It was a near-impossible task but we managed to whittle our gargantuan 2018 reading list down to the best of the best. Here are the 5 best books we read last year.
The book I can’t stop talking about this year, that has broken into my “top ten favorite books ever” lineup, is this engrossing, atmospheric tale of nineteenth-century London in which Sue Trinder, an orphan raised by thieves, is drawn into a con man’s plot to steal wealthy but naïve lady Maud Lilly’s fortune. But matters are complicated when Sue develops unexpected feelings for her mark and Maud turns out to be not quite what she appears. This book is like Dickens meets Gillian Flynn, mixed with a romance that is as delicious as it is gut-wrenching. Every twist has another on its tail, every betrayal has a deeper betrayal behind it, and every character has a shocking, dark secret.
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Orphan Sue Trinder is raised amongst “fingersmiths”—transient petty thieves. When a fingersmith known as Gentleman asks Sue to help him con a wealthy woman out of her inheritance, she never expects to pity her helpless mark, let alone come to care for her. But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.
I don’t know about you, but I have one friend who, if she tells me I have to read something, it immediately goes toward the top of my TBR list. AN OCEAN OF MINUTES was one such book, and I was not disappointed. This book is a combination of a time travel story and a dystopian novel, set in an alternate reality where a plague has gripped the United States. Polly volunteers to travel into the future to work as a bonded laborer in order to save the life of her boyfriend, Frank. What she finds is a changed and divided America where she must navigate as a second-class citizen while trying to discover if Frank is still alive.
As a true-crime aficionado, I’ve been familiar with the tragic story of Jonestown for years but I knew little of the man behind the largest murder-suicide in American history. With in-depth research and clear-eyed writing, Jeff Guinn weaves a compelling and haunting story that often raises more questions than answers. This isn’t an easy read, but for all its shocking twists and turns, it’s a very human story of greed, power, and betrayal.
Many who suggested AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE to me told me I’d breeze through it which is certainly possible—the rhythmic pacing, the witty sayings, and sing-songy phrases seem to blur the sentences together and before you know it, you’ve devoured the book whole. But for me, hypnotized by the story of Celestial and Roy’s crumbling marriage and the gorgeous language, I decidedly turned the pages as slowly as I could. There are those books I love too much to put down and fewer books I love entirely too much to let the pages run out; AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE is the latter.
As soon as this book made its way on to President Obama’s reading list, I knew it would be on my list, too. Each character’s story was fascinating and readable and real, and subverted gender within their stories and the world in which they lived. There are few books that have made me think, and then think about my thoughts long after I’ve put them down. This is one of those books.