It’s that odd week sandwiched between Christmas and New Year’s Eve where you find yourself sitting on the loo, scrolling through social media and feeling a sharp pang of existential dread when you realise it’s going to be 2019 in 5 days. And how on this godforsaken Earth did that happen?
Me, I’m not too worried as pangs of existential dread are as frequent in my life as trips from my bed to the fridge (it might be the two things are correlated but I’m afraid Christmas dinner has fogged up my mind), however I still felt like looking back on 2018 and attempting to come up with a Top 5 of the best books I’ve read this year. Now mind you, it’s not an easy task, especially considering that I’ve been reading some really good books lately and even more so since I started this blog. Nevertheless, my CV does say I appreciate a fresh challenge, so here I am taking on the biggest challenge of all: deciding what 5 books I liked best out of the nearly 30 books I really enjoyed. It’s like picking one and only one of your children to save from slaughter. I mean… fun?
Instead of ranking them – because I genuinely couldn’t – I’m going to mention them in chronological order, from my oldest read to my most recent one. You can find all the books I’ve read this year on my Goodreads profile (feel free to add me as a friend!). Now let’s dive right into it!
1 Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (the copy I read was the Italian translation by Silvia Castoldi, published by Fazi Editore). The novel – which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2009 – is set in Crosby, Maine, a truly insignificant middle-class town, where the lives of a multitude of people are deeply intertwined. Olive Kitteridge, a former primary school teacher, walks among them like a hurt cat licking its wounds, unknowingly touching and changing the lives of everyone around her. This novel just ticked all the right boxes for me: it was extremely realistic and deeply touching. Olive Kitteridge is a truly choral novel, animated by a polyphony of voices and a vibrant spirit that seems to stubbornly tie all characters to each other and to the life of Crosby. What I loved the most about the novel was Strout’s unique style – someone I know once described it as a “gentle observation”. She has the ability to see things obliquely, cutting deeply yet maintaining a breathtaking sensibility in her approach.
2 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I read it both in English and in the first Italian translation by Amalia D’Agostino Schanzer, published by Feltrinelli). Do I really need to say anything about this one? Do I? Mockingbird was an instant best-seller and won the Pulizer Prize in 1960 – and has been one of the most widely-read and best-loved novels of the past century. It’s a perfect combination of a coming-of-age story, Southern Gothic themes, humour, social commentary and, on top of that, some truly powerful messages. It’s a book I know I’ll re-read countless times in the future!
3 Macerie Prime & Sei Mesi Dopo (literally: Ruin Materials & Six Months Later) by Zerocalcare. For the past couple of years, I’ve been reading at least one or two graphic novels a year. This year, Zerocalcare’s Macerie Prime series takes the gold, hands down. This poignant, hard-hitting portrayal of the Italian Millennial generation, forever stuck in survival mode, did resonate with me quite a lot. I sometimes felt that Zerocalcare was finally voicing thoughts and feelings I never quite managed to express myself.
4 The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère (the copy I read was the Italian translation by Eliana Vicari Fabris, published by Adelphi). I’m not usually a fan of thriller, and true crime used to be a hard no for me (I’m too easily scared for that!), but I decided to give this one a go anyway. And I’m so happy I did, because I ended up loving it! A novelised biography of French killer Jean-Claude Romand, this book is a breathtaking trip into a deeply disturbed yet human mind. It’s wonderfully written and paced – Carrère managed to cast a page-turning spell on this novel. It’s admittedly a bit distressing at times, but I’d still definitely recommend it, even if you’re usually not one for true crime. Back in October I reviewed this book both in English and in Italian.
5 Istruzioni per diventare fascisti (literally: How to become a fascist) by Michela Murgia. Finally, one of my latest reads this year, this nonfiction pamphlet was truly eye-opening for me. Mockingly written from the point of view of a fascist trying to instruct others on how to become fascists, this short and deep-cutting book sheds a crude light on how widespread, alluring and deep-rooted fascist ideas are, even in a democratic society. Although the book does clearly reference the Italian political landscape, its core ideas and powerful messages are widely applicable. I truly hope it will be translated soon, as I believe it would be a much-needed read in many other countries, too!
Other titles I loved this year included: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet, Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood, On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, Prima le donne e i bambini by Elena Gianini Belotti, Resto qui by Matteo Balzano, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and last but not least My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.
Phew! That was… Surprisingly not bad? Feel free to let me know what books you loved this year either down below or on Instagram! This will be my last article this year so let me spend a few words to thank everyone who’s been reading and liking my posts for the past 3 months! It’s been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to write more reviews (and Grinch reviews!) next year. Have a lovely last couple of days and I’ll see you on the other side 🎇
This is M signing out for the rest of 2018 ✨