This year was insanity. I feel like I’ve said that for the past 3 years, but it truly was shit in so many ways. Which is why I am thankful for great books. Here are a few of my favorites:
Educated by Tara Westover
"For as long as I could remember, I’d known that the members of my own family were the only true Mormons I had ever known, and yet for some reason, here at this university, in this chapel, for the first time I felt the immensity of the gap. I understood now: I could stand with my family, or with the gentiles, on the one side or the other, but there was no foothold in between."
Tara Westover’s story held my attention from start to finish! I found myself completely invested in her journey— in her struggles, her heartbreak, and her success. To read Educated is to experience a transformation through a unique perspective on the value and beauty of education.
READ THIS IF YOU LOVED The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr, Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol and Real Friends by Shannon Hale (illus. by LeUyen Pham)
I read quite a few graphic novels this year, and these two were my favorites! Both are funny, moving, and spectacularly accurate depictions of growing up and struggling to make friends. One of my biggest pet peeves as a bookseller is hearing parents shut down their kids when they want to read a graphic novel. Or when they say something like, “Pick out a REAL book.” Graphic novels are real books, people! These are two great ones, whether you’re a fan or a newcomer to the genre.
READ THIS IF YOU LOVED Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Spinning by Tillie Walden
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
"My mother does not say she is sorry.
That she loves me.
And I hope one day for the words,
but for now, her strong pat on my back,
her hand through my hair,
this small moment of soft.
I was blown away by Elizabeth Acevedo’s gorgeous writing! The Poet X tells the story of Xiomara, a young Afro-Latinx woman who discovers poetry while she’s struggling with her sexuality and living in a religious household. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo herself, and I LOVED her voice. I was thrilled when this won the National Book Award!
READ THIS IF YOU LOVED The Mothers by Brit Bennett, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Heavy by Kiese Laymon
"I will never forget the day I told you I’d be back soon, the day I burst your heart wide open, the day I left Mississippi, the day you called me your child, your best friend, your reason for living. I will write about home. I will do everything I can to never feel what I felt those last few years in Jackson, Mississippi. I will bend. I will break. I will build. I will recover. I will not be back soon."
This book might break you, but trust me, it will be worth it. In a beautifully written letter to his mother, Laymon shares a personal account of his struggles with weight, class, and race living in Mississippi. I was lucky enough to meet this author at the Texas Book Festival and I was struck by his kindness. What a talent.
READ THIS IF YOU LOVED Hungry by Roxane Gay, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
"They stood amid this ruination of men, hands joined and gazes locked. Then they turned, as one, and walked deeper into the forest."
I have not stopped hand-selling this book since it hit the shelves! I read Sawkill Girls in a day— atmospheric, keep-the-lights-on YA horror with some badass female characters who come together to STIR SHIT UP in an island where girls have been mysteriously disappearing for decades…A delicious, scary read.
READ THIS IF YOU LOVED Shutter by Courtney Alameda, The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
This is by far my favorite middle grade read of the year, but also one of my favorite mysteries ever! Perfect for readers who love puzzles and riddles, The Parker Inheritance follows Candice, who finds a letter in her late grandmother’s attic and learns there is a fortune buried somewhere in town. Along with her new friend Brandon, Candice deciphers the clues in the letter, uncovering the (sometimes ugly) history of the town, some hidden figures, and family secrets.
READ THIS IF YOU LOVED The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
“We are stories.
We are two languages.
We are lucha.
We are resilience.
We are hope.
We are dreamers,
soñadores of the world.”
We were spoiled by the amount of REMARKABLE picture books in 2018! A few of my favorites include Drawn Together by Minh Lê & illustrated by Dan Santat, and Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell & illustrated by Corinna Luyken. But Dreamers is the book I chose to gift to my mother for Christmas (in Spanish, which you can find here), to read aloud at storytime, to recommend to people who love art and language and storytelling and EVERYTHING GOOD IN THIS WORLD. Yuyi tells her own story of how she came to the United States with her two-month-old son and found a home in her local library. I had the honor of interviewing Yuyi Morales for work, and she was everything I hoped she would be— and more.
There There by Tommy Orange
“They called us sidewalk Indians. Called us citifed, superficial, inauthentic, cultureless refugees, apples. An apple is red on the outside and white on the inside. But what we are is what our ancestors did. How they survived. We are the memories they don’t remember, which live in us, which we feel, which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do, feelings from memories that flare and bloom unexpectedly in our lives like blood through a blanket from a wound made by a bullet fired by a man shooting us on the back for our hair, for our heads, for a bounty, or just to get rid of us.”
My FAVORITE book of the year! When I first read an early copy of There There, I couldn’t read anything else for weeks. I was also trying to figure out what to say about it other than, “HERE! READ THIS BOOK!” and shoving an ARC into a bookseller’s face. Tommy Orange’s voice struck me immediately-- as did all twelve of his characters, these raw and funny and sad and angry and beautifully complex characters. Orange explores timeless issues of Native identity, assimilation, stereotypes, infuriating injustices, and so much more through these connected stories-- hitting us right in the gut with his unforgettable prose. Get ready to underline the crap out of every single sentence in this book. There There is meant to be loved and worn, passed around, gifted, and shoved into people’s faces.
Books to look forward to in 2019:
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (Feb. 2019)
The Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Feb. 2019)
Lot by Bryan Washington (March 2019)