Spring is a great time for the world of books. All the self-proclaimed “Best New Books” of 2018 have been ushered onto shelves in the post-Christmas push, and there’s hopeful anticipation for the books that will shape summer reading lists everywhere.
In an effort to help sort through the publishing morass, I’ve put together a review of the best books of the past few months and a quick preview of the titles hitting shelves soon. Hopefully, you’ll find something here to intrigue and inspire.
If you want to read one of the best books that will be published in all of 2018…
Published just a week into 2018, Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists has received a fair amount of buzz. However, if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, do it now, before it ends up on every “Best Of” list at the end of the year.
The Immortalists tells the story of four young siblings, who, in 1969, traverse the streets of New York City to see a fortune teller. Once there, the fortune teller reveals to each child the date that they will die. While an intriguing hook, the execution of the resulting stories is where Benjamin shines. Each sibling’s story (with the book divided pretty much equally between the four) must answer some of life’s most demanding questions: How much of our life is predetermined by fate? Would knowing the date of your death impact how you live your life?
This isn’t a science fiction read. This is literature that shows humanity with all of its grandiosity and warts. It will take a phenomenal book to upend Benjamin’s tale as my early pick for the best book of 2018.
If you want to read the buzziest debut thriller since The Girl on the Train…
The Woman in the Window is almost a meta-thriller, complete with continual nods to Hitchcock and Agatha Christie. In some hands, this could come off as cloying, but A.J. Finn (a pseudonym for longtime mystery/thriller editor Dan Mallory) treats references as Easter Eggs for fans of the genre.
The “woman” of the title is Anna Fox, and Anna is agoraphobic. Trapped in her own home, she’s taken to watching others live their lives through, you guessed it, her window. After she thinks she sees a crime occur in a nearby house, Anna’s carefully cultivated locked-in life crumbles. Along the way, secrets are revealed from a number of parties, and the reader is kept guessing. The result: An imminently readable thriller that hits all the right notes.
If you want to read a nuanced courtroom drama with a story plucked from the headlines…
Written well before the #metoo movement but published in January, Anatomy of a Scandal is a timely examination of sexual assault, rape, and power structures that enable privilege. The book follows a young lawyer as she attempts to prosecute a well-to-do junior Home Office minister (we’re in Britain, btw) for rape.
To say more than that would be to give too much away, but I will say this: I flat-out loved this book. It’s a heavy subject matter, but it’s extremely well-told. Vaughan examines how rape happens, how the mind-set of the personable, attractive man who manipulates the woman who tries to make clear her lack of consent. Just as in life, there are no easy answers to be found in this book, but that doesn’t make it any less satisfying for the reader.
If you can’t wait for the next Stephen King book to come out…
A combination of It and the King short story “The Body” (better known as the movie Stand By Me), Tudor’s Chalk Man can best be described as creepy fun.
In 1986, five adolescent friends get wrapped up in some terrifying events, including the discovery of a dead body. Thirty years later, one of the friends returns to town, at which point things go sideways once again. There are parts to this story that may require a bit too much suspension of disbelief, but I truly enjoyed the book. And if you don’t believe me, listen to Uncle Stevie himself:
Want to read something good? You won't find it on the front bestseller table at your bookstore, but it's new, and will be there. THE CHALK MAN, by C.J. Tudor. If you like my stuff, you'll like this.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) February 20, 2018
If you want to find comfort in facts and statistics…
It’s easy to look at the world and think, “we’re fucked.” Pinker, however, disagrees. And for him, it’s not a matter of opinion. On the contrary, Enlightenment Now is chock full of data that suggests our world (and the people in it) have never been better off.
Pinker systematically works through improvements in humanity across nearly every conceivable area: racism, female empowerment, sexism, homophobia, car accidents, poverty, and on and on. The amount and depth of data is simultaneously staggering and convincing.
I’m sure the doomsayers will find quibbles with Pinker’s conclusions. For the rest of us who want to enjoy life, Enlightenment Now is a text that encourages gratitude.
Highly Anticipated but Not Yet Released