Archive | December, 2018

A New Year, A New TBR

31 Dec

As much as I love the end of the year Top Ten mania, I also find myself ridiculously excited for the upcoming year of books. Usually I come up with a big list and only end up reading a handful, but the making of the list is as much fun as anything. Here is what is currently on my radar:

Are you drooling already? Peter Heller, Jean Kwok, ERIN MORGENSTERN. Swoon.

  • Bangkok Wakes To Rain – sounds like my sort of story, basically following all of the inhabitants of one small house in Bangkok through the years (Feb 2019)
  • I loved Brian Kimberling’s last novel, Snapper, and can’t wait for this new one – follows an Indiana guy who moves to Prague to teach English (Feb 2019)
  • Everyone remembers Night Circus, right? well after, what, at least a decade, she has a new novel on the horizon! A graduate student discovers a weird book in the library and is immersed in it when he suddenly encounters a story from his childhood (Nov 2019)
  • Last Romantics – follows four siblings (compared to Immortalists) (Feb 2019)
  • JEAN KWOK! ah! I loved Girl in Translation. This one claims to be “an emotional drama” revolving around two sisters and their mother. Paula Hawkins is blurbed on the cover, so maybe more suspenseful than her others (June 2019)
  • The Unpassing  follows a Taiwanese immigrant family living in Alaska (May 2019)
  • Look How Happy I’m Making You – stories about all stages of motherhood (March 2019)
  • My boyfriend Peter Heller also has a new one coming, The River, about a couple on a float trip who hear a man and woman arguing in the woods as they float by. Later, they encounter the man on the river – but no sign or mention of the woman. They suspect foul play! (March 2019)
  • Walking on the Ceiling – a woman moves from Istanbul to Paris where she meets and befriends a famous British writer (April 2019)
  • Naamah – the story of Noah’s wife, Naamah and her time on the ark (April 2019)
  • The Night Tiger is on each of the handful of lists that have been published already about upcoming novels. Set in Malaysia – seems to be sort of a twisty, folklore-laden coming of age story (Feb 2019)
  • Inland is Tea Obrecht’s sophomore, following Tiger’s Wife, and is set in 1893 in the Arizona desert (August 2019)

The Millions should be posting their Most Anticipated Books of 2019 list in the next week or so, so I’ll link to that here once I see it.

Top Ten Litpicks of 2018

8 Dec

My favorite time of year! Time for the Best Book lists. The New York Times released their top ten, so I figured it’s time to put mine out there too. This year brought me a third baby and a total of 66 books read. I’ll be the first to admit that I find myself looking for and enjoying books differently in this phase of my life. Things are looking a little lighter!


Here we go, mostly in order.

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing was probably my favorite this year. Of my friends who have read it, many have agreed and a few have found it a little too “fairytale” ish which could be true. However, it was just what I needed when I needed it. It’s the story of a young girl abandoned by her family in the marshes of the North Carolina coast and her life as she grows.
  2. Kind of unusual for me to have a memoir on my year-end list but Educated really was something else. You can’t make this stuff up, Tara Westover’s story is so crazy. After the first little bit I thought “this is crazy!” and then after the next little bit I thought “this is crazier than crazy!” and after the third, crazier still. If this was a novel critics would say it was completely unbelievable. Growing up with a doomsday-er father who didn’t believe in formal education or doctors or pain medication, Tara pretty much saved herself by seeking an education. So good.
  3. If you need a character you’ll love to hate, pick up Ladder to the Sky. Maurice Swift will stick with you for a long time – so incredibly terrible. Maurice has known since he was a young boy that he was destined to be a writer, and he will go to a lot of extremes to achieve that goal. There is a little bit of foul language and sex – especially in the first section – but if that doesn’t bother you wow what a compelling read this one turned out to be.
  4. I was hesitant to read My Sister, the Serial Killer mainly because I assumed it would be like the show Dexter (which I liked well enough until I didn’t). Such a pleasant surprise! Even the physical book is so much more appealing that I thought it would be – smaller and shorter than you’re usual novel. It’s the story of a woman who has a sister that somehow ends up killing a boyfriend. Maybe two. Could they prove the third was murder if they tried? It sounds ridiculous to type but when you’re reading it, it just feels so believable. Highly recommend.
  5. I really enjoyed Those Who Knew – it felt at times like a familiar politically driven novel but was also so engrossing that it felt totally different. On an unnamed island that has (a decade ago) overthrown the US-backed regime, Lena believes that the face of the resistance (her former boyfriend and current senator) may have played a part in the death of his attractive campaign aide. Told through a couple of different perspectives, timely and so good.
  6. If you love old black and white movies that feel light enough to have some humor but not so light as to be ridiculous (I’m thinking It Happened One Night or Bringing Up Baby) Dear Mrs Bird is a great one. An old film-style beach read maybe. Set in London during WWII, young Emmy Lake wants to do her part for the war effort and takes a job at the newspaper. She mistakenly ends up working for the paper’s “Dear Abby” equivalent and gets herself in a series of messes. My book club read this on my suggestion and of the 10, 8 really enjoyed it and 2 found it SO BORING. It’s a sweet one – so avoid it if you’re not in the mood.
  7. West by Carys Davies really surprised me. It’s short and ties up a littttttle too nicely but I still really enjoyed reading about Cy Bellman and his quest to find what his contemporaries Lewis and Clark must have missed. Part his story and part the story of his young daughter left at home.
  8. Another physically small and short novel (can you sense a trend?) so beautifully written is Tin Man about a man named Ellis and the two great loves of his life. I loved reading about Ellis and his childhood, the friendship between himself and Michael that over time became something more, and then the way that dynamic changed as he fell in love with and married the wonderful Annie. Tender – that’s the perfect word. The blurb on the cover says something like “heartwarming and also heartbreaking” and that’s apt too.
  9. Circe makes the list just because it’s an astounding work – personally I loved Song of Achilles more. Basically the imagined memoir of Circe, from her childhood to her time with Daedalus and Icarus straight through to Odysseus and beyond (hundreds and hundreds of years).
  10. Home Fire is last only because technically it came out last year and I hate to break my streak of 10 books from 2018. But. There you have it. It was definitely top five for me – the story of a Muslim family living in the UK. When the eldest, Isma, leaves to study in the United States she befriends the son of a polarizing UK politician, setting in motion a cascade of events that has serious repercussions for her family.


Here are some runners-up I also very much enjoyed:



AND I’ve read two books that have potential (already, I know it’s early) to be on my list for 2019:

Daisy Jones & the Six is really great about a fictional band from the ’70s (I thought Fleetwood Mac + the way I feel about Wilco + Penny Lane from Almost Famous). Interesting because it’s written as a transcribed documentary. Loved it. When All is Said – an Irish tear-jerker about an older man who is grieving for his wife. Sitting at the bar in his small town’s hotel, he reminisces on five people who had a huge impact on his life. Loved it. Put these both on your list!