Pi Arts & Culture’s ‘Best of 2018’ series highlights the favourite things we’ve seen, heard and read this year. From Booker-nominated evocations of young love to gripping fantasy epics, these are our writers’ favourite books from the last twelve months.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Kamila Shamsie transposes the myth of Antigone to the modern day in this epic, unforgettable novel. Home Fire is told from the perspective of Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz, siblings reconciling their identity as British Muslims in the shadow of their jihadi father. In parallel lie Eamonn and Karamat Lone, a British-Pakistani family that have separated from their faith, the latter rising to become the UK’s first Muslim Home Secretary (Shamsie’s ability to predict the appointment of our own Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, is somewhat unnerving). Beyond being an exploration of the eternal conflict between family and state, Home Fire also insightfully challenges the fear-mongering that continues to surround immigration – it is a necessary antidote for our troubling times.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
With her second novel, Ottessa Moshfegh is slowly presenting herself as a serious force to be reckoned with on the literary scene, thanks to her novels anchored in strangely humorous exploration of the repulsive, disgusting corners of life. My Year of Rest and Relaxation tells the story of an unnamed narrator living in New York in 2000 who, becoming increasingly detached and disillusioned by the world around her, attempts to use a collection of medications to induce chemical hibernation. Narrated with witty cynicism, but reading more like Fight Club, Moshfegh offers a sharp critique of our increasing desensitisation, a threat becoming terrifyingly apparent with every day.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney’s debut, Conversations with Friends, was on our ‘Best of’ list last year, and this year sees her return with a Booker Prize longlisted follow up. Normal People follows the relationship between Connell and Marianne through glimpses over time (think One Day by David Nicholls, but shorter and less structured). It’s easier to sum up than Rooney’s first book, and a little shorter, but to me at least, Normal People is richer and left me with more. Hopefully, this year, more of my long-suffering friends will take up my Rooney recommendation.
Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
2018 saw the release of Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer in paperback, a book which immediately became one of my all-time favourites. The third book in his highly successful Stormlight Archives series, Oathbringer shows the heroes challenged beyond anything we’ve previously seen. The series follows several individuals through slavery, war, and betrayal, as they must uncover their history to fight against the devastation that will wipe their race from the earth. With a beautifully crafted story that will undoubtedly reduce you to tears, rich lore, rounded and fascinating characters, and a gripping plot, the book is ideal for any fantasy lover.
This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
There were times, on the tube this summer, when I had to stop reading this book because it was reducing me to uncontrollable, not-acceptable-in-public laughter. Written between 2005 and 2010, This is Going to Hurt is the diary that Adam Kay kept while a junior doctor in the NHS. From dealing with mind-bogglingly incompetent administration, to comforting patients who have inserted objects into places they really, really don’t belong, the anecdotes are unfailingly hilarious. However, it’s not all laughs – Kay also describes, with great frankness, the many difficulties faced by NHS hospitals and their staff, and in the final diary entry, he recounts the situation that ultimately led to him hanging up his stethoscope. Despite it being barely two pages worth of text, it’s powerful and affecting. I won’t forget it, nor the book as a whole, for a long time.