2018 is about to draw to a close, hence, it is now time to look back to the year that was, at least in terms of reading. After having had a slow year in 2017, I picked up the momentum in 2018. In total, I was able to read 63 books in twelve months. This is in stark comparison to the measly 43 books I had in 2017. Nonetheless, I had a great time in 2017 but even better one in 2018 as I have had many great reads.
This book wrap up is a part of a mini-series which will feature the following:
- My 2018 Top 10 Most Notable Books
- My 2018 Eight Not-So Favorite Reads
- My 2018 18 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part I)
- My 2018 18 Most Memorable Book Quotes (Part II)
- My 2019 10 Books I Look Forward To
For my top 10 best books of 2018, I had so many great reads for the year that I found it a challenge picking out the best 10 reads for the year. After much deliberation, here are my Top 10 Most Notable Books I read this year.
- Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
- The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- My Neighbor Totoro by Tsugiko Kubo
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My Top 10
10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The influence of Russian literature in world literature is undeniable. Russians, over time, have proven their mettle as world-class writers. They have produced some of the most famous writers of all times such as Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, and the three authors whose works are featured in this list. The first one, of course, is Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
After Brothers Karamazov, this is the second Dostoyevsky work and I still can’t help but gape at his masterful writing. In Crime and Punishment, he proved that he is a connoisseur at exploring human nature and human behavior even though the narrative is doused with a very dark and heavy subject. As heavy as the subject of murder is, the novel showed that what is of paramount importance is how one makes up and repents for his mistake.
Read my review of Crime and Punishment here.
9. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
This is another book that I have first encountered through doing different must-read challenges. More importantly, it is part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, which I am fervently endeavoring to read all, if not, majority of the books listed in this list. *Crossing my fingers*. At first, I was apprehensive about purchasing Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy because of my aversion towards short stories.
However, for the sake of the 1,001 BYMRBYD, I made an exception and took on the challenge of reading this book. Besides, it is comprised of only three stories, which made it, to some extent, less of a collection of short stories. Moreover, the narrative was so well written I want to ask for more. The way the stories were constructed was reminiscent of Murakami although it was distinctly Auster. It is my first dip into Auster’s work but it made me excited for more of his works.
Read my review of The New York Trilogy here.
8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
My experience with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice has unfavorably tipped the scale against classic English romance novels. If it wasn’t because of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, I would have never thought of ever reading any more of the said genre. But then again, if that happened then I would forever be in the dark on some of the best written prose of all times.
If I have given up on classical English romance then I would never experience the beauty of works like Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I mean, is there any reason not to like this masterpiece? I get it, some are skeptics of the genre just like the way I was before. However, Wuthering Heights is one of the very few legitimate fine works that I have encountered. It possesses that uncanny capability of making you absorb the words and the artistry of it.
Read my review of Wuthering Heights here.
7. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
I thought that Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was spectacular but nothing prepared me for The Blind Assassin. I have always thought that the novel was about a literal assassin, especially that I didn’t do any advance research on the book before buying and reading it. Take note that I rarely do advance reading about books before taking on them because I don’t want to stymie the anticipation building within me.
The Blind Assassin is simply an exemplary work of fiction. What Atwood conjured is simply an astounding and colossal work that will stand the tests of time. Its universal message resonates beyond the period it was written in. It is another shot at feminism and its body of art is as interesting as the plot itself. Although I wasn’t impressed with the first Atwood work I read, Bodily Harm, her last two works immensely impressed me. So yeah, I am looking forward to more Atwood books.
Read my review of The Blind Assassin here.
6. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Off to another Russian work, the second in the list. Just like most of the books in this list, The Master and Margarita is a book that I would have never imagined reading had I not done must-read challenges. I guess have to thank these list-challenges, especially the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, for introducing me to the broader and deeper world of literature. The ten books which form part of these lists are just a dent into this colossal list.
Back to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. To say that the novel is great is an understatement to the great work that Bulgakov did to produce his personal masterpiece. And the world of literature is rejoicing in his endeavor because what he conjured is an ageless classic that illustrates (metaphorically) the conditions of the Russian society during the Stalin era. It is one of the numerous satirical works that I read during the year, and definitely one of the best.
Read my review of The Master and Margarita here.
5. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
When I first came across Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, it didn’t make that much impression on me. However, because I kept on encountering this work by the South American author in various must-read challenges, it has piqued my curiosity. Moreover, the book’s title really set my imagination off. And I was very glad that I bought and read this book because it captivated me from the beginning until the end.
The House of the Spirits revolves around different difficult themes and subjects such as politics, and power. However, first and foremost, it depicts the typical South American family life, including its values and beliefs. But what I found truly amazing about the story is how it mirrors several aspects of the Philippines, from its culture to its history. The book belies the heavy reality that was hemmed into its very fabrics.
Read my review of The House of the Spirits here.
4. If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
Postmodernism is a genre that I barely have any knowledge or understanding of although I did read some books who fall under this genre, such as David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. But from what I have read, one of the finest examples of this genre is Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. From the moment I have read of this book, I immediately set out on purchasing a copy of it. It took long but finally, this year, I was able to purchase it.
Without further ado, I immediately set on reading the book ahead of several books that I have purchased years before. The narrative is unusual, something that I have never encountered before. Perhaps that is what makes this novel very special: its disjointed plot, its distinctive narrative style and its unique story-telling. It is a modern classic that towers above its contemporaries.
Read my review of If on a winter’s night a traveler here.
3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Before I purchased David Foster Wallace’s colossal chef-d’oeuvre, my friend has already given me a caveat. According to her, this is one of the most difficult books she has ever read. This has daunted me, especially that I trust her taste and understanding of books. However, it further percolated the curiosity that was boiling inside me. In the end, I bought a copy of the book which I included in my 2018 Top 20 Reading List.
I should have heeded my friend’s warning. Infinite Jest is truly a challenging read that depicts a plethora of subjects ranging from addiction to the absence of fathers. But if I let myself be intimidated then I would have probably missed on one of the best written prose of all times. Yes, it is difficult, challenging and bleak but it is these elements that make it one of a kind. I have never felt so accomplished in my entire life after I finished reading the book. It is simply that special.
Read my review of Infinite Jest here.
2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the last Russian work on my list. Apparently, all Russian novels I have read this year is part of this list, which, to some might seem as a sign of my partiality. This is not the case because there are Russian works that have not impressed me, including the first Tolstoy work I read, his equally famous and critically-acclaimed Anna Karenina.
The first thing that caught my attention is the book’s length. At over 1,300 pages, this is my longest right (as far as I can remember). But it isn’t only the book’s length that characterizes the novel. Its title is literal, extensively dealing with Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation of Moscow and majority of Europe. The novel is a combination of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Danielle Steel’s Zoya. However, War and Peace is a unique work, complex, lengthy but equally riveting. Russians certainly know their thing.
1. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Finally, my top read for the year, which also happens to be my 600th novel, is Salman Rushdie’s allegorical work, Midnight’s Children. It is my fourth Rushdie work and, perhaps, the best of all the Rushdie’s works both those I have read and have not read. It is also one of the highlights of my year as Rushdie has once again proven himself as a skilled and masterful storyteller.
Midnight’s Children relates the story of children who were born within an hour of India’s independence from British rule. These children, however, are not ordinary as they all possess special powers which can change the complexion of Indian society. At the fore of this group of children, and the story’s main narrator, is Saleem Sinai. Beyond the children and their special powers, the story vividly and powerfully relates the diversity of India, its color as a country. Consequently, the novel perfectly portrayed the adverse side of this diversity. The novel does deserve being called the Booker of Bookers.
Read my review of Midnight’s Children here.
So there, readers, that concludes my Top 10 reads for 2018. It is without design but now I realize that all of these books are what one would call as “modern classic” (other than Wuthering Heights of course). Moreover, satirical works have inevitably defined my reading year. 2018 has been a great year, in terms of reading, at least. How about you, what are your best reads of 2018? Do share and tag me as well so that I can check them out.
On reading, I am looking forward to an even better year in 2019. Cheers! For now, happy new year everyone!