You asked for it! Here’s our best books of 2019.

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1919

by Eve L. Ewing
poetry

Poet, activist, and scholar Eve L. Ewing has been a storm over Chicago for the last several years—the kind that takes you by surprise; makes you look up into the rain and think. Since I first read Electric Arches in 2017, I have heard Ewing read several times, and her poems that blur the line between past and present—such as “I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store”—hit hardest. So I am incredibly excited for 1919, which will explore the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 (which lasted eight days and resulted in 38 deaths and 500 injuries) through stories of everyday people of the city told with an Afrofuturist and speculative lens.

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27 Hours

by Tristina Wright
Science FictionYoung Adult

While young adult novels are making huge strides in inclusive representation, a huge chunk of it has been on the contemporary front – which is one of the reasons I’m so excited for Tristina Wright’s 27 Hours, where four queer teenagers battle to save their homes and every human on the planet as the clock winds down. Wright is heavily involved in the young adult community, constantly advocating for better representation across the board, and I know she’s done the work in her book. This one doesn’t hit shelves until October 3, but I’ve been waiting for it for nearly two years now – only a few more months to go.

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300 Arguments: Essays

by Sarah Manguso
Nonfiction

Sarah Manguso is one of the most innovative nonfiction writers working right now. I fell in love first with her 2012 book The Guardians: An Elegy for a Friend and then with Ongoingness: The End of a Diary from 2015. These books are short and the sentences are spare, but Manguso’s writing is suggestive and deep. It doesn’t fit clearly into any genre, mixing memoir and essay with a dash of poetry. I have yet to read her forthcoming book 300 Arguments, but I’m prepared to love it. It’s a collection of aphorisms about desire, ambition, and relationships, and it offers the enticing pleasures of a rich, contemplative reading experience.

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A Conjuring of Light

by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy

In the thrilling conclusion to V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic trilogy, all your favorites are back in the epic battle for stability between the four parallel worlds, as Black London’s shadow king, Osaron, invades the other kingdoms. The book takes off immediately after the second book’s jaw-dropping cliffhanger and the action just does not stop for over 600 pages. Schwab’s writing is on point, her characters are vividly and consistently developed, and in terms of satisfying endings, Schwab more than delivers in her usual flawless fashion.

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A Conjuring of Light

by V.E. Schwab
Fantasy

If you haven’t started this stellar trilogy yet, may I introduce you to your next obsession? The conclusion to V.E. Schwab’s brilliantly inventive fantasy series starts with full-throttle action and doesn’t let up much over the course of its 600-plus pages. Replete with all the magic, intrigue, and romance that made the first two “Darker Shade” books such a treat, A Conjuring of Light delivers story, characters, and world-building to rival books like Sorcerer to the Crown, the Harry Potter series, or the work of N.K. Jemisin. Expect to cheer, curse, and wipe away a few tears as the story of the four Londons hurtles toward its end.

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A Girl Like That

by Tanaz Bhathena
Young Adult

There’s always one of them in your school. The one you’re warned about. The troublemaker whose love life is always up for discussion: “You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that.” Here, Zarin Wadia is that girl. From the start, we know that she and an eighteen-year-old boy named Porus die in a terrible car accident. In the aftermath, we learn that there was much more to Zarin than just a troublemaker. With an interesting take on high school ostracism, class, and religion, this debut sounds totally thrilling. I’ve never read a book set in Saudi Arabia and I can’t wait to start with this one! (And have you seen that gorgeous cover?!)

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A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers

by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
FantasyScience Fiction

What happens when you ask 25 of the most creative voices in sci-fi/fantasy (including N. K. Jemisin, Malka Older, Tananarive Due, and Charles Yu) to imagine the future? The answer: A People’s Future of the United States. The volume’s editors, themselves accomplished in the field, invited the authors to tell new stories that challenge and reimagine old histories. As should be expected from such a motley and imaginative crew, the results are incredibly varied and incredibly exciting. Some are more fantastical, some more grounded. Some have dragons, some don’t. But every one of them is thrilling, inspiring, and delightful.

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A Place Called No Homeland

by Kai Cheng Thom
poetry

This debut poetry collection is simply PHENOMENAL. These poems have strong roots in oral traditions and spoken word: you can hear them in your mind and heart. These poems make you want to pump your fist in the air and yell, “fuck yeah,” or “preach!” These poems are tough and tender meditations on family, race, being trans, femininity, trauma, relationships, community, sex, books, and love. They feel alive and present, as if Kai Cheng Thom was right there in front of you. She writes: “dear white gay men: / you are neither the face / of my oppression / nor the hands /of my salvation.”

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A Princess In Theory

by Alyssa Cole
romance

Imagine The Prince & Me with an African prince as the hero, and you might get something like this delightful, modern-day Ruritanian romance. Naledi Smith is a grad student living in NYC, unaware she’s been engaged to Prince Thabiso of Thesolo since she could walk. Then the prince in question shows up–undercover of course–and sparks fly. I loved the smart, sarcastic, tough-as-nails Naledi; and Thabiso was a mix of charming, funny, and gentlemanly. The more fantastic parts of the tale are balanced by Naledi’s childhood as a foster kid and the authentic relationships between the characters. Read it before the follow-up comes out this July!

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A Silent Voice, Vol. 7

by Yoshitoki Oima
Young Adult

A Silent Voice was nearly silenced itself – after a one-shot version of the story ran in a Japanese magazine in 2011, Oima had to fight for the full serialization that had been promised. Publishers weren’t sure they wanted a series told from the perspective of a bully who, years later, tries to make amends to the girl he tormented – nor did they want to acknowledge the depiction of Deaf marginalization. But now a gentle, intelligent translation has ensured that readers around the world can see Shoko Nishimiya smile and cringe and sign – the girl who can’t hear, silenced for so many years, finally heard by her friends.

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Abandon Me

by Melissa Febos
Nonfiction

Melissa Febos’s astonishing collection of essays is an exercise in naming and exploring the depths of love and loss in all their forms. Febos’s stirring prose–her delicately wrought sentences and stellar sense of pacing–don’t distract from the narrative arcs themselves, which is a relief, as each braided essay carries a beginning, middle, and end, even if the ends and the beginnings sometimes meet up in a kind of snake-eating-its-tale way. From formative loves to emotionally manipulative ones, from dungeons to classrooms, the breadth of experience here feels like wisdom, even as Febos admits she doesn’t, and never did, have all the answers.

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Agents of Dreamland

by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Science Fiction

Caitlín R Kiernan is one of those writers that you can’t believe isn’t a household name. Her writing is fantastic and her stories are dark, complex and wonderful. Agents of Dreamland is about a government special agent investigating an event that disturbs him. He meets a women who tells him about the events in question. At the same time, contact is lost with an interplanetary probe. The book descriptions makes it out to be a Lovecraftian book, but I suspect it’s not going to be that simple. Kiernan is too clever for that. I’m a fan of precisely the blend of complicated and clever dark fantasy and horror Kiernan writes and have several of her short stories in various anthologies. I’m really, really looking forward to this one. Oh. And that cover…

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All Grown Up

by Jami Attenberg
Fiction

All Grown Up is a book for people who want to dive into a character’s consciousness and linger there for a while. The main character, Andrea, makes for fun company: she’s smart, self-aware (well, she’s working on this), funny, and entertaining. She’s a single woman thinking deeply about what it means to be single in a world that really wants people to be paired up. In a series of vignettes that move back and forth through time, we learn about Andrea’s friendships, relationships, ambitions, work history, therapy appointments, and her brother and sister-in-law’s baby, born with serious health problems. All this adds up to a thought-provoking meditation on what it means to be a smart, independent woman in today’s world.

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All Grown Up

by Jami Attenberg
Fiction

Like the main character, Andrea, I am also a thirty-something single creative woman, trying to make my way through life. I am so very sick of books (and films! Films especially!) about single people that only seem to be about those people being single and that are determined to end happily. Which is, of course, deemed to mean that the single person finds themselves in a relationship. “Why is being single the only thing people think of when they think of me?” Andrea asks her therapist. “I’m other things, too.” So I’m excited about this book, and I’m excited about the conversation that will hopefully result from it.

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All Grown Up

by Jami Attenberg
Fiction

All Grown Up tells the story of a single, childless, thirty-nine-year-old woman named Andrea. Told through a series of chapters that read like individual stories, this novel, like its protagonist, defies convention as it brilliantly captures one woman’s relationship to the ever-shifting definition of what it means to be “all grown up.” In Andrea, Jami Attenberg creates a sharp narrative voice that brings us deep into Andrea’s internal monologue, complete with contractions, fears, and desires that many so-called adults (like myself) are sure to recognize. This book had me nodding along, laughing out loud, and cringing at the brutal truth of it all.

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All Systems Red

by Martha Wells
Science Fiction

A sentient murderbot who has broken free from its programming and “could have become a mass murderer…but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites,” accompanies a research team to a distant planet, ostensibly to protect them but actually to be left alone long enough to watch its shows.

But then the mission goes pear-shaped! And the murderbot has to act to save its humans! And it comes to liiiiiiiiike them!

A heartwarming tale of a sarcastic underachiever-bot and its person-friends. In space!

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All the Names They Used for God: Stories

by Anjali Sachdeva
Fiction

This is the first time I’ve considered a short story collection to be my favorite book of the year. It’s a captivating gem. Each story is its own imaginative microcosm, making for a dazzling collection of wildly different yet equally brilliant tales, full of the glaring obviousness of mortality in a dark and disorganized world. From a woman who decides she’d prefer to live underground in tunnels like a mole, to a man who becomes obsessed with a mermaid he spies from his ship, Sachdeva has written an unsettling compendium of life’s absurdities that will swim around in your brain like little inky fish long after you’ve finished the last page.

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by Ari (walkingnorth)
Science Fiction

Every time I see Always Human update, I happy sigh before reading it. It’s so good and pure. It makes me so happy. For one thing, the art style makes everyone look adorable. The colours and lines are soft and comforting. There’s even soothing music playing for every page!  The love story between the two girls is sweet, but there’s also complexity to the story. Besides being a fascinating sci fi future, the girls also have to grapple with the privileges that differ between them—and this can sometimes be uncomfortable. It’s adorable, it’s complex, it’s diverse, and it’s a sci fi love story between two girls! What more could I want?

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures

by America Ferrera, E. Cayce Dumont
non-fiction

In 2018, a huge number of Americans revealed themselves as racists and bigots. It’s unfortunate most of them will never read American Like Me; it might serve as a reminder of what this nation actually stands for.

Beautiful words written by folks from across the arts: authors and comedians, actors and musicians, the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, American Like Me unfurls the gorgeous tapestry of my America, where the descendant of Russian-Jewish immigrants, who grew up keeping kosher and missing Friday night dances, can be a writer and cosplayer and speak Spanish and Arabic.

And I won’t give up on it.

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American War

by Omar El Akkad
Science Fiction

The dystopia of American War may have felt a little too pointed a year ago. Now? It reads as an eerily prescient look into America’s future. The novel follows a woman named Sarat in the wake of a second American Civil War. El Akkad brilliantly blends US history with an imagined mythology of this second war as Sarat moves from her family’s homestead, to a refugee camp, and finally to the world outside its fences. Along the way, she has the opportunity to engage with big questions about radicalization, the environment, violence, politics, and humanity. Amazingly, the book isn’t too heavy—El Akkad managed to put real joy in these pages too.

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Among the Ruins

by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Mystery/Thriller

Among the Ruins is the third book in the mystery series that follows Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak. While I recommend reading the first two books because they are fantastic, they also work as standalone mysteries if you are new to the series. Esa Khattak is a Muslim Canadian detective and the latest book leads him to Iran where he is looking into the suspicious death of a Canadian-Iranian filmmaker. Khan perfectly combines a classic mystery style with a modern and unique view by focusing on Muslim characters and issues. These books are perfect for anyone who loves mysteries and wants to widen their scope beyond the Western world.

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An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones
Fiction

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are visiting family in Louisiana when their lives are changed forever and Roy is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. What follows is an examination of what it means to be married and what it means to be Black in America. Tayari Jones’ characters are flawed and nuanced. They feel like real people, and their pain feels equally real. So many scenes in this book are heartbreaking, but I couldn’t put this book down because I needed to know how these people who I’d come to care about would overcome problems that seem insurmountable. I firmly believe American Marriage will become a classic.

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An American Marriage

by Tayari Jones
Fiction

Roy and Celestial’s new marriage is put to the test when Roy is wrongfully imprisoned for twelve years and Celestial is left grieving for a life that can never be spent together. To put it frankly, An American Marriage explores what happens when racism forces itself into your life and upends it completely. Tayari Jones lets us know she is a master of writing with this enchanting novel. This book is what literary fiction should aspire to be: timely, elegant, and powerful. Jones’ masterful prose and gripping characters makes An American Marriage an instant classic.

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An Extraordinary Union

by Alyssa Cole
romance

When Elle Burns, a free black woman with an eidetic memory, goes undercover in the household of Confederate sympathizers and potential conspirators, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with her partner in spying, a young Scottish immigrant posing as a Confederate officer. The two don’t start on the best foot, but easily learn to work together, even as their attraction for each other complicates things. Alyssa Cole’s spectacular story of espionage and romance doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the time period and the challenges Elle and Malcolm endure, and the emotion it evokes lingers long after reading is done.

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An Extraordinary Union

by Alyssa Cole
romance

Elle Burns is a freed slave with an photographic memory, currently working as a spy for Lincoln in Richmond, Virginia, posing as a mute slave for a Confederate official and his family. Malcolm is a white undercover detective for the Union, posing as a Confederate soldier. They join forces (despite some serious personality conflicts) and sparks fly, leaving them both in a fight for their country and their hearts. Forbidden love! Political intrigue! A historical romance without any dukes! It’s a must-read.

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An Extraordinary Union

by Alyssa Cole
romance

At the height of the Civil War, a former slave with an eidetic memory and a Pinkerton detective are both spies. They end up working together when they uncover a potential turn of the tides for the Confederacy, and find they want to uncover each other, too. With an intro like that, who wouldn’t be absolutely ready for this book? It doesn’t hurt that it ticks all my checkmarks: historical, interracial, intrigue? I’m there. Alyssa Cole in any situation is magic, and from what I’ve heard from advance readers it’s going to change the face of historical romance.

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An Unconditional Freedom

by Alyssa Cole
romance

I know there are series that make readers wait far longer than the fifteen months that I had to wait between A Hope Divided and An Unconditional Freedom, but even that was extensively too long. I have loved watching the characters in the Loyal League build a universe set in the American Civil War, and look forward to Daniel’s story. Daniel, of whom most of us have been vaguely fond but also somewhat wary. The story of how he and Jacinta, his new partner in crime and espionage, come to love each other sounds exciting and intriguing, and also very stressful. I can’t wait to see what happens in the conclusion of the Loyal League trilogy!

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Anatomy of a Scandal

by Sarah Vaughan
Mystery/Thriller

I knew as soon as I’d finished this book in January that it would be my favourite read of the year. This story of an MP accused of sexual assault by one of his employees is deftly told from the points of view of his wife and of the barrister prosecuting him. It’s easy to read in the best of way – the writing is so good that it’s effortless to follow along with, and the story is so intriguing and full of tension that you just want to keep reading. Not only that, but it’s also incredibly timely in two important ways: for its part in the #MeToo conversation, and what it has to say about the British Establishment and what they can get away with.

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“But tell me what it’s really like…” As a woman in her 30s anticipating pregnancy in the next few years, I have implored many friends with children to give it to me straight. While I’ve gotten a hint of the realities of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood, nothing has quite captured the tumultuous emotions every new mother feels quite like Meaghan O’Connell’s breathtakingly honest memoir. She navigates her new reality (and ambivalence) deftly and terrifyingly unvarnished. Her clear-eyed perspective was only enhanced by a narrative that is appealing to those with (or contemplating) children and those who want nothing to do with them.

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And We’re Off

by Dana Schwartz
Young Adult

Long before I read And We’re Off, I followed @GuyInYourMFA and @DystopianYA on Twitter for a stream of reliably hilarious snark about YA lit and your average creative writing class. When I finally noticed who was behind the two accounts, I knew I had to read Schwartz’s upcoming YA book. I love Gilmore Girls and pretty much any mother-daughter-centric story, so And We’re Off was guaranteed to turn me into a fan. The book’s heroine, Nora, is about to jet off to Europe to study art… but then at the last second, her mother tags along for the ride. Because of this book, I laughed, I cried, I checked Twitter and laughed some more.

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Anger is a Gift

by Mark Oshiro
Young Adult

This book broke my heart. Moss is a gay black teenager with anxiety who lives under the shadow of having seen his father killed by police. When his school installs metal detectors, Moss and his friends take a stand against their school increasingly treating them like criminals. The resulting clash escalates until it reaches crisis. The heart of this story is its cast: Moss has a friend group of mostly people of color, most of whom are queer (including trans, nonbinary, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and asexual characters), and I became really invested in their dynamic. Devastating and resilient, Anger is a Gift is well worth the heartbreak.

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Animosity

by Marguerite Bennett, Rafael de Latorre, Rob Schwager, and Marshall Dillon
Science Fiction

I knew two things about Animosity when I picked up the first issue: that it was written by Marguerite Bennett, who was fast becoming my favorite comics writer, and that it had a dog and a girl with a gun, both things that I appreciate. With beautiful art by Rafael de Latorre, Animosity is incredible – full of unexpected moments with a plot that will keep you turning pages (and then, inevitably, leave you frustrated when you realize you don’t have the next issue on hand immediately). Laced with moments of humor – the sequence with the hamsters right when the Animals wake up in the beginning of issue #1 still makes me laugh – it’s one of the best comics I’ve read in recent history, and a must for anybody who loves innovative worldbuilding and excellent storytelling.

And dogs and girls with guns.

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Another Brooklyn

by Jacqueline Woodson
Fiction

On the surface, the Brooklyn that August knows is a child’s pleasure, full of the passionate friendships of girlhood and the characters who populate a child’s understanding of home. But there is another Brooklyn, a different Brooklyn, that lurks below the surface: a Brooklyn of white flight and self-loathing, of poverty and anxiety, of fear and loss. With the kind of evocative, affecting prose that only a poet with Jacqueline Woodson’s chops can pen, both Brooklyns — and their accompanying tales of love, loss, and memory — will stay with you long after you turn the final page. This short volume is sure to prompt second and third readings.

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Aru Shah and the End of Time

by Roshani Chokshi
Fantasymiddle grade

Aru is a twelve-year-old who must journey through The Kingdom of Death, encountering figures from Hindu mythology after she wakes a demon. She’s helped by a spiritual sister, Mini, and their pigeon teacher, Subala. Aru is fierce and charming, despite her struggles with lying. And Mini and Aru are absolute friendship goals.

Chokshi joins the small canon of authors who write books that enthrall adults as well as children, further proving that great children’s books are the true pinnacle of literary greatness. I would happily pass this book to a Potterhead of any age and say, “You’ll love this.”

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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This has been my year for nonfiction, and nothing has truly satisfied the in-depth exposé feel that I’ve been looking for like Carreyrou’s book. The book is masterfully reported, casting an intense and uncompromising eye on the deceit and fraud that occurred at Theranos, a medical tech company, under the leadership of Elizabeth Holmes. Their promise of an industry-changing diagnostic tool was just that: a promise, a dream, and ultimately a lie. The author takes his investigation beyond one start-up company, though, showing the unbridled optimism and unchecked power that allows this type of fraud to occur.

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Baseball Life Advice: Loving the Game That Saved Me

by Stacey May Fowles
Nonfiction

Stacey May Fowles’s essays are about more than baseball. She writes with honesty and insight about living with anxiety and how loving something bigger than herself helps her through the worst. Fowles finds life lessons whenever she’s at the ballpark, whether she’s leaving work to go watch a potential perfect game or travelling to Florida for spring training. Covering what it’s like to be a female sports writer, how her husband was won over to the game, and why Toronto Blue Jay Josh Donaldson is everyone’s “dirtbag boyfriend,” Fowles delivers a passionate, heartfelt take on why sports matter to us—and why baseball in particular is a game of tiny miracles.

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Beard Necessities

by Penny Reid
romance

I’ve been waiting for this book since 2015, when Penny Reid first started telling the stories of the Winston brothers of Green Valley, TN. As she’s led 6 of the 7 Winston siblings to lasting love, Reid has poked at the edges of the history between Billy, the steadfast center of the family, and Claire, the one-time outcast and family friend, to cause both of them to be irreparably heartbroken. Reid has built affection for these two over the course of the series, and in doing so, she’s also built the expectations of her readers. I can’t wait to see how she fixes a relationship that’s so broken and finally gets these two to an HEA of their own.

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Beren and Luthien

by J.R.R. Tolkien (author), Christopher Tolkien (editor), Alan Lee (illustrator)

As a lifelong Tolkien lover, it is with great joy that I await the release of Beren and Luthien. This book tells the story of the love of Beren, a mortal man, and Luthien, an immortal elf. For those of you familiar with the films, it was the song Aragorn was singing around the campfire in the swamps. The tale is based upon the life and love of Tolkien and his wife, Edith. I love its many mythic allusions, from the Labors of Heracles to the Trials of Thor, Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Iseult, and Lancelot and Guinevere. I know lots of people regard Tolkien as overplayed. But I don’t! Adding to a canon of work that I have loved for my entire reading life is something I anticipate with great joy. I hope I am not alone in looking forward to this new addition to the literature of Middle Earth.

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Bingo Love

by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, and Cardinal Rae
Comics

I was initially drawn to Bingo Love because it was based in the next town over from where I grew up. But then the lush artwork and the heartbreaking story — about two young women who meet at church bingo in 1963 and fall in love, only to be kept apart by both their families and by society — drew me in. Decades later, they meet again. I don’t want to give away much more than that, but I will say that this story ripped my heart to shreds and left me sobbing.

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Binti: The Night Masquerade

by Nnedi Okorafor
Science Fiction

This is the breathtaking conclusion to the Binti novella series, an Afrofuturist tale of a math genius who is pulled between the wide world of a galactic university and the close-knit Himba community that she grew up in. Okorafor’s world-building brings something entirely new to the science fiction stage, tying together wide desert skies and ancient Himba traditions with biological spaceships and math-magic. With her finale, Nnedi Okorafor smashes the rules of science fiction beneath her feet and laughs with you, forging a new world of possibilities for the writers who will come after her. This series is a must-read for all SFF fans.

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Blood Water Paint

by Joy McCullough
poetry

“When a woman risks
her place, her very life to speak
a truth the world despises?
Believe her. Always.”

Artemisia Gentileschi specialized in painting strong and suffering women from myths and Biblical stories. She’s now known as one of the greatest painters of her generation, but for a long time was known mostly for her 1612 rape trial, which frames this book.

This book is a beautiful gut punch. Artemesia’s story haunted me and gave me comfort all at once. It’s historical and in verse, which are not usually my things, but Joy transcended my reservations with a powerful, all-too-topical story and brilliant writing.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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Bluebird, Bluebird

by Attica Locke
Mystery/Thriller

One of the great things about Attica Locke – besides the fact that she writes a great mystery – is how real the world she creates is. She doesn’t ignore the problems of our world, in fact she often faces them head-on. In her latest book, Texas Ranger Darren Mathews, who is Black, investigates the murder of a black man and a white woman in a small town. Locke explores the complexity of a black man poking around in a small town where he is not welcome and how race impacts everyone involved. A tense mystery that keeps you turning the page, with an ending that knock your socks off.

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Borne

by Jeff Vandermeer
Science Fiction

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer continues his tradition of intimate, intense stories set in sweeping, strange worlds. Rachel is a scavenger in a nameless city ruled by a gargantuan, flying bear named Mord. When Rachel finds an odd creature, she brings it home and names it Borne. Borne’s evolution from silent biotech to childlike sentience and beyond is captivating, as is Rachel’s relationship with him. The two work to love and understand each other but as outside forces threaten them, Rachel fears what Borne will become in response to the danger. A beautiful story of parenthood, technology, the environment, and more, Borne is a wonder and a delight.

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Borne

by Jeff Vandermeer
Science Fiction

When Jeff Vandermeer was asked about his newest novel Borne by The New York Times back in 2014, he described it as, “kind of a weird combination of a Chekhov play in the round, with the equivalent of Godzilla and Mothra fighting in the background.” Having read Borne, it is exactly as Vandermeer said: Borne is an intense, intimate look at personal relationships, the ways people lift each other up and tear each other down, pain, memory, compassion, technology, hope, love, and monsters, both human and not. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before: magical, mesmerizing, and deep, Vandermeer has written a rare gem of a novel that is in a category entirely of its own.

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Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

by Pénélope Bagieu
ComicsNonfiction

Brazen manages to rise above the current plethora of similar offerings with a display of Bagieu’s signature playful style and profiles of 29 expectation-shattering women. The choice of subjects is surprising, yet refreshingly so. Bagieu doesn’t rely on the same tried-and-true feminist heroines. Instead, we’re presented with a truly diverse cast of, dare I say it, brazen ladies. The profiles range from 17th-century African queen Nzinga to revolutionary Dominican sisters, Las Mariposas, to contemporary rebels like Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh and are presented with wit, brevity, and charm in spades. Permanent collection material, to be sure.

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Bruja Born

by Zoraida Córdova
FantasyYoung Adult

Labyrinth Lost was a book I didn’t know I’d been craving: a new take on the Magically Gifted Teen trope, a beautifully imagined magical system and world, an LGBTQ love triangle, and a Latina main character. While the main plot wrapped up nicely, Córdova threw in a surprise at the end that had me pacing my apartment, ready for the next installment immediately. And when I found out that the new book follows a supporting character from the first book? All the grabby hands! Secondary characters getting their own book is my jam. So I’ll just be over here until June, waiting waiting waiting for the next adventure of the Mortiz sisters.

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Burn Baby Burn

by Meg Medina
Young Adult

1977, NYC.

17-year-old Nora Lopez’s summer is about to get much hotter, with the serial killer Son of Sam on the loose and her brother’s trouble-making growing more and more worrisome by the day. This exploration of feminism, friendship, and the ways that family can at once be the best thing and the most frustrating thing in one’s life is unforgettable. Medina captures a girl on the brink of adulthood with palpable fear and tension caused both by her internal and external worlds.

As the world falls apart around her, Nora has to look deep insider herself to find the answers she needs. A novel that epitomizes what YA fiction does and does well.

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by Tiffany Midge
Nonfiction

Back when Hunkpapa Sioux poet/essayist Tiffany Midge wrote a humor column for Indian Country Today, I had to make sure I read it alone because I so often found myself laughing hysterically and shouting, “I can’t believe you said that!!” This collection of essays is sure to be hilarious and wise, and I can hardly wait for it to come out in fall 2019 from University of Nebraska Press.

Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi
FantasyYoung Adult

In an kingdom that fears the magic that is her birthright, Zélie Adebola trains in secret. In a kingdom where the royal family has risen to power on the ashes of the last generation of magicians, a prince hides his curse. What happens when they meet is nothing short of enthralling. Think Black Panther meets X-Men, with a dash of Game of Thrones thrown in, and you’ll get a glimmer of what’s in store for you. Author Tomi Adeyemi has created a rich, vibrant, and thrilling world where nothing is certain and anything is possible. Taking inspiration from African myth and culture, it’s a refreshing break from the Euro-centric fantasy norm.

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Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi
FantasyYoung Adult

There was so much buzz about this YA fantasy novel, inspired by West African mythology. And the book lives up to the hype! Zeli is the daughter of a maji, in a land where oppressors outlawed magic and killed her mother. In this new society, she’s a maggot: taxed unfairly and discriminated against daily. Her story begins when a runaway princess with an enchanted scroll reignites her hope of restoring the power of the maji. They go on the run from the prince determined to bring his sister back and end to magic forever. But he has a secret and in this multi-perspective book it’s hard to know where any characters’ true allegiance lies.

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Children of Blood and Bone

by Tomi Adeyemi
FantasyYoung Adult

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel sounds like nothing we have seen before, in the best way possible. It’s a fantasy that promises to be enthralling and to totally ensnare you within its world, plot, and characters. I’ll be honest – as a reader of colour who devoured popular fantasy books with a slight annoyance at never seeing herself represented, I could not be more excited about this book featuring black characters, being steeped in Nigerian culture, and being set in an African-inspired world. It’s not something us readers of colour get every day.

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Circe

by Madeline Miller
Fantasy

Retellings are ubiquitous, but the way that Madeline Miller handles Greek mythology is masterful. Circe is best well known for her appearance in The Odyssey, but by telling the story from her point of view, we get to not only know her story but also her motivations and intentions and emotions. One of the many great aspects of the story is watching Circe wrestle with her identity and discover her role in a world filled with gods and goddess. The characters are full of bravery and love and anxiety and selfishness and you cannot help but want Miller to explore all of their lives.

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Circe

by Madeline Miller
Fiction

Circe is Madeline Miller’s long-waited sophomore novel after her doozy of a debut. The Song of Achilles, a retelling of the Iliad, broke my heart into a million pieces and made me a fan of Miller for life. I was so thrilled to find out that her second book is also a Greek mythology retelling, this time tackling the origins of the sorceress, Circe. As a child, Circe is banished to a deserted island after her magic begins to reveal itself and Zeus feels threatened. She turns to companionship from the mortal world—creating a unique set of problems: who does she protect when push comes to shove and how will she survive against vengeful Olympians?

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Circe

by Madeline Miller
Fantasy

In Circe, Madeline Miller takes a character who makes a brief appearance in the Odyssey and gives her a voice. The daughter of the sun god Helios, Circe is exiled to an island and you watch her life as she grows up knowing that she desires different things than her family, how she handles the loneliness of her exile, her own desires and how she does and does not want to use her powers. Although there are appearances from famous characters of Greek mythology, this story is not just for those who love mythology. Instead it is about the power of looking at a story from another perspective and how women are often incorrectly viewed by the world.

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Comics Will Break Your Heart

by Faith Erin Hicks
Young Adult

I’ve been following Faith Erin Hicks’s comics for a few years; this book covers comic copyright issues, understandable hate-to-love, and creators’ legacy. As one creator’s heiress with nothing plans for college, another with everything stumbles into her life with an awkward history, and the hope they can put the comics behind them. Easier said than done when money is involved. It’s about time we had a story featuring unjust copyright issues and exploitation.

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Cult X

by Fuminori Nakamura
Mystery/Thriller

This isn’t an easy book. Swaths of it are downright disturbing. But the story of Toru Narazaki’s search for his missing girlfriend, Ryoko Tachbana, a search which leads him under the sway of two different cults, each dangerous in its own way, is so very important in the times in which we find ourselves. Narazaki’s novel shows us why it’s easier to give over free will, simpler to allow another to take the wheel of the soul, than to accept that in life which causes pain. Easier than fighting. Easier than rebelling. And why we must fight. Why we must rebel. Always.

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Daisy Jones & The Six

by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Fiction

Told via interviews, this novel about the titular 70s band reads like a gossipy Rolling Stone profile in all the best ways. The novel could easily have rested on its atmospheric laurels, relying on our collective love of that musical era; rather the story is uniquely unveiled with truly great results. Every character contributes to the narrative and the collective whole is greater than its individual parts. If you love Almost Famous or adore Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, you will love this. Even if you don’t, you’ll love its beautiful language, immersive plot, and genuine characters. Taylor Jenkins Reid is so good you don’t even miss the music.

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I was introduced to Ebony Elizabeth Thomas as a guest speaker in one of my children’s literature classes. Even two years later I remember her great energy and her intellect. When I heard about this book, examining the way that blackness is depicted in children’s and young adult fantasy, or rather how it isn’t depicted, I couldn’t wait. Thomas digs into black representation offered by several recent books, including Angelina Johnson in Harry Potter and Rue from the Hunger Games. She takes on the broader social response, such as the backlash at Rue’s blackness when she was played by Amandla Stenberg in the movie. Buckle up!

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Dating You/Hating You

by Christina Lauren
romance

A contemporary romance with battle of the sexes pranks and a headstrong heroine battling workplace sexism! Evie and Carter both work for rival Hollywood talent agencies, but their chemistry quickly gets a douse of ice cold water once their companies merge. And of course, there can only be one! Evie is one of my favorite heroines; she’s funny and relatable. Plus, Carter is a nerdy sweetie pie, five years Evie’s junior. Oh, and he knows how to rock a fitted blazer. It’s a feminist romance for the modern era and I loved every bit of it.

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Defy the Stars

by Claudia Gray
Science FictionYoung Adult

In the vastness of space and within the complicated breadth of humanity, sometimes you just need a really good hate-to-love novel to take you on a wild adventure. Claudia Gray provides that and more in Defy the Stars as Noemi and Abel are forced to work together, despite very different life-and-death priorities. Their not-quite-love story unravels against war, ethical questions around artificial intelligence, and what lies at the core of being human. Gray does it all with measured, gut-wrenching prose that doesn’t shy away from harsh truths and decisions. Readers would be hard pressed to deny that invitation.

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Difficult Women

by Roxane Gay
Fiction

At this point, I don’t think anyone needs convincing of the literary greatness of Roxane Gay. This collection of twenty-one short stories spans stark realism to fabulism; flash fiction to stories of more traditional length. Each piece showcases Gay’s chiseled prose and ability to evoke a full range of emotion, at times in the course of a single sentence or paragraph. Also, as the title suggests, Difficult Women is a thematically cohesive and powerful, and explores the lives of a spectrum of women in tough circumstances. While Gay is often lauded as an essayist and novelist, her short fiction is not to be missed, in 2017 or any other year.

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Difficult Women

by Roxane Gay
Fiction

Roxane Gay has all the luck when it comes to picking titles for her books. I read Bad Feminist almost solely because the title so perfectly describes my own brand of feminism (and since it made the New York Times bestseller list I know I am in good company). Likewise, Difficult Women is bound to be a siren call to all the ladies whose passions, bodies, minds, and skills don’t quite fit our culture’s narrow mold of acceptable femininity. The short stories in this book explore a broad range of female experiences through the eyes of a diverse array of female characters. Needless to say, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book.

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Disoriental

by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover
Fiction

This gorgeous debut novel follows a woman named Kimiâ through several timelines: her adult life in France, where she’s trying to get pregnant; her childhood in Iran, before her family fled political persecution; and stories from her family history, going back to her great-grandfather. It’s a moving multi-generational family story, an immigrant story, and a queer woman’s story, and I’ve been thinking about it all year. Kover’s translation feels seamless and the prose flows beautifully, bringing these characters, Iran, and France to vivid life. If there was a must-read translated novel from 2018, for my money, this is it.

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Don’t Call Us Dead

by Danez Smith
poetry

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith is an evocative, spellbinding book of poems centered around the life of today’s black youth. It is a gorgeous, poetic call to arms. Smith uses masterful language and metaphors so skillfully it’s hard to believe this is only Smith’s second book. These poems force the reader to confront their ideas of blackness, of young black men, of poetry itself. Don’t Call Us Dead is the perfect catalyst to bring action and awareness to notions of police brutality, black sexuality, and the AIDS crisis.

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Dread Nation

by Justina Ireland
FantasyYoung Adult

You know what you’re missing in your bookish life? A zombie-killing badass breaking stereotypes in an alternate history of the Civil War. And if you can’t tell from the cover, Jane McKeene is just such a heroine. I love Jane’s sass and humor, but the female relationships make this a standout, and the multifaceted portrayals of the ‘strong female character.’ There are many ways of being a strong woman, and it doesn’t just involve killing zombies. I love it when my SFF is both fun and complex, and if you’re the same way, you gotta read this.

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Dread Nation

by Justina Ireland
FantasyYoung Adult

I’ve been a fan of Justina Ireland’s writing ever since I first read Promise of Shadows in 2014. Dread Nation promises to be as awesome as its incredible cover. Set in post-Reconstruction America, Dread Nation follows Jane McKeene, who attends a combat school for black and Native children where she learns to fight the undead. Though zombies plague the country, Jane just wants to return home, but when families start to disappear, she’s drawn into something bigger. While I love a good zombie story, it’s clear that Dread Nation isn’t going to be just that, but a book that deals with survival, racism, and so much more.

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Dread Nation

by Justina Ireland
FantasyYoung Adult

In Justina Ireland’s alternate-history YA novel, the Civil War ended when the dead rose and started eating everybody. Seventeen years later, Jane McKeene’s set to graduate from combat school, where she and other black students have spent years learning all they’d need to know to protect well-off white people from shamblers. But the shamblers turn out to be the least of Jane’s problems (hint: the big problem is all the racism) when she stumbles upon a despicable scheme hatched by Baltimore’s white elite. Dread Nation is terrifying, timely, and necessary, anchored by a whipsmart heroine I’d follow into battle any day.

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Drum Roll, Please

by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
middle grade

Melly’s parents told her they were getting divorced the day before they dropped her off at music camp, which leaves her in a confusing time in her life: she’s angry at her parents, annoyed with her best friend, and questioning her orientation. She is having trouble finding her voice. This may be a tween summer camp, but the relationships involved here are complicated; Melly needs to find out how to assert herself without being cruel. It’s delicately handled, and makes for a great addition to the handful of queer middle grade books out there. Melly is still questioning, which is also underrepresented in queer lit. Plus that cover is gorgeous!

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After a whirlwind romance resulting in an engagement after five months, journalist Abby Ellin discovered that her dashing, world-traveling fiancé had been lying about… basically everything. She also realized this happens to more people than we might think, prompting her to turn her reporting skills at the world of double lives. In the book, she explores the art and science of lying, analyzes deception and secret lives in pop culture, and shares the stories of other women who have had their lives upended by dishonesty in romantic partners. In a world where gaslighting is the new normal, this book seems particularly relevant.

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Educated

by Tara Westover
Nonfiction

I’ve been touting this book as The Glass Castle on steroids… except for the fact that Educated makes good ole Rex Walls look like a lovable scamp. As the loyal daughter of a Mormon survivalist in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover spent her days sweating away in the family scrap yard, slave to a bipolar father and abusive older brother. Westover abandoned that life for one of higher education, never having heard of basic tenants of knowledge such as the Holocaust or Napoleon Bonaparte until the moment she stepped into a classroom for the first time as a 17 year old college student. Her struggle to achieve an education while escaping the oppression of the men in her life shows a courage of character and force of will that is at once confounding and heroic.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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Educated: A Memoir

by Tara Westover
non-fiction

Tara Westover’s parents were off-the-grid survivalists living in the Idaho mountains. Their distrust of government, schools, doctors, and their neighbors created an isolated, violent, and misogynistic home life. After seeing one brother go to college, Westover taught herself just enough to pass the ACT and enter Brigham Young University. Westover has the clear, honest perspective on her upbringing she needs to write a compelling story, making this memoir both hopeful and deeply sad in the space of single paragraphs. It’s an example of the danger of isolation and the value of education, especially for smart, determined young women.

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Eloquent Rage is part memoir, part exploration of feminism—Black feminism in particular—and such an important book for our times. Brittney Cooper describes her journey toward embracing feminism and intersectionality and looks at some of the most complex issues facing women today. Cooper’s style is funny and engaging, but this is a difficult book in other ways: she has some harsh truths to share about the sexism and racism particular to the U.S. and how those two “isms” combine to make the lives of Black women much more difficult than they should be. It’s written for Black women in particular, but this is a book every American should read.

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Endurance: My Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery

by Scott Kelly
memoir/autobiographyNonfiction

You may not know the name Scott Kelly, but you know what he’s done: He spent a year aboard the International Space Station while his twin brother, Mark Kelly (also an astronaut) spent the year on Earth. Not only did this flight mean a unique opportunity to study the effects of spaceflight on the human body, but Kelly set a new record for the longest single spaceflight. Now, Kelly is writing his memoir of that time spent in space, chronicling the exhilaration of being an astronaut, but also the loneliness and weariness that comes with being a starman. I’m always a fan of astronaut memoirs, but I’m especially looking forward to this book.

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Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay

by Phoebe Robinson
non-fiction

The title perfectly sums up 2018: everything’s trash, but it’s okay. With her signature humour and abbreviations, Dope Queen Pheebs is here to make you think and laugh. From the problems with modern feminism to interracial dating tips to body image, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay is smart, hilarious, and endlessly charming. Robinson offers sharp insights peppered with jokes, abbrevs, and personal anecdotes. This essay collections was exactly what I needed. I recommend the audiobook!

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Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid
Fiction

How much of your identity remains with you when you leave the only place you’ve ever known? That is at the heart of this remarkably powerful story of love and war, about two young people whose escape from the violence of a civil war in their country leads them to a foreign land and an uncertain future. Hamid has constructed a dizzyingly beautiful novel, not just about the contemporary devastations of displacement, but about the emotional tethers that bind us to the place that shaped us, and how those bonds fray the farther you get from home. Let this book’s quiet power wash over you.

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Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid
Fiction

Hamid’s lyrical, timely novel is a powerful story of love and courage in the midst of war. Nadia and Saeed are two young students drawn to one another in a country on the brink of civil war. When the fighting escalates, they make the decision to flee the country together, but their future looks uncertain as they struggle to hold onto their past  – and each other – while refugees moving through unfamiliar lands. The quiet beauty of the book’s writing will make your brain hum with appreciation. It is a breathtakingly gorgeous tale about identity, uncertainty, and loyalty, and cements Hamid’s place as one of today’s most important writers.

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Exit West

by Mohsin Hamid
Fiction

Books about immigration and refugees can be tough to get through. They hit hard and they hit deep, and the writing is often meant to slow the reader down. Exit West operates on another plane. The book introduces us to the young, charming Saeed and the rebellious Nadia, as they fall in love amidst the daily routines of their lives, in an unnamed, normal city. Once you’re hooked, Hamid gives you the gory details: war and violence is taking their city by storm, rendering them immigrants, as the young couple isforced to flee. With its surprisingly poignant use of magic realism, the novel is beautiful and poetic even at its most devastating.

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by Tommy Pico
poetry

Tommy Pico is a queer, indigenous poet who cites both Beyoncé and A.R. Ammons as influences on his work. In April, I read his 2018 book Junk, an epic break-up poem in couplets, and I loved it so much I’ve mentioned it on this site at least four times. Pico uses what he calls a “Trojan horse” approach to poetry–jokes about Grindr and Chinese take-out segue into discussions of diaspora and cultural erasure. Equally brilliant are his books IRL and Nature Poem. A few weeks ago, I heard a sneak preview from his next book, Feed (coming fall 2019), when he read at a Poets With Attitude event in New York. Friends, it’s gonna be his best yet.

 

Feel Free

by Zadie Smith
Nonfiction

February 6th will see the release of Feel Free, Zadie Smith’s second collection of nonfiction (following 2009’s Changing My Mind). Collecting essays that have previously appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, as well as previously unpublished pieces, the book takes on subjects as wide-ranging as the real purpose of Facebook, the importance of local libraries, and the slippery distinction between pleasure and joy. As in her novels, most recently 2016’s Swing Time, Smith brings to her nonfiction her impassioned close reading, comic sensibility, and incisive analytical capacity. She’s one of our keenest critics, and we are lucky to have her perspective as we orient ourselves to the cultural and political landscape of 2018.

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Fire Sermon

by Jamie Quatro
Fiction

I first heard of this novel from Garth Greenwell. Since I love his work, I figured I’d probably enjoy a book he recommends. When I saw that Jacqueline Woodson also blurbed the book, I was totally sold. The novel is about Maggie, a fiercely intelligent writer who believes herself to be unwaveringly devoted to her family and to God. But she meets a poet, James, and the two begin exchanging emails about philosophy and faith, which are some of the most intimate things two people can discuss. Their relationship develops into something… more. With short chapters, each packing an emotional and linguistic punch, this book is intensely beautiful.

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Florence in Ecstasy

by Jessie Chaffee
Fiction

Hannah runs to Italy to escape her past, hoping a new place, new faces, and a chance to delve into the art she has forgotten she loves will save her from it. She discovers quickly, however, it is impossible to hide from the present alive within her, the voice telling her she isn’t good enough, isn’t smart enough, isn’t important enough to deserve life and love. On the precipice of recovery she doesn’t realize it is remarkable enough she has chosen to live.

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Florida

by Lauren Groff
Fiction

As a Floridian, I’m used to seeing my state portrayed in books, but writers (especially ones who aren’t from here) seldom get us right. They rely on tiresome clichés and Florida-Man stereotypes. Lauren Groff is not one of those writers. In this short story collection, Groff shows off the real Florida in all of its elegant strangeness. In this wild and many-faceted state, the landscape—and the people—can never truly be tamed.

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Florida

by Lauren Groff
Fiction

Long before the critical acclaim and Obama mention of Fates and Furies, I was enchanted by Lauren Groff’s surrealist The Monsters of Templeton, which was also a sort-of love letter to one of the places that has made Groff who she is. Now, she’s releasing this short story collection about the state where she’s lived for 12 years, writing in her unstoppable prose about the sunshine, the animals, and the people. I find that often writers with gorgeous prose with novels I’ve loved perfect that style in their short stories, and I’m excited to see what Groff will do.

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Flying Lessons and Other Stories

by Ellen Oh
middle grade

An anthology created in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, Flying Lessons features maybe the most impressive line-up of authors I’ve seen in one book in recent years. I could tell you about all the awards they’ve won and the many best-seller lists on which they’ve appeared, but you should probably just read the book. The true testament to the talent of these authors is their ability to tell stories, and Flying Lessons displays a wide-range of topics and styles. It is important that this is a collection focusing on the work of authors of color. It is also important that it is a book of great stories by exceptionally gifted writers.

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From Twinkle, With Love

by Sandhya Menon
romanceYoung Adult

From Twinkle, With Love follows an aspiring film-maker named Twinkle who has a lot of stories she wants to show the world but when she gets the opportunity to direct a film things don’t go according to plan. Twinkle is a heartwarming novel with a protagonist who is as flawed as she is relatable. Twinkle jumped off the page, her growth from beginning to end heartening to read.  The book also tackles the difficult topic of what happens in the distance that divides immigrants from their families at home. It’s a book that balances serious topics with hilarity. I both cried and laughed while reading it!

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From Twinkle, with Love

by Sandhya Menon
Young Adult

Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favourite romcom YA novels of 2017, and her next book, From Twinkle, with Love promises to give readers another delicious helping of adorable and romantic hijinks. Twinkle Mehra is an aspiring filmmaker, and we learn about her dreams through her letters to famous female directors. When she gets the chance to make a real film, through the help of fellow classmate Sahil Roy, it’s almost everything Twinkle has ever wanted—at least, it will be if it brings her secret crush Neil Roy, Sahil’s twin, closer to her. I can’t wait to see how Menon works her magic for Twinkle in this book, and if my reaction to seeing Dimple on shelves is any indication, even seeing the cover for Twinkle in bookstores will make my day.

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A serial killer reverend never found guilty in court. That same man, murdered at the public funeral of one of his victims. One lawyer in the middle of it all. All of this taking place in Alabama in the 1970s. Harper Lee came for the trial of the man who shot the accused serial killer and followed the case for years. Cep explores murder, race relations in the Deep South, and explores why Lee never wrote about the trial she so closely investigated. There’s nothing about this true crime book that doesn’t make me want to pick it up and start turning pages.

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Gingerbread

by Helen Oyeyemi
Fantasy

Helen Oyeyemi takes on the fairy-tale subject of gingerbread in her much-anticipated new novel. Mother and daughter Perdita and Harriet Lee live a fairly normal life, or so it seems from the outside. But they have an elaborate gold-painted apartment, and they make gingerbread that’s popular in a far-away place called Druhástrana. It’s also very popular with Harriet’s childhood friend Gretel, a constant presence. And years later, when Perdita sets out to find this mysterious friend of her mother’s, she reaches a new understanding of her mother’s past. So begins an inventive story of ambition, family grudges, wealth—and gingerbread.

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Girls Burn Brighter

by Shobha Rao
Fiction

Set primarily in India, this is about friendship: the fierce, fiery kind of friendship that exists between two girls who understand their place in the world as girls, their place in society as girls in India of a lower class, their place in society as girls who can only rely and depend upon one another. Savitha and Poornima only spend a small portion of the book together, but it’s the spark between them that keeps them connected through tragic event after tragic event. Great writing, unforgettable voices, and a powerful reminder that passion sparks, ignites, and keeps the flame of friendship burning. An adult book with mega YA crossover.

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Give Me Your Hand

by Megan Abbott
Mystery/Thriller

Abbott uses the haunting of an unsolicited past secret to create a smart, sharp, and electric novel with a research lab as the backdrop. Kit Owens may be about to grab the future she’s always envisioned by being selected for a research team about PMDD, but a childhood friend she’d prefer to forget may bump her out of the running–and that’s the least of Kit’s problems… Abbott, an excellent writer with an impressive catalog, has managed to outdo herself with this page-turner.

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Hate to Want You

by Alisha Rai
romance

Alisha Rai starts a new series with Hate to Want You and boy, am I excited! Rai has a gift for writing complex characters and hot, tense scenes and this star-crossed lovers romance promises to have plenty of it.

Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler meet for one night, a modern day Romeo & Juliet. But when Livvy shows up in town, Nicholas is worried he won’t be able to resist having her for just one night anymore.

I love romances where a couple knows they shouldn’t be together, but they push their luck anyway because their love is worth all of the obstacles. Plus, that cover is to die for!

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Hate To Want You

by Alisha Rai
romance

I’ve been a fan of Alisha Rai’s since she was first recommended to me, and her new contemporary series, Forbidden Hearts, has cemented her status as an all-time favorite. Hate To Want You features feuding families, a strong and complex heroine, and an ambitious hero with a dark secret. It is so real and frank about so many things, whether it’s the inconvenient realities of sex in the woods or dealing with depression and family dysfunction. And Rai does that while also delivering a smoking hot, beautifully romantic novel, which is both astounding and refreshing. I’ll be thinking about this book and recommending it for a long time to come.

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Heart Berries: A Memoir

by Therese Marie Mailhot
non-fiction

Heart Berries is a powerful, poetic memoir about Terese Marie Mailhot’s experiences growing up on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation, trying to make sense of her difficult childhood and early adult years. She writes about her fascinating and complicated mother, her abusive father, her struggles with mental illness, her efforts to gain an education, her experiences growing up Native American, and so much more. It’s gorgeously-written, haunting, moving, and just genius. This year it found a lot of readers and became a best-seller, and I’m so glad it’s getting the attention it deserves.

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Heart Berries: A Memoir

by Terese Marie Mailhot
Nonfiction

Mailhot’s Heart Berries is a poetic memoir about trauma, about growing up Native, about surviving a dysfunctional family, and what it means to carry those wounds with you into adulthood. But, even though it’s a slim book, what it carries can’t be contained in a single sentence like that. Her book asks more from you than most reading experiences. Mailhot skillfully examines and probes what we think we know about language and memory, imagination and grief, mental health and becoming, pain and love. She asks us to do better, just as she shows herself becoming a more fully-realized version of herself through the course of her book.

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Her Body and Other Parties

by Carmen Maria Machado
Fiction

Her Body and Other Parties is an intoxicating combination of folklore and pop culture, fabulism and realism. With language so deft and elegant, it’s hard to believe this is Machado’s debut collection. These stories dig into the wounds inflicted upon women by society, their peers, and themselves. Women’s bodies fade and are stitched into garments, the apocalypse is recounted through sexual encounters, Law & Order SVU is retold as the ghost story it truly is. At turns seductive and sickening, this collection will enchant you and make your skin crawl. I recommend you read it slowly and not before bed.

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Here Comes the Sun

by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Fiction

A dark, beautiful, and fantastic novel that follows a family of Jamaican women with past traumas, secrets, and the desire for a better future. The further the novel dove into family secrets and relationships, colorism, and the contrast between the wealth of a high-end hotel and the poverty of its employees, the faster I turned the page. The lengths some will go to in the hopes of creating a better life–even if that means possibly destroying themselves and the ones they love—are gripping and heartbreaking, and Nicole Dennis-Benn has permission to break my heart any time.

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Homegoing

by Yaa Gyasi
Fiction

Born in 17th-century Ghana, half-sisters Effia and Esi might as well live worlds apart. One marries an Englishman–a slaver–and moves into his castle; the other is sold into slavery and kept in the dungeon beneath the very same castle. From there, Gyasi weaves a story that spans continents, generations, and three centuries of history as she explores the consequences of colonization and the legacy of slavery in both Africa and the United States. This unflinching and unforgettable novel is creatively imagined and completely transfixing, and it is one hell of a debut. Gyasi has made her mark as a writer to watch.

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

by Yuval Noah Harari
Nonfiction

In 2015, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari asked big questions about the past, looking at humanity’s creation and evolution in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In Homo Deus, he’s looking ahead and what might happen now that history’s major killers – famine, plague, and war – are no longer the serious threat they once were. Without those factors, what will humanity do next? What are the big projects and major challenges we might undertake? I can already imagine how controversial this book might be, as well as how much it might challenge the way I think about my own place in the world.

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How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

by Alexander Chee
non-fiction

I read this book way back in May, and I still think about it constantly. In these expansive and many-layered essays, Chee explores identity, memory, and the shifting kaleidoscope of thought and experience that shapes a life. His subjects are wide-ranging, from AIDS activism to family history, and every essay illuminates something essential about being a human in the world. He is at his best when tackling the messy, lonely reality of being a writer. I’ve never encountered such a raw, honest, visceral description of the writing process. I can count on one hand the number of essay collections that have moved me to tears; this is one of them.

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How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

by Alexander Chee
Nonfiction

In this profoundly moving collection of personal essays, Chee explores the complexities of identity–the ever-shifting constellation of experience and memory that dictates how we move through the world. Whether writing about tarot, rose gardening, or AIDS activism, Chee’s prose is flawless. Each essay is a knot of hard-fought wisdom, but the heart of the book is in the essays about writing, the murky intersections of author and character, writer and reader, fiction and truth. Chee writes with nuance and generosity about the wonder and loneliness of being a novelist. His raw honesty is a gift to anyone who has ever been moved by words a page.

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How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays

by Alexander Chee
Nonfiction

These essays are exactly the hope we need during our present garbage fire. When we look back on the next few years – if we make it through the next few years – Chee will undoubtedly stand out as one our most important voices. His novels, Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, are beautiful marvels, but it is when he speaks in his own voice that his brilliance really shines. Ranging in subject from his own writing, past jobs, his father’s passing, the current administration, and more, Chee is a concise thinker who examines his personal choices, as well as our public issues, with a level head, wry insight, and heaps of compassion.

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Human Acts

by Han Kang
Fiction

A young boy named Dong-ho is violently killed during the Gwangju Uprising, which took place in South Korea in 1980. The story of this event unfolds as we hear from the various interconnected voices of those affected, both directly and indirectly, by the movement. These individual stories explore topics such as violence, politics, and grief, and span in time from the events in 1980 to today, illustrating how the effects of this popular uprising have reverberated through South Korea’s history. And all of this acts as a backdrop to Kang’s exploration of humanity, making this book beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once.

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

by Roxane Gay
memoir/autobiographyNonfiction

Roxane Gay is the kind of writer who inspires a particular devotion from her fans. Her writing is emotionally honest and challenges assumptions about many of today’s most important social, political, and cultural issues. After I read Gay’s take on a subject- whether I’m reading a column in the New York Times or one of her essays in the critically-acclaimed collection Bad Feminist, I don’t see that topic in quite the same way. She provokes you to look at many different sides of an issue.

Gay’s long-awaited memoir focuses on her body, obesity, and trauma. The book explores Gay’s past, including an act of violence that served as a turning point for her.

 

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

by Roxane Gay
memoir/autobiographynon-fiction

Sometimes we tell our stories and emotions with our facial expressions. Sometimes, we tell stories and emotions with our whole bodies. In Hunger, Roxane Gay tells us the story of her body, what it’s like to live in such a story, and how it is to have such a painful, lasting story live inside her. Hunger is so intimate and personal that it leaves readers feeling spoiled by the author’s candor and authenticity. It is difficult to read about the physical and psychological assaults, while then being faced with thinking about the stories our own bodies tell. Hunger is an amazing book that is completely worth the time and tears.

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

by Roxane Gay
memoir/autobiography/biographyNonfiction

Roxane Gay never ceases to amaze me. In her latest, a memoir structured as short bite-sized chapters, she peels away the armor that not only she has but that we all maintain to protect the most vulnerable pieces of ourselves. And in doing so, she reinvents the conversation we have about weight and bodies and eating and trauma and sexuality and culture and and and and. As one of my Book Riot colleagues said about Hunger, Gay spoils us with her honesty; I felt like she pulled out her heart and laid it before me and I wanted to pull apart my own chest in kind. Thank you, Roxane. Thank you.

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I Wanna Be Where You Are

by Kristina Forest
Young Adult

We’ve been hip to the fact that we need diverse books for a while now, but we also need a diverse selection of stories by diverse authors. That’s why I’m so excited for I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest. This Black ballerina, road trip rom com is pure YA joy. Chloe never breaks the rules… until her mom forbids her to try out for her dream dance conservatory. Now, she’s sneaking two hundred miles away to audition, but that means driving with her annoying (and annoyingly cute) neighbor Eli. And the ride will be full of frustratingly charming banter and so many swoons. Also there’s a dog… basically all the good things.

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

by Michelle McNamara
Nonfiction

In the 1960s and ‘70s, a serial rapist and murderer terrorized the people of southern California before suddenly disappearing. For decades, detectives and amateur true crime buffs like Michelle McNamara tried to identify the Golden State Killer, but had no luck. This book, finished by McNamara’s research assistants after her unexpected death in 2016, is one of the best works of true crime I’ve ever read. McNamara is thorough, curious, detailed, and a stellar writer – this book is genuinely creepy in some sections. She’s also empathetic, and never lets the story of the GSK get in the way of being sensitive to the victims and their families.

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McNamara’s posthumously published book about her investigation of the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer active throughout California in the ‘70s and ‘80s, is one I’m sure everyone’s heard of, and completely worthy of all the hype. True crime can be difficult: what’s meant to be interesting can end up too exploitative while what’s meant to be objective can end up too indifferent. But I’ll Be Gone in the Dark doesn’t fall into these traps. McNamara’s writing is sensational but empathetic, explicit but humane, relentless but vulnerable. It breaks my heart we’ll never get more of it, but what we do have is a masterpiece.

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If I Was Your Girl

by Meredith Russo
Young Adult

If I Was Your Girl broke me in all the best ways. The novel—part New Girl In School, part Girl Discovers Herself—tells the story of Amanda, in both the Then and the Now. Debut author Meredith Russo takes a common trope and twists it into something wonderful. She builds thoughtful, thorough relationships of all kinds and brings life to a teenage girl learning to live her best life, and finally feeling the way she’s always wanted. The story is great, but the writing is spectacular, and all you’ll want to be doing is reading it—and all you’ll want to do when you’re done is wish you could read it for the first time again.

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by Dan Chaon
Mystery/Thriller

An unnerving story of obsession and memory that follows a psychologist helping his patient who sees signs of a serial killer everywhere. His attempts to help lead him back to the horrible crime of his childhood that he’s worked hard to forget, set in the “Satanic Panic” of the ’80s. A dark and masterful story of the ways men try ignore trauma but never leave it behind, it will surprise and shock you until the very last page.

In the Country We Love

by Diane Guerrero
Autobiography/Biography/Memoir

I’m not a celebrity-memoir reader, so I was surprised to realize that In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero was a favorite read of 2016. Diane grew up in the United States as a child of undocumented immigrants. One day, she came home to find her parents had been deported. She was left behind. This is not a political book, but sadly, stories like hers have become politicized. This book works to humanize those stories, it works to build empathy among a populace that shouts “build a wall” at their brown citizens. This book was an important read leading up to the election, and it’s a necessary one in the world we find ourselves in now.

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Infomocracy

by Malka Older
Science Fiction

Infomocracy would have been a fascinating read in any year. But 2016 isn’t just any year. With truth and politics intersecting in unexpected (and unexpectedly brutal) ways, it’s no wonder that this book was met with so much enthusiasm. Infomocracy imagines a political future both fantastical and kinda plausible, where people vote in 100,000-person units and truth is defended by Information, a global institution that’s part-Google, part-UN. In doing so, it offers a provocative alternative to a broken present. At the same time, and just as importantly, it offers a ton of rip-roaring fun. And we could all use more of that—in 2016 and beyond.

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Intercepted

by Alexa Martin
romance

Alexa Martin had me at first hashtag. After discovering her NFL-star boyfriend’s been scoring with other women, Marlee Harper dumps him, eager to leave that world. But she didn’t expect Gavin Pope – a former fling – to join the team as its hot new quarterback. Intercepted is such a buoyant romance, enveloping readers in a world of girl power and hilarious banter among its characters. Marlee’s need for independence and the pacing of her and Gavin’s romance get to the crux of this indelible debut – it’s about a woman who doesn’t want to be defined by her relationships but wants to do the defining, and that’s exactly what she does. #Blessed

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It Happens All The Time

by Amy Hatvany
Fiction

Amber and Tyler have been best friends since childhood, although Tyler has always hoped their friendship would become something more. A night of partying and booze leads to Tyler making a grave choice that impacts their relationship forever. The book is told from different points view, chronicling their life before, during, and how they both cope after the assault.

Consent is an issue that is so important to be knowledgeable about. The book opens with this quote: “Violators cannot live with the truth; survivors cannot live without it,” by Chrystine Oksana. And it sums up the plot perfectly.

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Jokes for the Gunmen

by Mazen Maarouf, translated by Jonathan Wright
Fiction

This book was the first-ever winner of the Almultaqa Prize for the Arabic Short Story, and well-deserved. Mazen Maarouf started his career as a poet and a sharp-eyed critic, and he brings both of those skills to this collection, his first book of short stories. Jonathan Wright–who has previously translated the award-winning short stories of Hassan Blasim–brings them into a resonant English.

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Journey Across the Hidden Islands

by Sarah Beth Durst
Fantasymiddle grade

I am a huge Sarah Beth Durst fan. She never fails to craft a new story that comes together in a new, inventive way. She’s also a really nice lady who responds to emails with encouragement.

In Journey, two princesses travel to pay their respect to their kingdom’s dragon guardian. This journey is meant to be routine, uneventful, and done for ceremonial purposes. If nothing happened, however, we wouldn’t have a story; the two princesses face strange monsters and tremors. They need to figure out what has changed before their people suffer the consequences. We have a flying lion, for starters, and dragons. This can only mean the journey will be another wild adventure.

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Joy Enough

by Sarah McColl
Nonfiction

I met one of my dearest friends in the comment section of Sarah McColl’s now defunct blog, The Pink of Perfection. Sarah’s warm, witty, and inviting posts encompassed nearly all of my interests, from cooking and creating, to books and talking with other creatives. While I know her memoir focuses on the death of her mother and dissolving marriage, I feel I know Sarah’s writing enough to know that it will encompass so much more. I’m eager to read about Sarah’s life these past blog-less years. I imagine it will be like catching up with an old friend you lost touch with, but have held near in your heart because of the role they played in your life.

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Joyride

by Colin Kelly, Jackson Lanzing, Marcus To, and Irma Kniivila
Science Fiction

Joyride is exactly that, a wild ride full of wonder and humor. Join Uma, Dewydd, and Catrin as they escape a sucky Earth and look for a better life. It’s a sci-fi comic, as well written as Saga, but with the heightened emotional tone of teenagerdom. Punk rock space fun! Let’s go for a ride.

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Junk

by Tommy Pico
poetry

Junk is “Howl” for the modern age, a long-form breakup poem by a queer Native American writer living in Brooklyn. Pico writes as his persona, Teebs, who strings thoughts and anecdotes together with pop culture and politics. He weaves seamlessly from humorous to humbling, with lines like “Yr / reputation recedes you I call it aggressive mediocrity” and “How can ‘happiness’ be / anything more than a metaphor for privilege.” This junkyard poem is full of pithy treasures that perfectly capture a unique mood and moment in time, while also wrestling with universal ideas of identity, culture, and loss.

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Lucy Knisley’s latest graphic memoir details her journey to pregnancy, her pregnancy itself, and the birth of her son–and the medical complications it entailed. This is all juxtaposed with an examination of the history of childbirth, basic science of pregnancy, and societal/cultural assumptions and mores of pregnancy and motherhood. Knisley has mastered the art of saying a lot in few words, along with her vibrant and detailed illustrations. She brings her story to life with humor and determination, along with insightful commentary about pregnancy and birth, and about women’s health more generally, as well. If you’ve read her other books, you’ll love this; if you’ve never read her before, you’re in for a treat.

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Kim & Kim #1

by Magdalene Visaggio, Eva Cabrera, and Claudia Aguirre
Science Fiction

Kim & Kim are punktastic, intergalactic bounty hunters flying around in a van that would make the Scooby-Doo gang and Spaceballs’ Lone Starr and Barf jealous. And if that wasn’t amazing enough Visaggio has created a comic that fully delivers on being awesome, hilarious, kick-ass, fun, and creative as these two best friends try to bring in bounties amid gorilla robots, sandworms, shape-shifting octopus, and family drama. See, it’s stuffed with awesome fun adventures!

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King of Scars

by Leigh Bardugo
FantasyYoung Adult

Picking up after the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology, King of Scars reunites us with Ravka’s new king, Nikolai Lantsov. Though he survived Ravka’s Civil War, he still bears wounds (and scars), ones that transform him into a bloodthirsty monster. As the transformations become more frequent, and the risk of his enemies, and his subjects, learning his secret grows greater, Nikolai sets off to find a cure. Though I’m always ready for more of Nikolai’s loudmouthed confidence, I’m especially excited to see more of Squaller Zoya and Heartrender Nina, both favorites from Bardugo’s previous forays into the Grishaverse.

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King’s Cage

by Victoria Aveyard

In the Red Queen series, Aveyard has constructed a compelling world and characters. The heroine, Mare Barrow, is as flawed as she is exceptional. She has to learn about trust and deceit, how to contain and control her lightening power, how to start a revolution against the reigning monarchy, who had adopted her as their own. Rebellion laced with romance amidst violence makes the reader race through.

King’s Cage is the final installment in the series. It leaves Mare without her lightening and being tormented by the boy she once loved. With a new king on the throne, the country gets ready to prepare for war, and Mare has a difficult decision to make.

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Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens

by Tanya Boteju
Young Adult

Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her life. She’s in love with her straight friend, her mother has recently left, but at a local festival, Nima stumbles into a world she’s never before encountered: drag. From queens to kings, Nima finds a new world of inspiration, love, and friendship that she never could have expected. But she’ll have to cope with lost love in order to accept this new world being offered to her. Drag kings, check. Drag queens, check. Coming of age, check. Queer girl finds love, check, check, check. This book sounds like a rainbow parade of awesomeness, and I can’t wait to read Nima’s story and see this cast of characters.

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Kintu

by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Fiction

In his introduction, Aaron Bady calls it “simply and obviously, a plain fact” that Jennifer Makumbi’s Kintu is the great Ugandan novel. But just as you need not be American to read Toni Morrison or John Steinbeck, you need not be Ugandan to fall mesmerized by Makumbi’s novel, which begins in January 2004, travels back to 1750, and ends in April 2004, interweaving the characters, events, and DNA of the two times. Passionate, original, and sharply observed, the novel decenters colonialism and makes Ugandan experience primary.

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Lab Girl

by Hope Jahren
Autobiography/Biography/Memoir

Like the plants and trees that Hope Jahren studies, Lab Girl is the story of trying to find purchase. Purchase for a girl then young woman then professor who wants to live a life of science in a world that doesn’t particularly like science, and women scientists in particular. Months after listening to Lab Girl, that is what has stuck with me—Jahren’s will to define a life for herself as a scientist, mother, teacher, friend, and colleague that defies easy categorization or ready-made role. That she has created a meaningful life, insisted on and fought for that life, reminds us that it can be done.

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by Gigi D.G.
Fantasy

The pixelated line work in Gigi D.G.’s Lady of the Shard evokes knife carvings across an obsidian canvas. With precise lines and sometimes frenetic slashes, D.G.’s story shares the romance of an acolyte and a goddess. It’s often cute, with rounded expressions and smiley pancakes as plot point. It’s often horrifying, where fearsome gods reign and ordinarily monochromatic lines stab deep and bleed searing shades of red. D.G. hosts the story on indie gaming platform itch.io, which grants it a near-infinite vertical scroll and unnerving negative space. It reads like a cosmic tapestry plucked straight from the stars, a legend begging to be read.

LaRose

by Louise Erdrich
Fiction

Louise Erdrich’s latest novel focuses on the Ravitch and Iron families, linked by a shared tragedy, the accidental shooting of the five-year-old Ravitch son, Dusty, by Landreax Iron, father of five-year-old LaRose. LaRose becomes part of both families, and the book traces their bumpy path toward healing. Erdrich is remarkably skilled at traversing challenging emotional terrain, and this book is honest about the difficulties people face, both in the present and the past, but it’s not lacking in hope. Yet even the hope has a shadow side, which keeps it feeling grounded and real.

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Leah on the Offbeat

by Becky Albertalli
Young Adult

I didn’t know I needed a book about a fat, bi, Slytherin girl learning to accept the good in life and fall in love, but I really, really did. I fell completely in love with Leah. And—who am I kidding—I totally knew I would! I haven’t read a Becky Albertalli book yet that I wasn’t head over heels for, but this one is especially lovely. Getting to see the continuation of Simon and Bram’s relationship, watching a group of friends grow with each other, rooting for Leah to finally get the girl—it was everything I wanted from this book and then some.

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Leah on the Offbeat

by Becky Albertalli
Young Adult

I first met and fell in love with Leah Burke in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Despite being loved by her friends, by the end of the book it seemed very clear to me that Simon and the whole group mis-imagined Leah. That’s why I’m so excited the spotlight will be shined on her as a main character in this oh so swoon-worthy follow up. I’m sure this sarcastic, hard edge drummer girl will have a soft, emotional center to explore with insecurities about her appearance, not being out as bisexual to her friends, and a secret love of drawing. I would read (and probably love) Becky Albertalli’s grocery lists, but I’m beyond thrilled that instead I’ll get the chance to immerse myself in the high stakes drama of senior year, complete with college applications, first love, and prom.

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Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday

by Natalie C. Anderson
Young Adult

City of Saints and Thieves author Natalie C. Anderson is back with another YA suspense novel that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. After his family is kidnapped, Abdi is forced to become a child soldier to a ruthless group known as Al Shabaab. Abdi trains with them, witnessing countless monstrous acts, and eventually becomes a monster himself.

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Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders
Fiction

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was widely anticipated as the work of a wordsmith. It is an absolutely creative piece focusing in on Abraham Lincoln’s grief over his young son’s death. What’s interesting here is that it’s tricky to read as a collage of different pieces of text from different origins and different voices. Many of those voices are ghostly. While some might trip up a bit on the form, there is no doubt that this is a genius novel that plays into the worries of modern Americans and readers in general. There’s nothing quite like the grief of Lincoln as he holds the body of his son. It can hit you in the gut.

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Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

I was skeptical about this book before I read it. I wasn’t convinced the Saunders’s style could work for a whole novel, and I was worried that the book would be nothing but plotless introspection about death and grieving. I needn’t have worried. Saunders uses voices from history and those of the dead to tell a universal story about how death is part of life and how death makes every life matter. There’s genuine suspense in the question of whether young Willie Lincoln will be able to move on and whether his father will allow him to do so. Once I got oriented to the world Saunders created, I was enraptured.

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Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders
Fiction

It sounds weird to say, because Saunders has published so much over the years, but this is his debut novel. And what an utterly original, transcendent novel it is. Saunders has destroyed the concept of the novel as we know it and rebuilt it as only he can. This is a mesmerizing, heartbreaking story about the death of Willie Lincoln – son of Abraham – and the ghosts in the cemetery where Willie’s body is temporarily held. There are so many stories buried along side him, told by the spirits around him, as they await ascension. The book is an absolute work of genius. But let’s be honest – no one expected anything less from Saunders.

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Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders
Fiction

I was skeptical about this book before I read it. I wasn’t convinced the Saunders’s style could work for a whole novel, and I was worried that the book would be nothing but plotless introspection about death and grieving. I needn’t have worried. Saunders uses voices from history and those of the dead to tell a universal story about how death is part of life and how death makes every life matter. There’s genuine suspense in the question of whether young Willie Lincoln will be able to move on and whether his father will allow him to do so. Once I got oriented to the world Saunders created, I was enraptured.

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Little & Lion

by Brandy Colbert
Young Adult

Always on the look-out for bisexual books, I was thrilled to find YA novel Little & Lion. When I looked closer, I was even more excited: not only is the main character Suzette bisexual, she’s also Black and Jewish, and her brother is bipolar. Too often when we’re talking about diversity, we get queer characters who are white, Black characters who are straight, etc. Yay for diverse characters in all their complex glory! Here’s the story: when Suzette comes home to LA from boarding school, she finds herself settling into her old life with startling changes: trying to support her brother and falling in love with the same girl he loves.

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Little Fires Everywhere

by Celeste Ng
Fiction

Celeste Ng’s second novel is everything you would want it to be and more. In gorgeous prose that urges you on through the pages, Ng tells the story of Mia and her daughter Pearl who arrive in Shaker Heights, OH, and begin to stir things up. Mia is a nomadic artist, while Pearl has always wanted to experience a normal American life. She finds it with the Richardson kids who live in the lap of upper middle class luxury and privilege. Mia, meanwhile, befriends Bebe, her colleague at a restaurant in town. Bebe is a Chinese immigrant mourning the loss of her daughter… except that her daughter isn’t so far away after all.

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by Celeste Ng
Fiction

There is almost no information about Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel on the internet. No preorder information, no official release date (though one unconfirmed source tells me it’s coming September 7th), and no real details about the plot, other than that it’s about one family in Ng’s hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio. According to the publisher, Penguin Press, the book explores “the weight of long-held secrets, the nature of belonging, the ferocious pull of motherhood—and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.” So basically, yes please. Honestly, if Celeste Ng said she were writing a rock opera in space, I would be there for it. Everything I Never Told You, her 2014 debut, was and continues to be one of my absolute favorite novels. I’ve been eagerly anticipating her next novel ever since and 2017 will finally put it in my grubby little hands.

Lois Lane: Triple Threat

by Gwenda Bond
Young Adult

Gwenda Bond has won me twice over with her two previous Lois Lane novels, Fallout and Double Down. Her Lois is clever, wry, but always with a drive for truth and justice in equal measure. Quite frankly, Bond is the best writer of Lois Lane we’ve seen in years. I can’t be more thrilled that we’re getting a third book in the series. If you’re a fan of Lois Lane and Clark Kent (yes, he’s in there, too) and you haven’t been reading Bond’s novels, you are seriously missing out. Luckily, you have just enough time to catch up to the series before Triple Threat drops in May.

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Long Shot

by Kennedy Ryan
romance

The night before his biggest college game, basketball phenom August West goes to a bar to decompress and meets Iris Dupree, and the attraction is instantaneous and undeniable. A relationship at that time, however, is impossible. The timing isn’t right. As August rises to basketball stardom and Iris claws her way out of an unimaginably painful situation; these two realize that a connection like theirs isn’t easily broken. Kennedy Ryan weaves a tale that is raw and brutally honest. Long Shot isn’t an easy read and there are times you may want to turn away but you won’t, because pure love, power, and resilience seep through every word.

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Love By the Books

by Té Russ
romance

Carmen Jones is a literary agent who has just scored an amazing book deal. When she meets Sebastian Kincaid, there is an immediate connection, and she is delighted to discover that he owns the bookstore café where her author wrote most of his book. The pair embarks on an adorable bookish courtship, from libraries to speakeasies. In the end, it’s impossible not to fall in love with both parties in this beautiful representation of black love and family.

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Love, Hate & Other Filters

by Samira Ahmed
Young Adult

Maya Aziz, a 17-year-old Indian-American Muslim, is figuring out this whole life thing — choosing between what her parents want for her and what she wants for herself, choosing a college, choosing how to go about romance — with the addition of Islamophobia. It’s an #ownvoices portrayal of hatred and bigotry, and sounds like just the book we need to kick off 2018. Somewhere on the internet, someone said this is Angie Thomas meets Jenny Han, and, just, yes. Give me it now.

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Lumberjanes Vol. 6: Sink or Swim

by Shannon Watters (Author), Kat Leyh (Author), Noelle Stevenson (Creator), Grace Ellis (Creator), Brooke Allen (Creator), Carey Pietsch (Illustrator), and Maarta Laiho (Contributor)
Comicsmiddle grade

I was at the Strand for the Book Riot Live after party, gift card in hand, when the first volume of Lumberjanes caught my eye. I’d heard fellow Book Rioters rave about it in the past, so I bought myself a copy. I immediately fell in love with the artwork, the story, the characters, the hardcore lady types. I then snatched up volumes 2 through 5 as quick as I could. As you do. But Volume 6 won’t be released until April 2017! The anticipation is killing me. KILLING ME.

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March: Book 3

by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Autobiography/Biography/MemoirComicsNonfiction

March: Book 3 is a stunning graphic novel that must be read far and wide. The March series begins with a scene in John Lewis’s congressional office, on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. Through flashbacks, we get a most personal look into Mr. Lewis’s history with the civil rights movement and all that he has endured fighting for equal rights and equal voting opportunities. The graphic novel medium, and in particular Nate Powell’s stunning art, works perfectly to detail the brutal and heartbreaking work of the many people fighting for the most basic of human rights. Read the whole series, then share these books with everyone you know.

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Midnight Without a Moon

by Linda Williams Jackson
middle grade

It’s 1955 and Rose Lee Carter is thirteen years old, working in the summer Mississippi heat and dreaming of life beyond the cotton fields. Her grandparents are sharecroppers, and Rose suffers from the hand of her abusive grandmother who calls her dark skin color “blacker than midnight without a moon”. When Emmett Till, a teenage boy from a neighboring community, is killed for whistling at a white woman, Rose is given the choice to join her family up north. As Rose considers the move, she discovers how her own voice might be more powerful than she ever imagined. Carefully researched and beautifully written, this book is a treasure.

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Mockingbird

by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Rachelle Rosenberg
Superheroes

I will stop being sad about this book being cancelled….oh never probably.  Here’s the thing: Mockingbird is super interesting, funny, feminist, and it is chock full of corgis. What more could you possibly want from your comic? This comic also is a puzzle box, which means you may not always know what is going on at the time, but the journey is so, so worth it. Cain and co. take you on an amazing adventure with a kick-ass, sarcastic heroine who needs to be my new best friend.

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Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening

by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
Fantasy

This is the best way I know how to describe this comic: If like if Saga was crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Girl with All the Gifts then given the aesthetics of Time Bandits and Solar Babies. A bananapants horror fantasy set in an alternate 1900s Asia where women rule, Monstress is about a teenager who has survived many horrors of war only to discover there is something special about her. Inside her, really. And it is hungry. With the help of unusual friends, she must find out what it is if she is to control it.  Takeda’s fantastic artwork compliments Liu’s superb storytelling. It is a delight for both the brain and the eyes.

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My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

by Emil Ferris
ComicsMystery/Thriller

Karen Reyes is a precocious ten year-old trying living in 1960s Chicago. Her mother is sick, her brother is dodging the draft, and their upstairs neighbor—an enigmatic Holocaust survivor named Anka—is a victim of murder. As Karen tries to solve Anka’s murder (think Harriet the Spy meets Maus) the life she’s been avoiding continues to unravel. Using B-movie horror and monster pulp magazine imagery, Karen records everything in her notebook, weaving an unnerving yet absorbing tale with illustrations both gorgeous and grotesque. Take your time with this one; you don’t want to miss a thing.

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My Favorite Thing is Monsters

by Emil Ferris
Comics

Fantagraphics is putting out some of the most beautiful-looking books (Sophie Goldstein’s House of Women is also a sight to behold) and My Favorite Thing is Monsters is no exception. Made to resemble the young protagonist’s sketchbook/diary, Emil Ferris’s wildly accomplished debut graphic novel is a gorgeous and harrowing coming of age story and the story of a city on the edge: Chicago in 1968.

Every heavy subject gets its due here: race, sexuality, sexual assault, art, the Holocaust, murder. Yet despite its heaviness (both physical and metaphysical), Monsters moves lithely, buoyed by the wide-eyed wonder of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, who takes in the horrors of the world and turns them into something dazzling.

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My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 2

by Emil Ferris
Comics

The first volume of Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters is nothing less than an absolute game-changer, a boundary-pushing, awe-inspiring work of art destined to enter the pantheon of all-time great graphic novels. At once harrowing and boisterous, the story of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, a girl whose obsession with pulp fiction propels her to solve the murder of her Holocaust-surviving neighbor, is also the story of American itself: an ecstatic and agonizing reconciliation of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Even if the second volume is only half as good as the first, it will still be a monumental achievement.

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My Sister the Serial Killer

by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Mystery/Thriller

Korede’s sister Ayoola is a real beauty, with a long string of boyfriends who have a tendency to wind up dead. As the dutiful older sister, Korede has become accustomed to cleaning up her sister’s messes (literally). But when the coworker Korede has a crush on begins to show interest in Ayoola, things get even more complicated.

Dark, sharp, and intriguing, this was a book I could not read fast enough. It was the kind of book I literally couldn’t put down, glued to the ebook reader on my phone while I was supposed to be chaperoning a field trip at the time (whoops). Tense and sardonic, this book does not disappoint.

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My Year of Rest and Relaxation

by Ottessa Moshfegh
Fiction

This was a book that left me completely satisfied. Fulfilled by perfect prose, a perfect ending, and a perfectly unlikable narrator that I loved. The story follows our narrator as she decides to cleanse herself of her old life by sleeping away her problems. She is supported in her endeavor by a psychiatrist who is so over-the-top nutty, she seems more hallucination than real, and the sleeping pill cocktail she is prescribed to fight the dubious psychiatric disorders she’s diagnosed with. The pills leave her an apathetic zombie who sleeps, watches Whoopi Goldberg movies, and visits the local bodega to buy coffee and cigarettes. I saw the ending coming a mile away, but I still anticipated it with bated breath. This was hands down my favorite book of 2018!

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Neverworld Wake

by Marisha Pessl
Mystery/ThrillerYoung Adult

It’s been a year since Bee saw her five former best friends from high school. Since graduation. Since her boyfriend Jim, the leader of their group, died mysteriously. Now the summer after their first year in college, they’re having a reunion, and Bee wants to find out what they know about Jim’s death. While at one of the friend’s seaside mansion, a creepy old man knocks at the door. He tells them they are stuck in time, and will relive the same day over until they decide which one of them deserves to live. This is the Neverworld Wake. Weird, mysterious, and incredibly gripping, Pessl’s YA offering is a complex story about life and death, and the secrets we keep. It’s both a time-bending thriller and a very interesting character study. I absolutely adored it.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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New Poets of Native Nations

by Heid E. Erdrich
poetry

The last time an anthology of contemporary Native poetry was published, there were no cell phones, and only computer scientists knew about the internet. I was still French rolling my jeans. In other words, calling this a much-needed anthology is literally the understatement of the century. Editor Heid E. Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibway) chose work by 21 poets whose first books were published after the year 2000. The poems showcase the wide diversity of styles, perspectives, and languages in which Native poets are writing today. The anthology is a joy to read, from Erdrich’s inspiring introduction to the author notes at the end.

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Next Year in Havana

by Chanel Cleeton
Fiction

From the first page of this book, the descriptions of 1950s and modern-day Cuba are vividly breathtaking. The beauty of this book goes beyond the colorful architecture, though, as the bonds of family are uncovered through the stories of two women. Told in dual points of view, this book introduces readers to Marisol and her Grandmother, Elisa. In 1958, readers journey with Elisa as she falls in love with a revolutionary before being forced to flee the war-torn country. In modern-day Cuba, Marisol glimpses the struggle that Cuban’s still face as she seeks to remember her Grandmother. An homage to the permanency of love in the face of adversity.

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Next Year in Havana

by Chanel Cleeton
Fiction

Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana is the book of my soul and finally gave me the #ownvoices Cuban representation that I’ve been looking for my entire life. Set during two time periods, one during the 1950s and the other during the present day, this historical fiction follows two strong-willed Latinas as they live through two very different times in Cuba. This novel is all about self-discovery, forbidden love, Cuban politics and history, and what being Cuban truly means, whether you’re born on the island or not. This book combines the strife and resilience of Cubans and celebrates our heritage, and it quickly became my favorite novel of all time. This is one book you won’t want to walk past in a bookstore.

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No Happy Endings

by Nora McInerny
Nonfiction

Nora McInerny is the host of one of my favorite podcasts, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, in which she talks with people who have experienced various tragedies and traumas. Nora herself lost her unborn second baby, her father, and her husband all within weeks of each other. She knows firsthand that it’s okay to not be okay (and talk about it!) and that it’s also okay to experience moments of joy in the wake of tragedy. She is thoughtful and compassionate, as well as hilarious and down-to-earth. In her second memoir, Nora explores the tension between her newfound happiness with her second husband and four kids and the losses that shaped her.

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Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman
Fantasy

In this gorgeous black and gold volume, Neil Gaiman takes the Norse myths as we know them and retells them in his mysterious, careful writing. He has studied his characters carefully, and Thor’s strength and relative ignorance, Odin’s wisdom, and Loki’s trickery and desire for chaos, all emerge beautifully in this collection. Gaiman knows how to write folklore, and he makes the gods both terrifying and familiar, the stories haunting and funny. He has done his research, but most of all, he just knows how to tell a story, and that’s the most important piece of passing down mythology, something borne over the centuries through oral inheritance.

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Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman
Fantasy

I came late to the Viking party. Prior to grad school, what I knew of Norse culture came solely from the pages of Johanna Lindsey’s Haardrad Series. The Vinland Sagas changed me forever. Love of mythology is not new for me. Edith Hamilton’s classic has been a part of my personal library since middle school, along with other collections of Greek, Roman, and Celtic myths. Gaiman’s Norse Mythology has me excited for a couple reasons. First, it’s Neil Gaiman. Second, he’s going to talk about Thor. Not the Chris Hemsworth, chiseled abs, honorable, all-American-surfer Thor, but the hard drinking, foul mouthed, stinky, murderous Thor.

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Not That Bad

by Roxane Gay
Nonfiction

When it comes to topics like sexual violence and rape culture, there’s no one I trust more to handle them with grace than Roxane Gay. After all, Gay is the one who ably analyzed this aspect of our culture in Bad Feminist. She stared it down unflinchingly in An Untamed State. She gutted me with Hunger. In Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, she brings together a collection of writers who have been touched by rape culture, including Amy Jo Burns and Lyz Lenz, and even actors like Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union. What does it mean to live in this world as a woman? This book is undoubtedly the answer.

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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

by Ocean Vuong
Fiction

Poet Ocean Vuong’s first novel is the hottest ARC in town right now and it’s easy to understand why. His award-winning poetry collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, was incredibly well-received when it debuted in 2016. His novel, the title of which is taken from a poem by the same name, is the story of a mother-son relationship, which weaves through issues of identity, race, and sexuality. Knowing the power of Vuong’s writing, there’s no doubt that this will be an intense and emotional journey, with moving observations on humanity and relationships. I can’t wait to read his novel, even knowing how heart-wrenching it will be.

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On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas
Young Adult

Angie Thomas’s debut novel, The Hate U Give, made a big splash in the book world and was adapted into a highly acclaimed movie. Her next novel is set for release on February 5 and early reviews suggest that it will hit just as hard as THUG. On the Come Up tells the story of Bri, a sixteen-year-old aspiring rapper with talent and drive. But when her mom loses her job and the family is threatened with homelessness, she has to make big moves to protect her dreams and her loved ones. Exploring themes of poverty, racial discrimination, addiction, and police surveillance, it’s a realistic and engaging story that fans of THUG are sure to love.

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Once and For All

by Sarah Dessen
romanceYoung Adult

Once and For All is the latest from Sarah Dessen, whose well established fan-base eagerly awaits each new release. Once and For All tells the story of Louna, who is the daughter of a well-known wedding planner. Louna doesn’t believe in happy endings, especially since her first love didn’t end well. But of course, she meets a “serial dater” named Ambrose who is determined to pursue her despite her cynicism. The world of wedding planning promises plenty of drama of its own, so it’s safe to expect that Dessen is bringing us another heartfelt story full of laughs, heart wrenching moments, and character growth interwoven into the love story. It’s set to release in June 2017.

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One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

by Scaachi Koul
memoir/autobiographynon-fiction

ODWABDANOTWM is a debut essay collection about “growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in western culture, addressing sexism, stereotypes, and the universal miseries of life.” Koul is great at moving easily between funny and poignant moments. The stories about her parents contain a fair amount of frustration, but she always writes about them with a sense of generosity. Chapters are punctuated with brief email exchanges between Koul and her father that are succinct, funny, and give some depth to the last (and best) essay in the book, about the consequences Koul faced telling her parents about her long term relationship with a white man.

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You may have heard political pundits claim Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because black and brown voters didn’t show up, but in One Person, No Vote, Dr. Carol Anderson pushes back against that claim with a clear, concise, and compelling exploration of racialized voter suppression from Jim Crow through today. People of color didn’t fail Democrats; they were systematically excluded, disenfranchised, and discouraged from turning out to the polls. This book is impeccably researched and perfectly argued. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in politics, policy, and polling.

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Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
memoir/autobiography/biographyNonfiction

In Option B, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton professor Adam Grant explore the idea of building resilience after significant loss and setbacks. The main thread of the book is Sandberg’s experience after the sudden death of her husband, Dave Goldberg, while on vacation in Mexico. Sandberg writes movingly about finding her husband’s body, telling her children about their father’s death, and the loneliness and isolation that follows great loss. The research sections of the book on resilience research are equally as interesting, and provide a nice counterbalance to Sandberg’s personal narrative. This book is an useful, thoughtful read.

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Origin

by Dan Brown
Mystery/Thriller

There aren’t too many living authors who can say they invented a genre, but Dan Brown is one of them. And in Origin, it feels like Brown might have found the ultimate subject of for his theo-cultural thrillers: the origin of life. I’m guessing Brown will plumb the connection of the church and scholarship and have Robert Langdon puzzling over Genesis and The Origin of Species while mopeding across a European city with a bright young English botanist or something. And I am so excited I can barely breathe.

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This is a selection of essays by 19 of the Arab world’s greatest female journalists. This edited collection will break the mould of coverage of the Middle East, often the province of white, male foreign correspondents. Instead, it will feature pieces by women who are from, and reported on, the region with great professionalism and humanity. The authors are a who’s who of excellent women writers who have done some of the best journalism in the Arab world, and tell us in their own words what it’s like to cover war and societies in revolution.

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Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee
Fiction

Pachinko is an epic family saga that follows four generations of a Korean family from the early 1900s through the 1980s. The family immigrates to Japan early on in the story and Min Jin Lee simultaneously explores the changing family dynamics as well as the cultural tension and discrimination against Koreans living in Japan. The characters are complex, the story runs deep, and Min Jin Lee’s writing is descriptive without being overwritten. She pulls you into this family from page one and you never want to leave them.

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Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee

In a fishing village in pre-WW2 Korea, a plain peasant girl catches the eye of a wealthy, but married, yakuza. When her pregnancy threatens to shame her family, a young pastor offers her marriage as escape. She follows him to Japan, beginning an epic charting the lives of three Korean generations through the war and after. Industrious and fiercely independent, Sunja and her family struggle to survive poverty, persecution, and discrimination in a new land. In honest and simple prose, Pachinko, titled after a Japanese game similar to the slot machine, captures the ups and downs of family life as a marginalised race strives to master the vagaries of fate and come to terms with their identity.

 

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Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee
Fiction

In a fishing village in pre-WW2 Korea, a plain peasant girl catches the eye of a wealthy, but married, yakuza. When her pregnancy threatens to shame her family, a young pastor offers her marriage as escape. She follows him to Japan, beginning an epic charting the lives of three Korean generations through the war and after. Industrious and fiercely independent, Sunja and her family struggle to survive poverty, persecution, and discrimination in a new land. In honest and simple prose, Pachinko, titled after a Japanese game similar to the slot machine, captures the ups and downs of family life as a marginalised race strives to master the vagaries of fate and come to terms with their identity.

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Pachinko

by Min Jin Lee
Fiction

Min Jin Lee’s sophomore novel opens during Imperial Japan’s occupation of Korea, and follows a family through five generations of self-discovery. The breadth and depth of challenges come through clearly, without sensationalization. The sporadic victories are oases of sweetness, without being saccharine. Lee makes it impossible not to develop tender feelings towards her characters—all of them, even the most morally compromised.  Their multifaceted engagements with identity, family, vocation, racism, and class are guaranteed to provide your most affecting sobfest of the year.

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Paul Up North

by Michel Rabagliati
Nonfiction

In his latest semi-autobiographical tale, Rabagliati turns his attention to the period surrounding the 1976 Montreal Olympics. We are treated to a teenage Paul and all the bad hair, emotional angst and Prog Rock that we would expect of this age and era. The young Paul’s emotional journey from child to adult mirrors the deep political changes that were happening in Quebec. While Paul drinks his first beer and smokes his first joint, we also see a love letter to Montreal’s urban landscape and Quebec’s countryside and political evolution. The last Paul album for the foreseeable future, this was a touching and funny way in which to bid farewell.

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by Mari Crimbo
Fantasy

Periwinkle, unlike most fairies her age, can’t do magic. She can’t even use her wings properly. Other fairies treat her like a joke. Despite that, she still wants to do a Fairytale, earn some respect from her peers.  Eventually she finds a book-loving witch in a tower, who will let her try to create a Happy Ending, in exchange for fairy books. The witch and her cat expect Periwinkle to fail, but plan to enjoy the literature.

Peritale shows a remarkable narrative, with detailed character designs, colorful backgrounds, and a likable protagonist. Peri is like a giant marshmallow and full of positive vibes. No matter what happens, she won’t give up.

Picture Us in the Light

by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Young Adult
Set in Silicon Valley, Picture Us in the Light follows Danny Cheng as he waits on his acceptance to art school. His future and his relationship with his best friend Harry are thrown into question when he stumbles upon a family secret — just before the one-year anniversary of a tragedy. This book is so many things at once: A coming-of-age story. A queer love story. A story of immigration, family, and mental health. Somehow, it all comes together beautifully. I picked up this book because my co-worker told me to, but when I learned it was set in Cupertino (my sort-of hometown!), that sealed the deal for me. This is a must-read for 2018.
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by Trevor Noah
Nonfiction

Picking up where his first memoir, Born a Crime, leaves off, this book tells the story of Trevor Noah’s young adulthood and his journey from working odd jobs in South Africa to becoming a comedian and ultimately the host of the Daily Show. Born a Crime was without a doubt one of the best books I read last year. It was witty and honest and almost impossible to put down. I can’t wait to get even more of the story of Noah’s life in Place of Gold, and if it’s even half as good then I fully expect it to be one of my favorite books of 2019.

Plum Rains

by Andromeda Romano-Lax
Fiction

Beyond legitimate concerns around the ethics of AI, reproductive challenges, and environmental degradation are actual, singular, beautiful human lives–people who make battles for better worth fighting. The secrets we keep and the prejudices we navigate rise to the surface of Andromeda Romano-Lax’s lovely, heartrending near-future novel, which is set in Japan. Dark realities (including human trafficking) loom, but it’s the vulnerable-but-tough and irreplaceable characters who stick with you.

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Power Man and Iron Fist

by David Walker, Sanford Greene, and Flaviano Armentaro
Superheroes

PMIF not only made me giggle helplessly every month, it hit me right between the eyes more than once. It’s not often that something so laugh-out-loud funny also has this much heart, but beneath Danny’s hyperactive shenanigans and Luke’s self-bowderlized swearing lies a genuine friendship between two decent men just trying to live the best lives they can. Greene’s utterly charming takes on the characters leap off the page with a breakneck kineticism that always leaves you wanting more, and Walker’s meanderings down the Marvel Universe’s less-traveled byways are both nostalgic and utterly fresh. I love the fiddle-faddle out of this book.

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Pride

by Ibi Zoboi
Young Adult

Remixes of classics and myths are already an easy way to get my attention, but the premise of Pride is like Grade A, extra-strength, deluxe edition catnip. A Pride and Prejudice remake set in Bushwick with all characters of color and Afro-Latinas as the Bennet (Benitez) sisters that tackles gentrification, classism, and identity politics?! SOLD. The audio version takes the awesome up a notch with narration by Elizabeth Acevedo (swoon), whose tone and cadence are a perfect match to the swagger and attitude of main character Zuri. It’s poetic and soulful, Jane Austen classic with Afro-Latinx heart.

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Priestdaddy: A Memoir

by Patricia Lockwood
memoir/autobiographynon-fiction

Patricia Lockwood has always felt out of place in her insular Catholic family, but she understands them as she does no one else. In Priestdaddy, she examines the forces that shaped her, from her aggressively nurturing mother’s devotion to pro-life activism to her boisterous father’s complicity in protecting abusive fellow clergymen. Lockwood leans into both her family’s strangeness and her own with a poetic specificity that makes every word simultaneously jarring and just right. Years from now, we’ll turn to Priestdaddy to understand how poets and priests like Lockwood and her father coexisted in the same America—and the same homes.

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Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess

by Jeremy Whitley, Rosy Higgins, and Ted Brandt
Young Adult

My choice for Best Comic of 2016 was an easy one. Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess is the comic I pine for every month. Whitley, Higgins, and Brandt have created a cast of characters that speak to the lives of so many women I know. In a political environment where LGBTQ+ representation is literally saving lives, this book should be on everyone’s go-to list. As a teen title, Raven’s message of queer, body-positive, racially diverse, feminism is even more important. It’s also a sweet romance-adventure-revenge story with swords and explosions and science. Go. Now. Read.

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Princess Cora and the Crocodile

by Laura Amy Schlitz, Brian Floca
children's

Princess Cora’s parents worry about her growing up the wrong way. They mandate her reading, exercise, and bathing habits. Cora wouldn’t mind, except that her parents and nanny never listen. She can’t even get a puppy. Eventually, Cora writes to her fairy godmother for help. Her godmother sends a talking crocodile, who offers to assist Cora with her problems.

This story made me laugh, and was a bright spot at the start of 2017. The art is colorful, cheerful and on-point. I look forward to seeing more works from the author and artist, to add more joy as our world seems to grow darker.

 

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Princess Princess Ever After

by Katie O'Neill
Young Adult

Princess Sadie is about to be rescued, but the dashing young royal who releases her from her tower is no prince. Princess Amira is brave, bold, and determined to be a hero. The Princesses team up, discovering their individual talents, true friendship, and yes, even love. O’Neill’s art is as charming as her story is touching. Originally a hit webcomic, Princess Princess is known for being a classic fairytale made gay, but it is as much about learning to have faith in your abilities and compassion for others (even giant ogres who are bad dancers). Perfect for every age, this is the queer fairytale we all needed.

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Queens of Geek

by Jen Wilde
romanceYoung Adult

I couldn’t resist this story about Taylor: a fat, geeky, anxious aspie protagonist discovering her own amazingness, and Charlie: a Chinese-Australian bisexual (as in uses the word “bisexual”!) protagonist who ends up in an adorable, interracial F/F romance with a fellow vlogger.

On top of that, this is a love letter to fandom that takes place entirely at a convention, packed full of geeky jokes and tumblr references! It is has a well-paced plot, compelling romances, and memorable, fully-realized characters. I laughed out loud reading it, and I accidentally finished it in one day. This is so fun and heartwarming. Just lovely.

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Rabbit Cake

by Annie Hartnett
Fiction

In a novel full of child psychiatry, dying giraffes, naked mole rats, psychics, and world-record baking stunts, what really holds Annie Hartnett’s Rabbit Cake together is Elvis Babbitt’s clear, sweet voice. Elvis is confused and frustrated after her mother’s death, and what makes this book shine is that she is both completely believable as a child, and she is a compelling narrator. The reader feels her grief, her curious hunger for the world, and also her disbelief that a world so abundant in wonder could take her mother away.

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Rafe

by Rebekah Weatherspoon
romance

Buff Male Nanny. Enough said, right?

Rafe is the low in angst, fluffy and cute novel you’ve been looking for your entire life. Let me tell you that you have found it. In this romance story, Dr. Sloan needs a nanny to watch her kids, but she never thought she would find her love match as well. Rafe is our buff nanny who will easily enchant you with his sweetness and care for Sloan and her children.

We don’t get a lot of male nanny heroes, or if we do, it’s never their choice of career. But in Rafe, this is not the case. Rafe loves doing his job and you see it pretty early on. This book is really fluff on fluff and I absolutely adore it.

 

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Rage Becomes Her

by Soraya Chemaly
non-fiction

Women have a lot to be angry about but our society ignores, gaslights, and punishes us for expressing our anger. In Rage Becomes Her, feminist warrior Soraya Chemaly validates women’s rage using studies, surveys, and personal accounts that reveal the true extent of misogyny’s stranglehold on virtually every aspect of our culture. If you’ve ever been asked, “Why are you so angry?” this book will help you articulate your rage and–equally important–use it more effectively as a tool for change. And if you’re of the male persuasion, this book will help you better understand the social and structural inequalities women have to deal with everyday.

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Real Friends

by Shannon Hale
Comicsmiddle grade

Real Friends is the book I wish I had as a little girl. It celebrates friendship, girlhood, and imagination, but also talks about how each of these things can trip up girls as they enter adolescence: how friendships can grow sour, how girls can be uniquely mean, and how a strong imagination can make you feel like a weirdo. Shannon Hale writes about her childhood in a way that makes you feel like you are reliving your own, and LuUyen Pham’s bright, expressive illustrations pull you into her memories. If you’ve ever felt out of place in your own small world, Shannon Hale shows you how to find a team and feel at home.

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Rebel

by Beverly Jenkins
romance

It’s a new historical romance by the illustrious Beverly Jenkins. That is reason alone for Rebel to be a must-read in 2019. In this first book in a new series, Women Who Dare, we will meet Valinda Lacey–a Northern woman in the south in the aftermath of the Civil War. Set in New Orleans, Valinda is keen on helping her community survive but she’ll learn that freedom, during this time, is dangerous and does not come without significant cost. After she is targeted, she runs for her life and into Captain Drake LeVeq. This novel promises to be one of irresistible love, rebellion, and the fight to getting what one deserves.

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Record of a Spaceborn Few

by Becky Chambers
Science Fiction

The Exadans—humans immigrants from Earth—are well known throughout the Galactic Commons. Their descendants wear their Exadan heritage with pride and have been welcomed throughout the galaxy. But for the few left on the Exadan fleet, one looming question remains: what happens after a ship reaches its destination?

I’ve been eagerly anticipating the third Wayfarers book since falling head first into the series last year. Wayfarers is the most imaginative and compelling space opera I’ve read in years. The worldbuilding is unbelievably intricate, and—though the science is well written and prominent—the characters are always at the heart of the story. If you love good sci-fi, you absolutely have to read this series!

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Red Clocks

by Leni Zumas
Science Fiction

In a time when it feels like female reproductive rights are dangerously vulnerable and the government’s ability to dictate how families “should” be created is growing, this book cuts straight to the bone. Set in the not-so-distant future (like, this could be in the next 10 years), Zumas explores how motherhood and the ability to control when and if it happens affects a woman’s agency, identity, and freedom over her own life. Add to this beautiful writing and some interesting information about 19th -century polar exploration (just trust me on this), and you’ve got yourself a book that will stick with you long after you’ve finish

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Red Clocks

by Leni Zumas
Science Fiction

In this Atwoodesque dystopia, abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and only married couples are allowed to adopt. The novel follows five women–a single teacher desperate for a child, a pregnant high school student, a polar explorer, a frustrated mother of two, and an herbalist living on the fringes of society–as they navigate these new restrictions. Their lives converge when the herbalist becomes the target of a modern day witch-hunt. Red Clocks hits close to home and serves as an urgent reminder that we must continually fight not only to advance women’s rights, but also to preserve the rights we’ve already won.

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Red, White & Royal Blue

by Casey McQuiston
romance

Rom-com? A female POTUS? A fake friendship-turned-secret romance between the First Son and the Prince of Wales? Check, check, and check! Casey McQuiston’s debut novel already hits all the right notes for me with its political nuances, a steamy romance, and high stakes that force its characters to reflect and make the right choice… all the while trying to avoid facing political scandal and wreaking international havoc. The British Royal-American crossover relationship is just the icing on top of an already edible cake, and I can’t wait to dig in!

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Revenge of the Evil Librarian

by Michelle Knudsen

The first in this series, Evil Librarian, is a favorite for many reasons: musical theater background, demons who love Sweeney Todd, and an awesome main character in Cynthia, who loves set design, swoons over her crush, and sets it all aside to save her best friend. Everything great about the first? Dialed up in Revenge. They’re at theater camp. There are new demons to contend with. There are new crushes blossoming. Cynthia grows in her butt-kicking ways and continues to prioritize what’s right over what she wants, even as what she wants is alarmingly shifting. Revenge is fast-paced and funny- a delicious read. Don’t miss it.

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Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice From My Bipolar Life

by Ellen Forney
Comicsnon-fiction

Rejoice! Ellen Forney has given us a guide to navigating life with a mood disorder. Using her experience living with bipolar disorder, Forney shares her tips ‘n’ tricks for handling all aspects of mental health: sleep, human contact, meds, therapy, etc. At the end of each chapter, there are cute merit badges to keep you going! While she mostly refers to bipolar, this advice could be applied to many mental illnesses — and is good for all humans in general. It’s all done in her classic, light-hearted style and is just so lovely and wise. This is a wonderful book to keep on your shelf for when things get hard.

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After a year of living the consequences of questionable journalism, it’s refreshing and heartening to read a comic like Rolling Blackouts, which offers an inside look at how a journalism non-profit does its international work. Glidden tags along with her journalist colleagues and records their discussions, interviews, ethical quandaries, arguments, and debates, becoming herself an ever more effective comics journalist. As good as the narrative is, it’s worth noting that Glidden’s watercolour style is exceptional and her subtle, nuanced images are often deeply moving. This ambitious book is a perfect read for fans of Joe Sacco and Guy Delisle.

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Rosalie Lightning

by Tom Hart
Nonfiction

I’ve cried over a handful of books in my life, but Rosalie Lightning is the only work that made me bawl for all the right reasons: the beauty Rosalie got to experience while she was alive; the pain her parents experienced—and continue to experience—after her passing; and for the new joy those who loved her have found by holding her in their hearts. The power of this graphic memoir is in its ability to make you feel—grief, sorrow, rage, joy, nostalgia. It will make you want to hold your loved ones close and tell them you love them. It will make you want to work harder and create more. And it all stems from the love of a little girl.

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Saga

by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
Fantasy

Saga is the reason I started a pull list. With every new issue I think “I wonder if they can keep pulling this off,” and every time they do. Staples’ art is unparalleled: her lines, her colors, her composition, make every single page a pleasure to look at (even the many gory ones). Vaughan’s control over the plot is astounding; every plot point and every piece of dialogue feels deliberate and purposeful, even 40 issues in. Above all, I can’t stop caring. Saga has broken my heart time and time again: favorite characters are lost, fall behind, fall from grace. But then a new twist comes, and I can’t wait to find out what’s next.

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Saints and Misfits

by S.K. Ali
Young Adult

This is a story about a Muslim and not a Muslim story.

It’ll have you cheering for Janna Yusuf, a misfit in a world filled with other misfits, saints, and monsters, as she tries to find her voice, and figure out her place in the world as a Muslim teen. It’s a refreshing contemporary, an emotional rollercoaster, and satisfying read. S.K. Ali makes a memorable debut and I’m excited to see more.

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Saving Montgomery Sole

by Mariko Tamaki
Young Adult

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki are non-stop when it comes to a certain brand of quirky, melancholy, and incredibly thought-provoking comic book. Mariko Tamaki’s YA novel Saving Montgomery Sole is no different. Saving Montgomery Sole centers on Montgomery, the driving force behind her club’s investigations into the paranormal. Parallel with her forays into life’s mysteries, Montgomery struggles with the homophobia in her small town that she fears will be directed at her two mothers. For any fans of This One Summer or Skim, this is a must-read.

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Sawkill Girls

by Claire Legrand
Young Adult

I never expected feminist horror to be my jam, but Sawkill Girls proved me wrong. On Sawkill Rock, girls have a history of going missing. Marion’s sister is the latest victim. The sheriff’s daughter, Zoey, is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and is certain it girl Val has something to do with it. And maybe she does. Either way, all three girls get mixed up in a whole lot of supernatural trouble.

The prose is gorgeous and the creep factor is just right. It’s everything you could want in a book: girls being bad, girls working together to fight bad guys, queer girls getting a happy ending, and teenage girls smashing the patriarchy.

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See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng
Young Adult

Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos follows 11-year-old Alex Petroski and his dog Carl Sagan to a rocket competition to launch his self-recorded golden iPod into space. It’s a pitch-perfect blend of nerdy space travel love, what family means and becomes during our most transformative years, along with a classic West coast road trip book. I ate See You in the Cosmos up in less than a day, and I’ve been raving about it ever since.

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See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng
middle grade

Eleven-year-old Alex Petroski wants to launch his golden iPod into space, just like his hero Carl Sagan launched his Golden Record on a spacecraft in the 1970s. Alex spray paints his iPod gold and starts capturing the sounds of life, so that extraterrestrials will know what life is like on earth. Told entirely through Alex’s iPod recordings, we listen as he sets off to launch the golden iPod in a homemade rocket with his dog (also named Carl Sagan), and the hilarious and heartbreaking trip that follows. Mr. Cheng’s incredible storytelling reaffirmed my belief that creativity is still very much alive in children’s literature.

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Shadowbahn

by Steve Erickson
Science Fiction

The felled Twin Towers appear in the middle of the desert. That premise alone is weird enough to grab my attention. Add a blessing Jonathan Lethem and comparisons to Mark Z. Danielewski’s, and I’m counting down the days until this book is available everywhere. Any novel that ties sci-fi and music together belongs in my wheelhouse.

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Shadowhouse Fall

by Daniel José Older

Shadowhouse Fall, the sequel to Shadowshaper (which I spent 2016 repeatedly raving about) by Daniel José Older releases 9/12/17.

Older tweeted that it “is explicitly a protest novel, deals directly with state violence, school to prison pipelines…and fighting back. Because these are the times we live in, and I believe in literature that looks these times in the face and speaks truth. And you can’t tiptoe towards justice.” He’s also said it “deals with mental health” and that “there may or may not be a techshaper.”

I desperately hope Anika Noni Rose returns for the audiobook. In the meantime, check out the novella Ghost Girl in the Corner.

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Shout

by Laurie Halse Anderson
poetryYoung Adult

It’s been twenty years since Speak came into the world. Now, Laurie Halse Anderson is shifting the perspective to herself, shouting her story (and rage and calls to action and love letters to those who speak up) in free verse. She shares parts of her own story that she’s never written about before, with grace and poignancy. This one will be a gut punch, but a necessary one.

Twenty years is a long time, and oh, how we wish Speak weren’t still relevant. Maybe Shout will be the one to change the world for good.

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Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman

by Lindy West
Autobiography/Biography/Memoir

You might know Lindy West from the episode of This American Life where she confronts a troll who impersonated her dead father on social media. The essays in Shrill hit a perfect sweet spot between feminism and humor that had me texting my girl gang every 5 seconds with something new that had me laughing/crying/both, probably. (Kids of the 80s, you’ll love her high-school-band-geek-reading-high-fantasy-on-the-bus humor.) Equally wonderful via print or audio—she performs the audio herself!—Lindy West uses comedy to Hulk smash cultural taboos for women like being fat, having an abortion, not being down with rape jokes, and demanding to be heard.

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Siege Line

by Myke Cole
Fantasy

Siege Line by Myke Cole is the final installment in The Reawakening Trilogy, which in turn serves as an emotionally charged and action packed prequel to his highly acclaimed Shadow Ops Series. Set in the near future of our world, The Reawakening Trilogy tells the story of how magic begins to manifest itself in human beings after having been dormant for centuries and how the military-industrial complex tries to profit from this development. Drawing from his own experiences in Iraq and the United States Coast Guard, Cole has written some of the best fantasy fiction I have ever read. Needless to say, I’m counting the days until this book comes out.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing

by Jesmyn Ward
Fiction

If you’re wondering who the next Toni Morrison is, Jesmyn Ward’s newest novel cements her in that role. It’s the tale of one family’s small journey that takes on epic form, as drug addict Leonie travels with her estranged children, wise Jojo and young Kayla, to pick up their father when he’s released from prison. These characters struggle not only with the day-to-day struggles of life in poverty, but with ghosts that haunt them without ceasing. Leonie and Jojo circle each other warily, but each comes alive through their narration, and the book will leave you more than a little heartbroken for these characters and our country.

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Sleeping Giants

by Sylvain Neuvel
Science Fiction

Sleeping Giants is so unexpected, it’s completely mindblowing. A girl falls through the ground and lands on a giant metal hand that isn’t of human construction. Almost two decades later, that girl is in charge of a team studying these massive alien objects. Sound intriguing? It is, and all the more because of the way the story is told: interviews, emails, and data files. Neuvel creates suspense by only telling us parts of the story, and helping us put the pieces together along the way. It makes for a mesmerizing, all-consuming narrative that will leave you breathless with anticipation. Sci-fi fan or not, this book will stick with you.

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So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo
non-fiction

No one ever taught me how to talk about race. I can recognize racism. I can recognize microaggressions. I’ve gotten better at speaking up for myself and others, but So You Want To Talk About Race has been an absolutely indispensable source of knowledge and courage. We will never be perfect in conversations around race, but Oluo offers solid information and permission to fail, as long as we try. Oluo does so much labor via her book that most of us are ill-equipped or unwilling to do. I now require all the self-identified allies in my life to read this book before they talk with me about race and it has definitely leveled-up our conversations.

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So You Want To Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo
Nonfiction

This is a timely, clear, and comprehensive guide to having difficult conversations about race. It tackles topics like, “Is it really about race?”, “Why can’t I touch your hair?”, “I just got called racist, what do I do now?” and more in a way that is concise, accessible, and backed by research. Ijeoma Oluo argues that the only way to create systemic and cultural change is to engage in difficult conversations about race, and her book will give you exactly the toolkit you need to start those dialogues. Whether you’re experienced when it comes to talking about race or new to the conversation, this book has something important to teach you.

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Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

by Lucy Knisley
Nonfiction

Lucy Knisley is a queen of graphic memoirs, and nowhere is that more evident than her latest, Something New. Knisley is skeptical at the idea of marriage, but proceeds with planning her own somewhat unexpected nuptials in this gorgeous memoir full of splashy color. Readers experience everything from Knisley’s attempts to create handmade favors to her anguish over whether committing to a man erases her bisexuality. Every page contains a new delight, a new emotion, a new wonder; Knisley is one of the best creators working in the graphic memoir form today, and this amazing work is proof.

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Somewhere Only We Know

by Maurene Goo
Young Adult

Maurene Goo’s YA romcom, The Way You Make Me Feel, was delightfully amusing and one of my favorite reads of 2018. Goo has a knack for creating flawed yet lovable characters that make me laugh out loud. So, when I heard her new novel Somewhere Only We Know is a modern retelling set in Hong Kong of the classic film Roman Holiday, I couldn’t help but squeal with excitement. In Goo’s version of the story, K-pop star Lucky’s post-concert hankering for a hamburger leads to a fateful run-in with tabloid reporter Jack Lim. Love and hijinks ensue! Can’t wait until May 7th to get my paws on this one.

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Spaceman of Bohemia

by Jaroslav Kalfar
Science Fiction

This book is literally out of this world! A Czech astronaut, Jakub, has been given the opportunity to go on a dangerous solo mission to Venus. This mission will offer him and his country the chance to redeem themselves and sever ties to their Communist past. The rest of the book is his experiences in space as he battles with his personal demons and isolation. He becomes friends with a giant spider who has a weakness for Nutella (can you blame him!) and oddity ensues. This book is weird, entertaining and thought-provoking in the best possible way. Spaceman of Bohemia is a spectacular voyage of relationships, ambition and the self.

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Spidey, Vol. 1: First Day

by Robbie Thompson, Nick Bradshaw, and André Lima Araújo
Superheroes

Marvel dropped Spidey #1 in late 2015. Now, I have read and seen Spidey’s origin story a thousand times and I was honestly not that excited for another round. But it’s not an origin story. It’s Peter Parker in high school… just going on missions. There’s an episodic quality to it. Even in the first volume (#1–6), you don’t really have an overarching narrative other than Pete’s life—but it works so well. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s Peter at his best—which is to say, he’s sort of a doofus and still figuring things out. It is perfect if you loved the Peter we got in CA: Civil War. And it is perfect if you don’t know Spidey at all!

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Spring

by Ali Smith
Fiction

The third book in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet series is likely to be another eccentric, pun-filled marvel. The books (Autumn, Winter and now Spring) exist in a post-Brexit, post-Trumpian reality, and Smith never shrinks away from political references. Her way of capturing the seasons is immersive, like the reader is right there with the characters. Smith loves to play with language in all her work, and that joy in writing always shines through. ‘It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times’ is how she teasingly begins Autumn, but despite that nihilistic streak her writing remains bright, funny and profoundly hopeful. I don’t have plot details about Spring, but I know that I’m in for a literary treat.

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State Tectonics

by Malka Older
Science Fiction

In the 2 years since Older’s Infomocracy debuted in mid-2016, it has often been difficult to envision alternative ways of being and knowing and governing in a seemingly broken world. Thankfully, those years have also given us the rest of The Centental Cycle, which State Tectonics concludes. To the very end, as the novels’ radically different system of government finds itself under attack and struggling to evolve, Older refuses both utopian faith and dystopian despair. In their place, she offers a kind of speculative hope. Ultimately, State Tectonics is a worthy end to its series, a useful tool for imagining futures, and a truly great read.

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Stay With Me

by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
Fiction

Stay With Me is a book that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. It tells the story of Yejide, a young hairdresser and wife in Nigeria. When she can’t get pregnant, her mother-in-law brings home a second wife for her husband. This results in a series of events that slowly chips away at Yijede’s life. The book is a brilliant exploration of motherhood, along with the pressures and expectations of motherhood that come with being a woman.

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Strange the Dreamer

by Laini Taylor
FantasyYoung Adult

To say that Strange the Dreamer is my most anticipated book of 2017 is an understatement; it is my most anticipated book of the decade. I fell so love with Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone that I got a tattoo inspired by the book, but based on the preview I’ve read, Strange the Dreamer will be my new favorite YA fantasy. Strange is, like myself, a librarian. But Strange also has a dream of a long lost city and a blue-skinned goddess, and though he is not a warrior, he is called to join a quest to discover what became of the mythic place. I can’t wait to get lost in Taylor’s stunning writing and go on an adventure with Lazlo Strange.

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Syncopation

by Anna Zabo
romance

There are so many reasons I love this rock band romance. It has the intensely emotional and electric connection between band leader Ray and new drummer Zavier. It has Carl, the most villainy villain I read in 2018. It has aromantic representation. It has kinky sex on a tour bus. But the very best thing about Syncopation is the relationships between and among the bandmates. Ray, Dom, Mish, and Zavier love each other in a way that’s messy and sometimes hurtful but is always deep and steadfast. The central relationship between Ray and Zavier is immensely satisfying, but the best love story in Syncopation is among the found family of bandmates.

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Tess of the Road

by Rachel Hartman
FantasyYoung Adult

Tess Dombegh is an offbeat outsider whose curiosity and rebellions have long embarrassed her family. Embittered and fed up at never measuring up, Tess runs away and takes to the road. Her journey illuminates a past she’s tried desperately to bury as she slowly comes to understand she is not something to be fixed, and catches a glimpse of a breathtaking future. Hartman uses the heroine’s journey as a vessel to explore important issues of independence, consent, and female empowerment, making Tess of the Road a quick-witted, adventurous, feminist, and ultimately triumphant novel that offers a cathartic and thrilling reading experience.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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Kaylee Schaefer’s memoir-slash-cultural-examination of female friendship is a gut punch of a book for any woman that holds their girl gang close. Using her personal experience, as well as those of her friends, in combination with cultural and social examples (Parks & Rec, Sex & the City, Grey’s Anatomy, etc.), Schaefer shines a light on those female friendships that are central to our lives but which society doesn’t have a good way of describing. So often while reading, I’d stumble on a passage I had to immediately send to a friend because of how closely it spoke to us. A powerful gut-punch of a book and a must read for your whole crew.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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The Animators

by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Fiction

I thought this was going to be a book about a supportive friend helping a self-destructive one, but it’s more than that. The book’s central characters—Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses—need each other and support each other. I was thrilled to find a book that takes women’s friendships so seriously.

The book also raises complex questions about art, as the offbeat cartoon Mel and Sharon make together draw on their own life experiences. But what happens when telling your own story means sharing others’ stories, too?

I cried a lot reading this book. It’s funny and sad and really beautiful. An excellent debut by Kayla Rae Whitaker.

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The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

by Sonny Liew
Graphic Novel

Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a would-be cartoonist Singapore needed but never had. Planted historical documents sprinkled throughout the book further cement the simulation of Chye’s life. His arc as a cartoonist realizing his talent always orbits around the lives and times surrounding him. Just as his trade can be cruel and unforgiving, so are the political movements in Malaysia/Singapore. A hero of the people one day, such as real-world Communist leader Lim Chin Siong, is an exile the next. Today’s best seller is on tomorrow’s discount rack. Hey, at least let Sonny Liew enjoy some of the spotlight if Chye’s never going to get it!

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The Association of Small Bombs

by Karan Mahajan
Fiction

There are hardly any weeks which pass by without us coming across a news headline about terrorist activity somewhere in the world. If it’s not in a place near or familiar to us, even the best of us shake our heads and move on. Karan Mahajan’s book seeks to shake us out of such bubbles. It delves inside terrorism’s effects on the victims, survivors, and perpetrators. It hit especially close to home for me, as Mahajan talks about a ‘small’ bomb that goes off in a Delhi market and the years of damage that ensues. The prose is beautiful and lulling in contrast to the subject matter, and the characters and their relationships are painfully intriguing.

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The Astonishing Color of After

by Emily X.R. Pan
Young Adult

In Emily X.R. Pan’s debut young adult novel, you follow Leigh Chen Sanders, who is convinced that when her mother committed suicide, she turned into a bird. She then travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time and find her mother, the bird. While she is searching, she uncovers family secrets and forming a relationship with her grandparents. This novel explores the depths of love and grief and trying to find who you are through all of that. I can’t wait until I can read this book and have it completely break my heart and then heal it.

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The Astonishing Color of After

by Emily X.R. Pan
Young Adult

This book is one of the single most beautiful things I’ve ever read. Period. I cried. I laughed. I was uplifted. After Leigh’s mother dies by suicide, she is visited by a large, strange bird. Afterwards she comes to the impossible but amazing realization: her mother isn’t dead. She’s been reincarnated into a bird. Leigh makes the trip to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents, with whom her parents had a falling out with due to their interracial marriage. Leigh sorts through her family history, all the while experiencing recurring visits from the bird she’s convinced is her mother.

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by James Tynion IV, Rian Sygh, and Walter Baiamonte
Fantasy

Kids need more comics about queer kids. It certainly doesn’t hurt if those comics look absolutely gorgeous. As the theater stage crew at a mysterious all-boys high school, the Backstagers deal with magical obstacles like giant spider, tool-stealing monsters, and ever-changing hallways. Rian Sygh’s backgrounds and Walter Baiamonte’s colorwork really drive home the strange, often eerie elements to the world James Tynion IV is writing. Perhaps best of all, the heroes of the book are sweet teen boys who blush and care about each other and wear their hearts on their sleeves. The Backstagers is a very sincere sort of book, and I love every issue.

The Belles

by Dhonielle Clayton
FantasyYoung Adult

Dhonielle Clayton, one half of the author team that created Tiny Pretty Things, is out with a new YA fantasy series! Camellia Beauregard is a revered Belle in the damned city of Orléans, where people are born gray and can only be made beautiful with the help of a Belle. But Camellia isn’t satisfied with just being a Belle…she wants to be the favorite Belle — the one who tends to the royal family and their court. But when she and her Belle sisters arrive at court, she soon realizes that being the favorite Belle is nothing like what she’s been led to believe. And if that cover is any indication, this book is going to be gorgeous, glamorous, and fierce as hell.

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The Belles

by Dhonielle Clayton
FantasyYoung Adult

Dhonielle Clayton creates a spun-sugar world with a poisonous centre in her debut novel The Belles. Camillia Beauregard is a Belle, a powerful magic user with the ability to change people’s appearances. She arrives at court, but soon finds herself in the middle of a vicious web of intrigue that makes Game of Thrones look like musical chairs. The Belles is a gorgeously-written novel with a cast of compelling characters and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

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The Bride Test

by Helen Hoang
romance

Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient was an explosive, runaway hit in 2018—featuring mirror-steaming romance, and a neurodiverse female and Asian-American male lead, Book Rioters collectively fell in love with the well-written characters and their chemistry. Saying that we’re highly anticipating this second installment that I recently found out about is an understatement. The Bride Test will follow Khai Diep, whose autism means that he’s convinced he is incapable of feeling or returning affection, and Esme Tran, a girl Khai’s mother brings from Vietnam as a potential bride for him.

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The Calculating Stars

by Mary Robinette Kowal
Science Fiction

In the first in Kowal’s Lady Astronaut duology, a meteor hits Washingon, DC, starting a potentially extinction-level global event. The space race is now a fight for the survival of humanity, and as the program accelerates, pilot and calculator Dr. Elma York decides women should get to go to space too. This alt history sci fi confronts sexism, the stigma against mental illness, climate change denial, and intersectionality—York confronts her white privilege as her WOC coworkers struggle for recognition and inclusion. I couldn’t put this book down.

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The Changeling

by Victor LaValle

The delicious creepiness of The Changeling comes from Victor LaValle’s mastery of the “we’re all fine here until we’re not” tale. The terrifying and sublime lurk just beneath the everyday, invisible but somehow palpable until they emerge, all at once, to surprise, horrify, and fascinate. A story of family, love, revenge, magic, and forgiveness, permeated by darkness and bursting with light, The Changeling uses, while inverting, twisting, and rebuilding, fairy tale conventions into something at once familiar and wholly new. Utterly, brilliantly riveting.

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The Changeling

by Victor LaValle
Mystery/Thriller

The delicious creepiness of The Changeling comes from Victor LaValle’s mastery of the “we’re all fine here until we’re not” tale. The terrifying and sublime lurk just beneath the everyday, invisible but somehow palpable until they emerge, all at once, to surprise, horrify, and fascinate. A story of family, love, revenge, magic, and forgiveness, permeated by darkness and bursting with light, The Changeling uses, while inverting, twisting, and rebuilding, fairy tale conventions into something at once familiar and wholly new. Utterly, brilliantly riveting.

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The Changeling: A Novel

by Victor LaValle
Fantasyhorror

I mean, I don’t know what I’m supposed to say here. I went into this book blindly, and it made for a freakin’ awesome reading experience. So just go get at it.

Fine, I’ll spill more, but if you keep reading this blurb, then you did this to you.

I’m not gonna warn you again.

Ugh, this hurts.

Okay. This book is luminous and dark. It will scare the bejeezus out of you, and then scare out your bejeezus’ bejeezus. It is truth, even as you eventually doubt every character it introduces. The tenderness will bowl you over. You will lose sleep. And all of this goes triple for anyone who loves someone who is under the age of two.

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The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

by Jennifer Ryan
Fiction

This is the book I’ve been telling everyone to pack for their holidays this year. It’s a delightful epistolary novel, in which five women and girls narrate life in their southern English village during the Second World War. The characters are well-drawn and vibrant, and complete with at least one villain I loved to hate (and who’d have thought it’d be the midwife?). Perfect for fans of Downton Abbey and The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society.

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The City in the Middle of the Night

by Charlie Jane Anders
Science Fiction

There’s this planet, you see, and half is eternally day and half is eternally night. Humankind has made a place in the sliver of dusk in between and very few go into the night; even fewer go by choice. The night has its dangers, but the city is not necessarily safe either. I’m practically climbing the walls with excitement for this book. Charlie Jane Anders has been described as the Le Guin of this generation and after reading her amazing debut novel, All the Birds in the Sky, I’m not one to argue. Word on the street is The City in the Middle of the Night is even better and I am ready to thrust it into the hands of every reader I know.

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The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays

by Esme Weijun Wang
Nonfiction

I was drawn to this book because it won the 2019 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and Graywolf has a history of putting out excellent nonfiction. The book’s description is intriguing too: it’s a collection of essays on mental and chronic illness. This is a subject that I, and many others, are affected by and need to learn more about. Wang combines research with personal narrative to explore disagreements in the medical community about definitions and treatments, misconceptions about schizophrenia, and the personal experience of living with mental illness. It’s sure to be one of the most important essay collections of 2019.

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The Comedown

by Rebekah Frumkin
Fiction

I first started to hear whispers about this book during the summer of 2017 and immediately started hunting down an ARC. The beautiful cover caught my eye, and what I found inside was a dark and intricate story about race, religion, and family. The book deals with some adult themes (drugs, mass shootings, mental illness, sexual assault) but is told so expertly that you’ll find yourself taken by the whirlwind. If you want something intense and exciting, this is definitely a book to pick up.

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The Comedown

by Rebekah Frumkin
Fiction

The Comedown does an incredible job of checking all my boxes: Epic family drama, the same story told from multiple perspectives, a diverse cast of characters, and slam-bam amazing writing. There are some hard-to-get-right topics covered here, from addiction to poverty, from mental illness to people making shitty decisions for seemingly no reason, and they are handled with grace, compassion, and – at times – a little righteous anger. I’ve read a lot of incredible books this year but none that combined such a meaty story with such divine writing. A+, would read again.

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by Sally Thorne
romance

Thorne’s 2016 office place romcom debut, The Hating Game, was by far the best contemporary romance I read that year, and arguably one of the best I’d *ever* read. It was a hilarious, intense, unputdownable book whose two main characters inhabited a fully realized world and had insane chemistry. If there’s one thing I took away from that book, it’s that Thorne is a woman who knows how to tell a good story. At this point I don’t even care what her long-awaited second novel is about: if The Comfort Zone is half as good as The Hating Game, I will enjoy the heck out of it. Please take my money, kthnx.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

by Sara Collins
Mystery/Thriller

As soon as I saw this cover I knew I needed to know more about the book, and one sentence into the summary I had already downloaded the egalley and started reading it because WOW. Frannie Langton is on trial for the murder of her boss and his wife, and in the hopes of saving herself she must tell the story of what actually happened. So she starts to tell her story, beginning in Jamaica as a slave and ending with the murders in London as a servant, but will that be enough for her to remember what happened or to save her, a black woman accused of murdering two white people in the 1800s? An impactful historical mystery with a hell of a voice.

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The Cruel Prince

by Holly Black
FantasyYoung Adult

Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Darkest Part of the Forest have cemented my belief that no one writes the tension between mortality and the lure of immortality like Holly Black. From what I gather from early reviews, The Cruel Prince has truly instated Black as the queen of the fey. The novel follows a mortal girl, kidnapped by and raised among the faeries. Her quest to belong among the people she so admires and loathes forces her down a murky path of violence and royal politics. Girls being powerful players in a world that constantly belittles and victimizes them is everything I need right now. I can’t wait to dig into this world.

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The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories

by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin
Fantasy

While the genie in “Aladdin” is my favorite character from the movie, the djinn in this short story collection are far more diverse. I’d no idea so many variations of djinn existed — good or evil, kind or mischievous, religious or deviant, and everywhere in between. The sheer variation of interpretation is what makes this a superior collection, as well as, of course, the superior writing. And in terms of genre, every kind of reader will find something they like, whether you prefer realism, fantasy, mystery, or horror. I read it earlier this year, yet many of the stories still haunt me. It’s exactly what I want from a short story collection.

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The Ensemble

by Aja Gabel
Fiction

The Ensemble is a novel about the power of music and the families we choose. In this novel, we meet a classical music quartet but page by page we get to know each member of the group as an individual: their hopes, fears, and regrets. Usually, when an author does this, I prefer one voice over the rest. But here, each character was so complex and fully human – I was never disappointed when the narration shifted. Gabel is able to describe music and all the processes and emotions that come with it in such a way that is not only beautiful, but sensory. No musical experience required to appreciate the genius of this book.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
memoir/autobiographynon-fiction

As a law student, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich worked for a death row defense firm, a cause she was passionate about—until Ricky Langley, a pedophile accused of a child’s murder, challenged her beliefs on justice. The further she dug into Langley’s past, the more her own memories as a victim of child abuse surfaced from repression. The Fact of a Body is a meditation on trauma and a chilling exploration of nature and nurture, whether monsters are made or formed. It’s impossible to read The Fact of a Body and not feel it change you. This haunting debut will linger in your body and mind, scars felt long after you read the explosive ending.

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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
memoir/autobiography/biographyNonfiction

For a memoir permeated by trauma, The Fact of a Body leaves its own mark on readers. It is simply unforgettable. In this debut, the author becomes engrossed with the case of a man sentenced to death for the murder and molestation of a young boy. A law student adamantly against the death penalty, Marzano-Lesnevich finds her position tested by the case as it conjures uncomfortable parallels with her past. Weaving through time, through memory, The Fact of a Body explores what can and cannot be known, what can ever be true and false, which story gets told and which gets buried.

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The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir

by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Nonfiction

It is not easy to write true crime that is respectful, compassionate, and curious. It’s not easy to bring your own story into someone else’s story. And yet this book manages to do both of those things. It also manages to break your heart every few pages. The story of a law student whose first case becomes the object of her obsession, and the story of two victims of sexual abuse, it’s not an easy read but it is an incredibly affecting one.

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In 2009, a 20-year-old American flautist studying in England was charged with stealing hundreds of old, valuable bird skins from a natural history museum so that he could continue with his obsessive hobby of Victorian salmon fly-tying. (You can’t make this stuff up.) This natural history/true crime account is truly stranger than fiction and 100% fascinating. I have little interest in birds and even less interest in fishing and fly-tying, yet I found myself completely hooked by this bizarre story. Compulsively readable nonfiction at its finest!

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The Female Persuasion

by Meg Wolitzer
Fiction

As we look more toward feminist role models, The Female Persuasion reigns. Wolitzer’s ability to write nuanced female relationships makes her the perfect author to take on this topical-yet-eternal tale. Greer Kadetsky’s story is set against her initial waking to a new wave of feminism, incorporating the passion and hope in the discovery of that first cause that so fully captures your attention. The intensity of that moment and the people with which we experience it become crucial to our story, an idea that Wolitzer not only embraces but celebrates. As the author described herself, “I wanted to write about the people you meet who change your life forever.” She accomplished that in her popular work The Interestings, and pushed that theme even harder in her latest work.

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The Fever King

by Victoria Lee
Science FictionYoung Adult

I love books that interweave technology and magic, but when Victoria Lee tweeted that every character in The Fever King is queer, my ears perked all the way up. In a future version of the United States, Noam is the son of undocumented immigrants and fights for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks. He wakes up after surviving a viral magic that killed his family with the ability to control technology. He finds himself ushered into the magical elite and government he’s fought against for so long. Complicated politics, antiheroes, and timely parallels all wrapped up in a gay science-based fantasy? I simply cannot wait until March.

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The Fifth Letter

by Nicola Moriarty
Fiction

A warm and engaging novel about four women who have been friends since the first day of high school are now in their mid-30s. On one of their annual holidays (away from their husbands and children), secrets are revealed that change the way they view each other and themselves. The book tackles issues about marriage, parenting, fertility, loyalty, and ultimately, what does it mean to be a friend and how do friendships change over a lifetime? Can your best friend when you were twelve be your best friend when you’re 35, and if they’re not, is that okay? I’ve loved Nicola Moriarty’s other books and this one is no different—I love Moriarty’s voice, her style, and her characters. This was a great read.

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The Fire This Time felt important to me before the election, but it feels absolutely essential now. It’s an anthology of essays on race in America with a stellar list of contributors, including Edwidge Danticat, Kiese Laymon, Claudia Rankine, Isabel Wilkerson, and many more. It’s fabulous. The pieces are varied, ranging from essay to memoir to poetry. Each one is moving and powerful and each captures a different perspective on what it means to be Black in America today. Readers will come to this book for different reasons, but it remains required reading for everyone who cares about the American experience, past, present, and future.

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The Friend

by Sigrid Nunez
Fiction

This emotionally charged book packs a lot of feels into a little over 200 pages, and the home stretch will leave you ugly crying in a cleansing, beautiful way. Sigrid Nunez’s novel follows a writer who grieves the suicide of her cherished friend, a legendary Great White Male Author who faced encroaching irrelevance as a literary voice, professor, and lover. Now, the woman inherits his aging great dane, despite not being allowed to keep him in her small New York apartment. The Friend is not a “dog book,” but rather an intimate and quietly powerful study of companionship, depression, and mortality set in the cutthroat literary world.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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The Gauntlet

by Karuna Riazi
Fantasymiddle grade

The Gauntlet is an action-packed novel with a headstrong and brave protagonist. It tells the story of young, Bangladeshi-American Farah who gets sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand. The stakes are high because if Farah and her friends can’t defeat the mechanic of the game, they will be trapped inside forever. Farah meanders through this Jumanji-like game world, using her wits to defeat various obstacles in her way. The world of The Gauntlet is also an intricate Middle-Eastern inspired setting that feels vibrant and real, aided by Riazi’s rich prose.

 

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The Gauntlet

by Karuna Riazi
middle grade

I’ve been friends with Karuna–Kaye–on Twitter for a while, and her activism and generosity of heart are themselves enough reason to read anything she writes. That her debut novel sounds incredible is just icing.  A middle grade fantasy about a diabolical game a group of children are trapped in hits so many of my sweet spots. That it’s a book about children in New York City written by a native who lived through 9/11 as a young Muslim? I have chills.

 

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

by Mackenzi Lee
Young Adult

Just as The Gentleman’s Guide’s reluctant hero Monty takes utter glee in flouting society’s conventions, author Mackenzi Lee seems to delight in flouting genre conventions: yes, historical fiction can be laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, romance can be diverse, in multiple senses of the word. Yes, a teen from the 18th century can be immersed in rich historical detail and yet compellingly, heartbreakingly modern. And yes, all three can miraculously be found in the same delightful book. I couldn’t have put this book down if highwaymen had demanded I do so at musket-point – a common peril, I’ve learned! – and I can’t wait for the sequel.

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The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
Young Adult

Nothing I write about this book will do justice to how great it is and how well it understands our current social and political climates. Read it to learn about representation and the Black Lives Matter movement, read it to undo and question racist stereotypes, read it for characters and relationships which poke at your heart, and a powerful, engaging narrative that leaves you a little choked up. Angie Thomas’ debut is a masterpiece, and one of those books which deserve to be put in a time capsule to represent the year 2017. It made me take a beat and think about how much good stories matter when the world is unfathomable and disheartening.

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The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
Young Adult

EVERYONE’S been talking about this debut YA novel, and for good reason. This heartbreaking, yet infuriating story manages to tackle racism in its macro and micro forms, police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and class in a powerful and authentic way.  The characters in this book are complex with their own unique histories, and each chapter feels like a sucker punch.  Angie Thomas makes the reader step into Starr’s shoes, into Starr’s life, and ask themselves what they would do if they were in Starr’s place.  It’s a perspective changing novel, and by far one of the best that will be published this year.

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The Hazel Wood

by Melissa Albert
FantasyYoung Adult

After a lifetime on the run, 17-year-old Alice and her mother can finally live a normal life when her grandmother, Althea Proserpine, reclusive author of beloved cult favorite Tales From The Hinterland, dies. When Ella is kidnapped by people claiming to be from The Hinterland, Alice teams up with classmate Ellery, who claims to have actually read Hinterland, and goes on a quest to save Ella, ignoring her last words, “stay away from the Hazel Wood.” Melissa Albert’s debut novel is a tour de force of brilliant language, unlikable narrator, and layered mystery. What is the Hazel Wood? Who was Althea Proserpine? And who is Alice, really?

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The Immortalists

by Chloe Benjamin
Fiction

Not gonna lie — I was initially drawn to the gorgeous cover of this novel. But then I read the blurb and was enthralled by the thought of “what if?” What if we know the date we will die? Would I live a meaningful life? Would I try to find a way to cheat death? What would I do differently with my time if I knew when it would end? Why would it be any different than living my life without knowing the date of my death? The Immortalists looks at all these questions and more, through the experiences of four siblings over the course of 50ish years. This novel attracted me because I’ve been missing my grandad a lot lately, and my grandmother died just past Christmas. Death and life are on my mind and it is a timely novel for me right now. I want to think about it but have a little distance to breathe…

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The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Young Adult

I loved this book; I loved that the writing felt spare, and honest.  These characters are so fully-fleshed out and flawed, and full of rough edges, and their problems felt messy and real and frustrating in the way that problems are. There are no easy answers here, but there is a lot about identity and family, and I cared so much about how these characters connected. It is about tragedy and confronting your history and where you are, and if you loved Aristotle and Dante, why haven’t you read this already?

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The Kingdom Of Copper

by S.A. Chakraborty
Fantasy

The second book in Chakraborty’s Daevabad trilogy, The Kingdom of Copper has, if possible, even more adventure, intrigue, triumph, and tragedy than its predecessor, City of Brass. Death proves impermanent, eternal life unreliable, and power unpredictable as Nari tries to navigate her new home, responsibilities, and a husband taken from desperation, Ali is in exile, and Muntadhir must contend with a marriage forced upon him by circumstances and his father’s rigid insistence that Dihu prove himself worth of the crown. With all of this comes the threat of ifreet and old rage from outside of Daevabad, threatening the entirety of the djinn empire.

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The Kiss Quotient

by Helen Hoang
romance

A romance that will make you smile through the end, quirky moments that take your breath away, and characters that stay with you forever. All of these describe Helen Hoang’s debut novel The Kiss QuotientThe romance was epic and emotional, but our protagonists’ individual stories take you places that will make your heart sing. Stella dazzled me with her math and growth, and Michael, with his charm and his personality. I swear this book should always be at the top of the list when talking about romance books.

It has #ownvoices autism and Vietnamese representation.

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The Kiss Quotient

by Helen Hoang
romance

Stella Lane is an econometrician. She gladly spends her days immersed in numbers and algorithms. After a coworker implies she doesn’t know how to date (and do other things), she comes to the obvious conclusion that research and evaluation is the best way to go. Her solution is to hire a male escort to teach her the ways of the bedroom and of the heart. Which leads her to Michael, who is working part-time as an escort to pay his mother’s medical bills. I read this book back in April and it has stayed at the forefront of my mind. You’re going to laugh. You’re going to cry. You’re going to…well…never mind.

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

by The Kiss Quotient
romance

A romance that will make you smile through the end, quirky moments that take your breath away, and characters that stay with you forever. All of these describe Helen Hoang’s debut novel The Kiss QuotientThe romance was epic and emotional, but our protagonists’ individual stories take you places that will make your heart sing. Stella dazzled me with her math and growth, and Michael, with his charm and his personality. I swear this book should always be at the top of the list when talking about romance books.

It has #ownvoices autism and Vietnamese representation.

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The Last of August

by Brittany Cavallaro
Mystery/ThrillerYoung Adult

In the follow-up to A Study in Charlotte, Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson’s winter vacation goes belly up when Charlotte’s beloved uncle disappears. Racing across Europe, Charlotte and Jamie must solve the mystery of his disappearance, unravel some longheld family secrets, and figure out their still complicated feelings for each other. Valentine’s Day is the perfect release date for one of the most quietly romantic pairings I’ve ever read, and I’m excited to slip back into Brittany Cavallaro’s loyal but perfectly modernized world of Holmes and Watson.

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The Legend of Wonder Woman

by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon
Superheroes

2016 brought us an unprecedented four “early years of Wonder Woman” tales, but The Legend of Wonder Woman was the clear stand-out. There’s so much to love here, from De Liz and Dillon’s stunningly beautiful art, to their character-focused story, to Diana’s friend and confidante Etta Candy, who steals the show every time she’s on panel. The Legend of Wonder Woman is the perfect starting place for new readers of all ages, as well as a refreshingly original take on Diana for old fans. I can’t wait for volume 2 so that I can keep reading.

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The Library Book

by Susan Orlean
non-fiction

I’ve admired Orlean’s works of immersive journalism since reading The Orchid Thief in my 20s and becoming obsessed with the entire genre. Her latest — a long time coming — is a love letter to libraries, but also so much more. Using the massive 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library as a jumping off point, she explores selfless librarians and shared knowledge and the essential role of libraries in our communities in a sprawling work of heavily reported and researched genius. I was transfixed the entire time.

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The Line That Held Us

by David Joy
Fiction

David Joy writes in The Line That Held Us that “some people were born too soft to bear the teeth of this world.” And the Appalachian world of Joy’s novels have plenty of teeth. In his third novel, Darl Moody accidentally kills a member of the ultra-violent Brewer family. And Dwayne Brewer will follow the trail of bloodshed until he hunts Darl into the most nightmarish corners of the Appalachian Mountains. This is a tale of family and friendship; redemption and revenge. Joy writes poetic thrillers filtered through a tradition of Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner. And The Line That Held Us establishes him as truly The Bard of Appalachia.

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The Lonely Hearts Hotel

by Heather O'Neill
Fiction

O’Neill’s writing creates a fantastical feeling that was like a vintage movie playing inside my brain and building an immersive feeling that I’ve only ever felt before with The Night Circus. Rose and Pierrot–quirky, creative, gifted, and in love—grow up in a Montreal Orphanage in the early 1900s. We follow their childhood, their being split apart as teens, then working for the wealthy as their lives closely circle each others, and their reunion. Heartbreaking and beautiful, the name Rose will forever make me want to run away to the circus. And for audiobook fans Julia Whelan does a lovely narration.

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The Lost Book of the Grail

by Charlie Lovett
Mystery/Thriller

Love books about books? (Of course you do, who doesn’t.) Then you HAVE to read this novel. It blends romance, history, booknerdom, and questions about faith and religion into a literary mystery that’s not only incredibly fun but super smart. Arthur Prescott is a professor who spends most of his days holed up in the Barchester Cathedral Library on a quest to find the lost book of the Cathedral’s patron saint, Ewolda. Then a fast-talking young American named Bethany shows up and he starts to question everything he believes in.

If your idea of a good time is sifting through the shelves of an old library, this book will speak to your heart.

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The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

by Kim Fu
Young Adult

At Camp Forevermore, girls swim, make friendship bracelets, sing by the fire—and embark on an end-of-summer overnight kayaking trip, a Forevermore tradition. But for Nita, Kayla, Isabel, Siobhan, and Dina, the trip goes horribly wrong, and the girls are stranded with no way home. That one night has consequences that reverberate through their adult lives, consequences that only unfold as each girl’s separate story is told. Moving skilfully between the women’s lives as adults and the story of what happened on the fateful trip, Kim Fu builds a sharp, insightful novel about what it’s like to grow up in the shadow of one defining moment.

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The Mandela Plot

by Kenneth Bonert
Fiction

I’ve read a ton of books this year, but The Mandela Plot has stuck with me. First of all, it’s one of the most intensely gripping books I’ve ever read, but without resorting to cheap tricks. And I appreciate the way it doesn’t let anyone off the hook in its dissection of the spectrum between cowardice and heroism in apartheid-era South Africa.

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The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One

by Amanda Lovelace
poetry

Amanda Lovelace is one of my absolute favourite poets. The Princess Saves Herself in this One came to me at just the right time and gave me some much needed reassurance. I read it twice in one sitting. The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One was an excellent follow up. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one! This series is beautiful and empowering and I keep coming back to it. Princess is about finding your strength, Witch is about taking back your control, and Mermaid is going to be about finding your voice. I can’t wait to read it.

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The Merry Spinster

by Mallory Ortberg
Fiction

Fans of creepy tales and The Toast can all rejoice, because Mallory Ortberg is gracing us with another book in 2018! The Merry Spinster is described as “collection of darkly playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales (but with a feminist spin).” The stories are based on Ortberg’s popular series of posts, “Children’s Stories Made Horrific,” for The Toast (RIP). Ortberg’s irreverent humor, feminist perspective, and unerring ability to find the most unnerving details in familiar stories are all sure to make this collection a winner. Plus, what could be better than curling up and waiting out the rest of winter with a scary book?

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The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Fantasy

Retellings are nothing new, and I often find that “dark” reimaginings of fairy tales are bleak and disturbing without adding anything new to the story. In this regard, Ortberg’s collection of stories stands out. Exploring gender identity, patriarchal and matriarchal worlds, self-serving and manipulative desires one would rather keep hidden in the corner, Ortberg recontextualizes beloved fairy tales, biblical stories, and children’s books. His wit and and voice are instantly recognizable to readers of The Toast, while still keeping to the original tone of many of the stories, a hard line to walk. This is truly a collection to be savored.

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The Mothers

by Brit Bennett
Fiction

A teenage girl’s mother commits suicide, and she deals with it by burying her sorrow in a relationship with her preacher’s son. One (terminated) pregnancy and a heap of secrets later, she’s trying to move on with her life. Her story is told by the Greek chorus of the elderly women who make her church, and so many churches like it, run. The writing is deceptively simple, and manages to contain complex truths about the simple choices we make as young adults, the secrets we keep, and the communities that help hold us together.

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The Nest

by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Fiction

The Nest is a swings-for-the-fences, imperfect, but wildly ambitious debut that tackles Family in the tapestry of contemporary America: the four estranged Plumb siblings, now adults and fighting over “The Nest,” their shared trust. United against their eldest sibling, Leo, whose DUI car accident wiped out about all of the money, the three younger siblings find a reason to come together. If you’re the kind of person who rewatches The Royal Tenenbaums every year but feels like we need a version of The Corrections for the new millennium, pick up The Nest for some wicked wit propelled by a rich undercurrent of emotion and, ultimately, love.

 

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The Nickel Boys

by Colson Whitehead
Fiction

You read that right: a new Colson Whitehead novel is on its way. *waits for applause to die down* It’s about two teen boys who are thrown into a brutal reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida. Each boy has a different approach to how they face the world, but neither of them is prepared for what is coming. This fantastic novel is only 240 pages, and while I would read a Whitehead novel that is ten times as long, it’s the perfect length for what he is trying to convey. Whitehead has taken another dark spot in American history and transformed it into a compelling, powerful gut-punch of a novel. I can’t wait to read it again.

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The Obelisk Gate

by N.K. Jemisin
Fantasy

The apocalypse happened. The continent known as The Stillness was split. The resulting volcanic activity filled the world with poisonous gas and ash, driving survivors into tiny communities from which they will never emerge, although if they are lucky, in ten thousand years, their descendents might.

While all the characters are trapped in small spaces, the world of The Obelisk Gate seems bigger than ever in this epic fantasy, the sequel to N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season.

This book examines slavery, power, systems of oppression, and what it would take to make someone want to break the world.

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The Pearl Thief

by Elizabeth Wein
Young Adult

Julia Beaufort-Stuart is fifteen years old and has to solve the mysteries of her own head injury, a missing man, and missing heirloom pearls, while navigating love, class, and friendship, in this beautiful prequel to Code Name Verity. Everything about this story made my heart sing.

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The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo
poetryYoung Adult

Xiomara Batista just wants to be heard. She writes poetry in her head, the words leaping and punching past the catcalling on her street, the suffocating interactions with her Mami, and the dreams she never lets herself speak out loud. But when she steps into the world of slam poetry, and her verses are infused with the kind eyes of a boy she didn’t expect to meet, Xiomara finds that her voice and her passion can be louder than anything else.

Elizabeth Acevedo has crafted a gorgeous story in The Poet X, and Xiomara leaps off the page as powerfully as her verses. Acevedo challenges readers to live in the beats of Xiomara’s words, to inhabit them as fully as Xiomara does, and to carry her honesty forward. I cannot wait to read whatever Acevedo has next in store.

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The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo
poetryYoung Adult

Any book that is equally gorgeous on the outside and the inside, with a PERFECT author narration on the audiobook, that I read in one sitting because I can’t put it down is obviously an automatic pick for Best Book of the Year! The Poet X is a lyrical coming-of-age story about Xiomara Batista finding her place and voice in this world, and against her strict upbringing, that will leave you pumping your fist in the air and awaiting anything Elizabeth Acevedo may write. Run to this book!

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The Prey of Gods

by Nicky Drayden
FantasyScience Fiction

In the first two chapters of The Prey of Gods, a dolphin and a crab have sex while a sentient robot achieves consciousness, and it only gets stranger and more fabulous from there. Blending urban fantasy and science fiction, this South Africa-set novel is packed with wild, raucous fun: demigods reclaim their powers, robots rise up, a new club drug gives humans godlike abilities, a trans politician embraces her inner diva, queer teens fall for each other, a dik-dik infestation gets adorably out of control, and more. Somehow, thanks to a rip-roaring story and Drayden’s expansive imagination, it all coheres into the most fun you can have in 2017.

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The Prey of Gods

by Nicky Drayden
FantasyScience Fiction

By the end of the first chapter of The Prey of Gods, a crab and a dolphin are having sex while a sentient robot watches, and things haven’t even gotten truly weird yet. Drayden’s debut is expansively queer and ecstatically strange. The South Africa-set story is part urban fantasy, part sci-fi thriller, and part something you’ve never seen before: demigods come to power, robots plot an uprising, a trans politician and a disabled pop star team up, queer teens explore their identities, a designer drug packs a supernatural punch, and more. Playful and sprawling and unexpected, The Prey of Gods is the most fun you can have in 2017.

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The Prince and the Dressmaker

by Jen Wang
Comics

When was the last time you hugged a book? This book’s oversized, floppy shape allows for a little hugging, so don’t worry about hurting it when you’re done devouring this darling graphic novel. Set in the fin de siècle era, it tells the story of Sebastian, who is old enough to marry, but isn’t ready to trust someone with his secret: he never feels more alive than when he’s in clothing designed for women. After he sees an absolutely outrageous contraption created by Frances, he hires her to be his dressmaker. As Lady Crystallia, he is all the rage. All thanks to Frances. But his elation might get in the way of an amazing friendship.

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The Prince and the Dressmaker

by Jen Wang
Comics

Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker is the YA graphic novel that you didn’t even know you needed in your life. It’s a sweet story about a young dressmaker named Frances whose styles are visionary but a little too Avant-garde for most clientele. She meets the Prince Sebastian, who has a secret: he likes to dress up in beautiful dresses as Lady Crystallia. They team up. Frances designs astonishing dresses for Sebastian and he shows them off around town as Lady Crystallia. However, will Sebastian’s secret be uncovered? Will Frances be able to get credit for her creations? I wasn’t expecting to be so moved by this work but it’s something everyone should read. It’s about accepting yourself, the creative struggle, and family. You got to check it out!

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The Queen of the Night

by Alexander Chee
Fiction

Lilliet Berne is the star of the Paris opera, a vocal enchantress with a mysterious presence. But hiding behind her famous persona is a history as an orphan, a carnival worker, and a courtesan. And when Lilliet discovers someone has turned her secrets into a story for a new opera, she must revisit her past to find out who threatens to upend her future. The Queen of the Night is a lush, captivating story of music, love, and betrayal, and Chee has woven a beautiful, intricate tale as decadent and gorgeous as one of Lilliet’s own dresses. I fell into this book like it was a feather bed and didn’t come up for air until I had finished it.

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Through the window of a factory, an otherworldly cadre of women can be seen. An eerie glow emanates from their bodies as they sit hunched over timepieces. In their other hand, paintbrushes loaded with certain death.

Radium was, at one point, seen as a panacea. The news of its danger had not yet reached the manufacturers that relied so heavily on it. And when it did, companies chose to ignore it. These ghostly women of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Illinois paid the price for this corporate greed.

Moore’s story is one of strength of spirit. These women spent their last moments on this Earth, ensuring that others would not suffer their same fate.

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The Reckonings: Essays

by Lacy M. Johnson
non-fiction

This book of essays grew out of a question Johnson was asked: what did she want to see happen to her kidnapper and rapist? She touches on that, and so much more: ideas of justice, empowerment, racism, poverty, environmental destruction, family, anger, survival, love, and what it means to make art, and why. These essays are not always easy to read; they demand the reader face what’s on the page, head-on and unflinching, and stay with you long after you’ve read the last word. These are urgent and necessary essays that also feel timeless. This is one I’ll reread over and over and get new ideas and insights each time.

 

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The Refugees

by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Fiction

Viet Thanh Nguyen is a maestro of language. He has the rare ability to call upon a vast lexicon without sacrificing the elegance of his prose, all while never losing his knack for developing complex characters. The Sympathizer is a masterpiece, and the short stories I have read by Nguyen are equally skillful. A collection of immigrant stories spanning two decades of Nguyen’s writing, The Refugees is destined to continue my recent short story obsession into 2017. I am awaiting this collection with childlike anticipation.

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The Rose

by Tiffany Reisz
EroticaFantasy

The Rose was an easy pick for my most anticipated read of 2019. I never miss a new Tiffany Reisz book, let alone one set in the same universe as her tantalizing erotic novel The Red. When Lia graduates from college, her art collector parents give her a beautiful cup as a congratulatory gift. But it turns out to be more than just a cup. August Bowman – a friend of her parents with a personal interest in the cup – identifies it as the Rose kylix, a religious artifact dedicated to Eros that can bring to life a person’s most intimate sexual fantasies. Reisz’s work is always as beautiful as it is sensual, so I anticipate a highly enjoyable read!

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The Serpent King

by Jeff Zentner
Young Adult

The Serpent King is the southern-gothic YA novel I needed. It follows Dill, the musician son of a disgraced Pentecostal preacher, and his friends as they reckon with family secrets, class divisions, and modern southern identity. Zentner’s take on the misfit teen story is emotionally complex and carefully observed—seriously, be prepared to ugly-cry *a lot* while you read this book.

For me, what tipped the book from good to great is its strong sense of place. Zentner has real affection for the rural south and all the people who live there. The Serpent King offers up a portrait of the modern south that revels in its contradictions.

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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Fiction

Monique Grant is a writer for the magazine Vivant and Evelyn Hugo is an enigmatic movie star from Hollywood’s golden age. Evelyn is in her seventies now, and decides it’s time to tell her story—her whole story.

The question is, why now? Why tell it to Monique, an unknown reporter writing mostly puff pieces? As we follow Evelyn through the decades, we learn how she got to where she is, why she chose Monique, and the difference between forgiveness and absolution.

With a sometimes unlikeable, but not irredeemable, woman at the forefront, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a great story about perseverance, ambition, friendship, and forbidden love.

 

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The Signal Flame

by Andrew Krivak
Fiction

In this follow-up to the National Book Award finalist The Sojourn, Krivak evokes, with beautiful and sparse prose, the mid-century lives of blue-collar men and women as they grapple with love, grief, and forgiveness. Bo Konar and his mother Hannah absorb the loss of the family patriarch as they reel from yet another: Sam Konar, the youngest of the family, has been missing in action in Vietnam for over a year. The Signal Flame is like being inside the eye of a hurricane. It unfolds with relative calm, but death and devastation brim around the edges. Only after reading the final page are you aware of the emotional impact left in its wake.

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The Stone Sky (Broken Earth #3)

by N.K. Jemisin
Fantasy

When I picked up The Fifth Season I didn’t realize it was the first in a trilogy, so I was shocked and delighted when I got to the cliff-hanger on the last page. Jemisin introduced a gloriously imagined, complex world in which some are born with the power to shape the earth but have no power over their own lives. Amidst the upheaval that produces a massive earthquake and threatens the existence of the world, exist a slate of characters that are solidly compelling and deeply nuanced. In The Obelisk Gate Jemisin delivered an incredible sequel, showing us the forces warring beneath the surface, and I cannot wait for the conclusion.

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The Taking of Annie Thorne

by C.J. Tudor
Mystery/Thriller

25 years after the disappearance of his sister, Joe Thorne is forced to reconnect with his old friends – all of whom were there on that fateful night. He’s a desperate man, drowning in debt and bad life choices; what he proceeds to discover will shatter everything he thought he knew. This is Tudor’s second novel, and it looks to have the trademark combination of slow, chilling mystery and subtle twists which made her 2018 debut (The Chalk Man) such a hit. After all, as her books keep showing us, the devil you know may be even scarier than the devil you don’t.

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The Testaments

by Margaret Atwood
Science Fiction

Not much is known yet about the recently-announced sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale but I am looking forward to learning more about Gilead fifteen years later. The book will have three female narrators. The end of the first book made it clear that Offred’s story was a story of “early Gilead” and that things got worse before they got better, if they ever did get better. Atwood says this book was inspired by all of the questions she has received about Gilead as well as by “the world we’ve been living in.” Right now, it could be anything, and I find that very exciting.

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The Thing About Love

by Julie James
romance

I happened to start Julie James’ FBI/US Attorney series the same day in 2014 that I was selected for 18 months of federal grand jury duty, an odd coincidence given that federal grand jury duty results in a LOT of exposure to FBI agents and US Attorneys. It was also a happy coincidence since James’ series is much funnier and steamier than the real thing. James’ new book in the series is a romantic comedy about two FBI agents with a contentious history who are partnered on new case. It’s James’ first book in nearly two years – practically an eternity in romance terms – and I never thought I’d be so happy to return to the world of law and order.

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The Tiger at Midnight

by Swati Teerdhala
FantasyYoung Adult

Esha is the legendary assassin known to her enemies only as the Viper. Kunal is a dreamer trying to mold himself into a soldier–and his uncle, the ruthless General Hotha, is Esha’s new target. A delightful cat-and-mouse chase complete with scorching chemistry unfolds over a brilliantly realized fantasy world inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology. Full disclosure: I’ve already read this, so what I’m actually anticipating is shoving it into the hands of all my friends and watching them tear through it with as much feverish delight as I did. If you love epic, diverse YA fantasy plus swoonworthy romance, add this to your wishlist now.

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The Tiger’s Daughter

by K. Arsenault Rivera
Fantasy

Mongolian-inspired epic fantasy? Queer protagonists on a mission to save their world from destruction? It didn’t take much more than these short descriptions to get me to add The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera to my Must Read list for 2017. Reading about non-Western myths and legends is one of my favourite things, and with a focus on Mongolian stories, The Tiger’s Daughter promises to be exactly the kind of novel I’ve been craving. Waiting until October is going to be nigh unbearable.

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The Trespasser

by Tana French
FictionMystery/Thriller

The sixth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series is the best yet. The central murder of the book isn’t sinister or unusual, it’s a mundane death, probably from a romantic quarrel. But as Detective Antoinette Conway digs into the history of the victim, she starts to suspect a larger conspiracy. Conway is already an outsider in the department–it doesn’t matter how tough she is, she will always be a woman–and she struggles to work out real conspiracy vs everyday misogyny. The plot is a maze of twists and turns, the prose is razor sharp, and Conway holds it all together with a bold narrative voice.

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The True Queen

by Zen Cho
Fantasy

I absolutely loved Sorcerer to the Crown, an enchanting post-colonial take on fantasy set in Regency England. Now its sequel, The True Queen, is almost here, and you know I’m reading it the second the book comes out. The True Queen follows sisters Muna and Sakti, who wake up cursed and with no memory of anything except their sisterhood. To save her sister, Muna journeys to Britain, the home of the powerful Sorceress Royal… If you love Jane Austen, or powerful witches, or fantasy that breaks the mold, then this series is a must-read.

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The Truths We Hold: An American Journey

by Kamala Harris
Nonfiction

Kamala Harris is the outspoken, progressive junior senator from California. Her second book is focused on her trademark holistic approach to complex issues – a.k.a. finding the truth. Harris built her career on untangling complex problems, such as crime, using data-driven methods. She may run in the 2020 U.S. presidential election (*fingers crossed*). As a Californian, scientist involved in policy, and woman of color, I can’t wait to learn about how Harris is able to balance what the data says with the competing viewpoints of constituents and stakeholders. Luckily, I won’t have to wait too long into 2019 as her book is released January 8!

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The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

by Hannah Tinti
Fiction

I have always had massive respect for Hannah Tinti because of her ability to write beautifully epic stories (like her prior book, The Good Thief), and her work in the literary world as an editor for One Story, a hugely important literary journal that publishes one short story a month. What’s exciting about this new novel is the writer’s subject matter: a deceased mother, a criminal father, and the main character’s new life back in her mother’s hometown. Somehow, the father’s twelve gunshot scars come into play. The oncoming reckoning of the father’s past is going to be beautifully written with a fantastic chance for wisdom from the viewpoint of a young girl. Eight years is a long time to wait for a Tinti book. Look for it in March.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Superheroes

I’m working with a character limit, so let’s call this book TUSGBUTMU. And TUSG really does BUTMU, in ways that are delightfully clever (and all-ages violent) without cramming in unearned cameos. I can’t imagine anyone but Henderson drawing TUSG, and it’s such a treat to see her versions of so many MU characters. There’s one particular page that debuts a USG look that made me cry and cheer in equal measure. That was actually me throughout reading TUSGBUTMU. As in several heroic tales, self-sacrifice is a big part of the resolution. But TUSGBUTMU is ultimately about self-compassion (especially for the side of you in command of a squirrel army).

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The Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead
Fiction

It is rare that a book lives up to the hype preceding its publication, but Colson Whitehead can. This book is not light and it is not easy. It forces you to confront the harsh realities of slavery and racism that are easy to forget and glaze over as time passes. But it is also not a historical account of The Underground Railroad. Instead this book utilizes the main character, Cora, to describe the crimes of our past, disrupt our views of history, and highlight the struggle that black people in America have to truly gain freedom. Your heart will be broken by this book, but it will be worth it.

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The Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli
Young Adult

In this YA novel, teenage Molly has had 26 crushes and no boyfriends. When her twin sister starts dating her first girlfriend, Molly makes it her mission to change this. There’s Will, the flirtatious hipster-boy she knows she should have a crush on. But there’s also Reid, her coworker who wears too-white sneakers and Middle-earth t-shirts. Watching her try to move beyond the crush phase is hilarious, emotional, and very romantic. Molly is the pretty, fat, Zoloft-taking YA heroine of my dreams. I’m so happy to read a story about an overweight character who has some body image issues but never – not even once – is seen trying to lose weight.

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The Vanishing Stair

by Maureen Johnson
Mystery/ThrillerYoung Adult

Maureen Johnson is a master of cliffhangers, and the first book of her Truly Devious series was no exception. The first book of the series intertwines a murder mystery, high school drama, true crime obsession, and jumping between timelines. However, Johnson’s deft touch helps us keep up with her and her brilliant main character. After solving the murder of her famous actor classmate at Ellingham Academy, Stevie Bell still has a host of cases following her—David, Albert Ellingham’s riddle, and of course, the original murder. When the only clue is a letter signed by the mysterious Truly Devious, and Stevie’s parents have decided to pull her out of school, we’re set up for one of the most compulsively readable series in the YA mystery genre.

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The Wanderers

by Meg Howrey

The Wanderers was one of the awesomest books of 2017. It explored the human condition through the lens of politics, exploration, and the boundary between what was real and what was imagined. This is a must-read for anyone who agrees with me that sci-fi and fantasy are the perfect media in which to address some complex and difficult social issues such as racism, balancing family dynamics, or discovering the innermost depths of the human spirit. It may have been marketed as science-fiction and genre fiction, and it is, but The Wanderers is also a masterful work of literary fiction. I think I will find something new in it every time I read it.

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The Wanderers

by Meg Howrey
Science Fiction

The Wanderers was one of the best books of 2017. It explores the human condition through the lens of politics, exploration, and the boundary between what was real and what was imagined. This is a must-read for anyone who agrees with me that sci-fi and fantasy are the perfect media in which to address some complex and difficult social issues such as racism, balancing family dynamics, or discovering the innermost depths of the human spirit. It may have been marketed as science-fiction and genre fiction, and it is, but The Wanderers is also a masterful work of literary fiction. I think I will find something new in it every time I read it.

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The Wangs vs. the World

by Jade Chang
Fiction

A business goes bankrupt. A now-bankrupt family goes on a road trip. Hijinks ensue. At the simplest level, this is what happens in The Wangs vs. the World. And that simplicity is where its brilliance lies. Jade Chang fills in the details of this straight-forward outline with beautifully portrayed, complex, and frequently hilarious characters. The members of the Wang family grapple not only with their financial downfall but the generation gap, family dysfunction, the immigrant experience, and the opportunities and obstacles of cross-country adventures. Mile by mile, page by page, Chang has created a family saga for the ages.

 

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The Wedding Date

by Jasmine Guillory
romance

Jasmine Guillory’s debut romance novel is an absolute gem, with gorgeous writing and my new favourite female lead. The romantic tension and chemistry between Alexa Monroe and Drew Nichols is crackling, and the story does a beautiful job of weaving in familiar tropes of the genre that readers find comfort in, while steering clear of tired clichés. It has the classic stuck-in-an-elevator meet-cute, a sparkling attending-the-ex’s-wedding bit, and two characters whose HEA you’ll be absolutely invested in. No big deal, but this book is the new standard which all future romance novels will be measured against for me.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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The Wedding Date

by Jasmine Guillory
romance

Romance has always been a feminist genre and it’s been getting more feminist and intersectional recently, and no book demonstrates that better than this one. It depicts an interracial relationship with frank discussions about white privilege, while maintaining the light, sexy rom com clichés that make me love romance novels. This push and pull begins with a stalled elevator where, shortly after meeting him, Alexa agrees to be Drew’s fake girlfriend at a wedding. The laughs and the swoons are big with this one, and after this steamy debut, Guillory is almost certain to become a romance powerhouse.

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The Wedding Party

by Jasmine Guillory
romance

Theo and Maddie, Alexa’s best friends from Guillory’s The Wedding Date, hate each other almost as much as they love Alexa. Picking up at Theo’s birthday party from the end of The Wedding Date, this book will follow the two enemies as they have an “oops” hookup and then have to deal with each other while being the bridal party for Alexa and Drew’s wedding. And by deal with each other, I mean deal with how much they wanna bone. And then start secretly boning. I can’t wait!

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The Winter of the Witch

by Katherine Arden
Fantasy

And so the Winternight Trilogy ends. *sob* Katherine Arden’s historical fantasy series improves with each book, as the main character Vasya grows into adulthood, becomes fully grounded in her abilities, and refuses to bow to societal norms. If you’re a completest, this is the perfect time to start the series. Set in a pseudo medieval Russia, where Vasya can see and communicate with chyerti and domovoi — guardian spirits and creatures from Russian folklore—it’s the perfect winter reading: snow-laden landscape, feminist heroine fighting evil, a slow-burn romance, and page-turning action. And it’s rich in subtext and magic.

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The Witch Elm

by Tana French
Mystery/Thriller

We all know that Tana French is a magical mystery-writing unicorn, but her latest book, The Witch Elm, is truly astounding. Toby is a self-professed lucky guy whose life takes a decidedly unlucky turn when he is attacked and left for dead. As he slowly copes with his injuries, he thinks he’s found refuge at his uncle’s home…until a skeleton is discovered inside a large elm tree on the property. This is an achingly slow-burn mystery that’s also a dark portrait of a person realizing that he can no longer trust his memories of who he is, or what his life used to be.

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Theft by Finding: Diaries

by David Sedaris
memoir/autobiographyNonfiction

I am a sucker for all things David Sedaris. He could re-write that stupid prospectus my life insurance company insists on sending me approximately 3,000 times a year and I’d happily read it. So I was just a wee bit excited when I learned that 2017 would give us the publication of a diary Sedaris has kept for 40 years.  His raw honesty and the ability to make me guffaw will be the perfect seasoning to his day-to-day observation of the world. This will be a publication date purchase for me!

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The first thing you have to understand is that Morgan Parker is one of the most fascinating poets working today. She writes poems that are clever, beautiful, political, playful, breathtaking. The second thing is that Beyoncé is one of the most potent icons in contemporary popular culture. Now imagine what happens when those two—poet and icon—meet in verse. I know I’m excited to see what happens and thrilled to watch Parker continue killing it on the page. Plus, Roxane Gay loves this book and says that “Every poem will get its hooks into you.” So there’s that, too.

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There There

by Tommy Orange
Fiction

I’m gonna throw this down: There There is the most important American novel of 2018. It’s a multigenerational novel about twelve characters attending a powwow in Oakland. As the novel weaves in and out of the past and present, we learn their different reasons for attending. But at the heart of it, it’s a tremendous novel about heritage, what it means to belong, and what it means to be a Native American in the 21st century after hundreds of years of horrible treatment in America. Orange is an incredible storyteller, and this is an eye-opening novel telling hard truths that will break your heart, make you think, and then break your heart again.

Listen to an excerpt of the audiobook:

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There’s Something About Sweetie

by Sandhya Menon
Young Adult

Sandhya Menon already has our heart because of When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle, With Love. Her latest novel promises to be just as sweet. It features Ashish Patel, Rishi’s younger playboy brother, and Sweetie Nair, a plus-sized Indian track athlete! Neither of them meet the expectations that their parents have set for them, and when they begin to date under some unusual circumstances, they don’t expect to start falling for each other! Sweetie is probably the first plus-sized South Asian protagonist in YA, and I couldn’t be more excited to see her in an adorable romance.

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These Ruthless Deeds

by Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker
FantasyYoung Adult

These Ruthless Deeds is the highly anticipated sequel to These Vicious Masks. The series is frequently billed as “Jane Austen meets X-Men” and honesty I feel like that’s all anyone needs to say to convince me to read something. This sequel does not disappoint—it picks up where the action of the previous book left off and takes you on a nonstop, page-turning adventure. The witty sense of humor that completely won me over in the first book returns, along with extra drama and angst. These Ruthless Deeds is anything but predictable, and is hands down one of the best reading experiences I’ve had so far in 2017.

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This Impossible Light

by Lily Myers
Young Adult

If Lily Myers’s name isn’t already familiar as the voice behind the viral slam poem “Shrinking Women,” look it up. This is her first foray into YA fiction, and it’s a story about a girl struggling with an eating disorder, as well as the pressures put upon her by her mother. Myers is phenomenally talented and passionate about body acceptance, especially for teens, and her novel has been compared to Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins — two mainstays in contemporary YA lit.

It’s hard to ignore how powerful the cover alone is, either. 

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This Will Be My Undoing

by Morgan Jerkins
Nonfiction

Now is the time (it’s always the time) to listen to the voices of black women, and Morgan Jerkins’ collection of linked essays This Will Be My Undoing is essential reading for 2018. The essays cover pop culture, feminism, racism, life as a black woman in the U.S., and more. They are both personal and political, centering the experience of being a black woman in a way that not many books do. People will come to this collection for different reasons, but everyone who reads it will find much that illuminates, provokes, entertains, and challenges. Morgan Jerkins is a young writer to watch. This is her debut book, a powerful start that promises great work to come.

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Tomorrow: A Novel

by Damian Dibben
Fantasy

“Venice, May 1815, 127 years since I lost him.” Tomorrow is the story of an immortal dog searching for his lost master through the ages. The tale alternates between the dog’s adventures with his master in the past and his search in the present. Unfolding with gorgeous language, Tomorrow has an oddly spiritual quality that made me want to savor every passage. Last year, one of my favorite reads was Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley, the story of an immortal crow on a journey of the soul, marking human history through his travels. Tomorrow has a similar feel, tackling humanity, loyalty, friendship, and love through a dog’s eyes.

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Trail of Lightning

by Rebecca Roanhorse
FantasyScience Fiction

Natural disaster has consumed North America, but the Navajo reservation has survived. Old gods and powers have returned to the Diné people but some things from ancient legend aren’t so pleasant. Maggie Hoskie isn’t pleasant either, but she is who you call to bring down a monster. Raised by a demi-god to be a deadly weapon, Maggie is bad with people but good with a shotgun. When a simple hunt reveals sinister warnings, Maggie is forced to enlist Kai, a young medicine man as beautiful as he is powerful. Roanhorse breathes new life into the monster hunter genre with a post-apocalypse Indigenous world as raw and unapologetic as its heroine.

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Transcription

by Kate Atkinson
Fiction

I thought Kate Atkinson’s writing in Life After Life was gorgeous, and I’m also a fan of slightly shorter books – so Transcription seems like it’s going to be right up my street. Secret Service? BBC? The consequences of idealism? These are all things that fit squarely in my reading wheelhouse, along with the Blitz Spirit of London’s World War II.

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Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince

by Megan Morrison
middle grade

It has been almost three years since the release of the second book in Megan Morrison’s Tyme series, and I cannot WAIT to be immersed once again in the Tyme universe. I’ve loved Morrison’s writing since the days she was writing as Arabella in the Harry Potter fandom. Her first two books, Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel and Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella, are wonderful, complex, utterly captivating re-tellings of familiar fairytales. Transformed is about a prince from another area in Tyme, the Olive Isles, who has been turned into a frog and I am looking forward to seeing where Morrison goes with the story.

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This book is based on the popular website and Tumblr by the same name which introduces us to a housekeeping and organizational system for real people: people with jobs, kids, roommates, mental illness, and any combination thereof. This book will not tell you to talk to your belongings or to iron your sheets. It offers a realistic system of attainable goals to take your living space from an anxiety-inducing mess to someplace that brings you comfort and satisfaction. No more marathon cleaning, but instead some simple lifestyle changes to improve your home. You’re better than your mess.

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Vision, Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man

by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire
Superheroes

The Vision has saved the world 37 times but can he save his family from themselves? That’s the inherent conceit of this tale of suburban horror, androids and superheroes. King plays with the concept of the nuclear family in the superhero world, issues of identity and acceptance, what it means to be alive and the lengths we’ll go to keep our families safe. Walta’s pencils evoke simple home life and over-the-top heroics equally well while Bellaire’s colors pop with visceral reds and pinks and yet feel drained by the creeping terror that is life in the suburbs. It’s Frankenstein meets The Royal Tenenbaums and yet so much more.

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Want

by Cindy Pon
Science FictionYoung Adult

From the intense world building and the literary references that are peppered throughout, the witty banter and the polluted, corrupt sci-fi world that feels a little too close to now… it’s a book that has a little bit of everything that I love in a novel.

Readers meet a teen navigating the toxic streets of a future-set Taipei. The wealthy wear special exo-suits and have flourished, living a life of clean air and lavish delights. But those who can’t afford the tech, are left to grow sick and die on the streets. Until a young teen fed up with it all decides to break into their society disguised as one of their own.

If you’ve been looking for a diverse sci-fi adventure that’s Pierce Brown’s Red Rising meets Marie Lu’s Legend, this is it. Pick it up. You’ll adore it. I promise.

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Want

by Cindy Pon
Science FictionYoung Adult

As a Taiwanese American, I am beyond excited for a YA book set in Taiwan. This YA sci-fi thriller has both a gorgeous cover and an intriguing premise: Jason Zhou lives in a world where the wealthy flourish with special suits that filter out pollution and illness, while the poor suffer. After the death of his mother, Jason decides to fight back against the corrupt Jin Corporation that rules the city. Love and danger await…

 

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Samantha Irby is a Chicago treasure and her first book of personal essays, Meaty, catapulted her beyond the Midwest. With an FX series based on it in the works, she may solidify her status as one of the most hilarious writers out there. I can’t wait to encounter the Samantha Irby I’ve seen onstage in her new book: visceral, courageous, and with no filters. Irby takes life’s awkward, uncomfortable and cringe-worthy moments and turns them into stories of exuberance. Nevertheless, she doesn’t shy away from the pain of difficult childhoods, chronic disease and personal heartbreaks. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2017 is the year she becomes a national powerhouse.

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We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour
Young Adult

Unraveling over the course of a week alone in her college dorm room between the holidays, Marin’s story is a vivid exploration of raw emotion and what it feels like to be lonely. It’s about loss, about relationships with people we know and that we think we know but don’t, and about the depths and shapes grief can make. It’s also a story about love and romance, without romance playing a role in the central narrative; what we get is instead the way love takes many different forms.

Taut, well-paced, and sharp, LaCour’s latest is one that will linger long after you close the book. A quiet, literary title that packs a punch.

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We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour

When her grandfather disappeared, Marin fled to New York, leaving everything—and everyone—she loved behind. After months of isolation, her best friend Mabel is coming to visit whether she’s ready or not. Told in alternating chapters before and after her grandfather’s death, this book tells the story of how Marin’s life fell apart…and how she starts to put it back together again.

We Are Okay is one of those books that snuck up on me. It’s equal parts grief and healing, loneliness and hope. Despite all that, this book has a gentleness that makes it feel like a break from the fast-paced world of YA. You’ll smile, you’ll cry, you’ll want to reach through the pages and give all the characters a hug. And you’ll finish the book feeling like you’ve just taken a breath of fresh air.

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We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour
Young Adult

When her grandfather disappeared, Marin fled to New York, leaving everything—and everyone—she loved behind. After months of isolation, her best friend Mabel is coming to visit whether she’s ready or not. Told in alternating chapters before and after her grandfather’s death, this book tells the story of how Marin’s life fell apart…and how she starts to put it back together again.

We Are Okay is one of those books that snuck up on me. It’s equal parts grief and healing, loneliness and hope. Despite all that, this book has a gentleness that makes it feel like a break from the fast-paced world of YA. You’ll smile, you’ll cry, you’ll want to reach through the pages and give all the characters a hug. And you’ll finish the book feeling like you’ve just taken a breath of fresh air.

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We Hunt the Flame

by Hafsah Faizal
FantasyYoung Adult

Zafira and Nasir are both hiding secrets that could be the difference between life and death. Zafira is masquerading as a boy in order to be recognized as a hero, while Nasir works behind the scenes to assassinate those who defy his father but also holds a deep compassion for others. We Hunt the Flame is inspired by ancient Arabia and written by a Muslim-American creative powerhouse, and I cannot wait to get this book in my hands.

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We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

by Ta-Nehisi Coates
non-fiction

Each of the brilliant, searing essays in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power is like a puzzle piece that, when joined with its mates, forms a challenging, essential statement on race and American identity. If you’ve read all or even some of these pieces, previously published in The Atlantic, you may be tempted to skip this book. Resist that temptation. Not only has Coates added new material to contextualize each piece, but each of the essays (ranging in subject from respectability politics to reparations to Trump’s election) is given fresh life by the presence of the others. Their collective impact is a thing to behold.

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We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter
Fiction

We Were the Lucky Ones is the story of one Polish Jewish family’s fight for survival during the Holocaust. Aside from the Georgia Hunter’s noteworthy skill as a storyteller, what makes this book so remarkable is that it is closely based on the experiences of her own family–so closely, in fact, that most of the names haven’t even been changed. The story ambitiously spans three generations and multiple continents as it follows the various members of fractured Kurc family. It’s a remarkable story of courage, love, and of course, luck.

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What Are We Doing Here? Essays

by Marilynne Robinson
Nonfiction

Marilynne Robinson’s novels are among my all-time favorites, but I love her essays as well. So her new collection, coming on February 20th, is most definitely something to look forward to! In her nonfiction, Robinson writes with clarity and passion about America and its values. She digs into historical texts to consider how ideas from the past apply to our lives today—and how those ideas get misinterpreted and misused. Her words on these topics always feel fresh and original, as she challenges me to think beyond the sound bites and stereotypes that too often pass for discourse today.

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What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky

by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Fiction

It is difficult to overstate the stunning talent on display in Lesley Nneka Arimah’s debut story collection. The collection as a whole is a gut punch, moving easily between magical realism to dystopia to fable to gritty realism. Despite varying genres, each fits in concert effortlessly, strung together by themes of home, family, and trauma. From the first page, I was floored by the remarkable way in which she turns the expected on its head. Each story is imbued with freshness, empathy, and imaginative twists. If this utterly captivating collection is any indication, Arimah, a master of the short story form, is surely only getting started.

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This book is a moving, enraging, personal account of the Flint water crisis. Hanna-Attisha, the author, is a pediatrician who helped expose the crisis, and the book was a wonderful mix of history, biography, and detective story. The story told in this made me SO MAD at what happened in Flint. This was so riveting that I managed to read a large chunk of it while on a plane with my eight-month-old baby. What the Eyes Don’t See appealed to me not only as an urban geographer, but also as a parent and a reader. This book stayed with me long after I finished the last page.

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What You Want to See

by Kristen Lepionka
Mystery/Thriller

What a book! This second installment in the new mystery series about bisexual PI Roxane Weary is even better than the first in the series, which I also thought was great. Roxane is definitely one of my favorite fictional imperfect characters now. Lepionka also does an amazing job of the complex characterization of her on-again off-again girlfriend Catherine, her (sort of?) ex Tom, a queer teen girl befriended in book one, and all the secondary characters. The detective plot was complicated, layered, and a little hard for me to keep track of at times–keeping me on my toes! Murder and fraud!

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When Dimple Met Rishi

by Sandhya Menon
Young Adult

Dimple wants nothing to do with marriage and wants only to study coding and win Insomnia Con. Rishi can’t wait to be married, and when he agrees to be matched with Dimple and meet her at Insomnia Con, he does so believing she’s in on the plan. (She isn’t.) Dimple and Rishi completely charmed me with their earnestness and their romance. What I loved about this book was how solid Dimple and Rishi’s senses of self are. That’s Sandhya Menon’s magic – as sweet as their coupling is, Dimple and Rishi develop foremost as individuals, becoming more authentic, more deeply themselves, the closer they draw to each other.

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When Dimple Met Rishi

by Sandhya Menon
romanceYoung Adult

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel are two 18 year-old first generation Indian-Americans from different parts of California. They are both attending Insomnia Con, a competitive summer coding program, in San Francisco. Coding is Dimple’s passion and attending this program is a big deal for her. Little does she know, her and Rishi’s parents have set in motion a plan for an arranged marriage between them. When Rishi meets her, he has his great-grandmother’s ring in his pocket. Dimple is so not on board… but maybe she and Rishi have more in common than just their culture. One of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read, When Dimple Met Rishi is hilarious and adorable.  A cute, funny, quirky romance, it balances love and independence with the weight of family expectations. ​

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When Dimple Met Rishi

by Sandhya Menon
romanceYoung Adult

I fell in love with the cover and felt like I hit the reading-lottery when I discovered that the characters, story, themes, and spirit of the book were just as beautiful. It was a delight to get to know Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel–as they got to know each other–while they navigate adulthood, aspirations, an arranged marriage, family expectations, desire, and friendship. Filled with heart, humor, and even a Bollywood dance, I can’t wait for everyone to get to read this, Not only will you want to hug this book, but it’ll hug you back.

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White Tears

by Hari Kunzru
Mystery/Thriller

A literary thriller about blues? Yes, please. Two white men, Seth and Carter, record an unknown singer in a New York City park and pretend it’s a lost 1920s blues song by invented artist Charlie Shaw. But after a record collector tells them both song and Charlie are real, Seth and Carter are caught in a maelstrom of darkness, greed, and revenge. Kunzru builds the tension so slowly and effectively that you won’t even notice you’re on the edge of your seat—until you’re about to fall off. The book’s haunting final act, and what it says about black bodies and talent and the white people who exploit both, will stay with you for a long time.

 

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Winter Tide

by Ruthanna Emrys
Fantasy

When government agents raided Innsmouth, Mass. in 1929, Aphra Marsh and her brother Caleb were children. Now they are the last of their kind, determined to reclaim their birthright from those who stole it. Emrys’ novel, the follow-up to her short story “The Litany of Earth,” is a compassionate counterpoint to Lovecraft’s xenophobic “Shadow Over Innsmouth.” If you’re the sort of fantasy fan who finds themselves concerned for the orcs, pick this book up. If you love Lovecraft’s creations but are uncomfortable with his plots, pick this book up. You will love Aphra, Caleb, and the family they’ve cobbled together in their attempt to go home.

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Witchmark

by C.L. Polk
Fantasy

Witchmark tells the story of a quiet doctor who escaped his magical family to live a normal life until an unusual murder and an exceedingly handsome stranger force him out of hiding. I could describe Witchmark as queer, secondary-world, gaslamp fantasy. It would be accurate: the novel takes place in an almost-Edwardian world where elite families control magic (and a magical power source called aether), and a queer romance anchors the book. But that list of characteristics doesn’t quite capture the strange alchemy—and utter delight—of Polk’s debut novel. It defies easy definition but richly rewards its readers.

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With the Fire on High

by Elizabeth Acevedo
Young Adult

2018’s The Poet X was an absolute stunner. Thank god we don’t have to wait long for Acevedo’s next book, which is out in May. With the Fire on High is about a high schooler with a gift for whipping up magic in the kitchen, who feels pulled asunder by her responsibility to her daughter and her dreams of one day becoming a professional chef. This latest has all the lyricism of Acevedo’s previous YA novel, and is made up of short scenes that propel you headlong through the book, all the way to its satisfying end.

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Words in Deep Blue

by Cath Crowley
Young Adult

Cath Crowley has a rare, magic ability to make all her characters come fully to life. She has an economy with words that leaves you feeling like you’ve been punched in the gut. Quiet plots aren’t usually my thing, but I knew I couldn’t miss this one when Crowley’s Graffiti Moon still sticks with me so many years later. And I’m so glad I picked it up because it is such a beautiful book about grief and hope and heartbreak and love. It’s also very much about the power of words and in that respect, Cath Crowley is in a class all her own. This book is what I always knew New Adult could be.

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You Can’t Touch My Hair

by Phoebe Robinson
Autobiography/Biography/MemoirNonfiction

After a long wait for the book that would shake me with laughter and lift me up, Phoebe Robinson took me to church–I shouted and praised my way through her memoir. From Black people secrets, to a history of Black hair, to the letters to Robinson’s biracial niece, this book spoke to me. Robinson discusses race and gender through her experiences, observations, and pop culture obsessions; she delivers the truth. I was left cackling and thankful that people who get the Black experience and live it are talking about it. Also, Jessica Williams’ foreword is no joke. Keep this book handy.

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You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me

by Sherman Alexie
memoir/autobiographynon-fiction

Honestly, I love everything Sherman Alexie writes. But his memoir about his relationship with his mother, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, combines childhood stories familiar from Absolutely True Diary, his refreshing frankness about his struggle with mental illness, and his skill with poetry. It’s a long read, but every word is worth it. It’s funny and moving and devastating at once and Alexie openly and lovingly writes about his relationship with his flawed but real mother. Get ready to cry. But they are the good kind of tears, I promise. 

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I read Your Heart Is A Muscle the Size of a Fist in February, and I immediately knew it was going to stick with me all year. Yapa narrates the World Trade Organization Protest in 1999 through numerous perspectives. He does give the rioters voice, but he also delves into the policemen’s heads and shows how some of them rationalize their brutality. He also gives the perspective of a Sri Lankan delegate, who is tired of these white Americans speaking for him.  There’s so much frustration and anger laid bare on this page, layered in with complicated family histories and the mistakes we all make, and why we choose to keep fighting. Beautifully written and timely.

 

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