My Favorite Books of 2018 (So Far)

We are only halfway through 2018, but we’ve seen so many wonderful books already that making this list of my ten favorite books of the year so far seems as difficult as making a year-end one. This has to be one of the strongest years of releases in my lifetime. It seems like every month is better than the last.

For this list, I’ve decided to only include books released through June. There are several fall releases coming up that will make my top 10 of the year, but I’ll save talking about those for later. 

Here are my favorites of 2018 so far:

1. There There by Tommy Orange

A kaleidoscopic novel that is rich with Native voices. I love the energy in these pages. It’s as if what Orange writes can’t be contained by the bounds of the pages. You feel every ounce of emotion as you read through these narratives. This book will have a long, long, long life. It’s absolutely brilliant and one of the best books of the decade. 

2. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

A book that has stayed with me for many months. I love the way Jones develops her characters. We see that we are all flawed in ways that we can’t understand. It’s a novel that asks its readers to develop an understanding of not only self, but of others. It’s also a brilliant exploration of the criminal justice system in our country. It’s a beautiful book.

3. Sweet & Low by Nick White

My favorite collection of the year from one of my favorite (new(ish)) writers. White’s collection is about the South and masculinity. Each story is a favorite, but the first one in the collection is absolutely astonishing. This guy is incredible.

4. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Before reading this book, I’d read very little true crime. Well, that’s changing. This book is horrifying, terrifying, and all of those things. It’s hard to put down, but, then again, if you are up reading late at night, you might have to. I love how McNamara makes this story not just about the subject, but also her own personal struggles. I love this book, and I recommend it frequently.

5. Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee

Food memoirs are my new thing. Last year, Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene was my favorite book of the year. Edward Lee’s latest book is just as riveting. Here, Lee takes road trips throughout America and uncovers those voices that are often kept silent. This one is a truly fascinating book, and one that’s very heartwarming.

6. Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

I love this book. I like family sagas, and, as I just said, I’m also into food books. This one is both, and it’s total perfection. There’s a good heart at the center of this story, and I find it so addicting. 

7. The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

Fast, vibrant, and about death. Yeah, it sounds impossible to write something so conflicting, but Urrea masters it here. The language in this novel is rich, and the characters are engaging throughout. It’s a winner.

8. The Pisces by Melissa Broder

The last book that made me laugh as much as The Pisces was James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird. The two books have very little in common, but they are both hilarious. Broder really outdoes herself here by balancing the real with the (very) weird. It’s a quirky reader’s dream.

9. Census by Jesse Ball

One of the saddest books of the year, but it’s also one of the best. I love stories that are about fathers and sons, and this one broke my heart. Shredded it. Ripped it in half. All of those things. I hope Ball gets awards attention for this one. We’ll see soon enough.

10. Heart Berries by Teresa Marie Mailhot

Some of the very best writing of the year is in this memoir. I mean, the language is just incredible. The story is heartbreaking, but it’s also life affirming. This book is very much about the power of words and the stories they can tell.

There are so many other wonderful books that I’ve read and loved this year. I’m thinking of Jamel Brinkley’s A Lucky Man, Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ Heads of the Colored People, Bethany C. Morrow’s Mem, Brandon Hobson’s Where the Dead Sit Talking, Caleb Johnson’s Treeborne, Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists, Lee Martin’s The Mutual UFO Network, Matt de le Pena’s Love, Ramona Ausubel’s Awayland, and Lauren Groff’s Florida. There are many others released in the first half of 2018 that I’ll visit in the coming weeks and months that I’m sure will be wonderful, too.

Books are great. Let’s read them and share them as much as we can.

Bradley Sides