The best books of 2018
2018 was a great year for books! Here are CBC Books's favourite books of the year.
Washington Black tells the story of 11-year-old Washington Black, a slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. His master is Englishman Christopher Wilde, who is obsessed with developing a machine that can fly. The two develop a bond, but when a man is killed, Wilde must choose between his family and saving Washington's life — and the choice results in an unforgettable adventure around the world.
- See the rest of CBC Books' picks for best English-language Canadian fiction
- See Radio-Canada's picks for best French-language fiction
Terese Marie Mailhot traces her life story from a dysfunctional upbringing on Seabird Island in B.C., with an activist mother and abusive father, to an acceptance into the Masters of Fine Art program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico. This slim poetic volume packs a powerful punch in just 140 pages.
- See the rest of CBC Books' picks for best English-language Canadian nonfiction
- See Radio-Canada's picks for best French-language nonfiction
Kagiso Lesego Molope's YA novel follows a 13-year-old narrator named Naledi who witnesses her beloved older brother committing a terrible act of violence. Naledi is lost in the aftermath, unsure how to reconcile who she thought her brother was with what he has done. Set in the 1990s, This Book Betrays My Brother received the 2013 Percy FitzPatrick Prize for Youth Literature in South Africa where it was first published.
Set in Victorian London, Sweep revolves around a young orphan girl named Nan who sweeps chimneys for a dangerous and hardscrabble living. Nan nearly perishes in a deadly chimney fire, but is saved when a piece of charcoal comes to life as a mysterious golem-like creature. Together, the two hatch a plan to rescue young orphan chimney sweeps from losing their lives on the job for cruel masters.
In The Funeral, a young girl named Norma goes to her great-uncle Frank's funeral. She has fun playing with her favourite cousin Ray, but the experience makes her start to question ideas and ceremonies surrounding life and death. Vivid and kind, The Funeral is award-winning illustrator Matt James's first picture book as a writer.
Hartley's Lin's stunning book follows a young, work-obsessed law clerk named Frances Scarland, struggling to find balance and meaning in her life and career. Her best friend and roommate is Vickie, a talented actress looking for her big break. Young Frances is an extension of Lin's award-winning Pope Hats series, and marks his first full-length book under his real name.
- See the rest of CBC Books' picks for best English-language Canadian comics
- See Radio-Canada's picks for best French-language comics
The Blue Clerk is an argument between the poet and the titular "blue clerk," who is the keeper of the page. Throughout the course of their conversation, philosophers, poets and artists are referenced and memory, culture, language and beauty are explored. Brand is one of Canada's most celebrated poets and is a member of the Order of Canada.
- See the rest of CBC Books' picks for best English-language Canadian poetry
- See Radio-Canada's picks for best French-language poetry
Our top pick: There There by Tommy Orange
Tommy Orange's multi-perspective novel skillfully balances a cast of compelling characters, as they all head to Oakland's first Powwow with a range of intentions in mind. Jacquie Red Feather hopes to reconnect with her family after achieving sobriety. Young Orvil has been learning Indigenous dances from YouTube and is ready to perform them publicly. Edwin Frank hopes to find his father. Rotating between a dozen characters, Orange's acclaimed debut novel offers an unflinching look at life on a reservation.
Our top pick: Educated by Tara Westover
In this memoir, Tara Westover recounts her escape from a violent upbringing and her first day of school at the age of 17. From a childhood spent preparing for the apocalypse to winning a fellowship from the University of Cambridge, Educated is a powerful story of triumph and perseverance.