Best of 2018 - Books
2018 is the year I got back into reading. I’m not alone in being the kind of person who read a ton for school in college and found it hard to make time for reading for fun ever since. I’ve always loved reading— I used to have my parents drop me off at the bookstore for hours on the weekends when I was a kid. (Side note: you are probably unsurprised to hear that I was never invited to any parties in high school.) Anyway, between the great and voluminous streaming content out there, adult concerns like making rent and figuring out my life, and general burn out from having a difficult time at college, reading kind of got away from me.
This past year though has been great for reading. In 2015 I got really into podcasts, and that paved the way for me to get into audiobooks. Reading with my eyes is more difficult for me to fit into my day since in addition to generally requiring more attention and busying your eyes and hands, it’s also something I can’t do during my commute since I get motion sick if I read in any moving vehicle (apart from airplanes). Now I use an app called Libby to get instant access to books from my local library. You can get e-books to read with your eyes and audiobooks— plus instant returns and no overdue fees since it’ll just pull back whatever expires on the due date.
While there are some drawback to audiobooks— for example, a good reader is awesome but a reader you don’t like can make the experience less good than if you had just read the book visually— overall, I really like them and they definitely have made it easier to get back into reading. I’m going to try to read a lot more next year. Anyway, onto my favorites of the year.
Young Adult Fiction. Friendship. Road trip.
The first thing you need to know about me as a reader is that I LOVE Young Adult Fiction. I love teen problems. I love the surrender to the fact that none of the characters really know what they are doing— because that rings more true to me than anything else. I like the optimism and the emotional sincerity of them. Mariam Sharma Hits The Road is about 3 best friends— all Pakistani college students from New Jersey— dealing with various issues together on an impromptu road trip to New Orleans. Mariam comes from a pretty liberal household, her single mother being open to bucking tradition— but she does have some issues around her her father’s abandonment of their family. She is best friends with beautiful, free-spirited Ghazala, whose conservative parents do not approve of her, and Umar, who is devout, well-respected in the community, a shining example of a good son, and closeted. When Ghaz gets into trouble after a misguided attempt at modeling, Mariam and Umar whisk her away from her furious parents on a road trip. It’s a story about friendship, growing pains, cultural clashes, racism, the complicated nature of family and identity, and did I mention friendship? I love stories about friendship.
Young Adult Fiction. Romance.
I love YA romance. I’m definitely not alone in that seeing as how “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” totally blew up this year. Emergency Contact is about two young people who for one reason or another are closed-off opening up to each other. Penny is the intense, anxious, dour daughter of a free-spirited, embarrassingly flirty, hot-single-mom. She’s always on the defensive, and tends to lose interest in the real world and the people in it, preferring ones she writes about instead. She has dreams of being a sci-fi writer and is excited to escape the orbit of her hometown to go to school at UT Austin. Sam is a tattooed recovering alcoholic who is trying to pull his life back together— when it was never really together in the first place. He grew up in a broken home, raised by an alcoholic single mother who didn’t really care for him, and who later dragged him into financial ruin, causing him to drop out of school. Sam and Penny end up as unlikely friends, becoming each other’s “emergency contacts” and finding themselves able to open up to each other over text messages about the hard things they’ve not been able to talk to anyone else about. Trigger warnings for this book as there is content including alcoholism, hoarding, unplanned pregnancy, abortion, and sexual assault (recounted in the past tense, not in detail, about 3/4 of the way through). The book isn’t terribly graphic, but I like to give warnings for anyone who might be especially sensitive just so they aren’t caught off guard if they choose to read. I absolutely love how this book weaves together the complicated web of anonymity, distance, and intimacy that grow from our technology-assisted relationships. At its core, it’s about two people who need a lot of emotional support learning how to be vulnerable with someone as they grapple with the hard stuff. Loved it.
Young Adult Fiction. Romance. LGBTQ.
2018, 20-gay-teen, am I right? (2019 will be 20-bi-teen!!) I’m trying to read more books not only about and by POC but also about and by LGBTQ people. Leila is the under-achieving second daughter of a Persian American family in Boston. Living in the shadow of her “perfect” older sister who is in medical school (following in her father’s footsteps!) and trying to get by at the private academy where she attends high school is hard enough. On top of all that, Leila is a lesbian, constantly scrambling to make sure no one finds out. This becomes even harder when a beautiful, glamorous new girl in school takes an interest in her. This is a story about navigating crushes, coming out, and confronting expectations— including the ones you don’t meet, and the ones you have for others. This was a great book and I love the reader Negin Farsad so much. She’s an accomplished comedian, writer, and performer, and she added so much to the book.
Poetry. Love and Heartbreak. LGBTQ.
The memoir of a poet’s love and loss. Small town first love. Heartbreak. Trying to let someone go but finding it to be a jagged sort of procedure. This book is a collection of confessional poetry about the love the writer had and the heartbreak that followed. Beautiful and powerful, you follow along in her slow, arduous process of getting over someone who meant everything to her, and coming to terms with her own role in the way things went down, as well as her reckoning with her anger at the forces that she could not control that also pushed them apart. I absolutely adored this book.
Thanks for reading my list. I hope you’ll check some of these books out yourself. While you’re here, please consider some of the following cool things you can do to help people in need get access to reading materials!
Donate to your local public library.
Give books or donate to a public school classroom or library in need. Check out your local school’s policies on book donations or head to DonorsChoose.org to help fund a classroom in need!
Buy from your local independent bookstores and ask if they have any programs to donate books to people in need through them.
Consider donating books to prisons. Here’s a great guide on why, what to donate, and where to send your donations.
Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter for a monthly-ish round up of favorite things, fantastic links, and the latest from the blog. I’ll be including some other favorites there!