Books I Liked in 2018
Before we get to the list, some warnings:
I mainly read fiction, so if that’s not your thing, most of this list won’t work for you.
I mainly read books that have come out in the last year, so if you’re a lover of 18th century novels, most of this list won’t work for you.
I have a very quick trigger finger, so if a book isn’t doing it for me after 40-50 pages, I’m out. As a result, I probably miss out on a lot of really good books.
This list is divided into three tiers, but to be clear, they’re all really good books and worth checking out if your taste in books is similar to mine.
Social Creature by Tara Burton: This is probably a binary book: either you love it or hate it. I loved it: probably more than anything else I read this year.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: Same as above.
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen: How Gessen weaved his hatred of Russia and his love for it in one very entertaining novel is still beyond me, but he did and it was great.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner: Nothing she ever writes again may be as good as The Flamethrowers, and to be clear, this book is really depressing (halfway through, a friend of mine texted, “Does it get better?” No. It does not.), but still exceptionally good.
Early Work by Andrew Martin: When you devour a book about truly unlikable people, it must be really well written.
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou: Beyond all the usual accolades this book has received, the narrative structure was also really interesting, starting in the third person and then switching to the first person around 2/3rds in.
Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday: Here’s how you know this one is good: Jordan, who runs our fund, doesn’t read books. He didn’t even read my book. But he loved this one.
City of Thieves by David Benioff: I was listening to a podcast with the great Brian Koppelman, he recommended it and he was right. Not a new book but a really great one.
King Zeno by Nathaniel Rich: If you love kind of zany, picaresque New Orleans novels, this one fits the mold perfectly.
Panorama by Steve Kistulentz: Just a really well written story where the characters are interesting but also feel very real, flawed and human.
The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer: First book I read by Steinhauer, but not the last (started the Milo Weaver series shortly after finishing The Middleman). Great spy/ intrigue novel.
Ali: A Life by Jonathan Eig: Somehow, as time goes by, the Greatest just gets more and more interesting. Wonder what he would have made of Trump.
Boom Town by Sam Anderson: If you like urban planning, political history and basketball, this book is for you. (And you’ll know exponentially more about Oklahoma City than you ever expected).
Springfield Confidential by Mike Reiss: Got me back into The Simpsons. Then listened to it with the kids on audiobook. They loved it even more than I did.
Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout: Harper and I had a long trip home from San Miguel de Allende, I didn’t like any of the books I brought with me, she recommended Strout and it ended up being a great day.
Beartown by Fredrik Backman: This book is so relatable, for the first third of it, I thought it took place in western Pennsylvania, not rural Sweden.
The Comedown by Rebekah Frumkin: This is a very Jewish novel. Not sure if everyone would like it, but I really did.
Ohio by Stephen Markley: Wasn't sure if I wanted to like this book or not, but either way, I did. Even if it felt like “an important book for this moment” (which kind of annoys me), it was still really good.
Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart: The reviews I saw were bad, but I like his work. May be limited to mid-40s Jewish men living in Manhattan, but my friends who read it liked it too.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: Her premise was tough to pull off but it totally worked – for every character.
How to American by Jimmy O. Yang: This dude (plays Jian Yang on Silicon Valley) is really, really funny. And captures the immigrant experience perfectly.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: Everyone I know who didn’t love this was comparing it to The Interestings. Fine, it’s not as good. But it was still very well done and felt relevant (not sure what it says about me that the relevance of Ohio annoyed me and the relevance of The Female Persuasion felt worthwhile, but probably nothing anyone in Ohio would find appealing).
This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff: I love workplace comedy novels and this one is right up there with Then We Came to the End and Up in the Air.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory: Here’s the big reveal of this blog post: I like chick lit. The Wedding Date was really fun, as was Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland, Mrs. by Caitlin Macy and Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen.
Bearskin by James McLaughlin: I was totally immersed in this book. As suspenseful as it gets.
The Witch Elm by Tana French: What an upsetting book. Felt depressed when I was reading it. But couldn’t put it down.
Red Notice by Bill Browder: Browder’s story is pretty incredible and the implicit lesson of how you can save yourself by being too public to fail is very interesting.
The World is a Narrow Bridge by Aaron Thier: If you like weird theology novels that involve road trips, this is for you (The Comedown is kind of that way too).
Big Game by Mark Leibovich: I stopped watching football a few years ago. Some combination of CTE, the way they treated Kaepernick, and the fact that the Giants suck. And yet I loved Leibovich’s tale of the NFL.
The Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz: Hard to tell if this resonated with me so much because it’s exactly my demographic or just because it’s a really good book, but either way, if you like the band, you’ll like the book.
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson: I really liked the way Johnson took on progressive stereotypes in Portland that both affirmed and disproved them at the same time. Also, just a good read.
The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers: Not one of Eggers best (a few notches below Zeitoun or Heartbreaking Work or What is the What) but even something mid-level for him is really, really good for everyone else.