What Are the Best Books You’ve Read This Year?
The Holidays are in full swing, the end of the year is fast approaching, and Kanye West is feuding on Twitter with basically everyone, but I don’t really have the stamina to wade through that quagmire right now. It just makes me tired. Rather than see what the old reliables are up to (the Royals) I would much rather lay on my couch all day and finish the book I’m reading (“The Obelisk Gate” by N. K. Jemisin)—so here we are.
For whatever reason, I wasn’t able to read as many books as I usually do this year. I’m going to try to make up for that in the waning days of 2018 by tackling “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy and “Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman. I decided last year that I wanted to seek out books written by women and people of color, because up until that point, my reading list skewed heavily white and male. I’ve found some pretty fantastic books I wouldn’t have otherwise, by putting a bit more effort into seeking out authors who fit that criteria. Relatedly, I’ve enjoyed N.K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth “trilogy, which I’m in the middle of right now, if you’re interested in a very interesting, slow-burn fantasy series. I don’t read a lot of adult fantasy books (more on that in a moment). The last series I read in that genre was George R. Martin’s “A Song of Fire and Ice” series (WHERE IS BOOK SIX, GEORGE?!) and Jemisin’s voice, as a woman of color, is such a refreshing change of pace (spoilers: she hasn’t used rape as a plot device, so far…ahem, George) that I will definitely seek out more of her work.
Before I tell you my favorite books I’ve read this year, I have to give you a disclaimer though. Ninety percent of what I read are trashy whodunnit mysteries. When I read, for the most part, I’m reading to be entertained. I enjoy it—and the exploitativeness of the genre is mitigated for me, because I almost exclusively read mysteries written by women. There’s no passages like “her breasts heaved breastily while she gazed longingly through her sheer nightgown, nipples erect, at the strong, male detective who would protect her. She wanted him, and he knew they would do it shortly.’Boobs’ he whispered.” Nope, these books operate from the understanding that men kill women, because this is an inherent knowledge women have; only at the end, the killer is always unmasked, and usually killed, himself, in a satisfying way. Take that, patriarchy!
I also very much enjoy YA books written for 14-year old girls, and essay collections written by comedians.
Now that all the disclaimers are out of the way here are some of my favorite books I’ve read this year:
“The Broken Earth” - N.K. Jemisin: Like I said above, this is a slow burn book that took me awhile to get through, but by the end I was hooked and immediately picked up the next in the series. I’m still not entirely sure what it’s about, but the world Jemisin drops you into is complete and ultimately engrossing, even if it is ending (maybe?) I enjoyed the fact her protagonist (a woman of color,) had a tendency to observe rather than engage, which made scenes unfold slowly rather than clip along, allowing you to take everything in. If you’re a fan of adult fantasy, I’d recommend it.
“My Best Friend’s Exorcism” - Grady Hendrix. I love YA books. I love trashy mysteries. I love the ’80s. I love possession stories. Hendrix manages to perfectly capture what teenage-female friendships were like (at least mine) set against the back drop of a demonic possession. The last two pages of the book not only completely surprised me, but made me cry (in a good way.) He had a new one out this year “We Sold Our Souls” about a rock band that sells their soul to the devil, and I will be all over that one soon.
“You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain” - Phoebe Robinson. I like to clean my apartment while listening to books written (and narrated) by comedians. I found Robinson’s collection of essays absolutely delightful, and my place was spotless while I was working my way through this one, because I didn’t want to pause it when my chores were done. I have her newest one “Everything’s Trash, but It’s Okay” on my Audible queue, but I’m still listening to…
“Becoming” - Michelle Obama. I didn’t know it was possible to love her more, but I do. I have “Becoming” on both audio book, and in hard cover, but I’m “reading” it exclusively by listening to Obama’s narration. I love her, and for a first-timer, she has done a very good job at narration.
“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” - Michelle McNamara. I read this the day after they caught the original Night Stalker, and it was so satisfying. McNamara wrote in such a distinctive, straightforward yet empathetic voice, and I acutely felt her loss (she died before the book was released) after I finished the book. If you like true crime, and want to revel in the knowledge that a monster was finally caught, I recommend this one!
OK, what about you? Share your best reads of 2018 below—especially if you have a line on any trashy mystery writers.
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