I read 101 books in 2018. 101 BOOKS. That’s a lot of books, y’all. And I loved a large majority of them, I’m happy to say. I listened to 5 audiobooks, read 3 volumes of comics (I call each volume a “book” since that’s how the library defines them) and I did 4 re-reads. The overwhelming majority of the books from this year were actual books that I held in my hand because in the last 2 years I have found them to be comforting. I used to be an e-reader girl, but books in my hand have become my solace as an adult in the same way they were in my youth. It looks like I checked out 82 books from the library but a quick scan revealed at least 20 that I never started or didn’t finish so I think it’s safe to say half of the books I read this year were library books.
36 of the books I read were written by non-white authors and 67 were written by women. From someone who 15 years ago had shelves filled with Dean Koontz, James Rollins, James Patterson and Dan Brown…this is a big step. Not that there’s anything wrong with those guys, but I think white male popular fiction authors got plenty of my reading time during the post-college years. I only read 11 books by white men this year and a few of those were queer men who wrote queer stories. And while I’m happy with my diversity in reading in 2018, I’d like to work harder next year on getting my non-white authors above the 50% mark.
If I Have To Choose My Favorites…Here’s A Sampling
Now! On to my reviews! I really struggled trying to think of the best way to group my favorites and/or recommendations. I decided to start by glancing at what I put on my “FAVORITES” shelf on Goodreads. It’s funny, I give a lot of books 5 starts that I don’t put on that shelf. I like to curate that shelf so there’s not more than one book from a series, or more than one book from an author, and I also like to keep an eye on the types of books and stories on that shelf so they’re not all apocalyptic YA books, even though I went a couple years reading nothing but those. SO…without further ado! A Top 10 Variety Sampling from 2018!
I think I added a few more to my favorites shelf this year, but these are my top-10 sampling for sure. This is a good variety of books from my year and I think represents a peppering of my favorites from a few different categories.
- The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan – Powerful story about grief, mental health, and cross-culture experiences in immigrant families.
- The Overstory by Richard Powers – I have told a few select people about this one. I want to own this one I loved it so much but I’m not sure it’s for everyone. It starts as a collection of short stories but then the characters all unite in the second half which reads more like a traditional fiction. It’s great for nature lovers, is the best way I can put it.
- The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton – This is a series book but I didn’t realize this until I was too far in to remember I usually avoid series books until they’re all out. This book is a fantasy story about beauty and power and how the two work together to corrupt. It’s great.
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone – This is one of the many great YA fictions tackling race and the criminal justice system and police brutality but the way this one allows the main character to navigate a lot of his feelings around these issues through letter to Martin Luther King Jr is brilliant. I also ready Odd One Out by Nic Stone and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT ONE TOO. It conquers the spectrum of teen sexuality in a very honest way that I adore. )
- Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu – I had to put this one on my list because it’s about a girl who faces off against an unfair dress code and people turning a blind eye to hallway harassment. These two things are very concerning to me based on my own teen years (why did we normalize flipping up uniform skirts in the hallway and ankling people in gym?) and my experience as a parent (why do curvy girls get called out for dress code?)
- Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxanne Gay – I read several volumes of Black Panther comics in anticipation of the movie but this one was BY FAR THE BEST ONE. If you’re up for female badassery and lesbian love between warrior women? THIS IS PERFECTION. Unfortunately, Marvel discontinue the run and I’ll rant about this injustice forever.
- Black Wings Beating by Alex London – This is another fantasy that is a series book. I’m not sure how I ended up starting so many series this year but I the prose in this one was spectacular. This world building was vivid and there is non-heterosexual attraction written with absolutely zero fanfare which I adore. Like, in this world? Two teen boys can love each other and there’s not need to define it or talk about it in any way different from a heterosexual relationship. This books deals with the complexities of teens that come from abusive or non-present parents and how that can impact their trust or their perception of the world. I loved this book so much.
- A Heart In A Body In A World by Deb Caletti – This book is about a girl who processes tragedy and grief in a spontaneous run across the country. It’s a beautiful story about the digestion of trauma amidst family and friends who struggle to figure out how to help. It also deals with complicated teenage relationships and the guilt that can arise when you’re a victim of harassment. The icing on the cake was the running which – for me – added a depth to the reading as I’ve endured my own distance running struggles.
- The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton – This is a non-fiction/memoir about a man who spent 30 years on death row in a case of mistaken identity. This story will sit with me forever as it speaks to one’s capacity for growth and forgiveness even in the most tragic of circumstances.
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – This is yet another series but I made this situation worse by reading it almost immediately when it came out and so now I have to wait forever for the next one. This one is also a fantasy with spectacular world building that mirrors our own countries history of injustice and dominance over the “other.” It was rich and powerful and painful and tragic and it kept me hooked from the first page.
More Books I Adored
Now on to the rest of my reads…I loved SO MANY BOOKS this year that I want to tell you all about! I went to my Goodreads page again and checked out the books I gave 5-star ratings to and tried to cull groupings from there that made sense. These books were every bit as good as the ones in the list above, but because they share other categories or topics from ones I liked more, I left them off the “top 10” list. BUT I LOVED ALL OF THESE JUST AS MUCH.
- Educated by Tara Westover
- When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
- The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater – I had never heard of this story when it happened but it’s excellent coverage that shows in-depth coverage of both sides of the story before and after that tragic burning.
- One Goal by Amy Bass – Do not be scared of this book because it’s about soccer. It’s much more about refugees and communities than it is about sports.
- The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis – Very tough to read as a mother but it hit me viscerally.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green – excellent science fiction that also conquers that pitfalls of online celebrity.
- The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood – tough read about grief.
- There There by Tommy Orange – Follows several stories of Native Americans
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia E Butler – Difficult but excellent read. I haven’t picked up book 2 because the author died before finishing the series and I didn’t want to be frustrated by that.
YA Fictions Conquering Race Issues
- Pride by Ibi Zoboi – Gentrification in Bushwick twist on Pride & Prejudice
- If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – Another story of police brutality but written by two different authors which makes for a powerful dimension to the stories
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds – A whole story in an elevator ride
General YA Fictions
- George by Alex Gino (More of a “young reader” than “young adult”) – A beautiful story about a child questioning their gender.
- Darius The Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
- The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed – A story about rape and a group of students who try to make their previous dismissal right again.
- The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness – super FUN story about the “normal” kids in a story about magic and superheroes.
- Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Other Miscellaneous Loves
This series was a surprise hit for my year. It’s called The Lunar Chronicles and I really wish the covers were different because the “twist” on the fairytales is VERY loose. It’s more like a science fiction dominated by female characters who – even when evil – are complex and kick a bunch of ass. I loved this series so much!
This series is called the Lady Astronaut series and it’s what is called a “alternate history” series. Basically the east coast of our country gets demolished by a meteorite in 1952 and the world pushes towards space exploration to counterbalance the long term environmental impact of the meteorite. It’s an interesting spin on advanced space science that starts up pre-civil rights. The way race is discussed in this book is fascinating because the world basically has to team up for survival but this is the 50s where global racism is dominant. I love this series so much.
I went on a Joshilyn Jackson kick in the middle of the year and decided she is one of my top Adult Fiction authors now. She writes Southern women in a way I can very much relate to. Her characters are rich and broken in unique ways but the stories have heart that balance out the darkness which I like in a book. I don’t need it all to be rainbows and sunshine, obviously, but I like a balance.
I Can’t Go On Forever
I could honestly keep adding more to this blog post because there’s a ton of books I read that I gave 4-stars too that I would totally recommend as well. Just go through my 2018 list here and hover over each book for the rating. I also have several shelves that break down books in categories if you want to look at that. I have an LGBTQ shelf and a Reading For Diversity shelf if you’re looking to expand your own exposure to stories outside of the white/heterosexual experience.