What books, movies, and music have you loved this year? The following lists bring together the cream of the crop of 2018’s books – from the picks of our staff and customers, to Best of the year lists published by magazines, newspapers and booksellers. Have your say!
- Best books for kids and teens
- Librarians select their top reads/watches/listens
- Library customers pick their favourites of 2018
- Best booklists of 2018 from New Zealand and around the world
- Best New Zealand book covers of 2018
- Have your say - tell us your faves and will add them to this page!
Best books for kids and teens
Librarians select the best books of the year for kids and teens.
Here are the books, movies, TV, and music that librarians loved in 2018:
- Skylark's War Hilary McKay. Clarry struggles against societal expectations for women and the devastation of the First World War in this bittersweet coming-of-age story for older children.
- Tess of the Road Rachel Hartman. If you're looking for a book that will make you both laugh and cry that includes dragons and seeking your fortune, then introduce yourself immediately to Tess of the Road.
- Truly Devious Maureen Johnson. Murder and mystery collide in this modern-day boarding school story for teens.
My favourite mysteries, fantasy and science fiction of the year so far.
The second Murderbot novella is just as delightful as the first. If you like awkward partly-human security bots who just want to watch their favourite shows but keep getting dragged into human problems (I mean who doesn't?), then you'll love this.
Twisty-turny murder mystery with a touch of scifi. Aiden lives the same day eight times each in a different person's body, trying to work out who is killing Evelyn every night — but each of his bodies is also being targeted.
If you liked "The Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis then this will be exactly your cup of tea — another classic tale of a woman being sent back in time, this time to plantation-era Maryland. Survival is difficult.
One of my favourite new fantasy authors, Arden writes lyrically about medieval Russia and the conflict between old beliefs and new Christianity, with a bunch of danger and undead thrown in. The second book, The Girl in the Tower, is also available.
Flames Robbie Arnott
"This is an astonishingly good book. It’s elemental, blurs the lines between reality and mythology, sweeps you up in atmosphere and the sense of place, and the use of language is sublime."
More 2018 "Best of" lists from Dan:
- Fiction and Fiction (part 2)
- Film and Television and Film and Television (part 2)
- Music and Music (part 2)
- Recreational Non-Fiction and Recreational Non-Fiction (part 2)
My picks of best New Zealand book covers for 2018.
My favourite books of the year. A Staff Pickles list.
I am a fan of the Pre-Raphs (highly recommended the tv series Desperate Romantics if you want a fun intro to them). I bought this book from Scorpio on the strength of an Instagram post. It is an introduction to women who were important in the Pre-Raphaelite scene, some I knew of, but many were new to me.
A gem of a book, it captures time, character, and a world now gone. I loved following the trajectory of Bill's hat business 'Willliam J' and the socialites. dowagers, and ballsy career girls he meets.
Recommended by Joyce, this is the sort of story you rarely see. Alas! Boring office work, travelling sales, small talk, etc - the characters are so vivid and compelling, especially the narrator and his boss Keith.
This book is all about Viv and her Mum and Dad and her sister and her daughter. This book is very much about whānau. It is a book full of revelations, for Viv and for us. I can't think of any memoir told with this level of honesty and rawness and self awareness.
A selection of books I enjoyed and appreciated this year.
The tennis star's deeply moving autobiography tells her story of coming to Australia as a refugee, the abuse she suffered from her father and how she is now healing.
Loosely connected stories of life in Berlin create a memorable novel looking at the legacies of the Second World War in an intimate way.
Revealing and sometimes confronting images of Los Angeles from the 1920s to the 1960s show the dark underbelly of crime and despair in the City of Angels.
An adorable and fun children's graphic novel, taking its inspiration from Cornish mythology and weaving into modern life.
Favourite books, movies and television shows enjoyed in twenty-eighteen. With a "best New Zealand" pick in each category too.
Best New Zealand fiction: Short stories that pummel you with grim, grimey reality.
Best "book of the movie": The novel of the Oscar-winning movie is its own work of art and what a gripping cold war feminist fairytale it is.
Best biography: Robert Webb's revealing look at the truly harmful "rules" of gender that make growing into a good man so difficult. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll search YouTube for that clip of him performing a Flashdance routine live on British telly...
Best backstory: Captain Phasma from the Star Wars movies gets a devastating origin story. A tale told by a Rebel spy being interrogated by one of Phasma's colleagues - will she be able to spin the tale out long enough to survive?
Best modern ghost story: Two white hipsters who get rich and famous off producing old, "authentic" sounding music, make a recording of a blues street performer and their worlds will never be the same again...
Hong Wang's Best Reads of 2018
The Travelling Cat Chronicles Hiro Arikawa (2017)
Adult Fiction: This book is about the life journey of Satoru and his cat Nana, which has been shaped by unexpected detours. I enjoyed reading the emotive and touching life events gently expressed in simple language.
Brain Rules for Aging Well John Medina (2018)
Adult Nonfiction: This book is for those who want to keep their brain sharp in their later life. The author’s ten brain rules for ageing well sound familiar but his insightful explanations are persuasive and instructional.
Number One Chinese Restaurant Lillian Li (2018)
Adult fiction: This book contains multi-paralleled stories about people who are behind a busy Chinese restaurant in America. The dark comedy used by the author to account for the complexity of life mixed with hardship, romance, loyalty, ambition and kindness has made this book unique.
Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading Lucy Mangan (2018)
Adult nonfiction: From The Very Hungry Caterpillar to Summer of My German Soldier, the author revisits her childhood reading and recalls her growing up with those be-loved books. I enjoy how the storyline seamlessly interweaves the author’s life experiences and events and characters in the books. The reading list at the end of the book is a useful resource of children’s literature.
沉睡的人鱼之家 chen shui de ren yu zhi jia东野圭吾著 Keigo Higashino (2017)
适合成年人的小说 Adult Fiction：这本小说描写了一位母亲为了维系年幼溺水脑死亡女儿的生命的悲伤而温暖的故事。小说中呈现的亲情、婚姻、技术和伦理拼接成的错综复杂的死亡之旅耐人寻味。
爱情故事 ai qing gu shi 莫言著 Mo, Yan (2017)
适合成年人的小说 Adult Fiction：这是一本短篇小说集，收集了莫言20世纪80到90年代的作品。小说中有对童年的回忆、民间传奇的描述、温暖的乡亲和城市的喧嚣。平直而幽默的语言是最大的看点。
Sons of Cain: A History of Serial Killers from the Stone Age to the Present Peter Vronsky (2018)
Adult nonfiction: This book accounts for serial killers as not only individuals with high psychopathy test but also a group of humans created with unique evolutionary, historical, social and cultural factors. The author’s holistic view on and in-depth analysis of mysterious and horrifying serial killing crimes have made the non-fiction book accessible and entertaining to the public.
How to shape a year in reading & watching? Do you plan? Thus far in life I seem to find myself on literary and cinematic tangents, one thing leading to another on a winding path until exhaustion, or until a serendipitous encounter with a book or movie swivels me towards new horizons. Below is a compilation of the books and movies that moved me most in 2018. So far I haven't any plans for my 2019 reading and watching - I'll continue to trust in my mental meanderings, and the wealth of inspiration available to me through conversations and encounters at the library!
Light pervades this work - written by an acclaimed Japanese author I hadn't encountered before I saw the book on a shelf at Tūranga and was attracted to the dreamy image on the cover. It follows a young mother who is living with her daughter on the top floor of a large, window-lined industrial building in Tokyo in the wake of separating from her husband. Originally released as a twelve part serial in a newspaper, each chapter describes an episode in the year of the woman's life. It details the internal struggles of a woman attempting to find direction and independence, grappling with societal pressures and expectations around how a woman should be.
Shamefully, I've waded into the Luminaries three times before, only to be distracted by other, thinner books, which beckoned to my sometimes fickle attention as I struggled through the narrative complexity of the long first part. 2018 saw my first completion of this beguiling, surprising, spectacular work (it bears re-reading, I think). Catton's masterful weaving of characters and celestial bodies wheels like the heavens towards a fated conclusion. Got me dreaming of gold weighted dresses and West Coast rain.
2018 has been my year of Ursula. I started with a collection of short stories I took into the bush for a week. I'd read one by candlelight in DOC huts & be transported to her other worlds. She is a deeply intelligent, lucid thinker, and her fiction provokes readers to reflect upon their worlds, asking profoundly necessary questions. The Left Hand of Darkness feels more relevant than ever, posing the question - what a would a world without gender be like? Alongside this, it's a moving story of love and adventure.
We don't yet have this DVD in the library collection, but I wanted to include it as I saw it at the NZIFF, which is an Ōtautahi highlight for me year on year. Birds of Passage tells the story of an indigenous Colombian Wayuu family that becomes embroiled in the drug trade, and an ensuing Shakespearean clash of families. The film is visually sumptuous, with wide angle shots of arid, windswept landscapes - a wind which whips the long colourful dresses of the women, and seems to have a life of its own - alongside beautiful recurring animal imagery in a heron who stalks dreamlike.
Another film set in South America, this time along the winding, awe-inspiring Amazon river. In it, a shaman who is the last of his Amazonian tribe encounters two European explorers, each with their own motives, 30 years apart. It explores the damaging effects of imperialism through the eyes of warrior-shaman Karamakate, and it is through his eyes the narratives unfold, indigenous concepts of the fluidity of time and the symbolism of animals woven into the story. And again - visually gorgeous in its black and white format. (I am eternally attracted to beautiful films).
Brought up in a secularized Jewish household on Manhattan's upper Eastside, Nancy Green knows suspiciously little about her parents' past. She knows they were World War II Jewish refugees who were able to escape Germany with precious family heirlooms that are constant reminders of a lost life and world Nancy knows very little about
High school senior Tanner Scott has hidden his bisexuality since his family moved to Utah, but he falls hard for Sebastian, a Mormon mentoring students in a writing seminar Tanner's best friend convinced him to take
Novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II
Cecilia Wilborg has the perfect life. Then Tobias enters her life. He is a small, friendless eight-year-old boy who just wants to find a home. But he threatens to bring Cecilia's world crashing down
- Silence of the Girls Pat Barker. A new take on Achilles and the sacking of Troy – focusing on the women who have largely been ignored. A rollicking story that you will want to finish quickly and then regret that you did!
- No Good Deed John Niven. You want to help an old friend who has fallen on hard times, perhaps this wasn’t the best decision?
- The Cactus Sarah Haywood. Pprickly is one word to describe Susan, and control is her middle name, but the possibility of getting pregnant could change everything
- Normal People Sally Rooney. Written by a young writer with a huge future who has a grasp on relationships that belies her age.
- The Growing Season Helen Sedgwick. Biotech baby pouches, childbirth has never been easier or safer…or so it seems?
- Pilgrim Terry Hayes. Full on adventure, terrorism and suspense. I couldn’t put this book down.
I’m going to go for my fave comfort read of the year as my recommendation: The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood. I love Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series of mysteries, and had thought, sadly, that she wasn’t going to revisit Corinna and the characters of her modern Melbourne-based Insula apartment building again. But she has! And it was good. Definitely the enjoyable light read I needed in a stressful year. If you liked the Phryne Fisher mysteries, I thoroughly recommend giving the Corinna Chapman series a go.
Normal People Sally Rooney. Long listed for the Man Booker Prize, a story about a turbulent relationship set over several years. As the relationship is far from normal, are Marianne and Connell normal people?
Wind River [movie] Inspired by true events - a very strong, emotive, quality mystery murder set amidst the desolation of the Wind River Indian Reservation where only the strong survive in this stark and brutal wilderness. Compelling drama with powerfully restrained performances from Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Graham Greene.
Sleeping Beauties Stephen and Owen King. A tough choice! I pick this book because it ticks all the boxes - great story concept; will women choose to live in a world without men?
Dracul Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker. Dracul is a gripping prequel to Dracula; harking back to Abraham Stoker’s childhood and a nanny who possesses unusual powers...
My best reads this year! A mix of fiction and great graphic novels.
American Utopia David Byrne [music]. David Byrne’s latest is both ambitious and accessible mixing politics with a determined optimism that is a pure delight.
Although it was published last year, one of my picks for this year is the audiobook version of The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. A beautifully-narrated, well-told tale of strong women, relationships, and espionage across two world wars.
Exit West Mohsin Hamid. A timely, important and beautiful novel about refugees and magical doors.
Best nonfiction book: 12 Rules for Life- The wisdom of the world (from the ancient Egyptians, to Dostoevsky, to Lobsters) is condensed here in 12 golden rules for life. One of the finest thinkers of our age, Peterson masterfully interweaves religion, psychology, literature, science and philosophy to produce this ultimate guide to life.
Best Who Dunnit: Money in the Morgue- A stylish mystery by New Zealand's very own Queens of Crime- Ngaio Marsh and Stella Duffy. In this gripping who dunnit, Inspector Alleyn makes a welcome return to 1930’s New Zealand, as he investigates the disappearance of a hospital payroll and the appearance of a dead body.
Best Classic: The Bell Jar- The Bell Jar draws readers into the mind of Esther Greenwood, a beautiful and talented young woman who is slowly breaking down. A harrowing yet extraordinary novel which reveals the darkess and helplessness of depression and the total lack of understanding accompanying it in the 1950’s, The Bell Jar is an important contribution to American literature.
Best History Book: Russia- Sixsmith manages to cover an extraordinary thousand year history- from the Mongul invasion of the Rus, to Putins Russia- in just 550 pages. Sixsmith keeps up a consistently gripping narrative weaving together fables, politics, literature and the arts to reveal the story and character of a fascinating nation.
Best Biography: The Vanished Landscape- A lovely record of a 1930s childhood set against the backdrop of the Stoke on Trent potteries. With warmth and humour, Johnson perfectly captures a bygone era where childhoods were freer and despite often immense poverty, imaginations soared.
Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump David Neiwert. A must read for political-trainspotters trying to understand the seemingly indecipherable emergence of not only Trump, but the re-emergence of the radical right in the American political scene that is well written, well researched, and at times harrowing. Laugh at the absurdity - or despair at the malice - of Alt-America.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeyman. I thought I knew where the story was going, was proved wrong as Eleanor is not fine but I so very much wanted her to be.
The Third Hotel Laura van den Berg. Secrets, marriage and the madness of grief are explored in this surreal and beautifully written novel as Clare pursues her recently deceased husband through the streets of Havana.
This is a list of some excellent movies and excellent CDs available from the library.
Rachael - Upper Riccarton
These are the best books I read this year. My love affair with African fiction continues.
I re-read my favourite book and it turns out it is as good as I'd remembered. Phew!
I hope Hank and John Green's mum is proud of them. This book was great fun to read. First contact and the nature of celebrity. I understand a sequel is in the works.
The struggles of post-grad studies, family issues, self-identity as an immigrant and mental health problems - you'd think this book would be really heavy-going but it is beautifully written and ultimately uplifting.
I really didn't know anything about post-WWII Egypt when I picked up this book. It follows several related characters and, like many African novels, deals with issues of post-colonialism.
This one had a twist I simply did not see coming. It's about gay teenager struggling with a very conservative family.
Get some African high fantasy! The blend of magic and Yoruba culture made this one a real page turner. I'm looking forward to further books in the series.
This is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish reading it. I am still unsure whether Ada is truly gifted and visited by gods or whether she is deeply unwell. Talk about unreliable narrators!
Imagine a solar flare so powerful it knocks pretty much all electricity off the grid. How are we going to save the astronauts stuck on the International Space Station? A thin band of latitude is still functioning, so it comes down to the Nigerian Space Agency to get the job done.
Three strangers on a Lagos beach witness a meteorite crash. The world will never be the same.
The follow-up to Akata Witch does not disappoint! Sunny and her friends save the world again.
Christchurch picks its favourites
Here are the favourites of library friends and customers:
Guest pick – Rachael King, programme director of WORD Christchurch picks The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy.
"The Cost of Living was the perfect book to be reading as I came off the intensity of the festival and started thinking about my own creative and writing life. It’s a slim, intensely distilled, thoughtful and deeply feminist memoir-in-essays about writing, motherhood, and how your world shifts and settles around you after a marriage ends. It’s really hard to pinpoint why it affected me so deeply, but I have heard similar responses from other women my age who are writers and I have recommended it to anyone who will listen. It’s the second in a proposed trilogy - needless to say I went straight out and bought the first volume, Things I Don’t Want to Know, which I’m saving for the holidays.”
Dave Pigeon (Racer!) and all the other Dave Pigeon books. They are funny and the pigeons make me laugh when they have the speech bubbles and their plans.
Have your say!
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2018 best book lists
- 20 best novels
- 20 best non-fiction books
- 20 best poetry books
- The 2018 Spinoff Review of Books Awards for New Zealand Literature
New Zealand Listener
The Sapling's selections of the 2018's best for kids and teens:
- Largehearted Boy's List of online "Best Books of 2018" lists
- Amazon best books of 2018 Editors’ picks
- Best children's books of 2018 Amazon
- Good Reads Choice Winners
- 100 Notable books of 2018 New York Times Book Review
- Best books of 2018 Publishers Weekly