My Top Ten Books for 2018

 

It is no surprise that when I review the list of approximately fifty books I read in 2018, the ones which are my favorite are all (but one) in translation. But, that does not make them inaccessible for readers who do not normally pick up translated literature. In fact, if you are tired of the same boring mysteries, the same boring love affairs, the same boring story told over and over again, I can’t recommend each one of these enough.

My Top Ten for the Year 2018:

  1. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk: Because it deserved to win the Man Booker International Prize this year for its breathtaking writing and memorable recounting of our lives.
  2. From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan: Because I have never seen three disparate stories woven together so seamlessly, or with such power.
  3. The Eight Mountains by Paolo Cognetti: Because it won both the Strega Award and the Prix Médicis étranger, and faultlessly told the story of two boys’ friendship, as well as their relationship with one’s father.
  4. Fever and Spear by Javier Marias: Because Javier Marias is my favorite Spanish author; everything he writes is downright lyrical.
  5. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata: Because I was enchanted by this quirky character who loved convenience stores, the reason for which I could completely understand when I was in Japan this October.
  6. Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami: Because it is an accessible, brilliant novel by my favorite Japanese author whom I never pretend to fully understand.
  7. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig: Because the tension mounted with every move, and the author wrote it in less than 100 pages.
  8. Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck: Because of the compelling side she shows for the immigrants who have no home.
  9. Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz: Because it was the most startling and upsetting book I read this year (ever?) and I will never forget it.
  10. Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants by Mathias Enard: Because Mattias Enard captured Michelangelo in a fresh, new way when I thought I knew him already.

And now, I wish you a Happy New Year, and many joyous reads ahead in 2019!

34 thoughts on “My Top Ten Books for 2018”

  1. Oh, this is such a great list. The only one I’ve read is Convenience Store Woman, which I really loved. I didn’t read as many translated books this year for some reason but I have soooooo many in my TBR that situation may well be reversed in 2019.

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    1. I wonder why you were surprised? I have bought, and read, everything he ever wrote. I love his writing, even though I find it perplexing more often than not. Do you not like him?

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    1. Deb, I think if any of us understood Murakami completely, he wouldn’t be Murakami. I’ve heard him say (in an interview) that even he isn’t entirely sure of his intentions. I love that, though, that he “can’t be put in a box”, that his writing has similar elements but stays completely fresh. I love that he makes me really think. Killing Commendatore didn’t get such fantastic reviews from the elite reviewers, but I liked it. 😉

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  2. A wonderful list, Bellezza. I’ve git the Enard and am looking forward to it. I’m not sure I could read Die, My Love. I need to stay away from anything that’s too sad. I think I would love Convenience Store Woman.
    Happy New Year.

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    1. Die, My Love is not sad as much as it is ANGRY. She is just one hostile wife and mother, a perspective which really upset me upon first reading it, but in retrospect could point to many women’s feelings. I believe the author wrote it in, or just coming out of, postpartum depression. The thing that makes it land on my list is that it is undeniably powerful writing. Unforgettable.

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  3. I’ll confess that what you read and what I usually read don’t often cross paths, but…I got the Murakami book recently when it was an Amazon deal. Anyway, I’m planning on trying it at some point. We shall see. 🙂

    Happy New Year to you! Enjoy your reading for 2019!

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    1. We do have a bit of difference in our collections and piles, but I am always interested in what you have to say, and you keep coming to visit me which is so very thoughtful. I’m glad you got the new Murakami; don’t be surprised if you don’t understand all of it…none of us do! Just go for the ride, I guess, and enjoy the puzzles he lays out.

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  4. I’ve read Javier Marias and Stefan Zweig before although not these books but I definitely would love to read them again. Great list of recommendations! Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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    1. This was the first time I’d ever read anything by Stefan Zweig, and I was immediately caught! Glad you like my list, and I wish you a very Happy New Year, too!

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  5. Bellezza,

    Thank you for this wonderful list. I am most interested in reading Convenience Store Woman. I’d planned to bring a copy to read while en route to Japan, but I couldn’t get a paperback copy, so I did not read it. (I try to travel light.) I am sure to read it before too long though. I loved going to the convenience stores in Japan during our visit last month for inexpensive treasures. I’d love to read a story from the POV of a female convenience store worker.

    Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

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    1. Oh, Suko, Convenience Store Woman was wonderful! I loved the quirky girl, somewhat on the spectrum to be sure, but then again in many ways more normal than the rest of us. Whatever normal means. I think this will really fascinate you, as you understand the convenience stores in Japan better than any of us.

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    1. How dear are you, Claire, to say that you would read them all on my recommendation. I think we have such similar taste and points of view, which is an honor. Happy New Year!

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  6. I have From a Low and Quiet Sea on my nightstand, because of your recommendation. Now you make me interested in several more – I will soon be buried in books, and catching glimpses from their pages as I go under…. XO

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    1. Oh, my dear Gretchen, when I suggested it to my Book Club very few of them loved it as I did. Please don’t feel compelled to finish it should you not like it; I feel a bit responsible for your reading! 🙂 However, I just thought the whole book was so powerful, so indicative of how I understand the Irish from my husband’s family and brief visits there, and I loved how he tied it all up at the end. Loved it. Don’t go far under, I need you. xo

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