2018 was not the greatest reading year for me. I had my first child in January, and the following months were an absolute whirlwind of hormones and emotion, love and care, for this new little life. Now that I am a bit more of a seasoned parent (ha!), I wish I would have taken advantage of the days in which my daughter would sleep for 20 hours out of the day, to read and enjoy my leave. Unfortunately, new mom crazies were at an all time high, and my anxiety levels + hormone scares kept me from doing about anything beyond surviving. This is okay.
I did read some amazing books in the year of 2018, so I wanted to take some time to dissect some of these titles and talk about my highlights.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
“To a parent, your child wasn't just a person: your child was a place, a kind of Narnia, a vast eternal place where the present you were living and the past you remembered and the future you longed for all at the same time. You could see it every time you looked at her: layered in her face was the baby she'd been and the child she'd become and the adult she would grow up to be, and you saw them all simultaneously, like a 3-D image. It made your head spin. It was a place you could take refuge, if you knew how to get in. And each time you left it, each time your child passed out of your sight, you feared you might never be able to return to that place again.”
What a special place this book holds in my heart. I could not have started 2018 off with a more spectacular title. I was right in the middle of this book when I went into labor with my daughter, and I finished it when she was merely 2 days old. This book is a stunning look on what it means to be a mother, and what it means to be a woman. Ng is a fantastic writer, and I’m looking forward to reading more from here in the future.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
“... home was not just a cabin in a deep woods that overlooked a placid cove. Home was a state of mind, the peace that came from being who you were and living an honest life.”
Some books change you. They question your heart & your spirit, and unfold you as you cling to the essence of yourself. This story left me in pieces, and I found deep healing in putting those pieces back together again. Now, I am stronger.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”
I’ve never felt more admiration and pure love for a fictional character, than I felt for Kya. The characters in this story gave me a hope for the humanity that is surely left in this world - and yet also fueled a rage inside of me for the wickedness in some individuals that seems to soak into everything around us.
The earth was perhaps my favorite role in this story. Owens creates magic and sparkling life through nature writing, and it is a gift.
This book was empowering and inspirational. I will not forget Kya’s journey through life.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
“Jeevan found himself thinking about how human the city is, how human everything is. We bemoaned the impersonality of the modern world, but that was a lie, it seemed to him; it had never been impersonal at all. There had always been a massive delicate infrastructure of people, all of them working unnoticed around us, and when people stop going to work, the entire operation grinds to a halt. No one delivers fuel to the gas stations or the airports. Cars are stranded. Airplanes cannot fly. Trucks remain at their points of origin. Food never reaches the cities; grocery stores close. Businesses are locked and then looted. No one comes to work at the power plants or the substations, no one removes fallen trees from electrical lines. Jeevan was standing by the window when the lights went out.”
“Hell is the absence of the people you long for,” Another quote by the lovely Emily St. John Mandel, who is a stunningly gifted writer, and what feels to be, friend.
To call this book an apocalyptic novel would not do it justice. This book takes a look at what beauty means when there are so few people to gaze upon it, it looks at how to restore art in a fallen universe, and what community means when the people that were surrounding you when all the lights went out, become the only people you have left. The story was so incredibly raw and honest - it was a breathtaking look at our fragility and resilience as a human race.
Read this one. It is a new required classic.
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
“There are no lessons in it. There's just this harsh, horrible world touched with beautiful magic, where shity things happen. And they don't happen for a reason, or in threes, or in a way that looks like justice.
This book received extremely polarizing reviews. I have friends who adored this tale of dark magic and apathy, and some who rated it as their lowest of 2018.
I think that Albert is a master storyteller, weaving darkness and whimsy into magnificent prose. I loved that the story went in directions that I may not have chosen myself, and I appreciated the untidy endings to a myriad of story arcs.
The characters were flawed, dark and twisty. They look out for themselves. They don’t require happy endings, and they have real and raw issues that can make them both severely unlikeable and greatly relatable. The main protagonist is angry and self seeking, but this is just the top layer to her character development. She is broken, unaware of what has shaped her, and without an identity. Discovering her story is her journey through this fairy tale.
Eleanor Elephant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
How To Walk Away by Katherine Center
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han