From the Lit Director Desk: 2018 Reads

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It’s been very cold here in Austin. Sam and I have been bundling up in our library. 

 

I am nothing if not ambitious. With 2018 upon us, my list of books to read in just the first half of the new year is… well, it’s maybe all just a bit unwieldy. And I perhaps am not awake enough hours of the day to read every single book I’m excited about thus far in 2018. But, oh, I can dream! And I can list.

Below are some of the books that I’ve read and loved so far (largely fiction) along with lists of even more 2018 reads I’m excited to jump into. This is by no means a comprehensive or “best of” list, it’s simply what I’ve read and particularly enjoyed and those additional books that have intrigued me as I’ve gone through publisher catalogs, read excerpts here and there, and perused the thousands of other 2018 book lists making the rounds. It isn’t even close to the number of books I’ve tagged on Edelweiss, goodness knows.

In addition to the books below, I happily point you to this phenomenal list, generated by 2018 novelist R. O. Kwan, of 46 Women Writers of Color to Read in 2018. Read widely, my friends. Read everything. I am trying to.

If you’re still working your way through your 2017 TBR pile, allow me to please pour upon you all of the books I was excited about in the first half of last year. Now, let’s all quit every responsibility, pull up a comfy chair and start pre-ordering some new reads from your local indie bookstore.

 

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro
On Sale 1/9/18

Jamie Quatro is on fire. This novel of desire, spirituality, infidelity and temptation is a meditative, passionate dive into the nuances of love and mercy. When an intellectual affair becomes something more, obsession takes over, as does guilt, want and the deep examination of a faithful and meaningful life. Indeed, it is difficult not to be obsessed with this story that is by turns sultry, psychologically astute, emotionally wrenching, and obscenely well-written. I snapped through these pages and cried in public at the end. A divine and devouring book.

 

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot
On Sale 2/6/18

This book reads like a wildfire. Full of ferocious intellect, searing emotion and fearless self-examination, Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir surges through the complexity and conflict of love, trauma, identity and mental illness with language that crackles and burns right off the page. I was blown open reading her honest dispatches of life with her mother, the madness of romantic heartbreak, and her ventures toward love and stability. Brave is an easy word to describe this book, but it isn’t enough. Resilient, courageous, powerful, aware, alive, unforgettable; this slender memoir is huge.

 

An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones
On Sale 2/6/18

Beginning with an accusation that tears apart a passionate young newlywed couple, this novel examines the deep consequences of America’s racially-biased criminal justice system, the pressures of family expectation, and the effects of years piled up on young love. Chapter to chapter, I held my breath as Jones built an emotionally complicated, multi-layered relationship between Celestial and Roy, casting their fate as a couple against the inevitable evolution of their independent lives and teasing out the ways in which we hold on to and let go of the ones we love most. Celestial’s journey of self-actualization in respect to her art is particularly compelling. Brilliantly paced and beautifully written, An American Marriage dives into the gray areas of love both romantic and familial, presenting a triangle of desire without any easy answers and a stark, powerful rendering of personal loss in the face of injustice.

 

 

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border by Francisco Cantú
On Sale 2/6/18

Cantu’s mesmerizing chronicle of his life as a border guard opens up an important perspective on the urgent conversation of migration over the Mexico/U.S. border. This beautifully written, immersive firsthand account of Cantu’s work put me squarely in his shoes, walking those southern trails and coming face to face with both the people making the life-threatening journey north and the people tasked with tracking them. Cantu’s clean style lays bare his earnest effort to understand both sides and to portray the humanity of the migrants and of his fellow guards. This book is also a valuable crash course in the history of the border, the reason for surges in migration, and how the issue has played out over decades. The Line Becomes A River should be required reading, right alongside Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How This Ends.

 

White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom
On Sale 2/13/18

If there’s any single living novelist I would want to tell the story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, it’s Amy Bloom. No one writes intimacy and desire the way she does. Bloom weaves history and heart from the imagined, companionable voice of Hick, a writer who raises herself by her own gumption, work ethic and skillful pen from a cold, poor childhood home into the White House, where she becomes First Friend to the First Lady. This is a terribly romantic novel about two extraordinarily talented women whose love lasted decades, through war and White House politics and arguments and other lovers, through FDR and old age and the tumult of a connection and affection that could have destroyed them all, if it had been made public. I’m so grateful to Amy Bloom for casting this epic American love story in her gorgeous prose. Enchanting and endearing, White Houses is an irresistible read.

 

Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester
On Sale 3/13/18

Clear you calendar, turn off your phone and put up an away message before you sit down with this book. I’m giving you fair warning, because once you start turning these pages, you won’t want to stop until you’re done. Everyone Knows You Go Home begins with the appearance of a dead father on his son’s wedding day, an engaging, mesmerizing opening that kicks off this novel about family truth and fiction, the ways in which the past plays on the present, and the extended experience of families who immigrate north over the border between Mexico and the United States. Chapters pivot in time between a couple making their way over the border and the family that subsequently grows up in Texas. Sylvester has a keen talent for submersing readers in a character’s emotional psychology while keeping the story snapping along, building a gripping, tender narrative populated by rich and memorable personalities. Who writes a family’s history? What truths and fiction create our family dynamics? How do those stories travel across countries? I loved every page of this novel.

 

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
On Sale 4/3/18

Robust, immersive, and socially engaging, The Female Persuasion strikes up conversations about feminism, youth, privilege, activism and family in a story perfectly poised to get readers talking. Each distinct, deeply thoughtful character presents an opportunity to consider our own expectations of the world at large, who we think we are, and who, in the end, we turn out to be. Juxtaposing a young woman in her twenties with a feminist icon in the late stages of her career, Wolitzer casts an interrogative eye on the evolution and presumptions of American feminism. The strength of this novel lies in Wolitzer’s keen talent for presenting morally ambiguous decisions, fully inhabiting her characters and the psychology of their choices. Bring your book club. You’re going to want to talk about this one.

 

And Now We Have Everything by Meghan O’Connell
On Sale 4/10/18

Informative, entertaining, and real as f*ck, this book is an investigation into what no one ever fully tells you about pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and motherhood. Meaghan O’Connell holds nothing back, laying out everything from lofty pre-pregnancy expectations to the surreal trip of childbirth to the turbulent postpartum months. Her searing honesty and biting humor make this an indelible, personal read. I felt like I was getting all of the real dirt on this whole having-a-kid-thing from my very best friend. If your friend just had a kid and you don’t know what to say, give her this book. If YOU just had a kid and are wondering if you’re losing my mind, holy pajamas, read this book!

 

There There: A Novel by Tommy Orange
On Sale 6/5/18

This kaleidoscopic novel examines the lives and relationships of Native Americans in modern Oakland. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective, giving this the feel of a linked collection of stories that build in urgency as they overlap and zero in on the story’s central event, the Big Oakland Powwow. Orange is a powerful writer with a searing ability to cut through to dynamically different characters’ world views. It’s staggering that this is his debut. The voices in There There include an adolescent boy dancing in regalia behind his aunt’s back; a woman struggling to maintain sobriety and reconnect with her family; an internet-obsessed boy who tracks down his father; a college-age young man attempting to document the individual stories of indigenous people living in modern Oakland. The characters in this novel cover wide ground as they define themselves in the traditions they hold or shirk, the violent history that has been airbrushed with Thanksgiving stories, the addictions and loss that tear through families, and the meaning and consequences of what ultimately happens at the Powwow. Pre-order this one now and wish for June to get here already.

 

Currently Reading: 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
Girls Burn Brighter: A Novel by Shobha Rao
Speak No Evil: A Novel by Uzodinma Iweala
This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath
by Leslie Jamison
All the Names They Used for God: Stories by Anjali Sachdeva

 

 

Up Next (the TBR Shortlist): 

Call Me Zebra by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Tomorrow or Forever by Jack Kaulfus
Florida: Stories by Lauren Groff
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
The Beekeeper: Saving the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail
The Parking Lot Attendant: A Novel by Nafkote Tamirat
Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey
How to Love the Empty Air Cristin Aptowicz
See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary by Lorrie Moore

 

The Ever-Growing TBR Longlist for the First Half of 2018, in No Particular Order and with Absolutely No Regard for the Realities of Time, Space and Any Life Responsibilities Beyond Reading, Because I Just Want to Read It ALL:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullor and asha bandele
The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
Lake Success: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart
My Own Devices by Dessa
How to Love a Jamaican: Stories by Alexia Arthurs
Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers
The Mars Room: A Novel by Rachel Kushner
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Warlight: A Novel by Michael Ondaatje
All Our Wild Wonder by Sarah Kay
Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave by Zora Neale Hurston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A State of Freedom: A Novel by Neel Mukherjeea
Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital
Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez
Welcome to Lagos by Chibundu Onuzo
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai
Red Clocks: A Novel by Leni Zumas
Tropic of Squalor: Poems by Mary Karr
Neon in Daylight by Hermione Hoby
The Death of Truth by Michiko Kakutani
Whiskey and Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith
Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Trip: Psychedelics, Alienation, and Change by Tao Lin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell Jackson
If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi: Stories by Neel Patel
Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Sadness is a White Bird: A Novel by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis by Seamus McGraw
Whiskey by Bruce Holbert
The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
Motherhood: A Novel by Sheila Heti
Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride
Collision Theory by Adrian Todd Zuniga
The Third Hotel: A Novel by Laura van den Berg
Don’t Skip Out on Me: A Novel by Willy Vlautin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Austin Author Bonus! 

I highlighted 10 Books Coming from Austin writers in 2018 for the January issue of Austin Monthly.

 

Phew! And we haven’t even seen fall catalogs yet. I’d better get back to turning pages. Happy New Year, book lovers!