My Favorite Books of 2018

The end of the year is finally here, huzzah! While the real world has been busy and stressful my reading life has gone much better. Escapism for the win! 😉

So here’s my yearly list of favorite reads. Just like last year there’s an even mix of romance, other fiction, and non-fiction, and authors from marginalized groups show up in a big way. Let’s jump into it, with the titles listed in reverse alphabetical order by title, just because:

26073085White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

This book left me infuriated, shocked, and heart-broken in turns. Court cases may have guaranteed African-Americans equal rights, but this book showed me that they needed to be fought for outside of the courts two and three times over.

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Warday by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka

Suppose the US and the USSR had a nuclear exchange in 1984. What would happen? Where would get targeted and why? What would the days, weeks, months, and years after look like? Strieber and Kunetka dive deep into all of that in this epistolary-esque account of their travels around America some five years after “Warday”. It’s chilling and brings the aftermath of nuclear war to life.

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Syncopation by Anna Zabo (Twisted Wishes #1)

An m/m romance with an aromantic protagonist written by a non-binary author, centering on a Queer rock band? Yes, please! Add in some BDSM elements, great characterization, and the best anaphylactic shock I’ve read and I’m in love.

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The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda

Weird, wonderful short stories that spin out realistic absurdities while examining the role and status of women in Japan. My favorite piece is An Exotic Marriage, a novella about a husband and wife who find themselves resembling each other in more concrete ways than you’d expect.

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Invisible: How Young Women with Serious Health Issues Navigate Work, Relationships, and the Pressure to Seem Just Fine by Michele Lent Hirsch

Part memoir, part anecdote, and part research, Invisible does an amazing job looking at women society deems “too young” or “too pretty” to be sick. Own voices for health issues and being queer, it’s full of thoughts and discussions us relatively healthy folk have never even had to think about while being intersectional to the hilt. Maybe the most underrated new release I’ve read this year.

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Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas (The Ravenels #4)

Historical romance based on the first woman doctor in England is totally my thing. Kleypas’ writing is as solid as ever with an extra dose of suspense and some great story arcs for secondary characters as well as the main couple.

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Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur

A short book that builds up the story in layers, one chapter at a time. We look into the lives of different members of an Indian family and their rags to riches story… but how did they get all that money so quickly, anyway?

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Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser

The history of nuclear weapons, which is more like a history of nuclear near-accidents, and a gripping account of an incident at an American missile silo. If you’ve never heard of the Damascus Accident don’t look it up now – let Schlosser guide you through it minute by minute in a great example of narrative nonfiction.

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The Chateau by Tiffany Reisz (Original Sinners #9)

A flashback set in the Original Sinners series, The Chateau is great for anyone that’s already in love with Nora, Soren, Kingsley, and the rest of the gang. It’s a gender-flipped and toned down version of The Story of O and includes a killer mind fuck.

35656812All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

The character work in this classic is just great. Lady Shane’s husband, a prominent politician, has died and her children have gathered to decide what to do with mother. When she proclaims her own wants, maybe for the first time in their lives, the kids have no idea what to make of it.

There we have it, my favorite books of 2018! What was your top read of the year? Are there any new releases you’re anticipating next year?

My Favorite Books of 2017

Yea for best of lists!  I’ve had putting fun putting this together, as looking through 2017 through the lens of my reading is better than nearly any other lens out there. (And we thought 2016 was bad!)  Here’s hoping that 2018 turns things around, or at least provides as many quality reading experiences as this year.

The list is pretty representative of my intake as a whole – evenly split among non-fiction, romance, and other fiction; plenty of authors from marginalized groups; and the overwhelming majority are written by women.  It’s nice when it works out like that!

So without any further ado here’s my ten favorite books of 2017, in reverse alphabetical order by title and linked to reviews where possible:

29242461When the Marquess Falls by Lorraine Heath

The perfect novella topper to the Hellions of Havisham series.  It doesn’t work as a standalone, though, so be sure to start with Falling into Bed with a Duke.

25189315Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

A look at what it means to have a good death, written by someone who has been closer to that abyss than most.  Doughty speaks honestly about things we’d never admit to being curious about (why don’t we see dead bodies at the hospital?), things many of us never think about (what happens when a homeless person dies?), and things we should really think about (what do I want to become of my remains?).

30347690A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero, translated by Frances Riddle

The malambo is my favorite dance that I never knew about. Guerriero takes us to a competition in Argentina where winning means never dancing the malambo again.  The writing is exquisite and the story sticks with you like no other.

30755704The Red by Tiffany Reisz

Reisz is at her best in erotica mode and it’s all left to hang out here – kink, mind-bending twists, and fine art (for good measure).  Not for the faint of heart but everyone else? Jump in.

31843383Passing Strange by Ellen Klages

The book I’ve pushed on recommended to more people than any other this year – the best bits of historical fiction, queer stories, and magical realism rolled into a tight novella.  I rationed it out to myself so I wouldn’t finish too quickly; the writing is that wonderful.

28186071Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic’s Life by Alice Childress

These vignettes are a joy, and I love the look at what it’s like to be a black domestic worker in 1950’s New York. While the way of life is different there are other parts that are eerily familiar, making it a forever timely read.

25376011For Real by Alexis Hall

A BDSM, LGBTQIA+ romance that flips all.the.tropes in a satisfying, hefty way.  Each hero’s point of view is specific and completely different from the other, making the story believable and authentic even though it’s far from the usual.  Totally deserving of its RITA.

32311672Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life by Jessica Nutik Zitter

My favorite Nonfiction November read.  Zitter says that doctors are awful at helping patients having a good death because as far as they’re concerned dying on their watch is a failure.  She examines what the “end-of-life conveyor belt” and how to avoid it with engaging stories and cases.  Not an easy read but an essential one.

25489134The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

This book reminded me that adult (as oppossed to YA) fantasy is straight up awesome.  A fairy tale of sorts set in a Russian winter, Arden gives the reader all the respect they deserve while telling engrossing tale with magic and demons and a tiny hint of love.  The second in the series just came out and I can’t wait to get to it.

35297339Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize this one – it hasn’t come out yet but I had to include it.  Halliday weaves two completely unrelated stories together in a mind-blowing way that only gets better the more you think and reflect on it.  A longer (and even more gushy!) review on its release day in February.

There we have it, my favorite books of 2017!  What was your top read of the year?  Is there anything I should keep my eye out for in 2018?

My Favorite Books of 2016

It’s been quite a year!  …that may be the understatement of the year.  Luckily I’ve read some amazing books to see me through these tough times.  Here are my ten favorites, linked to reviews and in reverse alpha order by title.  Just because.

25607518Why God is a Woman by Nin Andrews

This was my first prose poetry collection and I fell so hard.  Deep and funny and skewering in turns, Andrews uses satire to show how binary gender norms are arbitrary and absurd.  If you’re not a poetry buff fear not, this is accessible and beautiful like no other.

Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated by Lisa Dillman25067884

It won the Best Translated Book Award for a reason – the writing is both light and deep, and Dillman does an awesome job with the translation.  Short and powerful, I’ll be coming back to it in the years to come.

25330335Seeing Red by Lina Meruane, translated by Megan McDowell

This book clawed into my brain and never left.  The image of blood gushing into her eye, robbing her of sight, and her journey as an “apprentice blind woman” are relentless, haunting, and real.

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente3973532

The Night Circus-sized hole in my heart has finally been filled.  A novel of image and character more than plot, Palimpsest is a place to get lost in, marvel at, and be horrified by.

9780062363596_b2357Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Women and minorities regularly get left out of our histories, but here they’re finally front and center – the black women “computers” who calculated our path to the stars.  It’s inspiring and fascinating, a natural fit for the silver screen.

Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins25760151

My favorite Jenkins novel so far. Fascinating subject matter, firmly set in time and place, and the love story is oh so sweet. I learned a ton and the research tidbits at the end are delightful.

2635587Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang

A wide-ranging, deep, and humanizing look at life in modern China.  Chang’s prose is beautiful, and her own family’s story adds nuance to an already deep story.

The Curious Case of Dassoukine’s Trousers by Fouad Laroui, translated by27135621 Emma Ramadan

Finally, a short story collection I love!  Laroui plays with language while exploring what it means to be foreign. Add in some absurdity and laugh-out-loud lines and it’s the new Kazen catnip.

26633749The Complete Review Guide to Contemporary World Fiction by M.A. Orthofer

This year I got into translated fiction and Orthofer is a wise and learned guide.  Whenever I’m in a rut I flip through it and find something I just have to read – great stuff.

Committed by Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson29955558

A thorough and thoughtful look at involuntary commitment.  Miller and Hanson talk to all sides (including a Scientologist!) and cover the issue from many issues and viewpoints.  Fascinating.

Honorable mentions: The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, and Columbine by Dave Cullen.

My Favorite Books of 2015

I love the end of the year, tidying up loose ends and dreaming about what next year may bring.  And plotting!  Much plotting.  But before that I’m taking a look at the top ten books I’ve read this year.  Linked to reviews and in reverse alpha order by title, as the W’s get oh so little love:

7005652When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka

A poetic look at what life was like in Japanese internment camps during World War II.  It’s a part of American history that gets glossed over too easily and Otsuka brings it to poetic life.  Especially relevant considering the current political situation and fear of those who don’t look like us.

15998346What Doctors Feel by Danielle Ofri

This book guided my first year working as a medical interpreter, especially the times I was scared of messing up so bad that it would end up hurting patient.  “Being a doctor means living with that fear, incorporating it into one’s daily life,” Ofri writes, “…figuring out how to titrate it appropriately is a vital skill for a doctor.”  I’m working on it.

108305Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle

From my “Summer of Fire”, where I read about all kinds of blazes.  This book was my favorite of the bunch because it not only detailed the tragedy itself but also it’s aftereffects, from the trial of the building owners to how it helped shape the labor movement and political reform.

311182These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

Simply delightful. It’s wonderful to get to know characters by what they say and do without paragraphs of collected details. While it took me some time to get into the story (starting the book while waiting in line didn’t help) once things got going I was entranced. And watching the whole plot unravel at that last soiree? Stunning. I can’t wait to read the rest of her stuff.

23564319Poison Study by Maria V. Synder

How I love plotty fantasy!  It’s all here – lots of action, great world building, rival lands without an obvious good guy or bad guy, and even a little romance.  After blasting through the first two books (second review forthcoming) I’m trying to ration the rest.

18493152Night Calls by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

I have no idea how this book flew under the radar when it was published twenty years ago – it’s Little House in the Big Woods with vampires and werewolves.  Instantly awesome, right?  Add in a young female protagonist, an interesting magic system, wonderful characters and plotplotplot to get an amazing read.  And it’s a series, yea!

2524055Love Marriage by V. V. Ganeshananthan

Review forthcoming – a lyric telling of one family’s Tamil diaspora experience.  It’s one of those novels that is filled with history but never feels fact-y.  I feel like a better person for reading it… but more about that next week.

22253729Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin

My hands down favorite non-fiction of the year.  After working at a desk job MacLaughlin quit and became a carpenter’s assistant.  We get to see her learn the job but it goes much deeper than that – what does our profession say about us?  How do we change when our job changes? Ooo, now that I think about it this might be a good pairing with some Studs Turkel… I sense a “Winter of Working” coming on!

24805225Falling Into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath

Everything I love in a Regency romance – banter!  Historical accuracy!  Twisted tropes!  Heath is a master of the form and one of my all time favorite romance authors.  A strong start to a new series.
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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

I have a review lined up for this one as well, never fear!  Mary Russell literally stumbles over the retired Sherlock Holmes one day and he is impressed with her powers of deduction and observation.  She become his apprentice and they solve harder and harder mysteries until their very lives hang in the balance.  (Dun-dun-DUUUUUN!)

Some honorable mentions because I can: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, In the City by Colette Brooks, and The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan.