The Best Books We Read in 2018, So Far: Tommy Orange, Helen Hoang, Danielle Lazarin + More

See who tops our list of this month's must-reads.

Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far

Something old, something new. There’s nothing more exciting — and stressful! — than sharing our favorite books of the year with our readers. Of course, we take pleasure in giving recommendations, passing along deets (and accidental spoilers) of those books that blew our minds and held our eyes glued to the page from cover to cover, but there’s nothing more headache-inducing than giving a final verdict on the “best” books of the year — trust us, we had many options.

Our mid-year wrap-up of the best books we read in 2018 includes exciting entries by first-time authors Tommy Orange, Danielle Lazarin and Helen Hoang to new appearances from the likes of Catherine Lacey and Riley Sager, plus many familiar favorites from memory’s past.

Hence, we present to you the best books we read in 2018, so far:

Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far

The Assistants, Camille Perri

A heist novel for the new generation, The Assistants gives anyone who has ever been a disgruntled employee a huge vicarious thrill. A bit of a good girl gone bad narrative, Camille Perri’s debut novel follows Tina, an assistant who has always played by the rules until she’s given the opportunity to change her own life at her bosses’ expense. The underlying message of this novel is something so many women need to hear and remember: don’t accept less than you deserve and don’t be afraid to do what needs to be done. This novel is honest and hilarious and the kind of thrill that will inspire you to be bold after the last turn of the page. — Staff Writer, Rachel Gonzalez

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Tommy Orange There There

There There, Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange is a sage of the oral tradition and his arrival, There There, is a testimony of his deep-felt wisdom and allegiance to an indigenous people — his people — and their long-mistaken histories. Beating within are twelve Native souls, each of whom are called to the great Oakland Powwow — in search of identity, revelry, redemption — where unexpected reunion and calamity unfolds for a breathtaking finale. I held onto Orange’s book everywhere I went this summer and it has haunted me since I turned the final page. Jesmyn Ward‘s award-winning Sing, Unburied, Sing will be in great company as I can say with full confidence this triumphant tribute will earn Tommy the National Book Award plaudit he so decidedly deserves. — Editor-in-Chief, Paris Close

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far V.E. Schwab A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows, V.E. Schwab

When you read a lot of fantasy, there are times when it all seems to blend together. Common tropes and themes become a bit bland, elements of world-building may feel too similar to other works, and the idea of magic loses its initial spark. While fantasy can be a difficult genre for some to work with, V.E. Schwab showcases incredible talent through unique ideas and fresh takes on common tropes and magic, as can be seen in A Gathering of Shadows, the second book in the Shades of Magic series. Dynamic characters, complex stories and fascinating displays of magic unfold in A Gathering of Shadows, while a lingering conflict floats beneath the surface of revelry as a magical tournament takes place. As characters push themselves to the limit and deal with new emotions and discoveries, darkness unfolds, sending everything into chaos. Flawless transitions and excellent world-building unfold in A Gathering of Shadows, as Schwab takes her place as a master of fantasy by crafting a story that manages to feel perfect and complete, despite being only the second installment of a three-book series. — Senior Staff Writer, Melissa Ratcliff

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Margaret Atwood The Handmaids Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, there’s been a running joke that things will (or have) descended into a dystopian society similar to what Atwood penned in 1985. In addition to finally being able to comprehend all the “inside” jokes, I’ve also noticed the comparisons from then to now and I’ll admit, I was pretty freaked out by the similarities. I encourage every woman questioning or confused by the current administration’s treatment of women to read this book and decide for themselves if they feel that their best interests are being taken into consideration when legislation is being deliberated. — Staff Writer, Jasmyne Ray

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far What Girls Are Made Of Elana Arnold

What Girls Are Made Of, Elana K. Arnold

A finalist for the 2017 National Book Award, What Girls Are Made Of is a staggering novel about the dark elements of young womanhood that are never fully represented in commercial media or mainstream art. At the age of fourteen, Nina Faye’s mother tells her there is no such thing as unconditional love—not between parents and children, and especially not between lovers. Nina carries this with her into her first relationship in which she does everything in her power to make her boyfriend love her—to satisfy those unstated conditions. When he breaks up with her, she is at a complete loss. She is forced to re-calibrate her understanding of relationships of all kinds and comes to realize the flaws of her mother and the society that perpetuates the same “advise” as that she received at fourteen. It’s a densely layered story that compels readers to consider all the weight that’s laid upon girls before they even have a chance to grow up. — Contributing Writer, Leah Rodriguez

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far The Last Time I Lied Riley Sager

The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager

I devoured this book, and read almost the entire thing in one sitting! I love thrillers, and this was an excellent pick. It made me nostalgic as it focused on girls at a summer camp, and I loved going to camp when I was younger. The story felt so real and I felt like I was a part of it. This book was dark and twisty, and it certainly kept me on my toes. Emma is the main character of Sager’s newest thrill ride, but he managed to develop the secondary characters strongly as well. The writing style pulled me in and I loved how small tidbits of information were revealed slowly as the book progressed. Thrillers are one of my favorite genres and I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants to be on the edge of their seat. — Intern, Courtney Shapiro

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Back Talk Danielle Lazarin

Backtalk, Danielle Lazarin

Danielle Lazarin’s collection of short stories was one of those books that made my heart leap when I opened it back up at the end of each day—the same reaction you have seeing an old friend or returning home after a long time away. Each story focuses on a different young girl: her life, her fears, her friends, her hopes, idiosyncrasies, and anxieties. It feels horribly cliché to say, but I really did recognize bits myself in each girl, even if on the surface, we had nothing in common. Lazarin beautifully captures the pains and pleasures of growing up, of trying to stretch beyond yourself, of nearly losing your identity in a friendship or in a boy. How often are the stories of 12-15-year-old girls told to audiences outside that age bracket, and given a proper literary treatment? Backtalk feels like a small miracle, and writing this is reminding me that I need to re-read it again, like, right now. — Contributing Writer, Justine Goode

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

This was one of those books where I didn’t find out that it was a novel until the movie adaptation came out, thus causing a resurgence of popularity around the work that made Paula Hawkins a breakout in 2014. A close friend of mine spent the summer in Italy a year ago and while she was there, she raved over the novel, of how it kept her on edge until the very end. Always eager for new book recommendations, I took it upon myself to give it a try and was not disappointed. I finished the book over the course of a weekend, surprising myself because I don’t typically go for thrillers. Thanks to The Girl on the Train, I have a whole new genre to explore now. — JR

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Fredrik Backman Us Against You

Us Against You, Fredrik Backman

The sequel to Beartown, another amazing read, has characters with even more animation in Fredrik Backman’s second chapter, Us Against You. The story of hardships and supporting one another shines through easily in his new novel and I loved how Backman subtly included multiple perspectives and didn’t overwhelm us with the abundance of characters. The sequel was a perfect addition and I loved how it flowed so nicely after the events of the first, the writing was simple but earth-shattering all at once, and was one I finished in a short amount of time. I wanted to be a part of the novel just so I could help comfort the souls who were inside it. Backman made his characters have real issues that made the book easy to relate to. I read this recently, and I would definitely read it again! — CS

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Certain American States

Certain American States, Catherine Lacey

With striking style and authority over the millennial tongue, Catherine Lacey‘s Certain American States is a devouring collection sparked by emotion and a different sort of intimacy and weirdness often unwritten by contemporaries of her generation. In a dozen stories, across several state lines, Lacey summons with her characters the intuitive awakening of one’s right and passage to loneliness through strange encounters and stranger reckonings with ghosts of the past, present, and inevitable future. A hymn for the uprooted, the displaced, I found my tribe with each and every one of these beautiful creatures. — PC

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far The Lesser Bohemians Eimear McBride

The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride

The Lesser Bohemians was a fascinating read not only because of Eimear McBride’s tender and haunting depictions of first love, sexual trauma, and self-discovery but because its style was just as intriguing as its story. The Lesser Bohemians is narrated by Eilis, an 18-year-old Irish girl who moves to London for drama school and begins an affair with a much older actor. In order to capture Eilis’ turbulent interior monologue, McBride eschews traditional punctuation. Her sentences alternate between fragmented half-phrases and extended streams of consciousness and this unconventional style forced me to connect with the beating heart of the story, rather than linger on specific words or phrases. And Eilis and Stephen—frustrating, risqué, hurting, and real—were characters I profoundly enjoyed getting to know, despite an initial wariness. The Lesser Bohemians served as a striking reminder that the best reading experiences don’t always have to start as such and that your relationship with a book can shift and deepen as you go. — JG

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Royals Rachel Hawkins

Royals, Rachel Hawkins

I adored this book. Very few novels provoke such a strong, immediate response from yours truly, but everything about Royals was pure gold. In this fresh, funny young adult page-turner, Hawkins takes a stab at the Royal Wedding genre that’s been on the rise since Kate and William’s nuptials in 2011. Of course, these books can be trivial and silly and not one iota reflective of “deep societal issues,” but they’re often funny as hell as this novel proves to be an exemplary case. The story follows 17-year-old Daisy Winters who’s forced into the world of Scotland’s royal family because her sister, Ellie, is set to wed the future king. Ellie is perfect in every sense, practically destined to be a queen, but Daisy is certainly not. As she tries to juggle the priggish upper echelons of the royal family and their crew, Daisy has to stay on her sister’s good side and manage to stay away from Ellie’s fiance’s younger brother, Prince Sebastian–a teenager who could give the young Prince Harry a run for his money. I enjoyed every minute of it. — LR

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Franny and Zooey JD Salinger

Franny and Zooey, J.D. Salinger

Most people only know J.D. Salinger for The Catcher in the Rye, but he was an extremely talented writer of short stories. A few short stories associated with the characters Franny and Zooey Glass had been published in the New Yorker, but eventually, he put together a single novel about the two youngest members of the prodigal Glass family. Franny is a young twenty-something struggling to believe in something, specifically a higher power, and her older brother Zooey connects this struggle to her grief over the death of their oldest brother Seymour years before. The ultimate message, I feel, to this novel is “Is there a point to everything?” To which Franny discovers, along with the reader, that the answer is yes. — JR

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett Chelsea Sedoti

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, Chelsea Sedoti

This YA novel is a mix of a mystery novel and a coming of age story. Our protagonist, Hawthorne, is obsessed with the recent disappearance with the hometown sweetheart, Lizzie Lovett — but she’d never admitted it. Throughout her quest for the truth, she finds herself assuming the positions in the life Lizzie left behind, taking her former job and cozying up to her boyfriend. Hawthorne is not the most lovable protagonist, she’s immature, self-centered, and a bit of a brat, but the story she drives and the mess she gets herself into trying to prove everyone wrong about her is hard to put down. — RG

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far The Kiss Quotient Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang

It’s not often that I find a book that I cannot stop thinking about – one that influences my reading habits and has me craving more of the same style – only to discover that there is nothing remotely similar in the genre. Helen Hoang’s wonderfully crafted debut romance novel, The Kiss Quotient had such an impact on me; I would be lying to myself if I said that it wasn’t one of my favorite books of the year, if not one of my favorite romances of all time. From the complex characters and focus on developing relationships with high functioning autism, to the chemistry, passion, and emotion that slowly unfolds as the story progresses, everything about The Kiss Quotient is beautiful. Packed full of conflict and featuring two very different perspectives, including the much needed male perspective in romance, Hoang challenges the genre while offering something incredibly unique – an own voices story. — MR

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far The Nanny Leila Slimani

The Perfect Nanny, Leila Slimani

I’ve seen this book described several times as a “guilty pleasure,” or given lukewarm reviews that dismiss its characters as one-dimensional or unsympathetic—which makes me rabidly defensive because I thought it was excellent. I mean, this book was awarded the Prix Goncourt in France, so I can’t be totally crazy, right? Granted, my experience reading The Perfect Nanny was especially intense. The book’s plot revolves around the murder of two children at the hands of their nanny. The murder takes place in the family’s apartment on Rue Hauteville, in Paris’ 10th arrondissement. I read the book in one day while visiting Paris for the first time in three years. The last time I was there, I worked as a nanny for a French family and lived on the very same Rue Hauteville. I’m now realizing that I can’t fit all my feelings about this book into one paragraph — so stay tuned for a longer review of Slimani’s eerie and arresting English-language debut. — JG

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Best Books We Read in 2018 So Far Refuge Dina Nayeri

Refuge, Dina Nayeri

I don’t recall the exact name of the list on which I found this book, but said list included Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which was hands-down my favorite book of last year. Such was my motivation in seeking out this novel by the supremely talented Dina Nayeri. As the title implies, the book concerns the fate of refugees who settle in Europe and the United States…or those who attempt to settle in such places. The novel’s protagonist, Niloofar, is a young professor who spent most of her youth as a refugee in Oklahoma and then settled in Amsterdam with her French-American husband, Guillaume. Refugee novels such as this one aim to battle a certain level of misunderstanding or willful ignorance in the Europeans or Americans whose countries take in refugees. What stands out about Nayeri’s book is its psychological precision. It gets right to the core of Niloo’s experiences and those of her father who chooses to remain in Iran after his family leaves for the States. It’s a dark story but contains touches of humor that make it well worth a read. — LR

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Portrait artwork illustrated by Camie (@ohnoballoons)

Have you read any of our staff picks this month?

If so, share your thoughts with us in the comments section, below!
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