequivocal, but to complicate it — a measure by which this ambitious and empathetic biography resoundingly succeeds.” (Jennifer Szalai The New York Times)

“Pollan keeps you turning the pages …. cleareyed and assured.”—New York Times

“Entrancing… Brennan-Jobs is a deeply gifted writer… Her inner landscape is depicted in such exquisitely granular detail that it feels as if no one else could have possibly written it. Indeed, it has that defining aspect of a literary work: the stamp of a singular sensibility… Beautiful, literary, and devastating.”New York Times Book Review


“A brilliant and complex examination of power dynamics in love and war.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“Enjoy the hypnotic clarity of the landscape―physical, human and musical―that [King] paints. … [Epirus’s] depth and freshness are undeniable, and I thank Mr. King for giving me a sip.” – Wall Street Journal

“Mr. Gazzaniga does a better job of tackling the problem [of how neural activity gives rise to consciousness] than innumerable philosophers and neuroscientists before him . . . [He] displays a rare ability to combine breadth and depth of scientific learning with good, grounded philosophical judgment. As a result, The Consciousness Instinct could be the clearest and most compelling attempt to demystify the mind yet written.” ―Julian Baggini, The Wall Street Journal

“[A LIFE OF MY OWN] navigates artfully between tantalizing revelations and unobtrusive elisions. I read the memoir twice in an effort to deconstruct how Ms. Tomalin does it, leading us into her nooks and crannies and then firmly closing the curtain at some point, but literary ingenuity of this caliber is always hard to pin down…The pleasures of reading this book are many…I hesitate to call this book enchanting because Ms. Tomalin’s life is strewn with tragedy…but it is certainly an exceptional account, daunting and inspiring at the same time, written with no end of poignancy, humor and perspective.” —Wall Street Journal

“Absorbing and even moving . . . Mr. Blight displays his lifelong interest in Douglass on almost every page, and his own voice is active and eloquent throughout the narrative. It is a book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’s. . . . A brilliant book.” (John Stauffer The Wall Street Journal)

“Excellent… a well-researched, informative look at the realities of Chinese immigration. It also depicts one man’s battle to figure out who he is.”
Wall Street Journal

“John Wray’s lean, bristling novel is filled with startling transformations: The teenage girl at its center disguises herself as a man and leaves the suburbs of California for the Taliban army in Afghanistan. Yet the most unsettling change is the way it shifts the reader’s perspectives on Sept. 11 and the war on terror.” ―The Wall Street Journal

“Extraordinary. . . . Miano’s feat is to restrict her perspective to the points of view of the Mulongo, conjuring afresh the horror and immediacy of an event that time has rendered matter-of-fact. . . . The writing, benefiting from Gila Walker’s excellent translation from the French, is restrained and dispassionate, so that its fierce emotional energy seems to well up naturally from the characters rather than being imposed by the author from without. . . . A work of remarkable fidelity and dedication, this novel, too, seems to possess the strength to bring back the stolen.”

(Wall Street Journal)


“Urgent, enlightened… well timed for this moment even as they transcend it, the kind of accounts often reviewed and discussed by women but that should certainly be read by men…realistic and compelling…Traister eloquently highlights the challenge of blaming not just forces and systems, but individuals.”WASHINGTON POST

“Moving . . . A constant pleasure to read . . . Everybody who loves books should check out The Library Book. . . . Orlean, a longtime New Yorker writer, has been captivating us with human stories for decades, and her latest book is a wide-ranging, deeply personal, and terrifically engaging investigation of humanity’s bulwark against oblivion: the library. . . . As a narrator, Orlean moves like fire herself, with a pyrotechnic style that smolders for a time over some ancient bibliographic tragedy, leaps to the latest technique in book restoration, and then illuminates the story of a wildly eccentric librarian. Along the way, we learn how libraries have evolved, responded to depressions and wars, and generally thrived despite a constant struggle for funds. Over the holidays, every booklover in America is going to give or get this book. . . . You can’t help but finish The Library Book and feel grateful that these marvelous places belong to us all.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Staggeringly brilliant . . . An extraordinary demonstration of narrative dexterity. Moving up and down through the strata of history, Smith captures the ever-changing refractions of human desire . . . The cumulative effect of this carousel of differing voices is absolutely transporting . . . Looking up from this remarkable novel, one has an eerie sense of history as a process of continuous erasure and revision. You’ll start The Maze of Windermere with bewilderment, but you’ll close it in awe.”
The Washington Post

“Superb…a masterpiece of thorough research, deft pacing and arresting detail…Sides shows how brave Marines — officers and grunts — innovated, organized and blasted their way out of the trap their fabulously famous boss had helped set. This war story — the fight to break out of a frozen hell near the Chosin Reservoir — has been told many times before. But Sides tells it exceedingly well, with fresh research, gritty scenes and cinematic sweep.”
Washington Post

“Powerful . . . Her book is a disturbing drill down into how the right to vote is being slowly destroyed with too few of us noticing.” – Washington Post

“Remarkable….This ambitious novel soars up through the canopy of American literature and remakes the landscape of environmental fiction.”
– Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Absolutely gorgeous…Mirza writes about family life with the wisdom, insight and patience you would expect from a mature novelist adding a final masterpiece to her canon, but this is, fortunately, just the start of an extraordinary career…. Has a household ever been cradled in such tender attention as this novel provides?… As Marilynne Robinson has done with Protestants and Alice McDermott has done with Catholics, Mirza finds in the intensity of a faithful Muslim family a universal language of love and anguish that speaks to us all… In prose of quiet beauty and measured restraint, Mirza traces those twined strands of yearning and sorrow that faith involves. She writes with a mercy that encompasses all things…. Each time I stole away into this novel, it felt like a privilege to dwell among these people, to fall back under the gentle light of Mirza’s words.”
— Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Masterful. White-hot. A devastating debut novel.”
—Ron Charles, The Washington Post

“Terrifically exciting . . . An engrossing hybrid of 19th-century adventure and contemporary subtlety, a rip-roaring tale of peril imbued with our most persistent strife . . . Discover what the rest of the world already knows: Edugyan is a magical writer.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post


“A cunning metafiction of vulpine versatility . . . Confessions is an action-adventure tale with postmodern flourishes; an academic comedy . . . an intimate meditation on belonging that doubles as a political proof.”The New Yorker

“The book achieves a moody, velvety atmosphere, as though events were unfolding under amber-tinted bulbs. Bracketed by Barack Obama’s electoral victory and Michael Jackson’s overdose, Ordinary People also offers a precise sketch of the British black middle class, with a daring fifth-act twist.”
– The New Yorker

“Evans, the author of two previous books, has earned comparisons to Dickens with her panoramas of a jumbled, multitudinous London, but Tolstoy remains her spirit guide in how he intertwined the public and the private, the momentous and the mundane…. Exceptionally sensitive writing.”
– Katy Waldman, The New Yorker

“Mesmerizing, discomfiting reading…A book of no small literary skill.”New Yorker

“The novel borrows from Gothic romance, in its pairing of the human and the alluringly, dangerously not. It is a love story, in other words, about a misfit and a store . . . Keiko’s self-renunciations reveal the book to be a kind of grim post-capitalist reverie: she is an anti-Bartleby, abandoning any shred of identity outside of her work . . . It may make readers anxious, but the book itself is tranquil―dreamy, even―rooting for its employee-store romance from the bottom of its synthetic heart.”―Katy Waldman, New Yorker

“Taken together, the stories have the feel of autobiography, although, as in a Salvador Dali painting, their emotional disclosures are encrypted in phantasmagoria . . . The sentences indigenous to Florida are gorgeously weird and limber . . .” – The New Yorker

“[Cusk] has achieved something both radical and beautiful . . . [Kudos is] a book about failure that is not, in itself, a failure. In fact, it is a breathtaking success.” ―Katy Waldman, The New Yorker

“A startling debut novel explores the freedom of being multiple . . . Igbo spirituality, Emezi radically suggests, has as much to offer as any [Western] schemas when it comes to decrypting human folly or transcendence . . . The book would have made grim sense through a mental-health lens; instead, it is an indigenous fairy tale . . . The book becomes a study in dysphoria―not precisely the distress of being misgendered but the more nebulous pain of being imprisoned in a physical form, of losing your wraith-like ability to evade categorization . . . There is something self-defeating about trying to trace a self that is defined by indefinability; one achievement of Emezi’s book is to make that paradox feel generously fertile.”―Katy Waldman, New Yorker


Our favorite book of 2018 here at Your Favorites’ Favorites is Cherry, by first-time novelist Nico Walker.  Walker, a veteran and former heroin addict, wrote Cherry in federal prison, where he is serving an 11 year sentence for bank robbery.  Vulture declared that Cherry “might be the first great novel of the opioid epidemic.”

More praise for Cherry:

Cherry is a miracle of literary serendipity, a triumph. . . . [Walker’s] language, relentlessly profane but never angry, simmers at the level of morose disappointment, something like Holden Caulfield Goes to War. . . . His prose echoes Ernest Hemingway’s cadences to powerful effect. . . . Cherry is written without an ounce of self-pity by an author allergic to the meretricious poetry of despair. In these propulsive pages, Walker draws us right into the mind of an ordinary young man beset by his own and his country’s demons. In the end, his only weapon against disintegration is his own devastating candor.” —The Washington Post

“A singular portrait of the opioid epidemic. . . . [Walker] writes dialogue so musical and realistic you’ll hear it in the air around you.” —The New York Times Book Review

“One of the summer’s most exciting literary breakthroughs, Cherry is a profane, raw, and harrowingly timely account of the effects of war and the perils of addiction.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A buzzsaw of a novel. . . . Bracingly original.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A raw coming-of-age story in reverse. . . . Cherry touches on some of the darkest chapters of recent American history.” —The New York Times

“Walker’s raw confessional novel, aptly compared to Jesus’ Son and Reservoir Dogs, is a devastating example of art imitating life.” —Esquire, “The Best Books of 2018 (So Far)” 

“Heavily indebted to the profane blood, guts, bullets, and opiate-strewn absurdities dreamed up by Thomas McGuane, Larry Brown, and Barry Hannah, Cherry tells a story that feels infinitely more real, and undeniably tougher than the rest.” —The A.V. Club

*     *     *

Nico Walker recently revealed to the Wall Street Journal that his favorite book of 2018 is Warlight by Michael Ondaatje.


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