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Top 3 books of 2018

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What were the three best books you read this year?  I feel like top 10 lists don't work that well for those of us who read less than 50 books a year, which is a lot of us.  Top 3 really requires you to select just the very best.  According to goodreads I'm at exactly 30 for the year, so this represents the upper 10% for me.

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.  This novel is beautifully written, and with heartbreaking characterization.  Set in the 1850 south, an actual underground railroad exists which operates in secret to ferry escaped slaves to freedom.  This conceit is a little strange (and fanciful, from a technical perspective), but it tells an interesting story about the impact slavery had on individual people.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sistero.  Made into a movie starring the Franco brothers, this is the true story of the film "The Room", and it's tormented and bafflingly strange financier, producer, director and star Tommy Wiseau.  "The Room" is a movie so bad you can hardly believe it was ever made, and Tommy is a character so ridiculous that if this were fiction, you would consider him too outlandish.  But his story is captivating and at times hilarious. 

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  I was assigned to read this book in high school and I only got maybe 4 pages in before I gave it up.  But I really enjoyed revisiting this story, it is a classic for a reason.  The plot holds together beautifully, with many minor details coming up to play important roles later.  Set in the French Revolution, there are many well fleshed out minor (and major) characters, and some really compelling moral decisions being forced upon them.  If you haven't read it, give it another look.

 

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I read disaster artist a few years ago but it was defo a top 3 book of that year. I've read a whole lot less this year due to having a baby, and when I do read I'm tending to reread as it requires less concentration when exhausted. I can't think of a really good book I read this year and that makes me sad. 

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I'd say top spot clearly goes to N.K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, all of which I read this year (I'm going to count it as one entry in a top 3). The first book in particular was superb with a fascinating and original world, a story that was compelling from the prologue and three plotlines that are told in very different ways and have different tones but which all compliment each other. She even managed to make a third of the book being written in second-person perspective work surprisingly well. The other two books in the trilogy were also very good.

In second I'd put Max Gladstone's Ruin of Angels. I really enjoyed the first five books in the Craft Cycle but I think this is probably the best so far. It's a very different world to the typical epic fantasy setting, and I particularly like this book's setting with the two cities awkwardly sharing the same physical location due to the aftermath of a magical war. It's also an interesting mix of real-world parallels (often they're not exactly subtle) and more obvious fantasy plotlines. I thought the plot was probably the most compelling of any of the books in the series so far, and I thought both the new and returning characters were interesting.

There's quite a bit of competition for third spot, but I'll go for Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver. Retold fairy tales seem to be very fashionable at the moment, I think I like this best out of the various stories in that subgenre I've read recently. I found the story interesting even before the fantasy elements started to be introduced. I thought Miryem was an interesting protagonist and the characterisation was good throughout, with even most of the characters who interesting seem to be antagonists getting some interesting character development (with one exception who ends up being the main villain of the story). The portions of the story in the Staryk realm had a very effective wintry atmosphere, I slightly regret I didn't read it while there was snow falling outside.

If I was going to do a top 10 I'd probably also include:

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin

The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Good Omens : The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

The Hyena and the Hawk by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton

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Top spot definitely goes to Ada Palmer's Too Like The Lightning, and sequels. I'm still not entirely sure I like where she's going with the presentation of sexuality and politics therein, but aside from that those books are just utterly hypnotic, not been that ensared by a read for a long time.


Second is A Winter's Promise, book one of The Mirror Visitor by Christelle Dabos (a translation from French). It's utterly charming and whimsical while also containing all the skullduggery and conniving you could wish for, I adored it.


Third would be Nick Harkaway's Gnomon, a total brain-bender of a surveillance-state mystery-book. All the crazyness of The Gone-Away World but with the control and more directed satirical anger of Tigerman, it's probably Harkaway's best book yet even though I'll likely find myself re-reading G-AW more often for the sheer joy...

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Circe by Madeline Miller. I’m a sucker for reimagining or retelling of old tales and this one was especially good, imo. 

For similar reasons to the above, Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver. Fairy Tale-esque always hooks me, but what I especially liked here (and in Uprooted) was that it was more fairy tale inspired than just a straight retelling. There were clear influences but they were just repeated, with a small twist.

And, oh dear, it’s another folksy one, but The bear and the Nightingale which I read and fell in love with this year.

 

Special shoutout to @Derfel Cadarn for getting Sooty Feathers #1 out there, it’s always nice to see boarders succeed, and I think the novel was excellent

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Top 3:

FOOTBALL FOR A BUCK: THE CRAZY RISE AND CRAZIER DEMISE OF THE USFL by Jeff Pearlman: I LOVED this book. I was a USFL fan back in the day and this book was just amazing. It also draws a scary parallel to what's happening in our country now. 

THE POPPY WAR by RF Kuang: The best fantasy I read this year. 

THE CARDBOARD KINGDOM by Chad Sell: A kid's graphic novel that was perfect for all ages. Cute, funny and smart. 

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I think I say this every year but I'm not particularly good at ranking how much I enjoyed books or, for that matter, remembering whether I read them this year.

Anyway, in no particular order I'll say Adrian Tchaikovsky's The Hyena and the Hawk, Bradley Beaulieu's Twelve Kings in Sharakai and Jemisin's The Stone Sky were probably the books I've enjoyed the most this year. I probably enjoyed the earlier books in both The Broken Earth trilogy and the Echoes of the Fall series more so overall maybe it wasn't the best year.

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From what I've read this year: 

1. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (and the following two books in the trilogy)

2. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

3. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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I was unable to find a lot of time for reading this year, so I only had one standout -- Foundryside by R J Bennett.

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I read mostly non-fiction this year(a number of titles on WW1 or WW1 memoirs, and other very good history books) but if I had to choose a top three of the fiction I've read: William Gay's Twilight, S.M. Hulse's Black River and Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280. I don't think I read any SFF this year.

 

 

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I haven't read/finished a great amount this year. But the most enjoyable were

Swordheart by T. Kingfisher (= Ursula Vernon)

The long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers

In the vanishers' palace by Aliette de Bodard (and her The tea master and the detective was another shorter work I liked a lot).

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From what I read in 2018 (in no particular order):

1. The Disaster Artist

2. Watchmen

3. Cloud Atlas

And honorable mentions to Dune, Dune Messiah and Frankenstein.

 

 

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On ‎12‎/‎27‎/‎2018 at 10:13 AM, HelenaExMachina said:

Special shoutout to @Derfel Cadarn for getting Sooty Feathers #1 out there, it’s always nice to see boarders succeed, and I think the novel was excellent

Thanks :)

Most books I read this year were re-reads.  I did read Sanderson's Stormlight Achive which I liked, but was way too slow and way too bloated.

I'll go with:

The Lies of Locke Lamora

Heroes (by Abercrombie)

Royal Assassin (by Hobb).  I'm still on The Golden Fool on my re-read, if I'd finished re-reading the series, I'd have gone with Fool's Fate.

 

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On 12/29/2018 at 2:13 PM, Underfoot said:

From what I've read this year: 

1. The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (and the following two books in the trilogy)

2. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

3. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Over time I have started to think Paladin of Souls may be my favorite fantasy book of all time.  You have a real good list there.

I am not sure I read a single 'new to me' book this year as I spend a lot of time reading old favorites.  I regret nothing.

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On 12/29/2018 at 9:21 PM, Astromech said:

I read mostly non-fiction this year(a number of titles on WW1 or WW1 memoirs, and other very good history books) but if I had to choose a top three of the fiction I've read: William Gay's Twilight, S.M. Hulse's Black River and Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280. I don't think I read any SFF this year.

This isn't just a list for fiction.  Disaster Artist is nonfiction, for example.  I'd certainly be interested in top notch history books.   

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3 hours ago, mactwist2 said:

Think i read the first law trilogy this year. That'd be number 1. Hard to pick afterthat.

Well that’s three books so there’s your top 3 :P 

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Three 5 star ratings on Goodreads, so that was easy:

3. The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

2. Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon

1. Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

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