The year 2018 proved to be phenomenal for fiction (despite all the tweets and massive bad news), and book lovers were able to delight in both debut and experienced authors, ranging from Hannah Mary McKinnon to Jodi Picoult. We experienced college life and the women’s movement with Meg Wolitzer and got angry over racial injustice with Tayari Jones. We then found forgiveness with veteran Barbara Delinsky’s latest and we cried with Lisa Genova over an incurable disease. These titles are the best genre fiction of 2018.
The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon
One way or another, we all keep secrets even though we know they have a way of surfacing, and marriages built on secrets are usually recipes for disaster, but these kinds of secrets are what made this book so addictive. Imagine the long lost love of your life moving into the house next door. What would you do? Pretend you don’t know each other? How long can you play this game? This book was deliciously scandalous.
Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky
Before and Again tackles the worst possible thing that can happen to a parent: the loss of a child. The emotional domino effect can bring down even the strongest, leading some people to pull away from their families completely. Others deal with grief in whatever ways will make them emotionally numb. Maggie seems to have succeeded in building a new life for herself. She likes her job, working as a makeup artist at a well-established spa. She has friends and she loves her pets. Yeah, Maggie’s life is good… but is she happy? Or is she just surviving? This book reminds us that even through sadness and grief, we cannot carry the past with us. Life moves on. And we need to learn to cherish the happy memories because memories are all we really have left.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
Picoult tackles yet another controversial issue with this novel. Abortion is not a simple “black and white” conversation and even Picoult points out in the book, “I don’t think we, as a society will ever see eye-to-eye on this issue.” Only a skillful writer such as Picoult would be able to write about a controversial item without taking sides and/or trying to persuade the reader. This book is emotionally profound, and like every one of Picoult’s books, it is a necessary reading that opens the possibility of both discussion and understanding of women’s rights.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
Already being adapted into a movie with Nicole Kidman playing the elegant Faith Frank, Wolitzer’s 2018 novel follows four characters: Faith, Greer, Zee and Cory. Their paths, personalities and experiences are very real in comparison to our modern day lives. Life slaps them with trauma, privilege, betrayal, acceptance, being judged, feeling lost and the question that burdens us all: “Am I making a difference?” A brilliant novel. The kind of book that makes you question your own choices.
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
You don’t usually think of your mother-in-law when you mention “the other woman,” yet that’s exactly who it refers to in this Reese Witherspoon bookclub pick. This novel is a fast-paced psychological thriller about a manipulative mother and how far she will go to keep Emily away from her son. Pammie, the mother-in-law, is nothing less than devilish, and so many times I just wanted to yell at Emily to get out. All I can say (without giving away any spoilers), is be ready to hang on to the edge of your seat. You won’t be disappointed!
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
I found out about this book when Tayari Jones came to a local book festival in Maplewood, NJ, last June. I was fascinated by her and couldn’t wait to read the book. Celestial and Roy have been married for just a year when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. Should Celestial move on with her life or remain frozen in time while waiting for her husband to get out of prison? This is a beautiful love story, questioning marriage, loyalty, race, friendship and the choices we make in between. An impossible-to-put-down novel from a talented writer that will keep you thinking many hours after you finish reading it.
Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Lisa Genova is a master storyteller and Every Note Played is another must-read novel of 2018. This is a powerful book about living with ALS. Yes, the book is about ALS, but it is also about redemption, family, regret, forgiveness and making peace with your choices. Beautifully written, it goes beyond the disease and delivers the psychological sides of both patient and family – completely fascinating.
Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
How can a book with less than 50 pages break your heart? I only have one answer to this question: Hosseini’s words are magical. They give you goosebumps. Sea Prayer is a poem, yet it’s so much more than a poem. It’s a prayer. A prayer for hope and compassion, this book is dedicated to the thousands of refugees who have perished at sea fleeing war and persecution. The stunning illustrations included add to the beauty of the words, and help the reader travel to where the author wants to take you.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
This novel had me thinking of some of the most basic life questions: Would I want to know the exact date I’m going to die? Would I live differently once I knew it? Do I think our fate is pre-written and no matter what we do, cannot be altered? Benjamin’s compelling and vibrant story breathes new life into her characters – although they’re not all that likable, they are each fascinating in their own way. The Immortalists is a story about a family that endures such an incredible amount of pain whether it be inevitable or due to the lives they chose to lead.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
This book was juicy and high on the steamy meter, but cute and romantic at the same time. Stella, a successful mathematician with Asperger’s syndrome, has no idea how to behave in a relationship. She then decides to hire an escort to teach her how to kiss and do all the other physical acts that come with dating.
*Warning: If listening to the audiobook on the car stereo, make sure to hit pause before opening the window to speak to anyone (scrambling to shut off the audiobook during steamy scenes can get pretty darn embarrassing).