This year I didn’t read anywhere near as many books as I did in 2017, but maybe that’s because I didn’t listen to as many books this year. I generally have an hour-and-a-half commute to-and-from work each day, which means I can easily get through a 6-8 disc (yes ur gurl still listens to old school CDs) audiobook in one week, but something about this year just made me want to listen to more music than books. Regardless, I did discover a lot of new favorite reads, most of which were not released in 2018. Because of this, I reserved one spot at the end of my top ten for a pick from a previous year.
Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht
Before I get started on the content, can I just say that I highly recommend the audiobook? I’m super particular about audiobook readers, but Elisabeth Rodgers was a great narrator for this. I’d say the #1 reason I enjoyed this story is that it’s about a queer woman, but her identity isn’t the driving force of the book. At the same time it doesn’t feel as though it’s just a throwaway label used since we do get alternate chapters focusing on Vera’s teen years, which focus on her mother sending her away due to Vera’s romantic feelings for her best friend, JoAnn. In a way, this is a very strange book, because while it is meant to be a international spy thriller, once you read the ending, the thriller part doesn’t ring totally true. Because of the ending, though, it may frustrate some readers, however, I just found it more amusing than anything.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
This was a very quick read for me, and another bizarre one. The storyline had this horror feel to it, where I always expected it to take some gory turn, but at the same time it was oddly comforting? Keiko quickly became one of my favorite protagonists simply for the fact that she cares so much about what others think and yet not at all. If you read any of the books on this list, I hope it’s this one.
Florida by Lauren Groff
At this point I feel as if every year moving forward, I’m going to have some book focused on Florida on my end-of-year list. I’ve gotta state that I’m not a fan of Groff’s more popular works (I hated Fate and Furies), so if you are, maybe you won’t enjoy this? These collected stories are all connected in little ways and themes, moreso than most short story collections I’ve read. The content is anxiety-inducing at times, but the prose is so beautifully and thoughtfully composed that it eases the tension at times.
Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake
If you haven’t read the other books in the series, do start, please. I feel as though this third book in the Three Dark Crowns series is where we get the first sense of the meat of the story, whereas the first two books were setting up the action (though both were equally enjoyable).
Calypso by David Sedaris
I know, I kind of hate myself for continuously loving Sedaris’ books, but what can I say? His sense of humor just hits home and the sections on his sister Tiffany were very striking and deeply saddening (perhaps because of how many similar situations I encounter in my work life).
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
I kind of hate including this? I wouldn’t say I enjoyed reading this graphic novel, and I wouldn’t recommend it to others simply because of the fact that it’s another man writing a story focused on a boyfriend grieving the death of his girlfriend who was violently murdered. However, the story stuck with me because of how it looks at media focused on these types of stories.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
Again, anything involving violence against women makes me uneasy, and I have difficulty recommending such content, but you can’t help but admire the work of McNamara and those involved in trying to catch the Golden State Killer. I feel as though this is an essential 2018 read due to the recent death of McNamara and the break in this case (does anyone reading this not know that they finally caught the killer?)
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
This is such a fun story-come-to-life YA fantasy. Premise: high school girl’s mom is abducted by characters from her grandmother’s fairy tale collection. Girl goes to seek out the “Hinterland” to find her mother and chaos ensues.
Born to Be Posthumous: The Eccentric Life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey by Mark Dery
Man oh man, is this book up my alley. If you love all things grim, creepy, and queer–in both senses of the word–then is this book for you! I loved learning more about an artist and writer whose work I absorbed as a child. As a child I think I believed these little limericks were created just for me, and maybe it was before I got the concept of what a book or an author was, but I’m so grateful to learn more about Gorey now that I get those concepts. I didn’t expect to get quite as much out of this read as I have, but the early chapters feel like essential reading when discussing how closeted Gorey was, and the various reasons why he chose to live a quiet and somewhat solitary life. I don’t think Gorey was an unproblematic fave, but I do think that his life story is important, especially to the arts and LGBTQ+ communities.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
Holy shit was this good. This is my non-2018 pick because it was just so well-written. If you’re not a fan of dry humor you probably won’t enjoy this, but Batuman had me laughing constantly in the staff lounge at work. This one is best enjoyed at a slow pace to really take it all in.