This year has been one of those weird ones that has felt simultaneously like a decade but also like it came and went in the blink of an eye. A lot has occurred, but one of the highlights of 2018 has been the enormous volume of excellent books. I felt like every time I turned around, another acclaimed and important book was hitting the world and making it better. I have listed the 10 best books of 2018 that brought my world a needed brightness and have made me feel like I’m actively working to be a better version of myself.
Love, mental health, addiction, and the nuances of adulthood are all put onto the table in each of these titles. There have been so many moments this year where I’ve begged the universe to stop for a moment. I wanted the universe to give me and the people I care about a moment to catch up, a simple moment to feel safe and not entirely overwhelmed. These books helped me get there. If you haven’t had a chance to finish these titles over the last year, make sure to pick one up or give one to someone for a last-minute gift. There’s nothing like curling up by the fire in the midst of a busy house filled with your relatives to just take a few moments alone to spend time on yourself.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
There are humans and then there are human geniuses and Tayari Jones is a human genius. I finished this novel months ago, and I still think about it and its emotional repercussions on a regular basis. This book felt like Tayari Jones crawled into someone’s heart and told a story from that very place; it’s a story about how difficult, nuanced, and unfair love can be. An American Marriage is about race, love, youth, family, marriage, and all the ways the entities intersect.
You can buy An American Marriage here.
The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
I have described this book to handful of people in my life as a book divided into “one half memoir and one half historical recollection and analysis of addiction.” Jamison is unassuming and brilliant. The book vacillates between Jamison’s personal life as a student, writer, and human addicted to alcohol with an immensely detailed and comprehensive guide to some of the most prolific writers and figures of American history who have lived with addiction.
I have never read a book like it and I have never felt so positively pushed to my emotional and cognitive limits whilst reading something. Jamison and her humility are a gift.
You can buy The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath here.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
I LOVE Jasmine Guillory. Let me repeat, I LOVE Jasmine Guillory. Her words take me into a different and better world. Jasmine Guillory does a beautiful thing when she writes about love: she gives us the good, the bad, the realistic (which can be ugly). There are tons of mediocre or relationships everywhere, but sometimes we need reminders that there is something more to strive for. Guillory’s characters are driven, imperfect, and independent. They remind me not to settle and to always be open to hot doctors who want me to attend their exes wedding with them (among other important concepts!)
You can buy The Wedding Date here.
Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller
Mandy Stadtmiller is vulnerability in human form. Stadtmiller’s memoir is about working as a dating columnist, love, addiction, and the ways we try to mold ourselves into something/someone other people find loveable. The entire time I read Unwifeable, I was blown away by Stadtmiller’s ability to put everything she had out there. I believe that it takes a certain and extreme kind of bravery to write out every part of who you are and Mandy Stadtmiller taught me that.
You can buy Unwifeable here.
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Yes, this is the second time Guillory is on this list. I am not even remotely sorry. Guillory could write an anthropological collection on the cultural history of Chia Pets and I would be ALL! ABOUT! IT! This is a story about freelance journalist Nik, who is randomly proposed to by her boyfriend who is in love with his own face. The proposal is unexpected and public, in front of tens of thousands of people at Dodger stadium in LA. A man named Carlos and his sister Angela decide to save Nik from the aftermath of this unfortunate and uncomfortable situation. Carlos and Nik form a friendship from then on out.
You can buy The Proposal here.
Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew
This is another one of my go-to giftable books. (I initially received the book from one of my best friends who knew it was something I needed in my life when I was going through a rough patch.) Mari Andrew’s illustrations are loved and widely shared on the Internet, especially on Instagram (follow her on @bymariandrew). Seeing her beloved art side by side with essays I didn’t know I needed about grief, relationships, and independence was a wonderful experience. To repeat, this is the book you didn’t know you needed.
You can buy Am I There Yet: The Loop-de-loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood here.
I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux
I immediately pre-ordered this book after I watched Michael Arceneaux on Desus & Mero. It’s rare to find someone so uniquely and uproariously hilarious in all their forms and Arceneaux is that in his interviews AND his writing. There is no one funnier or more clever than this man. Arceneaux hits readers with everything: religion, sexuality, addiction, and Beyoncé. Desus and Mero (and now Arceneaux) have never once led me wrong in my 27 years on earth.
You can buy I Can’t Date Jesus here.
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
I kind of idolize Camille Perri the way the camo pants and flip flops girl in Mean Girls idolized Regina George. Perri is that great and talented (although addendum: she seems a lot kinder than Regina George). This is a novel about two young lawyers named Katie and Cassidy who meet at a time when Katie’s life is falling apart, and Cassidy is working so much, she doesn’t even realize she’s not exactly thriving in her personal relationships.
Katie recently broke up with her fiancé after finding out that he has been having naked hangouts with her best friend. Cassidy doesn’t exactly look for depth in her relationships; she loves going to cupboard-sized bars with her good friends, no-strings-attached sex, and flirting with straight women named Katie who are from the South and preamble a lot of their reactions with, “good lord.”
This book is hot and sweet and is a romantic comedy that has offered me one of my favorite lines of all time which is, “All you New York bitches are crazy" — to which I say thanks!
You can buy When Katie Met Cassidy here.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane is a 30-year-old woman who has accepted that dating is a monotonous kind accepted evil that she must welcome into her life. Stella is trying to approach relationships the same way she approaches her math-based profession, through practice and hopefully attained perfection. Stella has Asperger’s and an inclination for all things formulaic. Stella decides the best way to learn how to one day have a functional relationship (and to get her family and world off of her back) is to hire an escort to teach her the ropes of dating and romance. Once Stella meets Michael (her hired escort) and experiences his outstanding kindness and unending care toward her needs and heart, math doesn’t exactly seem to prove helpful.
You can buy The Kiss Quotient here.
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell
I mean it when I say this: Sometimes I earnestly have moments when I think, “You know what two events seem truly horrifying? Expelling a human from my body (childbirth) and the attempting to not cause said expelled human severe emotional damage for the rest of its life (raising a kid).”
I am a 27-year-old woman and I’m always wondering, how do you just become a mother? How does the world just let someone like me, who is 90 percent sure it is not Wednesday, bring a life into society and then take care of it on my own? The thought is legitimately terrifying. This is one of my favorite memoirs because it was one of the first times in my life I had ever read a woman so explicitly list and discuss such similar fears. Being a woman and wanting a baby or being a woman and not wanting a baby or being a woman and not being sure if you want a baby — it’s all scary and I’m glad someone finally wrote something about it.
You can buy And Now We Have Everything here.
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