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The New York Times Selects its 10 Best Books of 2018

New York Times Top 10 Books of 2018

The New York Times has selected its best books of the year - and unlike many UK national newspapers it has kept its list short and sweet with just 10 fiction and non-fiction titles selected. 

The fiction camp is headed by Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday's debut novel which the New York Times says"manages to be, all at once, a transgressive roman √† clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction."

Rebecca Makkai's Man Booker-longlisted The Great Believers is another novel that makes the prestigious top 10 for its "deeply affecting" depiction of the 80s AIDs crisis and the 2015 Paris terror attacks. 

The Perfect Nanny (aka Lullaby) helped author Leila Slimani become the first Moroccan-born winner of France's Goncourt Prize. The NYT critics hailed it pithily as a "mesmerizingly twisted novel". 

Tommy Orange's debut novel, There There, earned comparisons with William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, with the Times' editors singling out its "moments of pure soaring beauty" as it tells the intertwined tales of Native Americans living in Oakland, California. The book also made The Guardian's selection of the best novels of the year. 

Rounding off the fiction selections is Washington Black, Esi Edugyan's Man Booker shortlisted novel about a freed slave's journeys from Barbados to Nova Scotia, sometimes travelling in a hot air balloon. The NYT hailed it as a "transcendent work of empathy and imagination".

The non-fiction titles are headed by American Prison, Shane Bauer's undercover exposé of a Louisiana prison. The Times' critics praised its "meticulous catalogue of horrors" stemming from the profit-focused prison industry flourishing in the US.

Tara Westover's memoir, Educated, caught the NYT's attention with its extraordinary tale of a home-schooled child from a survivalist family in Idaho ending up as a Cambridge scholar. It is "a book that testifies to an irrepressible thirst to learn" said the critics. 

David W Blight's biography of the anti-slavery campaigner and politician Frederick Douglass was singled out for its deep scholarship and authority. "The result is a portrait that is likely to stand as the definitive account for years to come," said the NYT.

How to Change Your Mind, Michael Polland's exploration of the history and science of psychadelic drugs also made the non-fiction top 5. "The book hits its high point when he examines the mysticism and spirituality of the psychedelic experience," opined the Times' critics, who noted also that Pollard dropped LSD as part of his research. 

The final non-fiction selection is Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs' memoir detailing her fraught relationship with her late father - Apple founder Steve Jobs. Her unflinching depiction of Jobs as  "a man prone to mind-boggling acts of emotional negligence and abuse" especially caught the critics' attention. 

Lisa Halliday

4.56 out of 5

4 reviews

A major publishing event: a dazzling, provocative, hand-grenade of a novel introducing a remarkable new writer

Rebecca Makkai

5.00 out of 5

3 reviews

A dazzling new novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris.

Leila Slimani

4.24 out of 5

6 reviews

They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family's chic apartment in Paris's upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties. The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other.

Tommy Orange

5.00 out of 5

3 reviews

This question shapes Tommy Orange's sorrowful, beautiful debut novel . A searing, haunting read, all the way to its violent, intense climax.'Mail on Sunday 'A magnificent achievement . Tommy Orange has written a tense, prismatic book with inexorable momentum.' New York Times`Masterful.

Esi Edugyan

4.33 out of 5

9 reviews

Inspired by a true story, Washington Black is the extraordinary tale of a world destroyed and made whole again.

Shane Bauer

0.00 out of 5

2 reviews

Tara Westover

4.76 out of 5

5 reviews

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. She hadn't been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she'd never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn't believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn't exist. As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd travelled too far.

David W. Blight

4.41 out of 5

3 reviews

"An acclaimed historian's definitive biography of the most important African-American figure of the 19th century, Frederick Douglass, who was to his century what Martin Luther King, Jr. was to the 20th century"--

Michael Pollan

4.56 out of 5

3 reviews

Lisa Brennan-Jobs

4.31 out of 5

6 reviews

A frank, smart and captivating memoir by the daughter of Apple founder Steve Jobs.