From astounding novels to beautiful poetry collections and unforgettable non-fiction, discover the very best literary books of 2018 as selected by the Picador editorial team
The book I was anticipating reading most was Kudos by Rachel Cusk; I rushed to read it the weekend after it was published and although I didn't love it as much as Transit, her previous novel, it concludes her remarkable Outline Trilogy, and I still think, taken together, they're one of the most remarkable works of fiction I've read so far this decade. - Kris Doyle, Senior Commisioning Editor
The Shepherd's Hut by Tim Winton is a passionate, angry rush of a novel, and quite simply, an astounding masterpiece. It is the story of a boy called Jaxie, who has run into the wilderness after a terrible event at home - and there's no chance he can return. Jaxie is the sort of lost young man we might all avoid, and yet this book drops us into the middle of Jaxie's emotional landscape so that we feel as abandoned, as in danger, as set free as he does.
Tim Winton presents us with a boy who has been abused, forgotten, feared, and makes him worthy of our interest and our love. The Shepherd's Hut is heart-stopping journey across a landscape that becomes a heartbreaking story of compassion and friendship. - Sophie Jonathan, Senior Commissioning Editor
In Who Is Mary Sue? Sophie Collins shifts between poetry, prose and collage to explore shame, patriarchy and selfhood, the result is a sublime and fearlessly feminist debut collection that you will press into the hands of everyone you know. - Kishani Widyaratna, Editor
Set in Singapore, and spanning decades, Ponti is the story of three women – Amisa, once a beautiful actress; her lonely teenage daughter, Szu; and Szu’s only friend in the world, Circe – and the unlikely artefact that fascinates and divides them: the series of horror films that Amisa starred in when she was young and beautiful. What floored me from the moment I first read Ponti was Teo’s dialogue, which is funny and breathtakingly sharp. These were conversations I wanted to overhear, characters I wanted to know intimately. And then there’s the strange world she builds for them. Ponti is thick with the heat of Singapore, with darkness and claustrophobia, with the over ripe and the under loved.
On each re-read, a new layer of this book slips into the edge of your vision: the noughties pop culture references, the grim fascination of just how 70s horror movies created the sound of someone being stabbed in the stomach, or the Malay and Chinese mythology that haunts both the setting and its characters. There is Singapore itself – rich and ever-changing – fascinating and grotesque. And of course, this is a book packed with the best possible descriptions of teenagehood. There are lines in Ponti that make me shout with recognition – we were all there once. - Sophie Jonathan, Senior Commissioning Editor
Of the things I published, I'd like to recommend The Crossway by Guy Stagg, which is a work of non-fiction full of wonder, delight, searing honesty and compassion; it's simultaneously epic and intimate, timely and timeless, and I'm totally in awe of both the writing and the subject. If you like either classic travel writing or literary memoir, I urge you to give it a read. - Kris Doyle, Senior Commisioning Editor
Terrance Hayes’s American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin collects seventy sonnets Hayes wrote after Trump’s election, all addressed to his would-be assassins as a black man in America. They read as an urgent, interrogative and formally beautiful diary-like sequence, quite unlike anything else.
This spring I read a proof copy (one of the very great advantages of working in publishing) of Olivia Laing's Crudo and raced through it. It’s short, but every sentence counts and Laing has, I think, done something remarkable, which is to distil the anxiety that permeates all our lives in these disquieting times into art. I loved every word. - Georgina Morley, Non-Fiction Editorial Director
I inhaled Notes To Self and thought every one of Emilie Pine's essays utterly incredible - gripping and moving, impassioned and angry-making in all the right ways. Her writing is pitch-perfect, lyrical and her subjects so deeply, painfully personal, that it felt like a genuine privilege to read these essays.
It is so rare to read something that is so very moving and so affecting that it feels like an intimate conversation between the author and reader, but that's what Emilie does, and to lift your head after reading these essays and realize that others have read and reacted in the same way is a strangely exposing experience. I was totally blown away by Notes To Self, and I think they are essays I will return to again and again. - Sophie Jonathan, Senior Commissioning Editor
Of the many novels not published by Picador that I managed to read this year, I so admired Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under. I was very taken by her short story collection, Fen, so knew that I wanted to read the novel the moment it appeared. A dark tale of mothers and daughters and the complicated relationships between them, and an eerie retelling of the Oedipus story, freighted with myth and fairy-tale, I was enthralled by it. - Georgina Morley, Non-Fiction Editorial Director
The book I read this year that hit me hardest was Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey, though it was actually published at the end of 2017; it begins with the author's experience of growing up in poverty and then flourishes into a bigger and more important argument; if you wanted to try to understand some of what's going on in our country, you could do worse than to start with Darren's unforgettable book. - Kris Doyle, Senior Commisioning Editor
This was a bumper year for brilliant fiction, essays, poetry and translation, in large part thanks to independent publishers who continue to do the most. I enjoyed a number of novels by return favourites, but it was Sarah Moss’s Ghost Wall that took me by surprise— it’s somehow about bog people, queer sexual awakening, toxic families and Brexit all at once. The writing is achingly clear and sensuous, the book has crept into my bones. - Kishani Widyaratna, Editor
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