The Best and Worst Books I Read in 2018

So, I read Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games, Divergent, and other giant YA novel series. Then I got tired of reading YA, and only read nonfiction for a long time after. However, in 2018 I wanted to try reading books that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen. I think I accomplished that goal, as I not only read more this year than I have for a while, but I also read authors who are very distinct from each other, and I even discovered a new genre that I love (spoiler alert: graphic novels are the best thing to happen to books). Jumping back into the world of fiction, I wanted to read new and innovative stories; sometimes I was successful and sometimes I wasn’t. Here are some of the best and worst books I read in case anyone is thinking about making 2019 their year of reading, or if anybody wants to be adventurous and branch out their taste (even if your taste is required reading for school. Trust me, I’ve been there, but there’s better stuff out there that will make you not hate reading).

Best: Body Music by Julie Maroh

One of the best things I have gotten into this year has been graphic novels. It combines my love for art and reading into one, and the illustrations give an extra layer to what you are reading. Body Music contains 21 vignettes about people being in love, people falling in love, people falling out of love, and more. The characters in this book are incredibly diverse, with different races, sexualities, and gender identities that truly have something for everybody, which I loved. These stories are some of the most heartwarming and heart-wrenching that I have ever read, and it accomplished this in much less time than a romance novel (and I don’t read romance, so if this was able to catch my attention, it must be good right?). Julie Maroh is more well-known for her first graphic novel, Blue is the Warmest Color (yes, before it was a disaster of a film, it was a comic) but I believe she deserves the same recognition for this book. Be warned though, there are some steamy pages (it’s illustrating love, after all) so I wouldn’t read this book next to your grandma.


Worst: Fresh Complaints by Jeffrey Eugenides

I was so ready to love this book! I read Eugenides’ other novel Middlesex in high school, and I was excited to see that he had released a collection of short stories late last year. Each story is centered around a character in the middle of a stressing time, their own personal crisis. The first few really caught my attention, and each ending had my jaw on the floor as clever, even disturbing plot twists were introduced. However, as the book went on I lost interest, and I noticed a pattern of men who viewed women in really disrespectful, objectifying ways that got old very quickly and didn’t make for an entertaining.


Best: Ariel by Sylvia Plath

I used to be a big poetry reader, and reminiscing on this collection of poems is enough motivation for me to read more. This definitely might be the most difficult read on this list, as Sylvia Plath’s language is complicated, but she talks about things everyone has experienced; anger, melancholy, and the bitterness that comes with feeling these emotions. Yet, these poems seem so personal and raw that it’s hard to not be completely wrapped up in Sylvia Plath’s world while reading them; the strength of her words are sure to blow you away. My personal favorite in this collection is “Tulips”, but the collection is short enough that you could easily get through all of them in a day or so.


Worst: Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

I don’t even know if I can give a review of this book because I still don’t entirely know what happened. The book starts out following 21-year-old Jeremy, who lives in a small town in Nevada, living with his dad after the untimely passing of his mother. His quiet life gets disrupted when he finds a series of disturbing video clips taped over the videos sold at the store he works at, and nobody knows where they came from. Then, it gets a little confusing as we jump from Jeremy to his boss, Sarah Jane, to several other characters’ point of view that made it seem more confusing than mystifying, if you ask me. You do find out why those tapes were made, but it takes so long to get there that I blew through the last couple chapters just so I could be done with the book.  The concept for this book is great, but I wish the execution was a little more streamlined. I really liked Jeremy’s character, but by switching characters so often I lost that attachment and eventually lost my interest.


Best: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

First of all, this book is not about wolves, but it is everything I wanted in a novel and more. A creepy mystery set in the slow-paced woods of Minnesota, Fridlund writes about the forest and the environment surrounding the characters so well it feels like you have entered a different world, where everything is quiet but uneasy. The book follows Linda, recounting a story from her teenage years about a strange family who moves in across the lake. Her relationship with the mother and son conflicts with the odd things she knows about the family. The book beautifully blends the insidious plotline of the family with Linda’s own vulnerability, as she has grown up ostracized from her community and her family. Her need for human connection makes the reader sympathetic to her life, while her bluntness and spunk make her an enjoyable character to be around as she slowly unravels a great mystery. This is one of those books that I would love to forget just so I could experience it for the first time all over again.

I notice that I had a healthy split between best books and worst books. I think that’s pretty fair considering that I didn’t consult reviews or even friendly recommendations when I found these, and a few of them were from the bargain shelves at bookstores. Every book gave me the joy of reading something that was completely new about topics that I may have known little about beforehand. I have to admit, the next couple of books I am reading are all non-fiction, but I’m excited to find another hidden treasure soon. Hopefully, you’ve decided to pick up a new book or maybe even one of these (please pick History of Wolves) and discover a new world that feels like its just for you.