We present our list of the Top 10 Best Books of 2018.
Top 10: Manuscripts from Accra (Paulo Coelho)
“In life’s most significant moments we are always alone.”
The year is 1099, and the Muslims, Jews, and (Coptic) Christians of Jerusalem are about to be overrun by the armies of the European Crusaders. The people of the city will be slaughtered.
On the final day before their death, hundreds of residents gather around the city’s wisest man, the Copt, and question him about their fate, their faith, and the nature of humanity. A scribe records the proceedings.
Now, a millennium later, the proceedings are miraculously found and released for our reading pleasure. This is the fascinating premise for Paulo Coelho’s newest novel, Manuscript Found in Accra.
With this book, Mr. Coelho continues his intermingling of faith, fable, and fiction. But unlike The Alchemist and several of Mr. Coelho’s other books, Manuscript Found in Accra lacks one of the most fundamental elements of the classic novel: a story. The set-up is delicious: a cosmopolitan but nervous city, on the eve of its slaughter, queries a wise man for final advice. But can this one scene be an entire novel?
The answer to this question ultimately rests with the reader and her/his expectations. But this reviewer, at least, expects more storytelling in the fiction he reads.
Top 9: Top Ten (Katie Cotugno)
“It occurred to her to wonder if this was what growing up meant, to continuously find yourself in situations that you didn’t feel remotely prepared to handle.”
Top Ten is the story of Ryan and Gabby, who formed an unlikely friendship their freshman year of high school after they accidentally meet at a party. The novel begins with Ryan and Gabby hooking up shortly after their high school graduation and then jumps around to various major moments in their friendship. This is a book full of heart and heartbreak, friendship and romance.
If you’re looking for a fun contemporary romance with quirky characters and a lot of heart, then I would definitely recommend this book.
Top 8: What To Say Next (Julie Buxbaum)
“Good weird is what I’ve been telling myself I am for years, when being just plain weird was too much of a burden to carry.”
When you read a book that you can relate to, heck when you read a book that seemed to be talking to you or a book that makes it seem that you’re the one speaking, then you know that it is special. David Drucker here is socially isolated, he did not want to be bothered by anyone and people did not care anyway. He did not know the word lonely but he was lonely. What to Say Next relates the story of David and Kit Lowell, a popular girl who one day after her father died, sat with David on his lonely corner table at the cafeteria and started a conversation, a conversation which led her into the lonely world of David, and for David, it will unknowingly lead him in uncovering the truth about the death of Kit’s father.
There is something comforting about reading the experiences of introverts in a book; somehow, we don’t feel alone because we’re listening to someone who is like us, making our loneliness less profound. The author Julie Buxbaum says in her acknowledgment page: “I wanted to write a story…about the wonder of finding an honest and true friend when you feel at your most alone.” And by reading this book, we felt that we found a friend too.
Top 7: The Silent Cry (Kenzaburo Oe)
“The things you believe you really saw — the memories you’ve been constantly raking over — were nothing more than dreams all the time.”
First published in 1967, Kenzaburō Ōe’s Man’enGannen no Futtoboru (titled “The Silent Cry” in English) tells the story the story of two brothers Mitsusaburo and Takashi. Mitsu, as he was called, was an English professor in Tokyo, living with his alcoholic wife after having left their physically and mentally handicapped baby in an institution. His wayward younger brother Taka returns to Japan and together they return to their home village to deal with the family’s kura-yashiki — a traditional residence-storehouse – as Taka wanted to sell it to the ‘Emperor”, the wealthy Korean who is the most powerful figure in their village. With his gang, Taka sets off to dominate their village and bring back the glory days, organizing an uprising against the Emperor while relieving their family’s past.
(Kenzaburo) Oe has created something important in this book. This is an essential read for those who want to learn more about the Japanese culture and history, for The Silent Cry paints the differing characteristics of Japan in 1960’s: a violent, noisy and smoky city and a rural one, along with its people, their souls shattered by the war.
Top 6: What Happened (Hillary Clinton)
“Right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
“What Happened” is the story of the election of America, but also the story of a world who is searching for its identity, lost in all the noise. “What Happened” is the story of one woman who we all rallied behind. Ultimately, this is our story, the story of our defeat, and on how together, we can move onward.
The book serves as a beacon of hope moving forward. We knew it before we read it. It was not because of Clinton, it was not because we wanted to blame the other side, and in a brutal fashion have their transgressions read in a book. It was because it included the many things we could do to make things right, what we could do to remain fighting, the solid and clear instructions and choices we could make today, for the future.
When you read the book, it was like Clinton was there beside you, talking to you, narrating her experiences, airing her side of the story, sharing her thoughts and theories, as if she’s really close to you, more than you feel when you watch her campaign speeches. Because this book is raw and true, so its voice is clear.
There are some answers in this book, but ultimately we don’t need to know it all to move ahead. There will be more questions along the way, but what is important is that we know what we stand for, we know what we’re facing, and we know that onward, we’ll march together to face it.
Top 5: Call Me By Your Name (André Aciman)
“If you remember everything…then before you leave tomorrow…and there’s not a thing left to say in this life, then, just this once, turn to me…and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.”
The literal story is a tale of adolescent sexual awakening, set in the very well-appointed home of an academic, on the Italian Riviera, in the mid-1980s. Elio, the precocious 17-year-old son of the esteemed and open-minded scholar and his wife, falls fast and hard for Oliver, a 24-year-old postdoc teaching at Columbia, who has come to the mansion for six weeks to revise his manuscript — on Heraclitus, since this is a novel about time and love — before publication. Elio is smart, nervous, naïve, but also bold; Oliver is handsome, seductive and breezily American, given to phrases like “Later,” and abundantly “O.K. with” many things Elio is less O.K. with — O.K. with being Jewish, “with his body, with his looks, with his antic backhand, with his choice of books, music, films, friends.” From the first page, we know we’re in the crumbling terrain of memory. “I shut my eyes, say the word, and I’m back in Italy,” Elio writes from some later vantage point. Which is also, of course, to say: I am not in Italy now, I am not that young man, what I am going to describe is long over. Heraclitus, indeed.
In his essay “Pensione Eolo,” Andre Aciman writes, “Ultimately, the real site of nostalgia is not the place that was lost or the place that was never quite had in the first place; it is the text that must record that loss.” In other words, Elio and Oliver might give each other up, but the book that conjures them doesn’t give up either one. In fact, it brings them back together, reunites them, for a glorious endless summer. In the book, the river can be revisited. The closing words echo the title: a phrase simultaneously of elegy and of invitation.
Top 4: A Hologram for the King (Dave Eggers)
“What he had was a sense that few things mattered much. That few people are to be feared. And so he now faced all such situations with a sense of exhausted resolve, and he dealt with everything head-on.”
A Hologram for the King is the story of Alan Clay who flew to Saudi Arabia with his tech team to win the communications technology contract to a city that was being built in the middle of a desert. In here, we will learn about Alan’s problems, like that of many Americans, on his family, the money to send his daughter in college, his divorce, his past jobs, his debt to investors and the reality of the declining empire of America.
The book is a brave take on what was happening in America during its decline, it could not provide answers, however, just a deep reflection of what they were and what they have become. But that is not to say that this novel is about failure, if anything, it is the opposite, as readers would see especially on the end, where Eggers tells us that they do not need answers because they have it all along: their attitude of not giving up.
“Hologram” in a sense is the author’s way of telling himself and the readers that he wanted to do what should be done to improve his life, the life of millions in his country, to search for answers, even though he does not know how to, or where to search for it.
Bronze Award: They Both Die at the End (Adam Silvera)
“No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.”
“They Both Die at the End” has this world where a technological advancement led people to know if they will die that very day via a midnight phone call from a company which apparently can forecast death called “Death-Cast.” It follows the story of two “deckers,” the name attached to people who received such call, Mateo and Rufus, as they try to live their lives one last time.
…the book is not about the ifs of the stories. The book is not about death either. Rather, the book is about finding something special in the story of Mateo and Rufus: the unforgettable moments when you’re hours are fading fast, the reminiscing of the times with your family and friends as you bid farewell to them, the courage to take risks while preparing for the worst, and living life one last time before facing death.
The book will inspire us to dream bigger, delving into the question of how to live a life and not waste it. That was what this book taught me. You readers will cry, and the end will be sad, but that’s life isn’t? And if anything, this book taught me that entire lives aren’t lessons, but there are lessons in life.
Silver Award: How to Stop Time (Matt Haig)
“To cling to who I was, right at the beginning when I was just a small boy with a long name who responded to time and grew older like everybody else. But there is never a way into the before. All you can do with the past is carry it around, feeling its weight slowly increase, praying it never crushes you completely.”
“I am old,” says Tom Hazard, the main character of the story. “I am old – old in the way that a tree, or a quahog clam, or a Renaissance painting is old. To give you an idea: I was born well over four hundred years ago, on the third of March 1581 …” Tom is not an immortal, or a vampire in the terms of us Millennials. Nope, Tom ages too but not just as quick as a “normal” person. In his world, there are “Albas”, like himself, and “Mayflies” like us.
The sorrow and sadness and loneliness could be felt in every word uttered by Tom as he relieves the past, “and the pain coincides with memories,” he said. Through Tom, the book also discusses the meaning of life, or rather on how to live a life, to exist on it. He asked some important questions like what you would do if you could live without doubt. “What battle would I fight?” Tom goes on. “Which paths would I step down? What joys would I allow myself? What internal mysteries would I solve? How, in short, would I live?”
(Matt) Haig’s mastery of history is amazing but How to Stop Time is not so much as history or the society or its plot, rather it’s strength lies on Tom’s journey and realizations about time and wanting to live despite his sorrow and loneliness, while hanging on to memories. As F. Scott Fitzgerald said: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.”
Best Book of 2018 Gold Award: Ginger Kid (Steve Hofstetter)
“Making people laugh didn’t make them my friends. That made them my audience.”
In Ginger Kid, comedian Steve Hofstetter tells about his experience in high school from being at the bottom of the chain to dating, to finding your calling early on in life. Plus some family drama and chaos. It was a story of a bully and the lessons he learned along the way.
On the first page, Hofstetter says “my story comes out okay in the end. I’m hoping that yours does, too.” It made us smile. He said that he hopes that we can see his story as his own, and for most parts, we did.
Hofstetter’s experience was somehow everybody’s experience, one way or another. From not being poor but being hungry from time to time, to having small successes in school, to experiencing many firsts (going to a faraway house of a friend, to dating). This is somehow a comedian’s guide to his profession, but in a way, it is everyone’s guide to life because, really, we need a laugh once in a while.