One of the many pleasures of book blogging is going back and remembering the high points from all those books read. Do you know what that means? That’s right, it’s time for the I Would Rather Be Reading Annual Book Awards! I read 54 books in 2018, and let me tell you, choosing wasn’t easy. I promise a few surprises as well as some new categories!
So let’s get started. I know you are dying with anticipation. After all, this is the biggest awards show of the year! Alright, maybe that’s pushing it slightly. Here are the books that made the final cut for 2018:
Best Translated Book
For the best work originally written in another language
Winner: The Vegetarian by Han Kang
We already have our first shocking twist! This book was my final review for last year. Han Kang is a completely new author for me, but I really loved this deliciously dark and surreal story. It often feels like you’re reading a dream come to life, and whether or not you love it as much as I did, I promise that you will be thinking about it long after you close the book.
Best Nonfiction Book
For the best dose of reality I received
Winner: ‘Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Although there are tons of books about the craft of writing, only a few are true necessities. My wife bought me this beautiful 30th Anniversary Edition due to losing my other copy. If you are a writer, invest your money in this book. You can thank me later.
Best Graphic Novel
For the most beautiful combination of words and visuals
Winner: Becoming Unbecoming by Una
Selecting a winner from this category was a struggle because honestly there were three powerful works that are quite deserving. In fact, I recommend you read all three of these graphic novels (the link above is a triple review). Becoming Unbecoming is Una’s memoir that explores sexual abuse toward women. The book alternates between her own memories of being a victim of sexual abuse with the true history of the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer who murdered and terrorized several women during the 70’s and 80’s. The emotional power of the content is matched by the beautiful artwork.
Honorable Mentions: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Best Short Story Collection
For the most accomplished group of short tales
Winner: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
This collection of sci-fi short stories demonstrates the extraordinary abilities of writer Ted Chiang. I loved this book from beginning to end. Intelligently written. a gift of pure genius in every single story.
Honorable Mention: Tenth of December by George Saunders
Best Science Fiction Novel
New category representing my undying love for the genre
Winner: The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
The year is 1996, and Earth is in the midst of an intergalactic war against a mysterious alien race known as the Taurans who have destroyed several of our exploration spaceships. Joe Haldeman’s classic novel is actually an allegory about Vietnam and soldiers returning to a home they no longer recognize. The Forever War is a phenomenal piece of science fiction.
Honorable Mention: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Winner: The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. Le Guin
I reread this trilogy in 2017 to relive some of my childhood, and it remains my favorite trilogy-not-a -trilogy of all time. Le Guin’s masterful writing shines through serving as an example of how fantasy fiction can be done properly. Hopefully soon I will read the fourth novel of the series called Tehanu.
Most Disturbing Book
For the book that is both brilliant yet unsettling
Winner: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
After over half a century, Lolita still has the power to both mesmerize and unnerve. Nabokov was a genius, penning some of the most beautiful writing ever put to paper. The true genius of his most famous novel is that Nabokov manages to connive us into feeling some measure of sympathy for his notorious protagonist Humbert Humbert. Throughout your reading experience, you are torn between the unsettling plot and the beauty of the language.
Honorable Mention: Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Most Beautiful Cover
Winner: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
Just look at this stunning cover with its combination of colors. It’s very pleasing to these eyes. The book itself is also quite a stunner, another solid work of science fiction.
Honorable Mention: The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Best Literary Event
Winner: Meeting Terry Brooks
Getting to meet the great Terry Brooks was such an honor. Hearing him speak and having this photo taken were the highlights of a great evening. I’m proud to now own two signed copies of his books.
For the best author I’ve read for the first time this year
Winner: Margaret Atwood
Prior to last year, I had never read anything by Margaret Atwood. After reading her short stories in Stone Mattress followed by her take on Homer’s Odyssey with The Penelopiad, I can clearly see why she is considered one of the best. Her use of humor combined with some brilliant insights into humanity make her one the best living authors today. I plan on reading several more works from this extraordinary writer including a little story called The Handmaid’s Tale (perhaps you’ve heard of it).
Lifetime Achievement Award
For the best author I have read this year, and before, who continues to impress
Winner: David Mitchell
This was another difficult decision between two of my favorite writers, but I have to give the award to David Mitchell because he consistently impresses me year after year. My first novel from him was his masterpiece Cloud Atlas. I was recently so blown away by his epic fantasy drama The Bone Clocks that I am now rereading Slade House and will make it a goal to read all of his books.
For the book that nearly zapped my zest for reading
Winner: The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan
Normally, I enjoy the macabre nature of McEwan’s work. I hated this one from start to finish. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t like any of the characters. I also got really bored despite the fact that it’s such a short work. Perhaps I missed the point McEwan was trying to make. Most likely, it was a combination of all of these factors. All I know is that it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth.
For the tome that deserves top honors
Winner: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Last year, I read lots of stories filled with dramatic moments, epic battles, and went to the farthest reaches of space and beyond. To the Lighthouse has none of this, yet it is a book that I hold in the highest esteem thanks to the brilliant writing of Virginia Woolf.
Despite weighing in at under 200 pages, this novel was one of the most complex and insightful studies of the human condition I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Woolf’s command of narrative and voice makes her a genius when it comes to characterization. Rather than compose the story in terms of plot development, Woolf focuses more on form which is essential to literature of the modernist era. Told in three distinct sections, Part One titled “The Window” takes place over the course of one specific day and is written in a stream-consciousness style that allows us inside the thoughts of a specific character. The point-of-view switches often between the characters, sometimes mid-sentence. I was amazed at how Woolf captured so many different inner voices so well.
I cannot wait to read more from Virginia Woolf, a writer who possessed extraordinary gifts. From this novel, I learned the important of the every day details. For this year, I’m planning on reading both Orlando and Mrs. Dalloway.
“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.”
As an added bonus, there is one final award……
Best Photographer Who Married Me
You may notice that each review comes with a beautiful photograph of the book. Well, my wife Natalie has been the woman behind the lens. If I took the pictures, which I have a couple of times, you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell what book it is (or that it’s even a book). Natalie has also been incredibly supportive of my writing and maintaining this little blog So congratulations to our surprise winner. Your prize is that you get to continue to take pictures, as well as edit and provide support. She really is all purpose.
Congratulations to all of our winners. That is the end of our show. I read some incredible books in 2018, and they all helped me to gain a clearer idea of what I love to read. I love writing this blog as I now can look back on a review and remember exactly what was occurring in my life at the time.
What were some of your favorite books of 2018? Let me know with a comment below.