2018 has been an excellent year for reading. This year I managed to get through 91 books, all while finishing my first and starting my second year of graduate school, staying connected with close friends, stanning Ariana Grande and BlackPink nonstop, and getting back into tennis. I feel kinda bad for the books both on and off this list because I read so many stellar books this year and the competition to emerge on this list was intense
not like any of these authors or books actually cares about getting onto this list lol I just like to derive some vague sense of self-importance from what I put out into the world ok anyway. I chose to cut off my honorable mentions at ten per category just to keep the list a little more manageable. I included links to my full Goodreads reviews of each book as well as links to past years’ top ten lists for easy reference at the bottom. I’d love to know what you’ve read, what you haven’t read, and what you’d recommend. Without further ado:
Top 5: Fiction
5. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. A stunning 600-page novel that follows Cyril Avery from his conception to his death. In skillful prose Boyne captures the heartbreaking effects of homophobia throughout Cyril’s life, and perhaps more importantly, the resilience and joy that comes from connecting with others, learning to let go of who you thought you should be, and loving who you are.
4. Severance by Ling Ma. A quirky, atmospheric novel about self-described millennial worker drone Candace Chen, who spends most of her time in her Manhattan office tower. Candace confronts who she is and what she wants when the Shen Fever strikes and turns almost everyone into non-violent zombies. Through Candace, Ma offers a witty, incisive, and ultimately moving critique of capitalism in this innovative debut.
3. Dietland by Sarai Walker. A glorious, sometimes-violent feminist novel that follows Plum, a fat woman who at first just wants to lose weight so she can live her best life. When Plum encounters a community of women dedicated to supporting one another and tearing down the patriarchy, she starts to question her relationship with her body – and the world – in ways she never thought of before. An irreverent, empowering novel.
2. Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. The best YA novel I have read in several years, this book follows Danny Cheng, a high school senior who loves his best friend and whose parents have a secret that changes Danny’s life forever. Gilbert captures the complexity of the adolescent Asian American experience with smart, effortless prose and tons of heart. I fanboy screamed for Danny and his friends a lot.
1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A brilliant novel that follows four generations of a Korean family who moves to Japan amidst Japanese colonization and warfare. Lee tackles a lot here: racism and xenophobia, intergenerational trauma, classism and sexism, and more. But what shines most in Pachinko, beyond Lee’s beautiful prose, is the selfless love these characters have for one another. Sunja, our main character, is perhaps the most resilient and courageous protagonist I have ever encountered.
My honorable mentions in fiction go to Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman, Sadie by Courtney Summers, If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi by Neel Patel, Homegoing by Yaa Gyashi, A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, The Pisces by Melissa Broder, Stray City by Chelsey Johnson, All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee.
Top 5: Nonfiction
5. No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol. A brave, thoughtful memoir about a woman who turns 40 and finds herself without a husband or children. MacNicol spends her fortieth year exploring what she wants in a society that expects women to want a man and kids. Gentle and insightful, MacNicol puts to rest stereotypes that women need romantic relationships with men to find happiness.
4. Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower by Brittney Cooper. A powerful, vulnerable essay collection that explores respectability politics and rage, friendship between black women, neoliberalism and the myth of exceptionalism, and more. Cooper’s intellect, digestible writing, and ability to access her anger and wield it in the name of feminism all make this book shine.
3. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Longe. Essential reading for anyone who cares about social justice, other people, or society at all. Eddo-Longe discusses the history of slavery and racism in Britain, as well as the political purpose of white supremacy, the dangers of white-washed feminism, the inextricable link between race and class, and more. An assured, important, motivating book.
2. Living a Feminist Life by Sara Ahmed. A stellar academic text about what it means to embody feminism on a daily basis. Ahmed argues that “happiness” often entails conforming to patriarchal standards of living (e.g., have a husband, have kids) and that to be a feminist is to be a killjoy, someone who speaks up again and again about racism, sexism, homophobia, and more. A radical, innovative book.
1. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. A groundbreaking, endlessly inspiring feminist essay collection that centers the experiences of black women while addressing US imperialism and capitalism, intersectionality and the flaws of white feminism, the power and potential for healing that comes with deep feeling, and more. Commanding, wise, and compassionate, all at once, Lorde’s essays, published over three decades ago, are unfortunately of utmost relevance even today.
My honorable mentions in nonfiction go to Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis, Written/Unwritten: Diversity and the Hidden Truths of Tenure by Patricia A. Matthew, Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown, I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya, Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay Gibson, Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life by Samhita Mukhopadhyay, The Other Side by Lacy Johnson, The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, and How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee.
What were your favorite reads of 2018, and what are you looking forward to reading in 2019? I’d appreciate all recommendations, but in particular I’m searching for books that center friendship, feminism, and authors of color. Hope everyone has a fabulous New Year and catch you all next post. ❤