Do professional book editors read books for pleasure? Some yes; some no. Some book editors read mainly within their genres; others like to explore.
Being a savvy editor means you’ve got your eye on the pulse of the marketplace; what books are hot and why. You read about those books from those in the know, which means known reviewers as well as new readers. You choose titles that interest you, educate you, and those that resonate with current book editing projects. You want to advise your writers as to what works and what may not. Just as you don’t follow trends but you observe them, the watchful eye of the editor is trained to assist clients into fresh writing territory.
Here are some of the books our editors enjoyed reading in 2018.
Amy Bennett edits science fiction, fantasy and horror novels. Her picks for 2018 include:
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi. Compact and breathtaking prose meet a dazzling and complex world in this fantasy adventure.
Pride and Prometheus, by John Kessel. Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein in this tense novel.
Blackfish City, by Sam J. Miller. A beautiful dystopian novel that includes a polar bear and an orca.
How Long ’til Black Future Month, by N.J. Jemisin. Multiple Hugo Award-winning Jemisin’s collection explores resistance in various settings.
Zion’s Fiction, by Sheldon Teitelbaum. The first anthology of Israeli speculative fiction.
Tales from the Inner City, by Shaun Tan. A mix of writing and drawing from Australian writer and artist Shaun Tan.
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee. A deeply researched history, Heinlein is possibly the most interesting figure.
The Future is Female: 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, by Lisa Yaszek. Classic visionary stories by Carol Emshwiller, Andrew North (Andre Norton), Judith Merril, and many others.
Floyd Largent also edits science fiction. His picks:
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds, by Brandon Sanderson. Social science fiction with a unique main character, a genius who splits off a new “aspect” for every new specialty he needs to learn—personalities individual and real to him, invisible to anyone else.
Last Dragon Standing, by Rachel Aaron. More fantasy than scifi. Set in a high-tech future where magic has come back to the world and mages, dragons, gods, and nature spirits compete with humans for the world’s fate.
Operation Medusa, by Glynn Stewart. Pure space opera. The sixth book in the Castle Federation series, in which a beleaguered alliance of star systems fights against the massive Solar League, which wants to unite all of humanity under one banner.
Stacey Donovan edits commercial fiction (thriller, mystery, psychological suspense, romance, erotic romance, erotica) and nonfiction (professional and personal memoir), with a penchant for young adult fiction. Given that 2018 was an extraordinary year for young adult novels, she chose a dozen of the best:
The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo. Best debut novel. Best verse novel. I’m a sucker for hard-edged Young Adult tales that tell of awakenings of faith, grit, determination, and poetry set within a New York City backdrop. As protagonist Xiomara Batista herself would say: “It’s beautiful and real and what I wanted.” For deep readers of any age, this is an extraordinary debut novel written entirely in verse.
Sadie, by Courtney Summers. Best structure. The alternating POVs between Sadie and West McCray’s podcast was an original element, more so than two characters simply having alternating POVs throughout the story. This is an emotional read, with many shocking moments, as Sadie searches for the truth about who murdered her sister, Mattie. There is even an accompanying podcast available on iTunes now, making the structure stand out all the more.
Emergency Contact, by Mary H.K. Choi. Best romance. Most relatable story. It’s hard not to fall in love with vulnerable characters such as Penny and Sam. This romance isn’t smooth and tidy, it’s more a mess of awkwardness when the two cross paths, and that’s why the best way to keep romance alive is via texting. This is a truly relatable read for teens in the society we live in today where it is pretty much always safer to be yourself digitally.
Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland. Best new world. Although this might still be set in America, it is certainly not the America of right now. Jane McKeene lives in a world where the dead have risen from the Gettysburg battlefields. Although zombies may be a popular phenomenon that have been around for many years now, the Civil War zombies certainly have not yet been explored, nor the training that students must undergo to combat them. Jane’s rise to action in this captivating new world is a story to get lost in.
What If It’s Us?, by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. Best dialogue. Best author collaboration. Best LGBT read. Two well-known and extremely talented authors have come together for this smart and fun story that is full of emotion. As Albertalli and Silvera are both known for creating vivid characters with distinct voices, the dialogue in this collaboration definitely did not disappoint. Arthur and Ben are quite different characters yet entirely relatable and the interactions they have with each other are both swoon-worthy and heartfelt.
Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass), by Sarah J. Maas.Best hero. Best sequel. This is the last book in the THRONE OF GLASS series and Aelin risks everything for her people. Though she is locked away, she never stops fighting, showing tremendous will during periods of torture. With Aelin captured, it’s now up to the other heroes in this story, Aedion and Lysandra, to save their land and their people. The series has been crammed with heroes and anti-heroes, right up to the conclusion of this final book.
The Hazel Wood, by Melissa Albert. Best suspense. This is a fairytale for the new ages, and a dark one at that. Alice finds herself in the famous world created by her grandmother for her fairytale novels, one which she can’t quite believe really exists. She had tried to avoid the hype around the world of Hinterland in the books, but now that her mother has been taken by one of the characters, Alice is forced to explore this dark, magical world. Albert excels at suspense building more and more along the way.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea, by Tahereh Mafi. Best historical. It might be strange to think of such a recent time as a historical, though 9/11 isn’t quite as recent as an older generation may feel. This is set in the year after 9/11 where Shirin, a Muslim teen, is facing tons of backlash and cruelty due to her faith and recent events. The story creates an empathetic angle that hasn’t been done much in relation to September 11th and shows how damaging profiling can be, and what it takes for one girl to heal in a different way than the majority of America.
Dear Evan Hansen, by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson, Benj Paseck, and Justin Paul. Best adaptation/book inspired by another source. Best creativity. This story was originally created as a hit Broadway play, which was then written as this beautiful, moving novel. The story explores the gray area of when it is okay to lie or if honesty really is the best policy. The fact that the novel was adapted from a musical theatre stage work shows imagination and execution, even if the core story was already in existence. Bringing it alive in this form was an undeniable creative feat.
After the Fire, by Will Hill. Best despicable character. Father John is a character who is easy to despise. He has lied to, manipulated, and abused Moonbeam and an entire community. This story is painful and emotional, told in a structure of alternating timelines before and after the fire, where Moonbeam must now learn to live Outside. It is a fascinating work that explores mind control manipulation to an extreme level; that Father John uses religion for his motives makes him even more sinister.
The Rule of One, by Ashley Saunders and Leslie Saunders. Best dystopian. Best action. In a near-future world in which there is a rule of only one child per family, it is clearly a violation of policy for twins Ava and Mira to exist together. The thing is, no one knows they are twins because they lead an interchangeable life day-to-day, a secret that their father, Head of Family Planning in Texas, has helped them keep. But when their secret is exposed, they are thrust into an action-filled adventure where they must fight to stay alive.
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black. Best courageous character. Jude is a truly brave character, vividly drawn. She is willing to risk her own life for what she believes in and for the ones she loves—her sisters. If she wants any hope in saving the land of Faerie, she must defy Prince Cardan and face his wrath, which she is courageously willing to do in this thrilling fantasy.
Caroline Hiley’s reading and editing interests are cross-category, but mainly fiction. Her picks for 2018:
Embers of War, by Gareth Powell. Science fiction. A morality play within a space opera, with literary-style character exploration in thriller-style structure and pacing.
The Great Darkness, by Jim Kelly. Historical fiction. Crime. 1st in a new, noir mystery series set in England in the early days of WWII (the “phony war” period), with a thoughtful take on the difference between murder and war.
A Gentleman’s Murder, by Christopher Huang. Historical fiction. Crime. Debut mystery set in England between the wars, covering the effects of PTSD on soldiers and gentlemen, resulting in murder.
The Clockmaker’s Daughter, by Kate Morton. Literary fiction. A multi-layered family saga involving secrets upon secrets, centering on a house and how it can influence human character in many ways.
Whiskey When We’re Dry, by John Larison. Literary fiction. A deep and serious Western about an orphaned girl in search of her outlaw brother, and how the conflicting needs of love and survival can twist one’s soul.
Ana Howard edits all fiction genres and specializes in historical fiction. Her historical fiction picks for 2018:
Beautiful Exiles, by Meg Waite Clayton. Full of details and history, this well-written account of the love and marriage of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn is both compelling and tragic at the same time. Even though we know how it ends, we still root for these flawed characters to find a way forward together.
The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier, by Rosalind Brackenbury. Love letters, a secret, finding love and losing love–what else could we ask for? In this beautifully written novel, we learn how past mistakes can help another person in the future not make the same ones. Heart-breaking and ultimately uplifting, this novel is not to be missed.
The Ragged Edge of Night, by Olivia Hawker. In this unusual love story set against the backdrop of war-torn Germany, unexpected love and courage triumph against evil and turn one man into an unsung hero. Based on a true story and full of lovely language, this book is quietly powerful and difficult to forget.
Peggy Campbell had a clear winner in the nonfiction category. Best nonfiction book of the year:
Nixon, by John A. Farrell. An even-handed treatment with astute observations, pristine prose, and meticulous research that produced new findings.
Thomas Wray has a must-read book list for Christians.
The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy, by Timothy Keller (published by Viking). New York City pastor Timothy Keller may well be American Christianity’s most notable and incisive author right now. In this book, Keller paints an honest portrait of the man who was perhaps God’s worst prophet, while also clearly and powerfully connecting Jonah’s story with that of Jesus.
On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, by Karen Swallow Prior (Brazos Press). Prior guides us into literature classics and shows how they point the modern reader toward a recovery of true excellence and virtue.
The Storm-Tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home, by Russell Moore (B&H Books). Moore shows that family life is always an arena of spiritual struggle—calling all the more for the grace and mercy of the Christian gospel.
He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art, by Christian Wiman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Wiman, a professor at Yale, takes us on a journey through poetry and mystery and our universal search for meaning. He shows convincingly that the human experience is incomplete without art.
All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, by Hannah Anderson (Moody Publishers). Anderson gets us past quick and easy answers in our longing to live rightly, and helps us seek to cultivate a wiser and slower approach to find and enjoy what is good, true, honorable, and more.
A Doubter’s Guide to Jesus: An Introduction to the Man from Nazareth for Believers and Skeptics, by John Dickson (Zondervan). A good get-acquainted volume—gentle, clear, and thought-provoking—for contemporary readers who’d like to learn more about Jesus.
Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration in an Age of Fear, by Matthew Kaemingk (Eerdmans). Kaemingk pushes us past both romantic let’s-us-just-all-get-along multiculturalism and fear-based nationalism as he brings the historic Christian faith alongside a picture of Islam that’s richer and fuller than most Americans know.
Searching for Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, by Christine E. Hoover (Baker Books). A comforting and uplifting “treasure hunt for beauty” that finds it shining and present amid life’s toughest realities.
Eschatological Discipleship: Leading Christians to Understand Their Historical and Cultural Context, by Kevin Wax (B&H Academic). The author contrasts hope-filled Christianity—hopeful for the return of Christ, that is—with three key worldviews in modern history: consumerism, the sexual revolution, and progressive enlightenment. He says true light is coming—and he explains how we’re to live now in light of it.
How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age, by Jonathan Leeman (Thomas Nelson). How should Christianity relate to politics in a secular age? Leeman answers this question thoroughly, in surprising and clarifying ways, always keeping Christ and the local church in focus.
Kendra Lund edits New Age books. Her picks:
The Most Important Point, by Edward Espe Brown. A collection of sixty inspiring and humorous essays on food and life by the master baker, cook, and Zen priest.
Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality, by Dawson Church. Pioneer in the field of healing, Dawson Church explores the science behind the Law of Attraction to challenge modern medicine and conventional science.
The Book of Freedom, by Paul Selig. The third book in a trilogy of spiritual wisdom channeled by the world-renowned psychic and spiritual teacher.
Messages from the Divine: Wisdom for the Seeker’s Soul, by Sara Wiseman. Sara is a spiritual teacher, award-winning author, radio host, and founder of Intuition University.
Beth Bruno edits and reads an eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction. Her picks for 2018:
Hootin’ Goes Outside, Nibbler and Captain Make Peace, Feebs to the Rescue, Rascal’s Trip, by Kathy J. Perry. Picture books for children. Four books from the Bandana Acres Series. Kathy is both author and illustrator.
Travel, Learn and See Your Friends, by Edna Ma, M.D. Picture book for children. Written in English and Mandarin Chinese. Testimonial by Lisa Ling.
Inventing Oneself: Blending Business with Politics, by William F. Craig. A memoir. Where others see obstacles, Craig sees opportunity. A businessman with a soul.
Border Walk, by Mark Hainds. Nonfiction adventure. Hainds walks the Tex-Mex border from end to end and tells stories about his experiences en route. First of two books about his trek.
The Crisp Poleward Sky, by Jeff Siebold. Mystery (fourth book in Zeke Traynor Series). Jason Bourne-styled leading man who will keep you turning pages.
One Heart Too Many: Facing the Challenges of Loving a Widower, by Denise Medany. Nonfiction. Self-help.
Lithegol: The Prophecy, by Josh Oelrich. YA fantasy. Imaginative and engaging for the whole family.
Snowmelt: Dealing With Betrayal, by Sandra Sperling: Women’s Fiction. Dealing with betrayal by a long-time friend.
Hidden History of Colonial Greenwich, by Missy Wolfe. Nonfiction. Colonial history.
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. Fiction bestseller. Complex and passionate characters. Strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crises.
Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward. Nonfiction. US politics.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama. Nonfiction; Memoir.
Caroline T edits and reads romance novels. Her picks for the 10 best romance novels for 2018 are:
Wicked and the Wallflower, by Sarah Maclean. My favorite of 2018. Hand down. Maclean really understands how valuable a strong conflict is in order to sustain the dynamic between the hero and heroine. Not to mention her hero has shades of Tom Hardy’s character in the F/X show, “Taboo.” Unconventional heroine as well. The whole thing worked brilliantly. New series called Bareknuckle Bastards. Just read it!
All Your Perfects, by Colleen Hoover. Difficult themes here, and I was left sort of speechless and reflective. This is about marriage; there’s a Now and Then/Past and Present. This book made me think and feel. Powerful.
The Proposal, by Jasmine Guillory, The sheer delight of this diverse cast of characters! So nice to read in romance. I didn’t read the first book in the series but this is stand-alone. While strong themes, I did laugh out loud.
Now That You Mention It, by Kristin Higgins. I like this author a lot and—while not as humorous as her previous titles and not an in-your-face romance—this “returning home” premise highlighted so many relatable emotions. When I can’t wait to open a bedside book at night given that I read all day, I take notice.
Every Breath, by Nicholas Sparks, Always quick reads from Sparks but he manages to make everything SO romantic and he’s a great storyteller. Vibrant scenes of Zimbabwe added to the overall enjoyment for me.
Tell Me, by Abigail Strom. A former client, I am so proud of Abigail’s success! This is an opposites attract theme, which is always good for conflict. Strom writes about how important communication is and hits some intense emotional high notes. Straight up, about love.
Falling Hard, by Lexi Ryan. This is the only title in this sports-themed series I’ve read, and I found it leaned a bit toward New Adult. Lots of deceit. Characters have secrets. I thought at first I would be distracted and annoyed by this, but I was so sucked in. Totally absorbing.
A Princess in Theory, by Alyssa Cole. I have followed Cole for years as an author of Historicals, and this refreshing change into Contemporary will wow you. Hero is a Nigerian prince and heroine is a grad student who was once a foster child. You will NOT be able to put this down. Trust me.
No Earls Allowed, by Shana Galen. Galen is a reliable and successful Historicals author. I try to read all her new books, and this one hit home for me. Hero has PTSD; heroine runs an orphanage. The hero’s struggle were not identified or dealt with at that time in history. Tugs at your heartstrings.
Hot & Badgered, by Shelly Laurenston. Okay, this title is a bit of a curveball but I kept seeing it mentioned and I thought, what’s the deal with this shifter book? Part of a series, and this is the only title I have read. This is crazy fun; a pack with lots of ties and dynamics going on. You will laugh out loud. I thought it was just so much fun; the whole honey badger family, and the sisters, and everything else.
Joya Stevenson edits theology, religion, new age, and philosophy books.
The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness, by Ichiro Kishimi. This book offers thought-provoking ideas, based on Adler’s psychology, about how to be successful in life while practicing self-awareness and rigorous ethical principles. The literary form of the dialogue, consisting of exchanges between a youth and an aging philosopher, makes the reading experience pleasurable as well as stimulating. A bestseller in Japan, the Courage to be Disliked engages universal themes. Where does our craving to be recognized or liked stand in the way of courageous action? How may we be happy and generous while eliminating suffering?
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Ablom. In this sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Ablom spins an engaging tale about interlocking destinies and the meaning of our lives on earth. By situating the story in heaven, Albom communicates a vivid sense of how our daily choices and relationships can impact our collective fate.
God in the Qur’an, by Jack Miles. A scholar of Near Eastern languages and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize (for God: A Biography), Jack Miles offers a study of the Qur’an that honors its literary cohesiveness. The insights that emerge demonstrate interrelationships among the Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) and our holy books.
A Mind at Home with Itself: How Asking Four Questions Can Free Your Mind, Open Your Heart, and Turn Your World Around, by Byron Katie. This book provides an interesting set of reflections on the Diamond Sutra for our own times. Byron Katie is popular for a method of self-inquiry that she calls “the Work.” Written in conjunction with Stephen Mitchell, a scholar of Buddhism, A Mind at Home with Itself combines a narrative of spiritual experience with a commentary about a classic religious text.
Book Editing Associates’ coordinator, Lynda Lotman, likes books with strong female characters. Her pick is a story of abuse and survival. NY Times and Amazon readers agree. It made both “best books of 2018” lists.
Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover. A memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.
The professional book editors at Book Editing Associates are inveterate readers. We read what we know, and sometimes what is unfamiliar.
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