My favourite books of 2018

I know 2018 is not quite over yet, but with only two days remaining I think it’s safe to post my books of the year list now. I’ve enjoyed putting this post together, looking back over my reading year and picking out some favourites. As usual, it’s a long list, which is a good thing as it shows I must have read a lot of great books this year! I think I’ve included a good mixture of old and new books here, as well as a range of genres. Robin Hobb’s three Tawny Man novels were my absolute favourites of the year, so I have put them at the top, but the rest are listed at random.

Here they are – my books of 2018:

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Fool’s Errand (2001), The Golden Fool (2002) and Fool’s Fate (2003) by Robin Hobb

From my reviews: “It was wonderful to be reacquainted with Fitz and the other Farseer characters again…I had to keep going until I’d reached the end of the trilogy. I cared too deeply about the characters to abandon them while I read other books.”

Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp (1946)

From my review: “Of course, the most important character of all is Britannia Mews itself, a street which seems to cast a spell over those who live there, pulling them back every time they might think about leaving. I loved reading about the changing nature of the street over the years and the people who inhabited it at various times in its history…This was a wonderful choice of book to celebrate Margery Sharp’s birthday this year.”

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018)

From my review: “I can’t even begin to imagine how much time and effort must have gone into the writing of this novel! I’ve never read anything like it before and I hardly know how to describe it. It has all the elements of a classic murder mystery – but there’s a clue in the title: the same murder happens not just once but seven times.”

The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby (1924)

From my review: “I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while and I’m pleased to say that I loved it even more than I hoped I would…The Crowded Street is a wonderful book in so many ways and a great choice for both the Classics Club and the Persephone Readathon!”

Penmarric by Susan Howatch (1971) – re-read

From my review: “Penmarric is a dark novel – as I’ve said, none of the characters experience much happiness in their lives and none of them are easy to like – but the plot is completely gripping, even when you’re reading the book for the second time. There are some lovely descriptions of Cornwall too; this is one of those books where the setting is as important as the characters and the plot.”

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (1956)

From my review: “I loved Rose’s narrative voice; not all authors can write convincingly from the perspective of a child, but Rebecca West certainly does. She really captures the way children think and feel, the things that matter to them and the way they look at the world…With such strong, believable characters and such lovely writing, this was a wonderful read.”

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce (2018)

From my review: “Dear Mrs Bird was an absolute joy to read from start to finish! I loved Emmy from the beginning and her friendly, enthusiastic narrative voice pulled me straight into her world…there’s drama, there’s tension and there’s heartbreak, but there’s never too much of any of these things and the book never loses its charm and its warmth.”

Circe by Madeline Miller (2018)

From my review: “I loved Circe; it’s a beautifully written novel and ideal for readers like myself who only have a basic knowledge of the Greek myths. I felt a stronger connection with Circe herself than I did with Patroclus in The Song of Achilles and for that reason this is my favourite of the two books.”

The Feast by Margaret Kennedy (1950)

From my review: “I loved following the lives of the Siddals, their guests and their servants…With over twenty characters all playing important roles in the novel, some authors would have struggled to make each man, woman and child different and memorable, but Margaret Kennedy succeeds and the result is a really enjoyable and absorbing read.”

The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens (1955)

From my review: “For a novel with so many unlikeable characters, I found this a surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining read. Louise’s story is obviously a very sad one at times, but Monica Dickens writes with enough humour and lightness that it never becomes completely depressing…I wish Monica Dickens had written more books about these characters, but I enjoyed this one enough to know that I will be investigating the rest of her novels anyway!”

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer (1940)

From my review: “Thoroughly entertaining and fun to read…I won’t say too much more about the plot, but you can expect a wonderful blend of comedy, action and mystery as Richard and Pen stumble from one farcical situation to another.”

Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy (1871)

From my review: “I loved Desperate Remedies! It starts off slowly, but it quickly develops into an intriguing and entertaining page-turner with plenty of twists and surprises…This isn’t one of my absolute favourite Hardy novels – I think some of his later ones are better – but it’s still a great read.”

The Girl in the Tower (2017) and The Winter of the Witch (2019) by Katherine Arden

From my review: “Katherine Arden’s books are a wonderful mixture of history, folklore and fairytales with an atmospheric and wintry Russian setting… I loved The Girl in the Tower.” My review of The Winter of the Witch will follow in January.

Young Bess by Margaret Irwin (1944)

From my review: “It was a pleasure to read a good old-fashioned historical fiction novel with elegant prose and strong characterisation, no present tense, no experimental writing and no multiple time periods! It’s a book which completely immerses the reader in the Tudor period and the lives of Elizabeth and the historical figures who surround her, so that you reach the end feeling that you’ve read something fresh and worthwhile.”

Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien (2018)

From my review: “Alliances are formed and broken, friends become enemies then friends again in an instant; it’s a dangerous time, but a fascinating one to read about…I loved Queen of the North; I think it’s my favourite of the five Anne O’Brien novels I’ve read so far.”

Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins (1880)

From my review: “Jezebel’s Daughter is a great read – it’s suspenseful and exciting and, because it’s a relatively short novel, it’s faster paced than some of his others as well. With a story involving poisonings, stolen jewels, unexplained illnesses, mysterious scientific experiments, morgues, asylums and plenty of plotting and scheming, there’s always something happening…”

Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks (1976)

From my review: “As someone who loves the work of all three Brontë sisters, I have been interested in reading Dark Quartet for a long time…Lynne Reid Banks doesn’t explore the Brontës’ novels in much depth, but I think she does a good job of showing how the sisters’ work was influenced by people, places and events from their personal lives… I really enjoyed reading it.”

The Murder of My Aunt by Richard Hull (1934)

From my review: “It’s not really a whodunnit so there’s no puzzle to solve or clues to decipher, but that doesn’t matter at all – the fun is in wondering whether the crime described in the novel will succeed and, if so, whether the culprit will be caught…But the plot is only part of what makes this book so enjoyable; Edward’s narrative voice is wonderful too and transforms what could have been a very dark novel into a very funny one.”

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And I want to give these books a special mention too:

A Falling Star by Pamela Belle (1990)
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry (2015)
The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope (1876)
House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (2018)
The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola (2018)
Lamentation by CJ Sansom (2014)
Marking Time by Elizabeth Jane Howard (1991)
The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton (2018)
Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins (1934)
Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham (1944)
The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (2018)

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Have you read any of these? Which books have you enjoyed reading in 2018?

33 thoughts on “My favourite books of 2018

  1. whatmeread says:

    I guess I was one of the few that didn’t like at all The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. My sister read it and said it was very clever, but I couldn’t get past the bad writing to find out. However, yes to anything by Georgette Heyer and Winifred Holtby, and I liked The Murder of My Aunt, too, although I don’t think it’s going to make my favorites list. You have a bunch of books I haven’t read, but some of them look interesting.

    • Helen says:

      I loved The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, but I agree that it wasn’t particularly well written. It was the unusual concept and structure that I liked. I’m glad you enjoyed The Murder of My Aunt too, even if it won’t be on your list.

  2. cirtnecce says:

    What a great bookish year you have had Helen! A similar post should be up from me in a day or so and surprising or not surprising, we have many books we loved in common! I just finished The Seven Deaths and it for sure goes in my 2018 list, as does your brilliant recommendation of Dear Mrs. Bird. Interestingly, I stumbled upon The Murder of my Aunt accidentally and it will for sure again be on my list! The Feast and The Corinthian I did not read this year, but in past and they both remain my firm favorites since originally reading them! I have Desperate Remedies in my TBR and your review makes me think, I should get to it sooner! Anyway, here’s wishing, you a happy, peaceful and bookish 2019!

    • Helen says:

      I’ll look forward to your list and I’m pleased we have so many books in common! The Seven Deaths and Dear Mrs Bird are both great, and I thought The Murder of My Aunt was a lot of fun to read. I hope you enjoy Desperate Remedies when you get to it. Happy 2019 to you too! 🙂

  3. Lory says:

    I’ve read more of these than usual in other bloggers’ end of year lists! I also enjoyed Circe, The Girl in the Tower, Britannia Mews, The Corinthian, and Dark Quartet. I’ve been meaning to read The Feast but Margaret Kennedy books are not easy to find here, alas. And I really, really have to read Robin Hobb based on your recommendation!

    • Helen says:

      I’m glad you’ve read and enjoyed so many of these books, Lory! I hope you’re able to find a copy of The Feast as I think you might enjoy it. Robin Hobb’s books are wonderful – I would love to hear your thoughts if you do give her a try.

  4. Café Society says:

    Well, you know how highly I think of Robin Hobb. In fact, I was recommending her to a friend only this morning. I also really enjoyed Circe, which I thought was far more interesting than Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls.

    • Helen says:

      The Tawny Man Trilogy really stood out above most of the other books I’ve read this year. I’m looking forward to continuing with the Rain Wild Chronicles in 2019.

  5. Carmen says:

    Great list, Helen! I enjoyed the snippets out of your reviews too, very helpful. It must have been daunting to select as few books among the huge amount you read in any given year. As you know, I read and liked Circe; it made my best list too. From your list I would like to read Dear Mrs. Bird, The Seven Deaths…, The Girl in the Tower, and Young Bess.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, it was hard narrowing them down, and I couldn’t include all the books I would have liked to include otherwise the list would have been ridiculously long.

  6. Judy Krueger says:

    An hour ago I finished the last book of the year for me. Tomorrow I will make my favorite books list. I have read Circe and it will go on the list for this year. The year I read The Fountain Overflows it made the favorites list. I want to finish the Katherine Arden series in 2019.

  7. FictionFan says:

    Looks like you’ve had a great reading year! I haven’t read many of your choices, but it’s good to see Georgette Heyer in there, and The Murder of My Aunt which made my Best of list too. I’m horrified that Lamentation only got a special mention though – you must read it again and like it better next time! 😉

    • Helen says:

      I did love Lamentation, but it didn’t stand out for me quite as much as some of the other books I’ve read this year. I will be reading Tombland soon and hopefully it will end up on my 2019 favourites list!

  8. Jo says:

    A real mix of a list. I agree about Dear Mrs Bird, that will feature on my list for sure. I must get round to looking at what I have read this year, certainly not enough historical fiction!

  9. jessicabookworm says:

    Sadly Helen, I haven’t read any of these! So many of them sound great though and I have Queen of the North by Anne O’Brien lined up on my TBR – I can’t wait to read it! I wish you more great reading in 2019. 🙂

  10. Lisa says:

    A wonderful list! I have some of these on the TBR stacks, including Britannia Mews and The Feast. And I’m in the long library line for Circe – and I still haven’t read her first book.

    An early Happy New Year! I’ll look forward to seeing what you read in 2019.

    • Helen says:

      I think you might enjoy Britannia Mews and The Feast. Circe is great too, and better than Madeline Miller’s first book in my opinion. Happy New Year, Lisa!

  11. Liz Dexter says:

    Some great reads here. I loved Dear Mrs Bird, too, though not sure it will make my end of year best-of (I have to do that on Jan 1 – I think I’m reading a book that will end up on it right now; wonder if I’ll finish it by midnight tomorrow!). Heyer and any Persephones are always good of course.

    • Helen says:

      I’ll look forward to seeing your end of year list! I waited to post mine until I was sure I wouldn’t have time to finish any more books this year. I have more Heyer and more Persephones lined up for 2019. 🙂

    • Helen says:

      I would expect Evelyn Hardcastle to be featuring on a lot of people’s lists this year. The Fountain Overflows and The Feast are both books I was inspired to read by your Birthday Book project, so thank you!

  12. Lark says:

    Great list! The Murder of My Aunt, The Corinthian, and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle are all on my 2019 reading list. Hope you have a Happy New Year…and that 2019 brings you many more good books to read. 🙂

  13. Calmgrove says:

    Your original reviews were brought back vividly from this end-of-year summary, and while I haven’t read any of these I know if some of them come my way I shall definitely give them more than passing attention! Thank, and best wishes for 2019 in life, reading and everything! 🙂

      • Calmgrove says:

        I am drawn to several—the Lynne Reid Banks, for example, and the Wilkie Collins—and I have yet to sample Robin Hobbs. I’ll jot them down… Oh, and Happy New Year, Feliz Año Nuevo, Bonne Anneé, Frohes neues Jahr, Buon Anno and Blwyddyn Newydd Dda to you too!

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