Every year we gather our staff’s 5 favorite reads (books read in 2018, not necessarily published in 2018). This year, in between all the Thanksgiving and gift season happy madness in the stores, they managed to once again put together their lists. Only 3 or 4 titles overlap, which should give you an indication of the eclectic bunch we are, and the wide range of interests we read books about!
So sit down, grab a cup of coffee or tea (because this qualifies as a long read), and have a look at all the books we loved this year. If you want more: here our our favorites from previous years. Happy reading!
Pleun – Guusje – Charlotte – Lynn – Jilles – Simone – Martijn – Ester – Natalia – IrisW – Maarten – JeroenW – Jouke – Jitse – Sywert – Renate – Tiemen – Marten – Lília – IrisM – MariaS – Klaartje – Sophie
The Outsider – Stephen King
This one is seriously creepy in parts, and a bona fide page-turner. Loved the characters and the plot is superb! It did miss that extra emotional level for me. Yes, it deals with society nowadays (Trump, police, etc.) but for me the King books that have main characters not only fighting the evil from outside but who have an internal demon to conquer are the rare diamonds. That said it’s good and especially the first 200 pages are amazing.
Elevation – Stephen King
This little book is not only pretty on the outside but also on the inside. It’s short and very sweet. It had me tear up on several occasions. I loved it and for once I wished a King book was bigger, much bigger.
The Hunting Party – Lucy Foley (expected in January 2019)
Wonderful atmospheric thriller that will have you guessing till the end. A group of old friends are ringing in the New Year at a resort in the remote Scottish wilderness. Almost all of them have skeletons in the closet, even the people who work there. One of the guests gets killed and one of the rest is the murderer. As they are snowed in they can’t leave and all the skeletons come out. Great thriller by this fresh new voice!
The Taking of Annie Thorne – C. J. Tudor (expected in February 2019)
It’s good, it’s creepy and has a supernatural twist. C. J. Tudor can write, that’s for sure. This book reminds me a lot of Stephen King. This is not a bad thing but because her previous book The Chalk Man also had a big King vibe I hope for the next book to be more original in that sense. The Taking of Annie Thorne is, in my opinion, a better book than The Chalk Man. The characters have more depth and the plot is constructed better. All-in-all a great read and I can highly recommend it.
Pretend We Live Here – Genevieve Hudson
I bought this book because of the title and it was more than I could hope for. Extremely funny but also deeply touching.
The Power – Naomi Alderman
I had heard a lot about this book before I decided to read it. It was around the time of Time’s Up and #MeToo and this book definitely pulled me in. It’s a book about female empowerment, specifically about what would happen if women suddenly became ‘physically’ more powerful than men. It was a very intriguing read with an ‘oh riiiiiight’ moment in the final chapter. Definitely a new favorite of mine.
A Column of Fire – Ken Follett
Set in the Golden Age of England, during Queen Elizabeth I’s rise to the throne and religious turmoil throughout many other European countries. It features espionage, romance, and crime, what more could you want?!
The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen
I was looking for a nice Fantasy trilogy and came upon this book, the first of a series written by Erika Johansen. It’s about a young girl who has to take over as queen of her kingdom once she comes of age. With the help of a loyal band of guards and some magical stones she sets out to become just this. This isn’t a book that needs a lot of deep thought, it’s just a nice feel-good fantasy book with a sympathetic heroine.
Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit
I wrote my Bachelor’s Thesis about this book. It’s at times a depressing book, with stats and figures about abuse and cruelty. However, it reads easily and Solnit can be funny at times, when appropriate. It’s definitely an important book about feminism with added terms that have recently become common like ‘mansplaining’.
Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
I’m not a seasoned poetry reader but this easy-to-read book is also for beginners. It features beautiful little poems all surrounding the subjects of love, hurting, and healing. Every poem is also accompanied by a small drawing, done by Rupi Kaur herself.
Red Clocks – Leni Zumas
This book just found me at the right point in time. Once you’re drawn into the story – actually five stories about five women being told in parallel – it is a quick and thrilling read!
Light Years – James Salter
An all-time favorite.
Normal People – Sally Rooney
I am reading it now and without knowing the end of the story, I know it is going to be among my 2018 favorites.
Men photographing Women in the 70s
Hoxton Mini Press is my favorite photography publisher. They publish collectable photo books which are affordable. This is just one of their 2018 publications – whatever the topic is, I always find them interesting.
German Business Plants – Frederick Busch
I guess you have to have a penchant for art/coffee table/photography books. But if you do then this is a funny one. And it has got more than just being based on a fun idea. Hilarious texts, outstanding book design.
There are also an E-BOOK available for Red Clocks.
Find Me Gone – Sarah Meuleman
Very well crafted, double layers throughout, good ending. 5 stars!
Reporter: A Memoir – Seymour Hersh
His memoirs reminded me of the function of an investigative reporter to serve a democracy. Very impressive. I couldn’t put it down. From My Lai to Nixon and Kissinger and banking, Hersh just keeps working his network. Excellent.
Unsheltered – Barbara Kingsolver
Broad and deep is the author’s digging into our existential need for shelter. Beautiful prose.
Devotion – Patti Smith
Just lie down and read it, it will open your vision.
Becoming – Michele Obama
Inspiringly open, reads well, I learned from her.
The Monk of Mokha – Dave Eggers (small paperback edition due in January 2019)
What an adventuresome entrepreneurial story! It will be filmed, I’ll bet. It was extra nice to meet the author in Amsterdam and hear him talk about the ideological aspect of supporting coffee farmers.
Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks
Short stories that seem to come so naturally from the Tom Hanks we know as an actor. A good collection to savor story by story.
House of Putin, House of Trump – Craig Unger
Pulls the pieces together in a well-researched, plausible scenario.
Extreme Measures – Vince Flynn
I thought this would be right wing political crap, but this is actually a great political action thriller with Flynn knowing how to use every element of his story to create tension. Not only that, he has some very interesting characters that will sometimes pull on your heartstrings, too. One of the great surprising reads this year!
Rag and Bone – Michael Nava (currently only available via our supplier of second-hand books)
This is the last in the Henry Rios series by Michael Nava. This was one of the first crime series with a gay character that was published a big publisher. And well deserved. Not only are his books beautifully written, they are also very well plotted and his main character will pull you in so deep into what it is to be a gay Latino lawyer in a non-gay world that you don’t want the book to end. Great crime fiction.
The Shining – Stephen King
Interesting to read this book again after its follow-up Doctor Sleep. Now it becomes clear how destructive this story is without anything resembling a happy end or redemption. This is a beautiful take on how Jack Torrance breaks down and completely unravels, pulling his family with him to the darkest of places in the Overlook Hotel. Not only scary, but psychologically very insightful.
The Silence of the Heart – Paul Ferrini
It doesn’t matter which book you read from the ‘Reflections of the Christ Mind’ series, they are all very inspiring and hold up a mirror in which you see the good and the bad reflected. In a voice that bolsters courage, Ferrini talks to the highest part of our being to change the world by starting in your own heart and mind.
The Frozen Dead – Bernard Minier
A really good crime novel needs a couple of things: a good detective with some flaws, a great but chilling location, an impossible crime that defies any logic, and some creepy tension. This book has it all. Buried deep within its pages is a darkness that slowly seeps out and makes for a great read. This is detection at its best.
Goodbye, Things – Fumio Sasaki
This book has had the most impact on me this year. I have started to say goodbye to things in a very effective manner, and reading this book has changed my way of thinking dramatically. An excellent book to read at the start of a new year!
The Travelling Cat Chronicles – Hiro Arikawa
What a lovely story! After finishing it, I felt I had just read a fairy tale or something similar. It is a tender story about a man who travels from friend to friend to see whether he can find someone suitable to take his cat, and it deals with some heartfelt emotions.
Dead Simple – Peter James
Page-turner from the start; you can’t help but clench your teeth and pinch your arm (or someone else’s) until this ride is over!
Rainbirds – Clarissa Goenawan
A magical and intricate story about a man who traces his late sister’s movements and habits in a city in Japan, and finds out more about her than he ever knew while she was alive.
Looking for Rachel Wallace – Robert B. Parker
The classic Spencer novel. Here, in part six, you get to know him for who and what he is. A tough man, with a heart of gold. Once you start reading Spencer, you will be hooked. Another tip: I have recently discovered John D. Macdonald, who wrote crime novels in the sixties and seventies, and his novels about free spirit Travis McGee are just as enjoyable as the Spencer novels!
The volumes start slow, but pick up pace as they go. 19th-century setting, steampunky. Thomas Senlin – a wimpy teacher – has to climb the fabled Tower of Babel in search of his wife whom he lost during their honeymoon there. He finds enemies, new friendships, and talents he didn’t know he had. Highly imaginative! Good fun.
A Serpent’s Tooth (Longmire #9) – Craig Johnson
The weirdest and funniest to date. The series seems to get better with each installment. All the regular characters are here and develop in a believable way. The setting – Wyoming – feels grand and timeless. And I got to know a little about the Book of Mormon.
Raven’s Shadow trilogy (Blood Song, Tower Lord, and Queen of Fire) – Anthony Ryan
Each year I go for 1 epic fantasy series that has a lot of action and fighting in it. This one ticks all the right boxes.
Nick Cave: Mercy on Me – Reinhard Kleist
Received this as a gift last year and was really impressed with it. The life of Nick Cave is intertwined with his songs (lyrics). So you get a biography that’s fictionalized by his songs. The art work is impressive and adds to the story. Read this with his music playing and enjoy the ride! (And what a ride it is…)
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman
Re-read it this year and read it to my daughter as well ( in Dutch). Gaiman has an uncanny ability to let you feel his books rather than read them. It’s hard to describe. Some sense of timelessness. Of eternity, set against the here and now. He suggests a lot rather than tell it straight out. He’s one of a kind.
A Closed and Common Orbit + Record of a Spaceborn Few – Becky Chambers
Part 1 was a gem and now I can safely say the complete trilogy is. I really liked the positivity that radiates from each page. Although bad stuff does happen and faith in humanity – or perhaps the better word is “racity”? – sometimes falters, in the end it never gets lost. A very hopeful message!
The Princess Bride – William Goldman
One I wanted to read for a while and I’m very glad finally did. The hilarious characters and their over-the-top crazy adventures are worth your time for sure.
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
Maybe The Favorite Read for me this year. The story is so sweet and tender and…..oh so sexy! You just want the best for the two main characters.
The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
Slaughter has upped her game and matured in her writing. I already liked her when I read some books in the William Trent series, but this book is of another level. Brilliant!
The Enchanted Garden Mystery series (Daisies for Innocence, Nightshade for Warning, and Marigolds for Malice read so far) – Bailey Cattrell
A series that I only got familiar with very recently, but that I already love. I hope there will be many more installments in the future, because I’m really looking forward to all the shenanigans of those quirky characters.
I Only Killed Him Once (part 3 in the LA Trilogy) – Adam Christopher
I read part 1 and part 2 last year and was eagerly awaiting the last installment. A very nice ending to a pleasant SciFi detective series.
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
A classic I never read before. And yes, it’s a classic for a reason. I had heard people say Christie is a master of her craft and now I can concur.
There are also E-BOOKS available for A Closed and Common Orbit, Record of a Spaceborn Few, The Princess Bride, The Kiss Quotient, The Good Daughter, Daisies for Innocence, Nightshade for Warning, Marigolds for Malice, I Only Killed Him Once, and And Then There Were None.
Vicious – V.E. Schwab
This sci-fi/fantasy novel definitely had me hooked from the first page. Throughout the book I was reminded of characters such as Magneto vs. Charles Xavier who once were friends and now turned enemies. It’s fast-paced and you can picture the characters’ mannerisms and characteristics as you keep on reading. I’d probably “hate” Eli and Victor (the main characters) if I’d knew them in real life, but as characters I love ’em. It was the first book I picked up by Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, and I’m happy that I did. I’m probably still on a “wow, this was amazing!!” high as I’m writing this.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
An absurd and strangely recognizable, in some parts, story of a woman who is tired, or let’s say Exhausted with a capital E, of her current living situation and desperately wants to turn things around. Her desire to do this through heavily medicating herself is fascinating and keeps you hooked till the end.
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
Celeste Ng carefully manages to just give snippets of the main character’s past throughout the story, which made me want to read on and on. In the end you understand why she lives her life the way she does. Celeste definitely managed to create well-rounded, humane, characters.
The Mermaid – Christina Henry
A great fairy tale with a twist. If there’s a book on mermaids, dragons, and other magical creatures, I’ll definitely pick it up and read it. The story shows how one man’s obsession with the mermaid ultimately leads to her freedom, or does it.. really?
Vrouwen & Seks: van moederliefde tot seksrobot – Maartje Laterveer
A Dutch non-fiction book on female sexuality and how it’s still surrounded by taboo and (old) cliches. Maartje gives her perspective on the matter through her own experiences as a woman now and growing up. In each chapter she shares intimate experiences of other women as well, ranging from various ages. Anything on (female) sexuality sparks my interest, and so did this one!
Ze zullen wel denken dat we engelen zijn – Bert Natter
Another Dutch book, but fiction this time. This book overwhelmed me from the start and I finished it in one sitting. I felt on-edge the entire time reading this book. I felt some pity for the main character, Alfred, as he struggles with the aftermath of the attack which occurs at the beginning of the book. He questions his purpose and happiness in life, and whether he should have survived the attack. This book was an impulse buy, but I definitely didn’t regret buying it.
Noumenon – Marina J. Lostetter
A near-future scientist discovers a strange object, deep in space, and puts together a mission to find out what’s going on. Because the journey to this strobing star – or whatever it is – will take literal centuries (and the qualities and talents of the original crew need to be preserved), the space convoy will be populated by clones. But a clone is never an exact replica, and the convoy’s society changes as its population does.
I picked this book up for the Space Readathon organised by Sanne Vliegenthart (booksandquills on YouTube), and really enjoyed it. A compelling collection of character vignettes, moving through the generations. Don’t get too attached to anyone, though: this book goes through the decades pretty quickly and before you know it, you will have moved on by several generations.
Spinning Silver – Naomi Novik
This is a fairytale retelling, (very) loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin but with a great deal of Eastern European folk elements woven in. The story focuses on three young women: Miryem, daughter of a Jewish moneylender, Irina, daughter of an ambitious duke, and Wanda, daughter of a poor, abusive miller. The story is compelling and the characters are interesting, but I was most impressed by Novik’s way of incorporating harsh realities into the story. Issues such as antisemitism, abuse and poverty are perfectly balanced with the fantasy aspects of the book.
I hadn’t read anything by Novik before this, but I picked up her other novel, Uprooted, immediately after finishing. Definitely read this book in the middle of winter, huddled in a blanket and with some hot chocolate nearby.
The Calculating Stars – Mary Robinette Kowal
A huge meteorite has just struck Earth and our home planet will soon become uninhabitable. Humanity needs to get out while they can, but there’s one problem: it’s 1952 and space travel does not exist yet. The space program gets kicked into overdrive and Elma York, mathematician and former war pilot, is one of the women employed as a calculator. But even in the face of impending planetary doom, women are not allowed into space.
I loved reading from Elma’s perspective; she is such a complex and “real” character. The technical and human sides of this story are very well balanced and I found myself immediately reaching for the sequel.
Circe – Madeline Miller
I know next to nothing about Greek mythology, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get the ‘full experience’. Boy, was I wrong. Madeline Miller’s subtly enchanting writing drew me right in.
Born without any special powers or particular beauty, Circe (daughter of sun god Helios and Perse, a naiad) lives an unremarkable life in the halls of her father. Until, that is, she discovers she has an affinity for witchcraft. She is banished to an island, which is the best thing that could have happened to her: she is finally free. All kinds of important Greek gods and heroes make an appearance in this story (even I recognized most of them). A highly recommended read!
The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill
In the forest near the oppressive Protectorate lives a witch, who sometimes takes babies from one place to another and feeds them on starlight. One time, she accidentally feeds a baby girl moonlight and the girl becomes imbibed with magic. As the girl grows so do her powers, changing everything.
This fairytale-like, middle grade fantasy has many diverging storylines, which in the end somehow all tie together neatly. It’s so full of love that reading it made me totally warm and fuzzy inside. There’s also a dragon! A perfect winter read.
Trein met vertraging – Christophe van Gerrewey
After reading a positive and intriguing review, many years ago, I really wanted to read this novel, but I couldn’t find it in my local bookstores, and soon after mostly forgot about it. But early last year I chanced upon it in a 2nd-hand book market somewhere, and could finally start reading. Some people travel by train, but are delayed for some unknown reason, and slowly, with interior monologues, flashbacks, and dialogue, we get to know them better, while they discuss the delay, their lives, their problems. Nothing much actually happens, but you want to keep on reading. So that review was right, this book did not disappoint.
The Order of Time – Carlo Rovelli
A book about time, by the Italian bestselling science writer. Quite a difficult subject, and a lot of confusing, abstract concepts are presented – relativity, entropy, and the like – after which you really don’t have a clue anymore what time actually is. Or even íf it is. Not that I had much of a clue before, but after deconstructing so many preconceptions about what ‘time’ is, nothing really remains. So now I’m even more ‘no-clue-y’…
Knopen – Gunnhild Øyehaug
A very good collection of short stories, some surreal, absurdist, and/or funny, others dark, painful and/or uncomfortable, and some stretching the possibilities of what a ‘story’ can be, but all of them good. I’m a big fan of short stories, preferably a bit weird or ‘different’, and this Dutch publisher has released some 20 titles in their ‘Verhalen’-series; of the four I’ve read so far, all four where very satisfying! (English edition available here.)
Terra insecta – Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson
A very interesting and funny book about the amazing world of insects. Their shapes, behaviours, strange properties and important, but often invisible or at least overlooked, roles they play on this planet, are described in an enthousiastic and light-hearted way. With a lot of fun facts!! The author’s love of all things insect makes her warning of their rapid decline (in both species and numbers) even more painful. (English editions will be published in April 2019.)
Haroun and the Sea of Stories – Salman Rushdie
A lovely, and quite funny, modern fairy-tale, with lots of pop-culture references, adventure, word-play, and, of course, also a (not-too-subtle) political subtext. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Neil Gaiman said very nice things about this book, and now, being a Gaiman-fan and after reading Haroun… I understand why.
The Italian Teacher – Tom Rachman
A melancholy but ultimately faintly uplifting story about a son growing up in his father’s considerable shadow. It’s about fame and the destroyed lives it leaves in its wake, about the vapidness of the art community and about the worst, most selfish father in the world. Read it if you feel like growing to hate a fictional character.
Laura H. – Thomas Rueb
The true story of a Dutch girl who through a series of very poor decisions ends up with her husband and children in Syria, in IS-territory. Turns out life there is not as wonderful as they were promised, and within a year she decides she wants to leave again, with the help of her father back in The Netherlands. This book had me hooked from the start, and even though you know how it’s going to end (Laura H. is back home safe and sound, trying to live a normal, anonymous life), it’s still a nailbiter.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – Jeanette Winterson
Winterson has a very succinct writing style that I enjoy.
Gilliamesque – Terry Gilliam
A dive into the mind and past of the least visible Python. Not only is this autobiography jam-packed with encounters with other famous and notorious people who made western pop culture what it is today, he also proves to be a very compelling storyteller when it comes to his own tumultuous past. Not just recommended to Gilliam or Python fans, but to anyone with an interest in comedy and movies.
Please Look After Mother – Kyung-Sook Shin
A heartbreaking story about an elderly mother who goes missing whilst taking the subway in Seoul. Throughout the book we get a closer look at her life, which was full of terrible hardships. The book paints a striking picture of the very rapid way South Korea has modernized in the last few decades, with connections between generations becoming increasingly fragile because children grow up in a completely different world from their parents.
The Gone World – Tom Sweterlitsch
Silence of the Lambs in the universe of 12 Monkeys. Monstrous murders. Deep Time.
The Ring of the Nibelung – Richard Wagner, John Deathridge (translator)
Read the English translation on the right-hand page to know the story. Listen to the opera while reading along in German on the left-hand page for maximum enjoyment.
Ghosts of Tomorrow – Michael J. Fletcher
Ghost in the Shell à la Quentin Tarantino: orphan minds uploaded into combat chassis. Pulp-Popcorn-Military-Tech-SciFi. First published June 2013 as 88.
Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Part I (of II) of the reign of the Targaryen dynasty on Westeros. Plenty of fire, even more blood.
Tip: keep a print-out of a map of Westeros at hand while reading, to best keep track of where, when, who and what.
Sea of Rust – C. Robert Cargill
Wall*E, but visceral and heartbreaking. In a world in which humans have been eradicated, robots hunt each other down for parts for survival. Meet Brittle.
Andy: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol – Typex
Not just a very entertaining story based on the life of Andy Warhol, but also beautifully illustrated by Typex. He manages to capture every period in Warhol’s life in the comic book style of that period. Probably the best Graphic Novel of 2018.
The Gravediggers Union – Wes Craig
Besides working as gravediggers, the Gravediggers Union protects the world against the Supernatural. And that’s a good thing, too, as the Supernatural has gone berserk, the dead are rising from the grave, werewolves are prowling the streets and there’s demons everywhere. Drawn in an awesome fast and modern style.
Roly Poly – Daniel Semanas
Extremely vibrant and fun, Roly Poly is a bubblegum pop story about Phanta, a fearless roller-girl ready to kick ass. She goes on a fantastical psychedelic journey that takes everything she’s got.
Yragaël and Urm the Mad – Philipe Druillet
Druillet is my favorite 70’s French underground artist. He is one of the founding fathers of Metal Hurlant, the French Sci-Fi comics magazine for adults that set the tone for much of our visual culture in film, TV and comics. This long overdue reissue is one of the most epic stories in scale. Born from chaos, Prince Yragaël, is the last hope for Earth. Gods and demons roam through the lands, trying to take mastery of the Last Men. He falls prey to the queen of Spharain, and from their union comes a son, Urm: a grotesque fool with the potential to redeem mankind. A visually stunning work by the grand master of baroque science fiction.
Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection – Junji Ito
Ito is at it again with this collection of mindless horror manga. His rendition of Frankenstein is, quite in style with his other work, nothing short of ghastly. The 200 year-old story is rendered in all it’s gruesome details. Also in this collection are some of Ito’s short stories, as weird and gruesome as the horror he is well know for.
Blood, Fire, Death: The Swedish Metal Story – Ika Johannesson
Finally a great book about extreme metal again! Originally released in Swedish in 2011. This is a great updated collection with the history of mostly Swedish black and death metal bands. Lots of great interviews and recollection from the good old days. Also quite a lot of church burning and pigs blood. Good stuff.
The End Of Policing – Alex S. Vitale
Showing what’s wrong with policing in the USA and Europe. Working towards alternatives for policing. To quote: “At root, they fail to appreciate that the basic nature of the law and the police, since its earliest origins, is to be a tool for managing inequality and maintaining the status quo. Police reforms that fail to directly address this reality are doomed to reproduce it.”
Salvation – Peter F Hamilton
A new title by my all time favorite Sci-Fi writer. Once again weaving multiple story lines into one bigger story masterfully. Portals between worlds, strange aliens, the end of mankind and also some great murder mysteries. Once again a great read!
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Cooking – Samin Nosrat
Both a good cook book and a great read. Teaches the basics and so much more.
Florida – Lauren Groff
Best book I read this year. Terrific and terrifying stories about the mystery and darkness of motherhood; about the animalistic impulses in humans; about the omens in nature that tell us we don’t have control over anything, really; about marriage; about children; about snakes and panthers and rain.
Normal People – Sally Rooney
Well-told story that you should read in sitting/laying-on-the-couch. Full of beautiful and detailed observations about an on-and-off love between two young people from different backgrounds, who both try (struggle) to be ‘normal’.
The Friend – Sigrid Nunez (paperback edition expected in February 2019)
I haven’t finished this (National Book Award-winning) novel yet (I’m right in
the middle of it) but it’s been a very satisfying literary read so far. Nunez’s prose is pleasant: light and comic, even though the book is, in fact, about the mourning of a friend and a complicated
The Seas – Samantha Hunt
An extraordinary book that beckoned me every night before going to bed. I wanted to live in this one. It has a dark fairytale-esque aspect to it that appealed to me very much, not to mention the beautiful writing itself. A sad and tragic and beautiful book, teaming up with a down-to-earth style, making it very unusual and indelible.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
Hilarious but also rather sad: this is a novel about a young, grieving graduate student who decides she just wants to sleep for one year. The year leading up to the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. I almost read it in one go, if it weren’t for my own need to get some sleep every once in a while.
There is also an E-BOOK available for The Seas.
Empire of Silence – Christopher Ruocchio
Dune meets The Name of the Wind.
I was somewhat sceptical when the publisher described Empire of Silence in this way, but this is no exaggeration at all. This really is Dune meets The Name of the Wind. Ruocchio manages to combine epic interstellar worldbuilding with the traditional Campbellian Hero’s Journey but served with a rather dark twist.
The Poppy War – Rebecca Kuang
Rebecca Kuang comes crashing in with this smashing debut that mixes elements of Chinese history and mythological tales with the classic fantasy bildungsroman.
However, this novel goes way deeper than the standard ‘young hero’ learns a lot of cool abilities to fight ‘evil’. What you actually do when you acquired said ‘superpowers’ and life is slightly more complex than ‘throw a ring in a volcano’ is a theme that runs throughout The Poppy War and the ending – which I won’t spoil – subverts the typical hero’s journey in a very stunning and explosive way.
For fans of The Name of the Wind who like their fantasy (and humor) on the dark side.
Rosewater – Tade Thompson
Rosewater is the kind of Sci-Fi novel for readers who like things a bit out of the extraordinary. Imagine a splash of weirdness like Vandermeer’s Annihilation, combined with a dash of Ballardian nihilism and all set in a futuristic Nigeria in a world that resembles our own but yet feels incredibly alien at the same time.
Thompson weaves a thrilling mystery about an alien phenomenon while also telling the life story of our protagonist, a story that is not quite a bildungsroman but more a coming-of-acceptance story told in an often brutal but astute voice.
Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth
Economics is often called the dismal science, but in Doughnut Economics Kate Raworth shows in a persuasive way how economics can be transformed from profit maximizing and planet-devastating rationalization into a science that can actually help us figure out how to create economies that fulfill the needs of society without wrecking our natural habitat that is Earth. With the latest reports showing that humanity is heading towards catastrophical ecological collapse if we don’t literally clean up our act, this book is a timely clarion call to rethink the way we are living on this planet right now.
The Bullet Journal Method – Ryder Carroll
For years I’ve been hearing about people using bullet journals, but I thought it was mostly a way to make fancy to-do lists and beautiful drawings in a journal. Considering my handwriting looks like something that even the dread lord Cthulhu would consider slightly illegible and maddening to read, my sentiment was that a bullet journal was nothing for me. How wrong I was I realized after reading The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll, the inventor of the Bullet Journal system. It is actually a very tidy and handy system to collect your to-do’s and events on a daily basis. There is something very soothing and clarifying in sitting down every day and writing by hand the interesting things that have happened that day, checking and updating your to-do list and/or tracking your habits. The book gives you an easy-to-use system to plan ahead for your days, months and even further into the future and to collect all the information you really need to have in one place. So if you are planning on having a New Year’s Resolution, starting a Bullet Journal (and reading the book) is a good one to start 2019 with.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – Arundhati Roy
The Peregrine – J. A. Baker
Bash Bash Revolution – Douglas Lain
New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future – James Bridle
Mending Matters – Katrina Rodabaugh
Apparently mending is making a re-appearance in our lives, especially for people interested in helping save the planet. It’s hopefully here to stay and to teach people that you can still make beautiful things while also mending them for continuous use. Katrina Rodabaugh brings that ideal to us in a beautifully presented book.
The Calculating Stars + The Fated Sky – Mary Robinette Kowal
How would the Space Age develop if there were a meteor landing on Earth in 1952? How much influence could women and Black people have in that age? Mary Robinette Kowal deals brilliantly with these question in a really interesting way. Her main character is not very sympathetic, but you actually see how things would develop through her eyes.
Tilly and the Buttons: Stretch!: Make Yourself Comfortable Sewing with Knit Fabrics – Tilly Walnes
A very nice book for those starting to sew with knit fabrics. Beautiful and practical, it is a joy to read and to work with.
The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques – Lynda Maynard
For the more experienced seamstress, this is a beautiful and practical book. And since couture is on the up again, why not invest in it? I did!
The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Rat Queens vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch
1984 – George Orwell
Murder Mysteries – Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russel
Vox Machina: Origins – Matthew Colville, Olivia Samson (currently not available, not even through our supplier of second-hand books)
The Summer Dragon – Todd Lockwood
This book was recommended to me by a colleague and boy was he right. A great book with beautiful world-building and interesting characters. The action was gripping and suspenseful and I loved the way the dragons were not just their mounts but so much more.
Half a King – Joe Abercrombie
A book that took me by surprise. When I started reading this I expected an entirely different book. The main character is an extremely likable person that even in the face of such hardships does not lose his sense of self. A great book with a few plot twists I did not see coming.
The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli
I loved this book. Asha, the main character, was a great lead for this story. She is a strong woman with a troubled past. I know that sounds cliché but it really worked in this book. I kept wondering where it would take me and what Asha was going to do.
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
A world cloaked in mystery and suspense. It had a bit of a slow start but in the middle it picked up and it was just really hard to stop reading. I just wanted more of Kelsier and Vin.
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent
This was the first book by Hannah Kent and I liked it. But I liked her second book better. That was The Good People. So, I will certainly read her third book, too, when it comes out; that must be her best book.
Our Universe: An Astronomer’s Guide – Jo Dunkley
This book will be available in 2019. Jo Dunkley explains everything you need to know about physics, our universe and the history of astronomy in such a way that I finally understand a bit about them.
Ubuntu, Stroom van het bestaan als levensfilosofie – Mogobe Ramose
I hope this will be a philosophy that will change things in the right direction for this world. Mogobe Ramose explains how it works.
The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge – Jeremy Narby
How is it possible that Native people in America have known about the healing of plants with a structure that resembles DNA for thousands of years? And I wonder if Jeremy Narby will become the new Carlos Castaneda.
The New Silk Roads – Peter Frankopan
There is a shift in power about to happen in the world, maybe it is too late for the Western world.
There is also an E-BOOK available for The Cosmic Serpent.
The Machineries of Empire trilogy (Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem & Revenant Gun) – Yoon Ha Lee
SPLASH! That’s the sound your brain makes as it is hurled into the deep end from the opening sentence of book 1, Ninefox Gambit. No explanations or info dumps are forthcoming, either, but by the end of the second chapter you recognize enough of this alien world to be sucked into the story. Political intrigue, military SF, maths (on a tangent), and characters with proper messy lives. Although I found the first part the most impressive, the whole trilogy gives great food for thought (what would our lives look like if our minutes were suddenly declared to consist of 100 seconds? How completely messed up would we be? “Yours in calendrical heresy”, indeed!). A series to re-read, and an author to keep an eye on.
Record of a Spaceborn Few – Becky Chambers
If the universe in Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers books is the one we’re headed towards, count me in. This third installment starts a bit slow, but all the story strands are so carefully intertwined that by the end I was wholly invested and didn’t want the book to end. I really hope she’ll write a few more stories in this world that sees the beauty in the ordinary and believes in the inherent goodness of folks.
De olifant van de bovenbuurman – Roos van Rijswijk
I don’t read a lot of Dutch books, but I read Onheilig by Roos van Rijswijk last year and was mightily impressed with her style. She makes Dutch beautiful. This is a small collection of short stories THAT ARE THE LOUDEST THINGS YOU’LL EVER READ. You see, van Rijswijk used to live under someone who made so much noise that the only sane conclusion she could come to was that his flatmate must be an elephant. And these stories are the fruits of her imagination of their shenanigans. THEIR RAUCOUS, DEAFENING, CLAMOROUS SHENANIGANS. I will admit to getting loud myself because I was frequently laughing so hard. COVER YOUR EARS.
Florida – Lauren Groff
I’ve never read such a pitch perfect collection of stories. Each one is a multi-faceted unique little gem. These are tales of motherhood, climate change, snakes and nature, destitution. The mood is murky, unsettled, worrying. Groff has a real gift for presenting an image that perfectly encapsulates the core of the scene or character. I was spellbound.
The books from the Our Shared Shelf Feminist Book Club reading list, this year most notably Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo Lodge, Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde, and Good and Mad – Rebecca Traister
I’ve read all the books that have been set since the beginning of the book club three years ago (see the full list here), and all of them have given me insights into myself, the way we are socialized, and the damage that one world view can do to every one of us. I haven’t enjoyed reading all of them (some of them could really have used an editor, or an update) but they’ve all been thought-provoking.
I’ve also very much loved the discussions we’ve had every two months in our store in The Hague. I’ve met an amazing bunch of vibrant women (and some men!) who are willing to share their thoughts, listen to each other, and support ideas with energy and humor. I look forward to many more fiery discussions and eye-opening reads in 2019!
Honorable mentions: Bitch Planet, vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine – Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine de Landro, The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas, The Cold Dish – Craig Johnson, Blindsight – Peter Watts, Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit, Orchid & the Wasp – Caoilinn Hughes, Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, The Great Believers – Rebecca Makkai
There are also E-BOOKS available for Ninefox Gambit, Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun, Record of a Spaceborn Few, Sister Outsider, The Hate U Give, The Cold Dish, Blindsight (as part of the omnibus Firefall), Men Explain Things to Me, Orchid & the Wasp, Good Omens, and The Great Believers.