2018 has been a year of great books, with subject matter and styles ranging from the slightly bewildering 2018 Man Booker prize novel, The Milkman by Anna Burns, to the latest must-read, Becoming by Michelle Obama.
Selecting my five top reads of the year is not easy considering my eclectic reading repertoire but I’ve narrowed down my favourite reads for the year down to these five.
Seven Heaven by Ben Ryan (Published May 2018 by Orion Publishing, £13.86)
We all know that Fiji won the first ever sevens rugby Olympic gold medal and this book would have been boring if had focused solely on that- it doesn’t. Instead it takes us on a journey from the leafy London suburb at Richmond to a dentist’s chair in Suva and all else in between. The book is about the beautiful game of rugby and the equally beautiful lives of the nasal deformed people that play it.
The beauty of this book lies in the protagonist’s ability to deftly evade hogging the limelight, instead capturing the magic that each character has. I found the book witty and I may have had pms at the time of reading because I remember sobbing as well. The writing and angle of storytelling weaved all events so neatly together and it’s no surprise that it has been short-listed for the William Hill Sports Book of the year.
1,000 Books to Read Before You Die by James Mustich (Published October 2018)
Workman Publishing RRP £26.99, 885 pp
I shudder every time someone says, ‘life changing’- it’s like an open invitation to criticism. I would rather add a coward’s disclaimer that it would be life changing if you were a book seller,or a librarian. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to find myself enjoying this book; 1,000 books to read before you die: A Life Changing List.
If you have spent half your life working at the books catalogue, A Common Reader, and being Vice President at a branch at the acclaimed publishing house Barnes & Noble like Mustich has, then you’d surely know a lot about books and come up with this gem.
The list is arranged alphabetically by author, starting from Edward Abbey 1960’s book to Carl Zuckmayers autobiography A Portrait of Myself . The main reason I enjoyed this book immensely is the variety. He provides each work with an interesting synopsis and recommends other works by the author or books in the same genre.
In total, he cites and references over 3,000 books including works by Faulkner, Solzhenitsyn, Toni Morrison, Du Bois, C. S Lewis and Socrates. This book has pride of place on my bookshelf as I slowly make my way through some of the interesting ones he recommends, which I would have otherwise walked past on the library shelves.
Bad Stories by Steve Almond (Published April 2018)
Red Hen Press RRP: £9.08, 257 pp
I really love politics. More precisely- I really love reading about, talking about, writing about politics. I remember doing a series of Aptitude tests for the Fiji PSC scholarship in the late 90’s and at the end they recommended that I was best suited to be a political scientist. Shame I didn’t take up that recommendation. I would have been a proper clown by now.
Anyway, this book is heavy on politics and the role the media played in bringing about the orange blight that is Trump. I had written a review earlier in the year and you can access it here. Almond rightfully states that our leaders reflect who we are, and Trump pandered to every supporters perceived unjust with false bravado. In a passage in the books he says:
‘It was exciting to watch a human being (Trump) so completely liberated from the restraints of a functioning conscience. We woke up each morning itching to open our browsers. And Trump rewarded our devotion by continually generating new affronts to our decency. He was the tireless adolescent forever trolling the unsecured border of our adulthood…’
If you are still flabbergasted at the oddity that is Trump or if you support the oddity that is Trump- this book may help.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Deadby Olga Tokarczuk
(Published September 2018) Fitzcarraldo Editions RRP £12.99,269 pp
Fitzcarraldo Editions publishes really good quirky books. I discovered this last year when they published The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova– it was a book about sewing machines and cemeteries and foxes and old shops. Every time I put that book down, I had to pat myself to check if I was still alive.
Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead is another of those books. It’s about an eccentric old Polish amateur astrologer who is into animal rights. That is all I will say at this point. Its not strictly Agatha Christie murder mystery nor is it Stephen King horror. Think PETA meet Cain the son of Adam, then add in a few majestic deer, some Cucujus haematodes and the cosmos, you get this book- the weird, wonderful and a slight pat-yourself-over-to-check-you’re-alive effect.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
(For publishing Feb 2019 by Walker Books), £7.74paperback edition, 437 pp
Okay this book is not exactly 2018, but I wanted to include it in as one to watch out for. Its about 16-year-old Bri who is an excellent words smith. Through Bri, I learnt what counts as a fuckboi move (please look away mum) and the difference between getting psychiatric help between blacks and whites in America. This book will be out in Feb 2019 and its good for some of us to hear words from voices like that of Bri who raps about inequality, surviving and just wanting a new pair of Timberlands.
That’s it, my five picks for the year. Again my coward’s disclaimer, if your pick is not here it’s because I didn’t read it.
Happy Christmas and hope you get good books from Santa.
The Platformm Team