Coming at you live from…my house…is my personal Oscars of every year, the Best Books I Read This Year Awards! For the first time ever, posted on Cannonball Read.
I’ll follow the same format as I did last year: will post the 10 best non-fiction books in no particular order, then do the honorable mention and top-10 best in reverse order. I’ll only say something if I feel I have something unique to say about the book, i.e. something that is still on my mind after reading it.
Last thing: I cheated this year. I have a 3-way tie for number 1. That never happens. I’m a big “no ties” person with this list. But while I read a lot of things I enjoyed in 2018, nothing transcended to a clear #1 the way books like Dune, The Sympathizer, and Gilead did. So rather than arbitrarily pick one of the three books for #1 when I really don’t have a strong opinion, I’m awarding them all #1. It’s my list and I can do what I want with it.
On y va…
Best non-fiction (again, in no particular order)…
Ajax, The Dutch, The War Simon Kuper
The Guns of August Barbara Tuchman
Devil In the Grove Gilbert King
The Black Unicorn: Poems Audre Lorde
Men In Blazers Present: Encyclopedia Blazertannica Roger Bennett and Michael Davies
Before the Deluge Otto Friedrich
Grant Ron Chernow
A Heartbeat Away Richard Cohen
The Final Days Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
Blind Ambition John Dean
The Hollow Agatha Christie The most I’ve enjoyed a Christie novel in years.
The Honorary Consul Graham Greene
Prussian Blue Philip Kerr
The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier Although it turns into an ad for her novel, Lisa Gabriele’s reflection on reading Rebecca in the age of Trump is worth your time. https://crimereads.com/reading-rebecca-in-the-time-of-trump/?fbclid=IwAR0BsXf5dhK2Y42aBqGK1cbRPhsRZP1HT_074TnzrWqFg9nB77IwrNddFCU
Bangkok Tattoo John Burdett
Perfidia James Ellroy The most telling sign of how Trump has affected my life is I’m now able to read James Ellroy novels and not completely hate them. This won’t be his last appearance on the list.
A Visit From the Goon Squad Jennifer Egan I’m still not sure if this book is good or not but I think about it constantly and really want to read Manhattan Beach in 2019.
Miami Blues Charles Willeford
A Man Without Breath Philip Kerr After coming back from my Berlin honeymoon in 2011, I binged the first seven Bernie Gunther books. I liked them a lot but quickly burnt out due to some of Kerr’s obnoxious tics and never had a real desire to pick them up. Then Kerr died this year…so I promptly binged the rest. This is by far the best of them. I can still feel the chilling cold of wartime Smolensk atmosphere that Kerr describes in such rich detail. These books have a lot of shortcomings but they are excellent reads.
Saga Vol. 8-9 Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples I love this series but it does need a break and I’m glad it’s getting one.
My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
And now, the top 10…
10. Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz
9. Give Me Your Hand, Megan Abbott Megan Abbott is having a moment this year and few are more deserving of it than she is.
8. Memory Donald Westlake
7. The Secret Lovers Charles McCarry
6. The Man on the Balcony Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö I’m not a fan of police procedurals and after reading this, I won’t be because there’s no way it can be done better.
5. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy John LeCarré
4. Sunburn Laura Lippman As a fellow Baltimorean, I’ve watched Laura Lippman’s career develop over the years. Her standalones have improved so much leading to this. This is the book she has always had in her. It is by far the best of her career.
3. Drive James Sallis
2. LA Confidential James Ellroy
And the three-way tie for first place (again in no particular order)…
Briarpatch Ross Thomas
The Talented Mr. Ripley Patricia Highsmith Reading this made me physically uncomfortable.
A Wizard of Earthsea Ursula Le Guin
In the immortal words of Tony Kornheiser: That’s it! That’s the list!