The Best Books of 2018
In a year that has been exhausted by an influx of news and media, it was a great year to return to books in search for self-reflection and time alone. Most of the books recommended this year explore some of those themes that require an examination of the world around us or just allow us to escape this world for a deep dive into a great book indoors. Here’s our year-end list of this year’s most recommended books, most of which have already received critical acclaim.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
recommended by Angie Venezia, nada alic, Lyndsey Butler, Sue Williamson
As the most recommended book by passersby, this darkly comic best-selling novel by Ottessa Moshfegh has reached the top of many year-end lists. It follows the story of our narrator, a young, beautiful Columbia graduate working in the art world in a pre-9/11 New York City where “anything is possible,” but is soon disillusioned when she decides to take a year under the influence of drugs and to never leave her apartment. Moshfegh’s bold voice and prose are just some of the reasons why many have gravitated to this book, especially this year.
Severance by Ling Ma
Recommended by Fariha Róisín, nada alic
Severance is a deeply funny satire on the millennial workforce culture and the results of capitalism at large. It’s the end of the world, and the narrator, Candace Chen, a twenty-something first-generation Asian American is still navigating her way through adulthood in New York. As a person so dependent on routine, the “apocalypse” that arrives, challenges her and the priorities she has set for herself and the people around her.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
Recommended by Angie Venezia, nada alic
Sheila Heti has appeared frequently on Passerbuys with her previously recommended novel, How Should A Person Be?. She returns to one of the most recommended list of books with her latest novel, Motherhood, which akin to her previous books is an internal debate and self-reflection written with her classic wit. Motherhood explores one of the most consequential decisions for the narrator, becoming a mother, and the questions that arise regarding her career, identity, partner, and people around her.
There There by Tommy Orange
recommended by Jenna Wortham, Zoe Beyer
A New York Times bestseller, There There is the debut novel of Cheyenne and Arapaho writer, Tommy Orange. It follows twelve characters, Urban Indians in Oakland, California, whose stories all culminate at the Big Oakland Powwow. The novel also serves as a reflection on identity and place from one of the most newly celebrated writers of the year.
Read There There
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
recommended by Jenna Wortham, Angie Venezia
Kudos is the latest book to complete The Outline trilogy by Rachel Cusk, the critically acclaimed author that started the series with Outline in 2014. The trilogy begins with a writer who is divorced, remarried, has two children, and teaches a writing course in Athens and spends time with other writers. In the conclusion of the trilogy, the protagonist, Faye, continues to run in literary circles in Europe as she begins to question personal political identity.
Read The Outline Trilogy
Your Duck Is My Duck: Stories by Deborah Eisenberg
recommended by nada alic
Deborah Eisenberg returns with this gripping collection of short stories that immediately sweeps the reader off their feet. As the master of the short story form, Eisenberg’s latest collection is filled with naturally observant tales of characters that may seem familiar. They examine our world intoxicated by money and power which also reveal many truths about ourselves. Stories include a woman living in a wealthy couple’s house with other artists, a group of actors who discover a book has been written about their past, and a young man in an affair with a human rights worker.
Read Your Duck Is My Duck
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
recommended by Folasade Adeoso
This debut novel by Akwaeke Emezi centers on Ada, a young Nigerian woman who was born with multiple selves and spirits inside her head that all take turns narrating each of the chapters non-chronologically. With aspects of autobiography, Emezi delves into themes exploring death and self-destruction, as the protagonist moves to America for college.
Eye Level by Jenny Xie
Recommended by Fariha Róisín
This collection of poems was selected as the winner of Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets and finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry. In this debut collection, Jenny Xie takes the reader to different places, Phnom Penh, Corfu, Hanoi, New York, and examine travel, immigration, departure, and solitude.
Read Eye Level
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Recommended by Angie Venezia
In this much talked about debut novel by Lisa Halliday, a young editor, Alice, begins an affair with a famous older writer, Ezra Blazer. The story is told in three sections each of which explore different aspects of relationships, power, inequity, fame, and more that result in this original coming-of-age novel.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
recommended by Zoe Beyer
In 2014, Elizabeth Holmes saw herself as the next Steve Jobs and founded Theranos, a company she claimed would revolutionize the medical industry. Most of the world believed her. This engrossing and gripping book by journalist John Carreyrou documents her story from the beginning and how she scammed her way into forming a company worth billions of dollars that created technology that did not even work. It’s a tale of ambition and fraud in Silicon Valley.
Read Bad Blood