Dan's top reads of 2018

Well, it’s official. Just over 24 hours until the snowplough that has been 2018 cuts its engine, turns off the lights and retires for the year. Before we don our fanciest clothing and choose between getting drunk and hazy around friends or being miserable and glum at home under the flicker of the ten-watt bulb (unless you’re one of those techno-freaks who have already connected their LED bulbs with an Alexa device – in that case, I’m probably not talking to you…

It’s been a fun one all around. For writers, for politicians, for friends, families, and loved ones. But this is the exciting part that my fingers have been itching to get a-tapping into for the last few weeks—my top 5 reads of 2018!

Each year I’ve been setting my goals higher and higher for number of books read in the year. This year I smashed my goal of 40 books, coming in at a grand total of 52! (that’s one per week for people who like to do the math…). That number can be partly accredited with the formation of our brand new #HawkandReadersClub over at Hawk & Cleaver, but mostly because there are so many damn books to get through.

Anyway, before I babble away the pages into the New Year, here are my top 5 reads that have stuck with me this year. You might agree, you might disagree, but I think we can all agree that, yes, these are books.

 

 

5. Little Heaven, Nick Cutter

 
 

After coming in at #1 with ‘The Troop’ last year, Nick Cutter has done it again with his pseudo-cult horror thriller, ‘Little Heaven’.

This book has a lot going for it. Freaky creatures, a ‘stuck in the woods’ vibe, strangely mystical powers and abilities, and a large dollop of religious mumbo-jumbo. I don’t know how Nick does it, but he really has a way of getting under your skin. Of shaving off the edges of reality and making your mind go fuzzy. Mixed with an interesting and large cast, Little Heaven is certainly an adventure worth taking…

But only if you’re prepared for the horrors that wait on the other side.

 

4. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

 
 

Certainly one that hadn’t made my radar before, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this horror classic. There have been a lot of ‘trapped in the haunted house’ stories over the years and, for me, I wondered what could be done that might be any different to other tales of the kind.

Little did I expect to be so taken in by the wonder of Hill House.

The beauty of this book – similarly to Little Heaven – lies in its simplicity. There are no elements of overt description of the horror that occurs, Shirley lets you use your most powerful tool to scare the crap out of yourself – your own imagination.

Filled with incredibly sophisticated narrative, and a voice that sounds more like a close relative telling a story than words on the page, whether you’ve watched the new Netflix season or not, this is definitely one to add to your list.

 

3. Boy’s Life, Robert McCammon

 
 

Taking the 3rd spot with the southern American tale of a boy’s life, Robert McCammon comes storming into the ranks, unchallenged in all his glory.

Usually when searching for reads to enjoy, I take to Amazon, Google, or GoodReads for any recommendations. However, after spending the best part of several weeks seeing image after image of Instagram users showcasing their copies of this classic piece of literary cheesecake, I decided to yield, buy a copy for myself, and see what the hell all the fuss was about.

I think the one word I can use to succinctly sum up this book is: magic. This book reeks of it. Capturing perfectly the imaginative pixie dust that surrounds our own childish minds, we follow a protagonist on a hunt for self discovery, trying to process adult decisions and troubles whilst injecting his own fairytale wonders on the situation.

I won’t say much on the main story to keep from any spoilers, but suffice to say that there’s a lot that I’ve taken from this book as a writer and reader, and it certainly brought a tear to my eye to remember the overwhelm of emotions when going through strange experiences as a child.

 

2. Bird Box, Josh Malerman

 
 

A new spin on ‘A Quiet Place’….

WRONG.

Jesus, the amount of times I’ve read that comparison since Bird Box featured on Netflix earlier this month…

Another book that I wasn’t too sure on when the readers club voted for it a few months ago. I mean, with a title like ‘Bird Box’, you hardly expect much in the way of horror or suspense ­– or, at least, I didn’t.

Taking a very similar feel to me as Stephen King’s ‘Cell’, only with the major addition of sensory deprivation, Josh Malerman does an incredible job at putting the reader into the driving seat of the character and making us feel the horrors that the cast go through in a world turned to shit, in which looking the monsters directly in the eye could turn you loco at any second and drive you to suicide.

Filled with all of my favourite elements: psychopaths, pregnant women in peril, and cute fluffy dogs, this hop-back-and-forth-between-past-and-present masterpiece is something that I will certainly take a lot from.

Oh, and the film adaptation is pretty bob-on, too.

 

1.     The Ritual, Adam Nevill

 
 

 The book that gave me the biggest book hangover this year…

Stranded in the Scandinavian virgin woods, four old university friends set out on one last bonding experience before they finally admit defeat and that time has changed them all so much that the spark just isn’t there anymore.

But, of course, it all goes to shit.

 There were many parts of this book which kept me turning the pages, unable to sleep until I’d found out what was going on. To start with, the fact that the book is split into two main sections had me constantly guessing what else could befall the gang in the horrors of the woods. The ritualistic, dreamlike quality of the creature lurking between the trees was horrifically described. The use of 1st person present tense for several of the chapters and the disturbing nature of the attacks was something that has stuck with me ever since. The dynamic between the characters was rooted, grounded, and made the terror seem more real. And, last but not least, the use of similes, metaphors, and general description had me physically feeling many parts of this story with my entire body.

The Ritual has everything that I’d ever want from a horror story, taking me back to the days of my childhood when J K Rowling first introduced me to the basilisk in The Chamber of Secrets, this book had me gripped by every fibre of my body, thirsty for more after The End had been written.

Great work Adam. You fucking nailed it.

 

So there it is! My top 5 reads of 2018. If you have any books which you think should have made this list, or that would be good to take into 2019, let me know! I’m constantly looking to bump up my to-read lists. Oh, and if you’re interested in joining our monthly #HawkandReadersClub, be sure to come say hi over at https://facebook.com/groups/hawkandcleaver and get involved. OR find me on social media @willcocksauthor, or over at www.danielwillcocks.com