Here are my absolute MUST READ favorites from last year (books I happened to read in '18, not necessary published lat year), the ones I can't stop gushing about and recommending to everyone I meet:
1) Beartown and the sequel 2) Us Against Them by Frederik Backman. If I had to pick a favorite author, he would definitely be in the top 3. Both of these books shook me, made me cry and rage and laugh and feel. Backman has such a talent of exposing the raw humanity in everyone, in all its glory and horror.
3) The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton. If you haven't read Brian Stevenson's Just Mercy, read that first and then dig into this memoir by one of the unjustly imprisoned death row inmates he helped free. Unbelievably refreshing perspective and a great reminder that its not what happens TO us, but our response to the events in our lives that truly make us who we are.
4) Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Oh man, I love this book so much, I'm smiling just thinking about it. Reading it felt like being surrounded by warmth & love & laughter. Like the smell, taste, and feel of goeey fresh from the oven chocolate chip cookies.
5) We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This is a series of essays, most that Coates published in The Atlantic, from each of the Obama years. He speaks to the rise of Trump in a way that seems WAY more believable than the white-washed "Hillbilly Elegy", we just want jobs and upward mobility and love God & family nonsense that was being trotted out after the election. The essay on reparations I would consider a must-read for any American.
Seriously, read ALL these. But if you already have, or you want more, here is a brief and incomplete listing of some other 4/5 star books I read:
- You Think It, I'll Say It. Curtis Sittenfeld. Collection of short stories, dealing astutely with marriage and middle age
- Let Me Lie Clare Mackintosh. Creepy thriller, I didn't see the plot twist coming!
- The Queen of Hearts Kimmery Martin. Not as cheesy as the title & cover would have you think, but definitely with some friend/love drama. She's a MD and writes what she knows, so the medical training part was spot on.
- The Summer Before the War. Helen Simonson. Cute, heart-warming historical romance.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon. Kelly Barnhill. This surprised me, its a compelling and compact fantasy.
- I'll Be Your Blue Sky. Maria de los Santos. She's a cheesy guilty pleasure (Love Walked In is still my fave) and some of our favorite characters (Teo, Claire) from previous books make cameos here.
- An American Marriage. Tayari Jones. Complicated---would make a great book club pick. The subject is compelling though I didn't really know who to root for, the characters were not likable.
- Uncommon Type: Some Stories. Tom Hanks. Yes, that Tom Hanks. Short stories are a nice break from long epic historical dramas, and these had a good mix of entertaining and serious (and it was fun to try and find the typewriter theme in each one).
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Gail Honeyman. This almost made my favorites, I won't give away the plot twist, but it is both raw and heartwarming.
- Pachinko. Min Jin Lee. Sweeping epic family drama of the type I love.
- The Book that Matters Most. Ann Hood. Way more serious (and sad!) than the title and cover led me to expect.
- Her Fearful Symmetry. Audrey Niffenegger. Weird. Delightfully weird.
- The Power. Naomi Alderman. Also weird---but in an extremely kill the patriarchy, empowering kind of way!
- The Underground Railroad. Colson Whitehead. I learned a lot, and it was an engaging read.
- Behold the Dreamers. Imbolo Mbue. Realistic take on the immigrant experience.
- I'll Give You the Sun. Jandy Nelson. YA novel that gripped my heart
- The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women. Kate Moore. I can't believe I didn't know about this, its fascinating (and heart-wrenching)
- Educated. Tara Westover. This memoir made a big splash for a reason---proving that truth can be stranger and fiction, and a reminder that you have NO IDEA how a person got to where they are today---don't make assumptions.
- The Golem and The Jinni Helene Wecker. Really original, haven't read anything like it.
- The Light of the World. Elizabeth Alexander. Touching memoir after her husband's sudden death.
- The Bluest Eye. Toni Morrison. Oh this was gut-wrenching. I saw the play at our local theater and read the book in preparation for it...really tough subject matters told through the words of a child, which make it so so powerful.
- Sourdough. Robin Sloane. Quirky, cute, happy ending.
- I Let You Go. Claire MacKintosh. Also creepy thriller that I didn't anticipate the plot twist.
- Buck: A Memoir. MK Asante. Like, "Educated" but in the Philly 'hood.
- What Is Not Yours is Not Yours. Helen Oyeyemi. I may have been the only one in our book club to enjoy this, it was SO WEIRD, full of magical realism. The language and imagery captivated me.
- The Sun is Also a Star. Nicola Yoon. YA novel, immigrant experience.
- Greenglass House Kate Milford. YA or even children's mystery that I will share with my boys.
- Young Jane Young. Gabrielle Zevin. Empowering story of a woman reinventing herself after a very public set-back.
- Little Fires Everyone. Celeste Ng. All is not perfect in suburbia, this dramatic tale was a page-turner!
- Norwegian Wood. Haruki Murakami. Oh so sad and lovely.
- Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates. Important read and his writing style is beautiful.
Ok, whoa, that took forever. I need to go to monthly or at least seasonal updates because that was rough. I hope at least some of you find something new to try from this list, and if you do, let me know how you liked it!