We love all of the end-of-year “top ten” book lists, but the ones we use to guide our own reading (and gift giving) are always the ones prepared by librarians. These lists tend to have a wider range of titles, genres, and distinct voices. They’re not necessarily bestsellers (although six on this list were Peak Picks) and they’re not all award-winners (although they should be). What they are: Well written, excellent books that librarians loved — and love to share with readers.
We asked our adult services librarians to nominate/vote for their favorite novels to recommend (all published in 2018). Here are 10, starting with our top pick and then going in reverse alphabetical order, because we liked the way the covers looked this way, which is so un-librariany …
Let’s start the list with the book that was mentioned and championed most by Seattle librarians. The intersecting stories in Tommy Orange’s There There, his character-driven debut novel, chronicle the lives of Native Americans living in Oakland, California. Seventy percent of Native people live in cities in the U.S., yet contemporary fiction rarely focuses on that experience. Novelist Colm Toibin reviewed it in the New York Times when it first came out, and the NYT headline said, rightly so, “Yes, Tommy Orange’s New Novel Really Is That Good.” It is.
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea is a Mexican coming-to-America story set over a weekend where a family recounts family tales and lore. “The House of Broken Angels overflows with the pleasure of family. You wouldn’t be wrong to take this book as a rebuttal to Tolstoy’s happy-family dictum,” said a reviewer on NPR.
This next one has been popular in our Peak Picks collection. Freshly out of college, supported by an inheritance, our narrator in My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh has a dark and vacuous hole in her heart. She spends a year alienated from the world, under the influence of a mad combination of drugs in this blackly funny novel.
Looking for a slim book that packs a powerful punch? Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata tells the story of Keiko, a woman who through careful observation has learned to behave “properly” so she can keep her predictable job at a convenience store. One of our librarians said, “This is a thought-provoking piece of social commentary with some surprising twists and turns.”
It’s always a delight to have a new book from Seattle author (and National Book Award winner) Charles Johnson. Night Hawks is a solid set of stories that Johnson wrote over the past two decades for Humanities Washington’s Bedtime Stories project. Most stories are set in Seattle, including one based on Johnson’s late night conversations with playwright August Wilson.
In The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, a 30-year-old successful econometrician with Asperger’s syndrome feels pressure to be better at romantic relationships. So she hires escort Michael Phan to help her figure some things out. This is a saucy one — and it also got a lot of action in our Peak Picks collection.
Akwaeke Emezi won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa and was named a “5 Under 35” Honoree by the National Book Foundation. Their debut novel, Freshwater, tells the story of Ada, born in southern Nigeria “with one foot on the other side,” who begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to the U.S. for college, a traumatic event crystallizes these selves into something more powerful. Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Fiction.
Portland author Patrick deWitt delights readers once again in his whip smart, darkly comic novel French Exit (also a Peak Pick!). In the wake of scandal and financial disintegration, a wealthy Upper East Side widow and her adult son flee New York for Paris. A comedy of manners (or, perhaps, a tragedy of manners …).
Looking for a new fantasy series? Robert Jackson Bennett begins the Foundry trilogy with Foundryside. In a city that runs on industrialized magic, a secret war will be fought to overwrite reality. “This is a crackling, wonderfully weird blend of science fiction, fantasy, heist adventure, and a pointed commentary on what it means to be human in a culture obsessed with technology, money, and power,” says Publishers Weekly.
Transcription is the newest from Kate Atkinson (and it’s also a Peak Pick). In World War II London, Juliet Armstrong works as an espionage monitor for MI5. Ten years later, she is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past – and is once more under threat.
If you, like us, want to see more of librarians’ favorite books of the year, follow along on Twitter (#LibFaves18; you don’t have to be on Twitter to see what books are being mentioned; just follow that link) starting today, Dec. 10, as librarians from across the U.S. count down their favorite books of the year, tweeting one book per day. Your to-be-read pile is about to grow monumentally.
~ posted by Linda J. and Andrea G.