2018 Notable Books List: Year’s best in fiction, nonfiction and poetry announced

The Reference and User Services Association’s Notable Books Council, first established in 1944, has announced the 2018 selections of the Notable Books List, an annual best-of list comprised of twenty six titles written for adult readers and published in the US including fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The list was announced today during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting in Denver.

The 2018 Notable Books List selections are:


“Stay with Me” by Ayobami Adebayo. Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House .
Secrets and loss torment a modern Nigerian couple.

“Days without End” by Sebastian Barry. Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
A tender love story between two soldiers spans the mid-nineteenth century American wars.

“The Last Ballad” by Wiley Cash. William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
A fateful decision puts a mother on a collision course with history during a 1929 textile mill strike in North Carolina.

“American War” by Omar El Akkad. Alfred A. Knopf.
A second Civil War turns lives upside down in this devastating vision of a dystopian future.

“Here in Berlin” by Cristina Garcia. Counterpoint Press.
Through interviews with myriad characters a mysterious visitor to Germany unveils the lasting consequences of WWII.

“Less” by Andrew Sean Greer. Lee Boudreaux Books, an imprint of Little, Brown & Co, a division of Hachette Book Group.
A fifty-year old novelist experiences a second coming-of-age in this madcap romp through the literary world.

“Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid. Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Random House.
A young couple’s relationship takes on the velocity of their city’s civil unrest and evolves as they experience life as refugees.

“Human Acts” by Han Kang. Hogarth, an imprint of the Crown Publishing.
Following the brutal Gwangju Uprising and the murder of a teenage boy, a series of linked stories relates the experiences of the victims and the survivors.

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee. Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group.
This immersive multigenerational saga follows a Korean family in Twentieth Century Japan.

“Solar Bones” by Mike McCormack. Soho Press Inc.
A man sits at his kitchen table and ruminates on his life’s mistakes and accomplishments and ponders the meaning of it all.

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders. Random House, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Three characters stuck in an ambiguous limbo after their deaths narrate the story of the president’s visits to the graveyard following the tragic loss of his son.

“Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward. Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster.
A lyrical and psychologically astute exploration of the gravity of history that still ripples through the lives of a Mississippi family.


“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir” by Sherman Alexie. Little, Brown & Co, a division of Hachette Book Group.
A deeply moving memoir about a son’s complicated relationship with his mother told in seventy-eight poems and seventy-eight essays.

“Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam” by Mark Bowden. Atlantic Monthly Press.
A multiple perspective account of what proved to be a decisive moment in a conflict that is indelibly marked on the American psyche.

“The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir” by Thi Bui. Abrams ComicArts, an imprint of ABRAMS.
A first generation immigrant reflects on her family history in this nonfiction graphic novel.

“Grant” by Ron Chernow. Penguin Press.
In this definitive biography, new scholarship illuminates the life of a complex American president.

“The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies” by Jason Fagone. Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
A biography of the forgotten heroine who founded American cryptography and cracked the Nazi Enigma machine.

“The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine” by Lindsey Fitzharris. Scientific American.
A gory history of nineteenth century surgery and the adoption of modern antiseptic practices.

“Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay. Harper, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
This candid account lays bare the author’s personal demons.

“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann. Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House.
A combination of history and true crime, in which a Native American tribe is defrauded and nearly eradicated.

“Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire: A Study of Genius, Mania, and Character” by Kay Redfield Jamison. Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House.
A multi-layered exploration of an American literary giant and the relationship between creativity and mental illness.

“Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women” by Kate Moore. Sourcebooks.
In early twentieth century watch factories, dial painters suffer the deterioration of their bodies and fight to pave the way for workplace safety standards.

“Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital” by David Oshinsky. Doubleday, a division of Penguin Random House.
The story of New York’s enduring medical institution chronicles three hundred years of public health care.

“The Blood of Emmett Till” by Timothy Tyson. Simon and Schuster.
Drawing on new information, the author returns to the 1955 lynching of an African American boy in Mississippi.


“I Know Your Kind” by William Brewer. Milkweed Editions.
Set in small town Appalachia, this powerful collection humanizes America’s opioid epidemic.

“Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded” by Molly McCully Brown. Persea Books.
A dark imagining of life at a government run institution.

The winners were selected by the Notable Books Council whose members include twelve expert readers’ advisory and collection development librarians. The Council considers titles based on stellar reviews published in standard library reviewing sources and other authoritative sources. Derived from this list is the longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, ALA’s highest honor for books written for adults.

The Council includes Craig Clark, Freelance Librarian, Columbus, OH, chair; Kristen Allen-Vogel, Dayton Metro Library, co-chair; Rochelle Ballard, Princeton University; Vicki L. Gregory, University of South Florida; Marlene Harris, TAPPI Information Resources Library; Hilary Albert, Mahopac Public Library; William Kelly, Cuyahoga County Public Library; Lynn Lobash, New York Public Library; Christine Wells, NoveList; Mary Callaghan (Cal) Zunt, Freelance Librarian, Cleveland, OH; Louisa Whitfield-Smith, Kansas City, Kansas Public Library; Lizzie Gall, Jefferson County Public Library.

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