With dozens of book releases dropping each week and a crowded field of new authors clamoring for recognition, it can be easy to overlook some of 2018’s best titles. The year was packed with incredible reads that transported us to worlds we never knew, so Savoir Flair is glancing backwards at the ten absolute best books of the year in this round-up – and most of them happen to be by female authors, which was entirely a (wonderful) coincidence.
It’s easy to see why Michelle Obama was recently named the most admired woman in America. After a stellar turn as First Lady, she has maintained her characteristic charisma and generous spirit in the face of an increasingly divided political world. Her new memoir sets forth the kind of intimacy that fans of Obama yearn for as she lets readers into an inner sanctum that includes harrowing stories of miscarriages and ensuing fertility treatments, marriage counseling, raising children, and facing the kind of public scrutiny that many would have retreated from long ago. Its warm prose will make you feel like you’re sitting right in front of her – it’s no wonder this was the fastest selling book of 2018.
‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Sleeping Beauty gets a modern update in this acerbic, darkly funny book that Entertainment Weekly picked as its #1 read of 2018. The self-deprecating protagonist at its center is fresh out of college, alone in the world, and self-medicating into oblivion. Her plan is to shutter herself in her Upper East Side apartment and treat sleep like it’s a full-time job. A critical perspective on mental health, depression, and addiction are handled by the talented, biting prose of Iranian-Croatian writer Ottessa Moshfegh, whose talent for disarmingly funny language adds a sense of brevity that combats the darkness of her main character’s tortured reality.
‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Perfect Nanny
Are you a working mother who has been mommy-shamed or made to feel guilty for forging a career while trying to raise your children? Then this award-winning book will absolutely grip you. Written by Moroccan author Leila Slimani, it tells the story of a busy working mother who entrusts her children to a “perfect nanny” whom the children adore and whose credentials seem unparalleled, but as the story unfolds, her relationship with the children begins to look questionable. Poetic prose provides ripe and sometimes caustic imagery, and Slimani’s skilled storytelling allows for multiple interpretations of the nanny’s motives and behaviors.
‘The Perfect Nanny’ by Leila Slimani
Imagine the isolation of growing up in rural Idaho to a family of radical survivalist Mormon parents who believed that the “End Times” were near. Imagine not receiving a birth certificate until the age of nine, having no medical records because your family didn’t “believe” in doctors, never attending school, and working a traumatic job in your family’s junkyard as a child. This is all the real-life upbringing of Tara Westover, who escaped a harrowing life to enter college without a formal education of any kind, as chronicled by this memoir. It’s an inspiring tale of personal strength, overcoming extreme adversity, and the exhilaration that comes with breaking free of dogma and living your own life.
‘Educated’ by Tara Westover
When beloved fashion photographer Bill Cunningham passed away in 2016, his family expected to find a carefully curated photo archive left behind. What they didn’t expect to find was a completed manuscript of Cunningham’s memoir. A surprise to all, it emerged last year as the story of a young man who climbed the fashion ladder against all odds. Fashion Climbing also filled in the blanks when it came to Cunningham’s personal life and innermost thoughts as he was notoriously private and reclusive. It is an absolute treasure for the untold amount of people whom his pictures and insights touched.
“Fashion Climbing” by Bill Cunningham
The Woman in the Window
Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train – every year, a suspenseful novel comes along that sweeps everyone away with its storytelling prowess and shocking twists. In 2018, that novel is The Woman in the Window. As a New York Times bestseller, this book has everything an avid reader loves: compelling characters, unreliable narrators, shocking twists that even the best guessers don’t see coming. What’s more is that it feels very ordinary and predictable to begin with then slowly unravels, tempting you to turn the page again and again to find out what happens next. Of all the books on this list, this is the one we couldn’t put down. You’ll be happy to know it’s already being turned into a major motion picture starring Amy Adams.
‘The Woman in the Window’ by A.J. Finn
Nine Perfect Strangers
If the fact that Nine Perfect Strangers has already been optioned by Nicole Kidman excites you, then you’re in good company. As fans of author Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, we bought the book based on the promise of another suspenseful excursion and the possibility of seeing it expertly depicted onscreen in the near future. The book tells the story of a group of Australians who head to Tranquillum House for an adventure in wellness and holistic healing. While each character has come seeking wellness treatment, they seem to have little in common that binds them as a group. This is one book that is impossible to describe without giving away major spoilers, so we’ll just say that you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll be completely caught up in this clever little narrative.
‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ by Liane Moriarty
Rage Becomes Her
Some people use the descriptor “angry feminists” to delegitimize the work of women who are seeking equality between genders – as if they have nothing to be angry about. But in 2018, Soraya Chemaly argues that there is plenty worth getting enraged over as women still live disproportionately in poverty to men, as wage gaps between genders increase, and as discrimination and harassment are still very prevalent in the workplace. The author, however, believes that rage and anger are galvanizing forces that compel women to create paths toward justice and gender parity. Backed with an astonishing amount of evidence that proves anti-female bias on a shocking number of fronts, Rage Becomes Her might stoke some very strong emotions in the reader, but overall, it is a potent tool for righteous action.
‘Rage Becomes Her’ by Soraya Chemaly
Elizabeth Holmes – a brilliant, accomplished, Silicon Valley CEO – wanted to be the next Steve Jobs. She styled her look after Jobs, matched her patterns of speech to his, and adopted some of his same eccentricities. Her company Theranos was even poised to be “the iPod of healthcare”. Its technology was supposed to be so groundbreaking to the field of medical science that her company earned a $10 billion valuation almost overnight. It was all a lie. In Bad Blood, investigative reporter John Carreyrou exposes Holmes’ deception. The book chronicles the deceit behind the success of Theranos and its eventual downfall, but what is so compelling is the hubris and sociopathic behavior exhibited by Holmes throughout the duration of the legal proceedings against her.
“Bad Blood” by by John Carreyrou
I'll Be Gone in the Dark
This true crime novel has a startling backstory. The author, who is the wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, was on the verge of discovering who the “Golden State Killer” was after years of diligently tracking and investigating his crimes. In the 70s, he haunted California, escaping police at every turn as he terrorized neighborhoods with dozens of brutal and horrific crimes. He was never caught. Eventually, he stopped his reign of terror and disappeared. The author, seized by his despicable acts, investigated him for years, broke through with her DNA research, and then suddenly died at the age of 46 – right before the police arrested the man responsible. While police deny that her work helped solve the case, Oswalt has publicly pushed back and credits his wife with catching the killer.
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle McNamara