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2018 Staff Picks: Fiction

By Skokie Staff Bibliocommons Adult Services

Our expert staff take a look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • The Great Believers

    2018 by Makkai, Rebecca

    Maybe it's because his book felt local and personal (Makkai is a local author), but more likely I absolutely loved this book because of its excellent storytelling and writing. Makkai explores the very beginning of the AIDS epidemic in Chicago, through the eyes of those who endured it. It also happens to have one of the best endings I have read in a very long time. If you liked Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne or A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, you will appreciate the loveliness and heartbreak of this book. Recommended by Kathy, Megan, and Terry.

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  • Immigrant, Montana

    2018 by Kumar, Amitava

    With wry humor and a self-consciousness particularly needed in the #MeToo era, Amitava Kumar's novel looks, with affection, at the desire, beauty, and political ideals of youth. I enjoyed the odd juxtapositions Kailash, a young graduate student from India, experiences as he navigates academic stresses and sexual experimentation. I started reading the book on a plane and couldn't put it down, even after I'd arrived at my destination hours later. Recommended by Mimosa.

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  • Circe: A Novel

    2018 by Miller, Madeline

    I love this book because it tells the story of a character that could almost be overlooked in The Odyssey and tells her story so completely and so beautifully. Recommended by Leah.

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  • Lying in Wait

    2018 by Nugent, Liz

    A great thriller about a psychotic mother and her family. Nugent crafts the story perfectly to heighten suspense at the right times and at just the right pace. Recommended by Cecilia.

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  • You Me Everything

    2018 by Isaac, Catherine

    Mostly set in France, this story of a woman and the father of her son gave emotional wallop after wallop. I really liked the way Isaac tells a story, fleshes out her characters, and weaves everything together. Recommended by Cecilia.

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  • Clock Dance

    2018 by Tyler, Anne

    Ordinary and fascinating are one and the same in Tyler's world and that feels very wise and true. She appreciates the uniqueness of every character, particularly their potential for self-discovery and change. As always, her book is accessible, heartening, charming, and brilliantly subtle. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Go, Went, Gone

    2017 by Erpenbeck, Jenny

    I found this story of a retired German professor who becomes involved in the lives of African refugees in Berlin a timely and thought-provoking depiction of the plight of asylum seekers. It’s an exquisitely-written portrayal of the connections between human beings, the failures of law and social conscience, and the recognition of individuals who, grouped together, are often seen as nothing more than a social problem. Recommended by Jenny.

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  • Hotel Silence

    2018 by Auður A. Ólafsdóttir

    Don't be fooled by this book's slender size and spare prose. With a theme similar to A Man Called Ove, it is a profound but gentle story that walks the line between hope and despair, and humor and melancholy, ultimately landing on the side of optimism. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Harry's Trees

    2018 by Cohen, Jon

    This is a wonderfully imaginative, playful tale of grief, magic, the power of stories, and friendship, all handled sweetly, and at times comically. Quirky characters and an upbeat ending make this a great pick for a lighter read. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Theory of Shadows

    2018 by Maurensig, Paolo

    There’s an intriguing mystery at the heart of this literary novel inspired by historical fact: just how, exactly, did a disgraced Russian chess champion meet his seedy end in a Portuguese hotel room? It’s easy to admire the artfulness of this slim work while eagerly turning the pages to follow the compelling story line. Recommended by Steven.

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  • The Silent Companions

    2018 by Purcell, Laura

    The genre of Gothic horror is in very good hands as Purcell relates the unpleasant surprises that await a Victorian widow when she takes up residence in her husband’s forbidding ancestral mansion. Purcell understands what makes traditional Gothic fiction so effective and adds just the right amount of modern freshness. This reads like a very well done horror movie in book form. Recommended by Steven.

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  • How to Be Famous: A Novel

    2018 by Moran, Caitlin

    I loved How to Build a Girl and love this sequel just as much. No one is better at calling out misogyny and double standards than Moran. It doesn't hurt that her creation, Dolly, is wholly unique and oh so very funny. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • Unsheltered: A Novel

    2018 by Kingsolver, Barbara

    I love how Kingsolver addresses the current political and environmental situation in parallel stories of families living in the same crumbling house during different eras. Each family finds their own ways of coping with changing times and social mores which resonate deeply with our current climate. Recommended by Terry.

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  • A Place for Us: A Novel

    2018 by Mirza, Fatima Farheen

    A complex, touching, and memorable story of an Indian couple raising their three American-born children in California. The novel examines the theme of belonging, and how culture and immigrant status play a part in that, particularly for Muslims in post-911 America. On a more intimate level, though, the story resonated with me as a realistic and universal tale of a family struggling with divergent generational expectations and values. Recommended by Roseann.

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  • The Heart's Invisible Furies

    2017 by Boyne, John

    The saga of a gay man raised by upper-crust adoptive parents who never fail to remind him that “he is not a real Avery,” is an empathetic portrayal of one man’s search for identity and love in Catholic Ireland. Sad at times, hilarious at others, filled with irony and unlikely coincidences, but always heartfelt and sensitive, this isn’t just one of my favorite books of the year, but one of my new favorites, period. Recommended by Roseann.

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  • Don't Skip Out on Me: A Novel

    2018 by Vlautin, Willy

    Elderly Nevada sheep ranchers depend on their good-hearted young charge, Horace, and fully intend to leave the ranch to him someday. But Horace has another dream—of becoming a professional Mexican boxer (though he isn’t Mexican and freezes in the ring). Sounds like a comedic premise, but this is one of the most touching and beautifully written novels I’ve read this year, of a young man who follows his dreams to their inevitable and heart-wrenching conclusion and of the foster parents who, as much as it pains them, love him enough to let him go. Recommended by Roseann.

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  • There There

    2018 by Orange, Tommy

    In an amazing debut, Tommy Orange deftly handles a large cast of Native Americans headed to a powwow in Oakland, California. This book deserves all the praise it has gotten this year--it is absolutely arresting and highlights a population (urban, modern Native Americans) that we rarely see in fiction. Recommended by Kathy.

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  • Census

    2018 by Ball, Jesse

    Such a wonderfully strange and surprising story of a man traveling with his developmentally disabled son through an unnamed country taking the census. But this census was not like any census I have known and similarly, this book was not like anything I have read. Recommended by Kathy.

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  • A Princess in Theory

    2018 by Cole, Alyssa

    At first rejecting the emails that an Africian prince wants to marry her as spam, grad student Naledi Smith is shocked to find out she is royalty after all. Sizzling chemistry between the prince and Ledi, and a charming story that doesn't shy away from the realities of discrimination faced by a black women in science, made this my favorite romance novel of the year. Allyssa Cole is one the best new writers in the genre; she hits all the right notes to keep her readers engaged. Recommended by Lynnanne and Sharon.

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  • An American Marriage

    2018 by Jones, Tayari

    It's a compact story when it comes to its scope but very deep in its emotional resonance. Without giving out too much, it's a beautiful book about obligation and desire in life and marriage. It's a book about injustice and bad luck. It's a story about love and convenience. It's a great book discussion title. It's a book about one version of an American marriage. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Washington Black: A Novel

    2018 by Edugyan, Esi

    A lovely, dark, historical adventure story with a touch of magic, made even more special as an audiobook narrated by the masterful Dion Graham. For the fans of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead but also for the readers of the classic adventure stories of H. Rider Haggard. Recommended by Megan.

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  • The Mere Wife

    2018 by Headley, Maria Dahvana

    This contemporary Beowulf is a smart, feminist tale of women as mothers and as warriors and a satire of modern suburbia, with prose that is wondrous, lyrical, and propelling. I flew through the novel, which had me captivated from start to finish and pondering the question of “who are the monsters here?” Headley is a genius of a storyteller. Recommended by Roseann.

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  • Florida

    2018 by Groff, Lauren

    I confess that I didn't love Lauren Groff's popular Fates and Furies (2015), and approached this short story collection with some reservations, but it's one of the most skillfully and beautifully crafted collections I've read in years. Groff writes with love, fear, and anxiety about her home state in a way that feels darkly and universally recognizable, even if, like me, you've never set foot in Florida. Recommended by Lindsay.

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  • Tempest

    2018 by Jenkins, Beverly

    A love story written by the queen of historical romance and set in the Wyoming Territory during the late 1800's. Strong on historical detail, romantic feelings, and gutsy heroines. You can start with this book or go back to the first installment, Forbidden Romance, and learn the origin story of this romantic, historical family saga. Recommended by Megan.

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