Women’s Prize for Fiction Names 2019 Shortlist

The Women’s Prize for Fiction announced its 2019 shortlist.

Formerly the Orange Prize and Baileys Prize, the Women’s Prize for Fiction recognizes the best English-language novel by a woman published in the U.K. in the previous year. The award celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.”

The shortlist includes one debut author (Oyinkan Braithwaite), one previously shortlisted author (Anna Burns), a previous Orange Prize for Fiction winner (Madeline Miller), and an Orange Award for New Writers winner (Diana Evans). The list also includes a few Year in Reading alums, and all the books were featured in our 2018 First-Half and Second-Half Book Previews.

Here is the 2019 shortlist, with Publishers Weekly reviews:

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Read Publishers Weekly’s review here: Barker, author of the Booker-winning The Ghost Road, speculates about the fate of the women taken captive during the Trojan War, as related in Homer’s Iliad. Briseis, queen of the small country of Lyrnessus, was captured by the Greek forces and awarded to Achilles, fated to serve him as slave and concubine. Through her eyes readers see the horror of war: the sea of blood and corpses, the looting, and the drunken aftermath of battle. When Agamemnon demands that Briseis be handed over to him, Achilles reacts with rage and refuses to fight, and when his foster brother and lover Patrocles is killed, having gone into battle in Achilles’s stead, Briseis becomes the unwitting catalyst of a turning point in the war. In Barker’s hands, the conflict takes on a new dimension, with revisionist portraits of Achilles (“we called him the butcher”) and Patroclus (he had “taken his mother’s place” in Achilles’s heart). Despite its strong narrative line and transportive scenes of ancient life, however, this novel lacks the lyrical cadences and magical intensity of Madeline Miller’s Circe, another recent revising of Greek mythology. The use of British contemporary slang in the dialogue is jarring, and detracts from the story’s intensity. Yet this remains a suspenseful and moving illumination of women’s fates in wartime.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Here’s what Publishers Weekly’s starred review had to say: Braithwaite’s blazing debut is as sharp as the knife that twists in the chest of Femi, the now-dead boyfriend of Ayoola, whose boyfriends, curiously, seem to keep winding up dead in her presence. Femi makes dead boyfriend number three—each were killed in self-defense, according to Ayoola—and, per usual, Ayoola’s older sister, Korede, is called upon to help dispose of the body. The only confidante Korede has is a coma patient at the Lagos hospital where she works, which is the only place she can go to escape Ayoola. It is also where she can see the man she loves, a handsome and thoughtful doctor named Tade. Of course, this means that when the capricious Ayoola decides to start visiting her sister at work, she takes notice of him, and him of her. This is the last straw for Korede, who realizes she is both the only person who understands how dangerous her sister is and the only person who can intervene before her beloved Tade gets hurt, or worse. Interwoven with Korede, Ayoola, and Tade’s love triangle is the story of Korede and Ayoola’s upbringing, which is shadowed by the memory of their father, a cruel man who met a tragic and accidental death—or did he? As Korede notes when she considers her own culpability in her sister’s temperament: “His blood is my blood and my blood is hers.” The reveal at the end isn’t so much a “gotcha” moment as the dawning of an inevitable, creeping feeling that Braithwaite expertly crafts over the course of the novel. This is both bitingly funny and brilliantly executed, with not a single word out of place.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Here’s Publishers Weekly’s starred review: In her Booker-winning novel, Burns (No Bones) gives an acute, chilling, and often wry portrait of a young woman—and a district—under siege. The narrator—she and most of the characters are unnamed (“maybe-boyfriend,” “third brother-in-law,” “Somebody McSomebody”)—lives in an unspecified town in Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s. Her town is effectively governed by paramilitary renouncers of the state “over the water,” as they call it. The community is wedged between the renouncers, meting out rough justice for any suspected disloyalty, and the state’s security forces. One day, “milkman,” a “highranking, prestigious dissident” who has nothing to do with the milk trade, offers the narrator a ride. From this initial approach, casual but menacing, the community, already suspicious of her for her “beyond-the-pale” habit of walking and reading 19th-century literature, assumes that she is involved with the rebel. Milkman, however, is in essence stalking her, and over the course of several months she strives, under increasing pressure, to evade his surveilling gaze and sustained “unstoppable predations.” There is a touch of James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus in the narrator’s cerebral reticence, employing as she does silence, exile, and cunning in her attempt to fly the nets of her “intricately coiled, overly secretive, hyper-gossippy, puritanical yet indecent, totalitarian district.” Enduring the exhausting “minutiae of invasion” to which she is subjected by milkman, and the incursion of the Troubles on every aspect of life, the narrator of this claustrophobic yet strangely buoyant tale undergoes an unsentimental education in sexual politics. This is an unforgettable novel.

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Read what Publishers Weekly had to say: Evans’s striking novel (following 26A) investigates the relationships of two sets of friends as they navigate pivotal moments during 2008. Melissa and Michael remain engaged after 13 years; Melissa misses her former job as a magazine’s fashion editor, which she left to care for her seven-year-old, Ria, and infant, Blake, while Michael longs for the passionate relationship they used to have. Continually feeling rebuffed at home, Michael searches for attention from others and notices a younger woman in his office. Hesitant to be unfaithful, Michael plans an outing to connect with Melissa, but the evening falls short of expectations and Melissa withdraws further. Meanwhile, in the second narrative, Michael’s friend Damian is frustrated with Stephanie, his wife of nearly 16 years, because she refuses to live in London like their friends, opting instead to raise their children in the suburbs, thereby squelching his dream of city life and ambition of being a writer. Along with coping with the recent loss of his activist father, Damian believes his wife and her family don’t share his values, and instead measure their success by the size of their home and the private lessons they provide their children. With penetrating emotional and psychological observations, Evans creates a realistic portrayal of the couples as they struggle to redefine commitment. Readers looking for careful studies of relationship dynamics will find much to contemplate.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Read Publishers Weekly’s review: Jones (Silver Sparrow) lays bare the devastating effects of wrongful imprisonment in this piercing tale of an unspooling marriage. Roy, an ambitious corporate executive, and Celestial, a talented artist and the daughter of a self-made millionaire, struggle to maintain their fledgling union when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in prison on a rape charge he is adamant is false. Before Roy’s arrest, the narrative toggles between his and Celestial’s perspectives; it takes an epistolary form during his imprisonment that affectingly depicts their heartbreaking descent into anger, confusion, and loneliness. When Roy is proven innocent and released seven years early, another narrator is introduced: Andre, Celestial’s lifelong best friend who has become very close to her while Roy has been away. Jones maintains a brisk pace that injects real suspense into the principal characters’ choices around fidelity, which are all fraught with guilt and suspicion, admirably refraining from tipping her hand toward one character’s perspective. The dialogue—especially the letters between Roy and Celestial—are sometimes too heavily weighted by exposition, and the language slides toward melodrama. But the central conflict is masterfully executed: Jones uses her love triangle to explore simmering class tensions and reverberating racial injustice in the contemporary South, while also delivering a satisfying romantic drama.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Read Publishers Weekly’s starred review here: Miller follows her impressive debut (The Song of Achilles) with a spirited novel about Circe’s evolution from insignificant nymph to formidable witch best known for turning Odysseus’s sailors into swine. Her narrative begins with a description of growing up the awkward daughter of Helios, the sun god. She does not discover her gift for pharmakeia (the art of using herbs and spells) until she transforms her first love, a poor fisherman, into a god. When he rejects her in favor of vain Scylla, Circe turns Scylla into a sea monster. Now considered dangerous, Circe is exiled to an island, where she experiments with local flora and fauna. After returning from a visit to Crete to help her sister give birth to the Minotaur, Circe is joined on the island by errant nymphs sentenced to do their penance in her service. By the time Odysseus’s ship arrives, winding its way home from the Trojan War, Circe reigns over a prosperous household. Welcome guests enjoy her hospitality; unwelcome guests are turned into wild pigs. Neither the goddess Athena nor the deadliest poison known to man makes Circe flinch. Weaving together Homer’s tale with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment. She paints an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal.

The winner will be announced on June 5.

Man Booker International Prize Names 2019 Shortlist

The Man Booker International Prize named its six-title shortlist, narrowed down from last month’s 13-title longlist.

Honoring the best translated fiction from around the world, the prize awards £50,000 to be split evenly between authors and translators. Like the longlist, the shortlist is dominated by women and independent publishers. Five of the six nominees are women including Olga Tokarczuck, who won the 2018 prize, and her translator, Antonia Lloyd-Jones. The list also includes novels in five different languages: Arabic, French, German, Polish, and Spanish.

Here’s the 2019 Man Booker International shortlist with bonus links where applicable:

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
The Years by Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer (Subject of this essay by Arthur Willemse)
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Tokarczuk won last year’s prize for Flights)
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated by Anne McLean (Featured in our September Preview)
The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zeran, translated by Sophie Hughes

The Man Booker International winner will be announced on May 21.

International DUBLIN Literary Award Names 2019 Shortlist

The International DUBLIN Literary Award—which is given to a novel written in or translated into English—announced its 10-title 2019 shortlist. In its 24th year, the award is administered by Dublin City Public Libraries, with nominations submitted by “library systems in major cities throughout the world.”

Here is the 2019 shortlist (with bonus links where applicable):

Compass by Mathias Énard and translated by Charlotte Mandell (Featured in Lydia Kiesling’s 2017 Year in Reading)

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (Read our review)

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Read our essay on the “world-spanning humanism” of Hamid’s work)

Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (Featured in our 2018 Second-Half Preview)

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (Read our review)

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Read our review of the 2017 Man Booker winner)

A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (Featured in numerous Year in Reading entries)

The winner will be announced on June 12th.

Hugo Awards Names 2019 Finalists

The Hugo Awards announced its 2019 finalists this morning. Voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and sponsored by the World Science Fiction Society, the Hugo Awards are “science fiction’s most prestigious award.”

(If you can’t get enough science fiction, check out two essays from our archives that feature a few of the finalists below.)

Below is a selection of the 2019 finalists. And here’s the full list.


Best Novel

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Best Novella

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire
Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark
Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson
The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Best Graphic Story

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed (writing); Sami Kivelä (artwork); Jason Wordie (coloring); Jim Campbell (lettering)
Black Panther: Long Live the King by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington (writing); André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino, and Tana Ford (artwork)
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven by Marjorie Liu (writing); Sana Takeda (artwork)
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Paper Girls, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan (writing); Cliff Chiang (artwork); Matt Wilson (coloring); Jared K. Fletcher (lettering)
Saga, Volume 9 by Brian K. Vaughan (writing); Fiona Staples (artwork)

The awards will be announced at Worldcon 76 on August 18, 2019.

Lambda Literary Award Names 2019 Finalists

Whittled down from a pool of 1,000 submissions, the finalists for the 2019 Lambda Literary Awards were announced this morning. The awards, which highlight and celebrate LBGTQ literature, feature 24 categories, including a brand new category: Bisexual Poetry. Finalists include Akwaeke Emezi, Joseph Cassara (our interview), Hieu Minh Nguyen (ft. in our Must-Read Poetry: April 2018), and Year in Reading alums Patrick Nathan (2017) and Jordy Rosenberg (2018).Winners will be announced at a ceremony on Monday, June 3, in New York City.

A Way Out: Dave Cullen Doesn’t Want to Write Another ‘Columbine’

A few years ago, I read Dave Cullen’s gripping and horrifying masterpiece Columbine over the course of a few weeks, which is a lifetime for a quick reader like me. With Columbine, which is deeply researched and devastatingly detailed, Cullen seemed to have written the book on school shootings. Yet he’s continued to report on mass shootings for the nearly two decades since—sometimes to the detriment of his own mental health.
On Valentine’s Day 2018, Parkland became (in a lot of ways) Columbine’s other half. The two tragedies broke through the media cacophony for different reasons. Where Columbine was shock and confusion, Parkland was understanding and action. The aftermath of Parkland was unlike any other mass shooting this country has ever seen. Just a few hours after the most devastating moment of their lives, the Parkland kids gave the nation their voice, tears, and a call to action. Thankfully Cullen was there, with his keen eye and sharp writing, to lend them another megaphone.
Cullen’s newest book, Parkland: Birth of a Movement, is out this month—just two days before the one-year anniversary of the shooting. Reported, written, and edited in less than a year, Parkland is a very different book than Columbine—and rightfully so.
Last weekend, Cullen and I spoke for a few hours over the phone about the Parkland teens, how Columbine ushered in the “horrible school shooter era,” the shifting cultural and political climate, and his next project (a book about gay soldiers that he’s been working on and off for nearly two decades). Our interview has been condensed, with far too much wonderful material left on the cutting room floor.
1. Comparisons to Columbine
The Millions: Obviously people are going to compare this book to your previous book Columbine, which I always say is a masterclass on school shooting reporting. But Parkland is very different in terms of subject and scope. What made you want to write this kind of book versus a Columbine-esque book?
Dave Cullen: I never wanted to do a Columbine book again…I had already done that. It’s kind of a selfish and unselfish part. The selfish part is that I couldn’t handle that.
I never thought I would do this again…[Parkland] feels like a possible way out…But my hunch, my best guess and hope, is that these will be the bookends—neither the first nor the last—Columbine was the one that really ratcheted up and set the rest of this in motion, and [Parkland is] the beginning of the end and the way out.
So with Columbine, since it’s the one that set it in motion and took the survivors by shock, that seemed like the appropriate story to tell: both why this happened and what’s going on with these killers, and what it did to a community and how they overcame it. That seemed like a relevant story to me, both of those two different stories. And this time: If this is the way out or a way out…then I want to do their story of the way out, the exit strategy. This is a different time, different situation, different need, and if this is the way out: Why would I do another book on the causes?
There have been hundreds of mass shootings since Columbine…and we don’t need another book…What’s unique about Parkland is it’s these kids who did something and took America by storm and led this uprising. America was so ready and desperate for something—we didn’t expect it to be these kids—but we were desperate for a way out, and they arose and let us out. And that’s amazing and that’s what grabbed me, and I think America. That’s the story I wanted to tell.
2. The Parkland Difference
TM: I think some of the [Columbine] expectations speak to what you’re outlining in the book: Parkland deserved a different kind of book. They created a different kind of narrative.
DC: Exactly, and these kids flipped the script. I say in there too: We have this ongoing problem. There are three big problems and potential ways out of this disaster. People say mental health but I would put it much more narrowly as teen depression. Treating and identifying teen depression early before it becomes a problem. Two is guns obviously. Three is the media giving the stage to the people who want to create this spectacle.
So they picked one, or we’d fritter our message or fragment it. Nobody has had success on any of these and if we try to do all of them, we’re going to be one more failed group. They decided very, very quickly on guns…They may have solved the media one, too, inadvertently.


Timing is everything and these kids—it was such a perfect storm of things—but the luck of their timing was perfect in a couple different ways. First, the country was so angry partly because of the Trump situation and really ready for something. There’s something called the “Resistance” but that didn’t have an agenda or a positive purpose…The country was waiting for someone to lead us on something.
3. The Changing Tides
DC: Being the mass murder guy, unfortunately I have a keen awareness of a lot of these things by doing the shows and answering these questions and getting emails.
I would say about the first 17 years after Columbine, and there was no exact moment, but the first question of every interview was always “Why they did it?” “Why did they do it?” was the burning question. I don’t get that as a primary question anymore starting two to three years ago. …The media was actually starting to pay less attention and the phenomena of “no notoriety” was catching on and showing them less and using the name less.
We were losing interest and still doing it because we didn’t have anything to take its place. And then suddenly the kids came in at just the right moment and so okay here’s something to take its place and they did.
I’ve been asking other people who have been interviewing me and so far no one can even name the killer…We really won that battle without intending to. He’s invisible.
TM: I don’t think I’ve read anything about him since that initial week or even seen a photo of him.
DC: I know, right? I did see photos of him early on but it didn’t stick. He’s just a nobody. I think they really solved that problem. David Hogg, I believe, became the first person who became more interesting than the person who attacked him—more interesting and more famous and he did that within 24 hours. And two days later, Emma González was much more famous than David.
The media doesn’t have to go back to its old ways. We have a better story. The kids created a better story for us. They slammed the door, not all the way shut, but slammed it. Some other perpetrators will force their way through it but I think it’s closing. I think we’re on our way out.
TM: Let’s hope so. So what’s next for you? I assume you’re back to the gay soldiers book.
I am and I can’t wait to get back to that…I am really excited. This is such a different kind of story. It’s the kind of stuff I like doing. It’s like really in-depth character work. I didn’t know how to say this without sounding pompous or full of myself but I don’t know of any journalistic enterprise where someone spent 20 years with their subject.
I want [the book] to be two things: America’s role in the Middle East—misadventures, I would say—for almost 30 years, and the gay rights struggle. …The main story I’m focusing on is gays in the military and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. What I try to do…is telling the larger story through the small. There’s the bigger picture going on with this vast change in American attitudes toward gays and gradual acceptance. …I’m trying to tell two uber stories through…two specific guys.

National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists Announced



The National Book Critics Circle announced their 2018 Award Finalists, and the winners of three awards: the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, John Leonard Prize, and Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing.

The finalists include 31 writers across six different categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Biography, Autobiography, Fiction, Poetry, and Criticism. Here are the finalists separated by genre:

Fiction:
Milkman by Anna Burns (winner of the Man Booker Prize)
Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau (translated by Linda Coverdale)
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

Nonfiction:
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantú (part of our 2018 Great Book Preview)
Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Steve Coll
The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt
We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights by Adam Winkler
God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright

Biography:
Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos
Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown
Inseparable: The Original Siamese Twins and Their Rendezvous with American History by Yunte Huang
The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster
The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy

Autobiography:
The Day That Went Missing: A Family’s Story by Richard Beard
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung
What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood by Rigoberto Gonzalez
Belonging: A German Reckons With History and Home by Nora Krug
Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Poetry:
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes (read our review)
The Carrying by Ada Limón (found in our August 2018 Must-Read Poetry list)
Holy Moly Carry Me by Erika Meitner
Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl by Diane Seuss
Asymmetry by Adam Zagajewski (translated by Clare Cavanagh)

Criticism:
Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017 by Robert Christgau
Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt
To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight by Terrance Hayes
The Reckonings: Essays by Lacy M. Johnson
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith (found in our February 2018 Monthly Book Preview)

Here are the winners of the three stand-alone awards: Arte Público Press won the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions to book culture. Maureen Corrigan won the Nona Balakin Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. Tommy Orange’s There There won the John Leonard Prize for a first book in any genre. (Read Orange’s 2018 Year in Reading entry).

The winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on March 14, 2019.

A Year in Reading: Carolyn Quimby

2018 was the year I outgrew my bookshelves. Between my boyfriend and myself, we already had a lot of books but this year our shelves began to burst at the seams. Between reviewing gigs, landing on more publicity lists, and my propensity for buying books, there is just not enough space. Stacks of books have taken up residence on our headboard, next to my desk, on the floor next to the bed, on any flat surface we can find. I was not shocked by the swelling shelves as this was my first full year of reviewing books professionally. Sometimes it still feels weird to say my job (well, one of them) is reviewing books. A blessing with a rather wonderful downside: being assigned reviews means I have less time to read what I want when I want. Despite this, I was able to read some truly incredible books this year.

I kicked off 2018 with Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, which I read poolside on vacation. The stark difference between the collection’s tone and my physical setting was not lost on me. Everything that needs to be said about the book has already been said. All I’ll add is that it’s one of the best bodies of work (and debuts) I’ve ever read. Upon returning to the snowy tri-state area, I spent the seemingly never-ending winter making my way through a mishmash of books: Rebekah Frumkin’s The Comedown, an ambitious multi-generational epic from a writer to watch; Tayari Jones’ honest and searing An American Marriage; John Lewis’s March trilogy, which left me in tears; Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes (the smart, funny, and Rhimes-narrated audiobook is highly recommended); and Leïla Slimani’s claustrophobic and thrilling The Perfect Nanny.

In the summer, I escaped to the Catskills nearly every other weekend—sans wifi, cell service, and other people—and read. Whether it was on the porch, next to the wood burning stove, or over a cheese plate, I was curled up with a book. Said books included Leni Zumas’ Red Clocks, which was both gripping and timely; Rachel Cusk’s Outline, a sparse triumph ; Samantha Hunt’s genre-bending, achingly-poetic The Seas; Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s heartbreakingly empathetic The Fact of a Body; Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry, which I devoured in nearly one sitting; and Elif Batuman’s The Idiot, a beautiful novel about banality.

Fall fell away in a flurry of pages and a stretch of indelible books. It started with R. O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries, a slim, luminous novel where every sentence felt like a carefully-crafted poem. I mean: “punch-stained red cups split underfoot, opening into plastic petals.” Nearly a week’s worth of commuting was spent savoring Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. A few essays made me openly weep on public transportation and I can think of no greater compliment. Essays gave way to post-apocalyptic debut with Ling Ma’s Severance—perhaps my favorite book published in 2018. Ma renders the peril and monotony at the end of the world with humor and heart. After passing its empty place on the library shelves for months, I finally borrowed André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. It left me raw and with a desire to flee to Italy. Reading the novel felt like pressing on a bruise: painful and sweet. Sidelined with a cold, I waded then dove head first into Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, a modern retelling of Antigone. And after avoiding it for far too long (and for no good reason), I picked up Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, which surpassed all expectations. In the midst of a depressive fog, the novel unlocked something inside me and buoyed me into December.

Looking back, I realize I mostly read women writers—not a conscious choice but a choice nonetheless. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of my best reading years in memory was slanted in such a way, and I suspect next year will look similar. Looking forward, I expect to read all the books I missed this year (there were many), and as 2019 books find their way into my mailbox, I am going to find new homes for some of our misfit books. Maybe even regain a flat surface or two, if we’re lucky.

More from A Year in Reading 2018

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