Happy New Year, Book Lovers! Bibliophiles know the truth about New Year’s Eve: as we sing Auld Lang Syne and sip champagne, some of us are secretly waiting for the moment we can get back to that awesome book we’ve been reading so we can officially say we’ve read our first book of the year.
The new year is a time for new beginnings and a fresh batch of tantalizing, dazzling, can’t-put-them-down books! As we welcome 2019, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on our favorite books of 2018. What’s that one book you’ve read this year that you’ve been telling everyone about? I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of a colleague’s excitement about Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It was the epitome of a can’t-put-it-down novel, with the perfect mix of romance, mystery, and southern flare. Was there a book that took you by surprise? That you read on a whim, or to fulfill a reading challenge requirement, and yet you were mesmerized by every page turn? My surprise of 2018 was Bonfire by Krysten Ritter. If the author’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s an actress, known for Veronica Mars and the title role in Jessica Jones. Bonfire is her debut. I’ll admit to some pre-judgement; an actress-turned-novelist? My expectations were low. And what do you know? She is such a talented writer! Bonfire is a mystery/thriller that is well-written, with nuanced characters, a meaty yet cohesive storyline, a compelling protagonist, and sentences that are eloquent and purposeful, with not a false note to be found. I hope Krysten Ritter uses 2019 to write novel #2. Did you read any big, splashy books that lived up to the hype? You can include me among the legions of fans who fawned over Crazy Rich Asians and The Woman in the Window.
A few of my other favorites include:
Laurie Halse Anderson, with art work by Emily Carroll
Speak, a modern classic novel for teens, was originally published in 1999. This graphic novelization perfectly translates Anderson’s powerful story. Not only does Melinda’s dry, sardonic voice remain intact, but the stark images, rendered in black, white, and gray, are powerful visual companions.
This was one of my last reads of the year, and the timing was perfect: the story takes place during Christmas week and I read the novel the week before Christmas. I love that type of perfect synchronicity! This is a great read alike for fans of Big Little Lies. A divorced couple decide to spend Christmas together with their young daughter at a holiday resort…along with their new partners. Oh, and their daughter’s imaginary friend, Posey, a giant rabbit with a lot of opinions. You’ll breeze through it!
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Krosoczka is a popular picture book author who makes his graphic novel debut with this poignant memoir of a hardscrabble childhood spent mostly without his mother, who struggled with drug addiction. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and has been winning massive critical and popular acclaim since its release in October. You will root for Jarrett and find empathy for his big, loving family who do their best to care for him.
McNamara’s book, which details both the crimes of the Golden State Killer and the author’s own investigation and obsession with the cases, reads like a sophisticated piece of literature. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark has received a ton of press attention, first because the author (wife to actor/comedian Patton Oswalt) passed away suddenly before its completion, and later, when its release coincided with the capture of the long-elusive serial killer. McNamara is a gifted writer. The book is labyrinthine with plot twists and copious details. However, the evocative writing keeps it from reading like a stack of police files.
Kate Alice Marshall
Fans of Hatchet and other survival/adventure stories will eat up this incredible young adult novel about Jess Cooper, a teen sent to live with the father she has never known in the Canadian wilderness. When her father is killed and their cabin destroyed, Jess must survive the elements with only a dog as her companion. A harrowing and incredible novel that reads like a gut punch, as Jess struggles with one hardship after another.
Based on the books by Ann M. Martin. Adapted by Raina Telgemeier or Gale Galligan
The 1990s was the decade of the Baby-Sitters Club and, for me, 2018 was the year of the Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels. The Baby-Sitters Club was a formative book series in my life, forever shaping my existence as a reader. I loved those books so much, more than I can express. It was an absolute delight to read these adaptations, which were done with such care, love, and energy. I loved re-familiarizing myself with the story. Telgemeier and Galligan breathed new life into these classic characters without losing the spirit and realness of what made them special.
With some many amazing books out there, it’s always a challenge to pick the next one to read. It’s even harder when new and shiny stories enter the world, and 2019 is sure to usher in some greats. Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, and Oprah Magazine have all published lists of the most anticipated books of the new year. There are several that appear on multiple lists, including: Gingerbread, On the Come Up, Normal People, and Children of Virtue and Vengeance. It might be worth it to put your holds in now for these titles.
Those of you interested in a 2019 reading challenge are in luck, because I have found a “master list”, including a challenge solely devoted to reading books about animals! Our reference, young adult, and children’s librarians are always here to help you find a book, whether it’s one with a color in the title or a retelling of a classic work, we can track down even the most off-the-beaten-path book you can imagine.
This could also be the year that you finally keep track of what you read. Some people use a notebook and pen, others are loyal to their Goodreads shelves, and some keep it simple with a note in their phones. Since 2013, I’ve created a new Pinterest board for each year to track my reading. For the first time, I’ve decided to switch over to Goodreads and join a community of readers. Being able to refer back to some type of list is helpful when you’re trying to offer recommendations, find gifts for friends, or even just to bask in the glory of all your reading greatness.
Best of luck, readers, as you journey into this new year, armed with bookmarks, book lights, and reading glasses!