A couple of months ago I listed the best five non-fiction books I've read this year, now it's the turn to go through my favourite novels of the first half of 2018.
The Nix by Nathan Hill
One of the most overused words in book reviews is 'self-indulgent'. I'm never quite sure what they mean by it. Anyway, it got used a lot with The Nix and with little reason because it's just a fantastic book. It revolves around a 30 something professor who is tasked with writing a book about the mother who abandoned him when he was eight and has since been arrested for attacking a politician. With multiple subplots and strands weaved throughout, The Nix remains a very easy and entertaining read despite its 750+ pages with a somewhat farcical comedy undertone softening some rather more serious plotlines.
Also, Guy Periwinkle is my favourite supporting character in a novel for quite some time.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Flowers for Algernon is frequently held up as one of the best sci-fi novels of all time; it should be considered as simply a fantastic book, sci-fi or not. It focuses on Charlie Gordon, a mentally disabled grown man who has surgery to increase his intelligence to superhuman levels, and how he copes with this change.
My siblings and I often used the word 'retard' unthinkingly growing up and this book really hit home at just how awful that was. I'm not sure if any other novel has stayed with me as much as Flowers for Algernon has. A magnificent book.
Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Brunner's dystopian novel has a rather unique sense of worldbuilding, with entire chapters devoted to providing newspaper, television, book extracts and conversations that ultimately enrich the overarching storylines.
After c. 30% I was thinking it would likely be my book of the year; it tailed off somewhat from there and would never regain such heights but it is still a worthy read.
Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
I've read it before and following the television series I'm sure everyone knows the book. It's brilliant.
Ablutions by Patrick deWitt
DeWitt is one of my favourite authors and one of a very small group where I keep an eye on release dates of new works. Ablutions isn't quite as good as The Sisters Brothers or Undermajordomo Minor, but it's still very good. Dialogue is characteristically snappy and tinged with dark comedy throughout and the characters vivid.
I can't wait for both the August release of French Exit and the film adaptation of The Sisters Brothers.
Others that nearly made the list:
- The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick 8/10
- Inverted World by Christopher Priest 8/10
- Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru 7.5/10