NYPL 2018 Best Books for Adults

Best Books of 2018

Welcome to the New York Public Library's 2018 Best Books for Adults! Our librarians—through their experience recommending books to patrons and as readers themselves—have highlighted their picks for 100 best books written for adults and published this year.

Our list goes beyond fiction and nonfiction, breaking down traditional genres to present categories such as “edge of your seat reads,” “escape to another world” and “for history lovers.” No matter what kind of reader you are, what genres or subjects you normally gravitate to, we’re confident that you will find a book to pull you deep into its world or open up yours.

Browse the categories below or start with our top 10 list, selected by a staff vote, to find your next great read.

Best Books for Adults

Best Books For Adults: Top 10

If They Come for Us: Poems by Fatimah Asghar
Poems that capture the experience of a Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America.

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
A darkly funny look at what the world would be like if there were no more men.

French Exit by Patrick deWitt
A smart, funny social comedy with one of the best characters we've ever read.

Barracoon: The Story of the Last 'Black Cargo' by Zora Neale Hurston
The true story of one of the last known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade.

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Reflections on the turbulent life of a Native-American writer.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Menacing true crime about a serial murderer and rapist in California in the 1970s and '80s.

Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe must decide between mortals and the gods.

A State of Freedom by Neel Mukherjee
Structurally creative and emotionally powerful, this novel about life in present-day India introduces a chorus of unforgettable voices.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Six separate voices spin the story of Rumpelstiltskin in an entirely new way.

There There by Tommy Orange
An ensemble cast of Oakland-born Native Americans will come together at the Great Oakland Powwow.

 

Edge-of-Your-Seat Reads

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Cassie Bowden is a flight attendant with a drinking problem. Rock bottom comes when she wakes up in a hotel room in Dubai with a dead man next to her.

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
A menacing psychological thriller that starts out like 'Rear Window' and then veers off into unexpected places.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
A thriller told from the perspective of three narrators: a woman, her ex-husband, and his fiance.

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
A support group of young mothers is rocked by the abduction of one of their babies and launch their own reckless investigation.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
A twisty, modern Gothic tale, set in England. Harriet “Hal” Westaway receives an letter erroneously stating that her grandmother is dead and Hal is a beneficiary of her will.

 

Escape to Another World

Semiosis by Sue Burke
After Earth has been decimated, human colonists hoping to create a new society encounter a planet with sentient plant life.

The Melody by Jim Crace
The story begins when Alfred Busi, a beloved musician, steps outside to investigate noises in his front yard and is bitten and beaten by what he believes is a naked male child.

Annex (The Violet Wars) by Rich Larson
Kids fighting back against an alien menace.

Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
A space opera full of battles and political intrigue.

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike
Authurian fantasy portraying the untold story of Languoreth—a forgotten queen of 6th-century Scotland.

The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith
A coming-of-age story set in a dystopian wasteland under constant threat by a pair of dragons circling in the sky.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
A band of human musicians are chosen to represent Earth in a galaxy-wide battle of the bands.

 

Fiction

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
A family saga set in New York City's Lower East Side, 1969. Four siblings sneak out to visit a psychic who reveals to each, separately, the exact date of his or her death.

America Is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo
Three generations of women from one immigrant family trying to reconcile the home they left behind with the life they're building in America.

Brother by David Chariandy
Set in a Toronto housing project in the early '80s, two Trinidadian immigrants dare to imagine better lives.

Kudos by Rachel Cusk
In this final book in the Outline trilogy, Faye attends a literary conference in Germany, describing settings and conversations in great detail.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Leni and her troubled family embark on a new way of life in Alaska’s wilderness in 1974.

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst
Follows the lives of four Oxford students from the early years of WWII to the present.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Roy and Celestial are married for just over a year when Roy is accused of rape and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
A woman serving two life sentences at a correctional facility in California reflects on the San Francisco of her youth and her relationship with her young son.

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
In these parallel narratives—one set in Chicago 1980s and the other in contemporary Paris—both characters struggle to come to terms with the way AIDS has affected their lives.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
A darkly funny comedy of manners in which a young woman living in New York City uses a combination of drugs to shut out the world for an entire year.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
A grieving woman becomes the guardian of her late best friend's enormous Great Dane, and she winds up forming a deep bond with the dog.

The Overstory by Richard Powers
Trees summon nine strangers to fight to save the last remaining acres of virgin forest.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
Two friends navigate poverty, abuse, and the pressure to find suitable husbands in contemporary South India.

Winter by Ali Smith
In the second novel in Smith's "Seasonal" cycle, a family and a stranger argue their way through a Christmas gathering.

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
Themes of borderland life, Southern California culture, and the immigrant experience influence the extended family of Miguel Angel de la Cruz, a patriarch slowly succumbing to illness.

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Five women navigate a near-future America in which abortion and assisted fertility have been outlawed.

 

For Art Lovers

Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures by Yvan Alagbé
France’s colonial history and current racial tensions underpin this disturbing and thought-provoking collection.

About Betty's Boob by Vero Cazot , art by Julie Rocheleau
An irreverent and inspiring story of courage.

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
Sabrina vanishes from her Chicago apartment. Unable to cope, her boyfriend Teddy takes refuge with his childhood friend Calvin, an Air Force airman struggling with the end of his marriage.

Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life by Ellen Forney
A survival guide for the bipolar.

Shit Is Real by Aisha Franz
A lonely woman sinks into a deep depression while house-sitting for a traveling neighbor.

Kafkaesque: Fourteen Stories by Peter Kuper
A nightmarish and surreal graphic adaptation of Kafka's short stories.

All the Answers by Michael Kupperman
An artist races to uncover and understand his father’s unusual childhood before his memories are lost to dementia.

Prism Stalker by Sloane Leong
Far from colonized space, a newly discovered planet teems with strange energies.

Berlin by Jason Lutes
The story of Berlin during the rise of Nazism, told through the eyes of its citizens.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell, art by Mike Feehan
The Red Scare is in full effect, and the House Un-American Activities Committee is hunting down every last subversive in show business. So far, Snagglepuss has stayed out of their spotlight.

Monster Portraits by Sofia Samatar
Investigates the concept of the monstrous through a mesmerizing combination of words and images.

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Science fiction, school drama, and a road trip.

 

For History Lovers

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
An alternative history that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and sentient elephants.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen
Parallel narratives about a British bomber pilot whose plane went down in Tuscany and his daughter, who travels to Tuscany to learn about her father.

White Rose, Black Forest by Eoin Dempsey
Just before the rise of Hitler, a German dissenter finds an airman lying unconscious in the snow.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon
Historical fiction that imagines the events leading up to the execution of Russia’s royal family in 1918.

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
The story of four women in Philadelphia during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
A novel based on the true story of an Auschwitz survivor who used his position as a concentration-camp tattoosit to secure food for his fellow prisoners.

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
After growing up in the care of a group of mysterious protectors during WWII, a young man endeavors to piece together the truth about his parents.

God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright
A fascinating look at the history, culture, and politics of Texas.

 

Love Stories

White Houses by Amy Bloom
Biographical fiction about a relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hitchcock.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
Marnie inherits a Brooklyn brownstone—and the previous owner's unfinished matchmaking projects.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
A funny, sweet story about two people falling in love without realizing it.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
A contemporary romance about two strangers who strike a deal to pose as a couple at an upcoming wedding.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
A sweet and erotic romance featuring an autistic heroine.

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
A rom-com in which opposites attract and friends become lovers.

Bad Reputation by Stefanie London
The second title in the Bad Bachelor series is a sexy tale of a man brought low by an app originally designed to help women make safer dating choices.

Time Was by Ian McDonald
An LGBTQ love story with a time slip.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
The story of a war correspondent who met and married Ernest Hemingway while she covered the Spanish Civil War.

 

Memoir

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
An essay collection exploring how we form our identities in life, in politics, and in art.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
American history and pop culture are put under a keen lens in this astute memoir.

The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir by Yrsa Daley-Ward
A mix of poetry and prose that recounts a harrowing coming-of-age story.

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers
The story of Mokhtar Alkhanshali, a Yemeni American in San Francisco, and his dream of resurrecting the ancient art of Yemeni coffee.

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
An exploration of addiction that blends memoir, cultural history, and literary criticism.

Calypso by David Sedaris
Reflective, sardonic, funny, personal essays.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
The author recounts her childhood growing up in a strict Mormon family.

 

Non-Fiction

One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson
A chronicle of voter suppression that exposes America's insidious history of policies blocking African Americans from voting.

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú
A former agent for the U.S. Border Patrol describes his upbringing as the son of a park ranger and grandson of a Mexican immigrant.

The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark
A sobering look at the 2014 poisoning of the residents of Flint, Michigan, by contaminated water, and the activism that followed.

Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley
Witty, sardonic observations on a range of topics.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when discussing racism—reactions that serve to protect their positions and maintain racial inequality.

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy
A reflection on ways that patriarchal dominance erases women's identity.

See What Can Be Done by Lorrie Moore
Clever and thought-provoking commentary on contemporary literature and society.

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble
An examination of search engine results through a feminist lens.

 

Poetry

Lake Michigan by Daniel Borzutzky
Imagines a prison located on the beaches of a Chicago that is privatized, racially segregated, and overrun by a brutal police force.

Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
A lyrical, imagistic narrative about life before, during, and after crossing the border.

New Poets of Native Nations by Heid E. Erdrich
An anthology celebrating 21 Native poets.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
Political poems written in traditional love-poem form.

Kindest Regards: New and Selected Poems by Ted Kooser
Rooted in the landscapes of the Midwest these poems reveal the emotional resonances within the ordinary.

The Carrying by Ada Limón
Lyrical observations on love, loneliness, life, and death.

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen
An LGBTQ Vietnamese-American poet reflects on whiteness, family, and identity.

Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez
The poet and son of Mexican immigrants explores the spaces between Mexico and America.

Junk by Tommy Pico
A book-length break-up poem.

The Final Voicemails: Poems by Max Ritvo
A selection of the late great poet's work, put together by fellow poet and Ritvo's professor, Louise Gluck.

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith
A collection that explores America's original racial sins and contemporary condition.

Eye Level by Jenny Xie
“Me? I'm just here in my traveler’s clothes, trying on each passing town for size.”

Brown by Kevin Young
At once personal reflection and commentary on society and culture—the best kind of poetry.

 

Short Stories

Some Trick by Helen DeWitt
A collection of stories that explore the mind of the creative genius and society's reaction to it.

The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories by Denis Johnson
Spare and literary, these stories deal with confronting mortality (among other themes).

You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
Ten entertaining stories of everyday revelations.

Last Stories by William Trevor
Reflective short stories about ordinary people living unheralded lives.

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Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations.