Year in Books 2018

It’s December 31, which means it’s time to take stock of what I read this year and pick some favorites.

TOP FIVE (in no particular order):

Annihilation– Jeff Vandermeer

Go ahead and watch the movie, but it’s nothing at all like the book. Annihilation is the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, and I think, the strongest, but I recommend reading the whole trilogy. It is a trilogy in the truest sense, where you need all three books’ worth of information in order to sort out what the hell is happening. Vandermeer is a master of what we call “Weird Fiction” but he’s also just a really lovely writer, too. I can’t even begin to explain what it’s about. Just read it. And tell me what you think The Crawler is when you get to the end. Everyone has a different theory.

Shadow Child– Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

This is not a book to skim. This is a book to savor. Every bit of it is beautiful, even the parts that will make you cry. And reading about Lillie’s experience in Hiroshima definitely made me cry. Shadow Child deftly weaves together three women’s stories (although sometimes it can seem like more as they struggle to discover and rediscover who they actually are). What starts a little slowly builds and builds and by the end it will sweep you away like a tidal wave, which is absolutely intentional since so many turning points in the story involve waves–tidal waves, blast waves–I don’t want to spoil it. Take your time with this one and you’ll appreciate the investment at the end. No one crafts a story like Reiko (and that is all bias aside, since I have a bunch, because she was my wonderful adviser my last year of grad school and taught me so much!)

Blackfish City– Sam J. Miller

Most important thing first– the cover of the hardcover edition GLOWS IN THE DARK. I learned this by accident at 3am, and it’s amazing. You’re welcome. Second, this book is gritty and thrilling and excellent. I love a multi-narrator book that ends up fitting together like a neat little puzzle and this one does that. If you’re looking for a climate influenced apocalypse novel with very unique world building, this one is it.

The Book of M– Peng Shepherd

This book is lovely. The idea is brilliant, the way the story unfolds is brilliant, I love the multiple narrators and the way their stories intertwine. There is a twist at the end that actually made me gasp (and I am NOT easy to surprise!). At first I was annoyed by it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the clues were there the whole time but I was so caught up in the story and the beautiful writing that I missed them. Well played.

The Only Harmless Great Thing– Brooke Bolander

Alternate history involving the Radium Girls (real women) and the electrocution of an elephant at Coney Island (real event). Brooke Bolander is an amazingly talented writer, and if you have not read her short story, “No Flight Without the Shatter” make sure you go do that. It’s the best short story I read this year. The Only Harmless Great Thing is a little gem of a novella that I did my best not to go speeding through and tried to savor. I feel like I need to read it again immediately, just in case I missed something.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (Like I could just pick five books, ha!)

Witchmark– C. L. Polk

Alternate universe that is reminiscent of Edwardian England with mystery and magic? Yes please! This one hooked me, and I totally devoured it. There are bits that are clunky and could have used another editing pass, but it didn’t detract enough from the story that I cared that much. It is the first in a “cycle” (which I think is four books?) and I will gladly pick up the next one.

Dactyl Hill Squad– Daniel Jose Older

Middle grade (8-12 year olds) alternate history set in civil war era New York with dinosaur riding orphans? Sign me up. This the first in a series, so there was a fair amount of set up, and a big explosive battle that wrapped everything up at the end, but it was so fun and totally adorbs.


Caraval- Stephanie Garber

Strange The Dreamer- Laini Taylor

Paper Girls Volume 3- Brian Vaughn

Paper Girls Volume 4- Brian Vaughn

When Dimple Met Rishi- Sandhya Menon

Neologian: Wunjo

Creatures of Will and Temper- Molly Tanzer

Annihilation- Jeff Vandermeer

Down Among the Sticks and Bones- Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway- Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky- Seanan McGuire

The Arm of the Starfish- Madeline L’Engle

The Strange Bird- Jeff Vandermeer

All Systems Red- Martha Wells

Six Wakes- Mur Lafferty (oooh I also really liked this one. Locked room murder mystery in spaaaaace!)

Authority- Jeff Vandermeer

Semiosis- Sue Burke (and this one! super unique first contact story. Sentient plants!)

Catstronauts: Mission to the Moon- Drew Brockington

Catstronauts: Race to Mars- Drew Brockington

Acceptance- Jeff Vandermeer

Me and Marvin Gardens- Amy Sarig King

Blackfish City- Sam J. Miller

Station Eleven- Emily St. John Mandel

Tyler Johnson Was Here- Jay Coles

Anachronism- Jennifer Lee Rossmen

This Mortal Coil- Emily Suvada

Artificial Condition- Martha Wells

Shadow Child- Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Bitch Planet Volume 1- Kelly Sue Deconnick

Paper Girls Volume 4- Brian Vaughn

Witchmark- C. L. Polk

Dread Nation- Justina Ireland

Open if You Dare- Dana Middleton

The Prey of Gods- Nicky Drayden

Vicious- V. E. Schwab

Jane Unlimited- Kristin Cashore

Ghost Talkers- Mary Robinette Kowal

The Invisible Man- H. G. Wells

The Book of M- Peng Shepherd

Foundation- Isaac Asimov

Foundation and Empire- Isaac Asimov

Second Foundation- Isaac Asimov

Railsea- China Mieville

Veniss Underground- Jeff Vandermeer

Dactyl Hill Squad- Daniel Jose Older

She- H. Rider Haggard

The Echo Room- Parker Peevyhouse

Sawkill Girls- Claire LeGrand

Dumplin’- Julie Murphy

The Only Harmless Great Thing- Brooke Bolander

The Left Hand of Darkness- Ursula K. Le Guin

Run With the Hunted- Jennifer R. Donohue


There you have it. All 52 books for this year. It was apparently the year of Jeff Vandermeer. That’s okay. He’s a good egg. I wonder who it will be next year…

Happy reading in 2019!


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