My 2018 Reading List
Presented in the order I read them
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
A sumptuous adventure set in 18th century France. I actually gasped out loud at one point while reading this on a train.
Prophet, Volume 2: Brothers (Prophet #2) by Brandon Graham (Writer), Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Farel Dalrymple
This sci-fi series is a slow burn but strong on visuals and world building. The next volume will make or break it for me; I need to see what this is building towards.
Mooncop by Tom Gauld
Gauld’s simple line work and monochromatic color palette, combined with his sparse and unaffected dialogue, accentuate the loneliness and absurdity of the life of the Moon’s last cop.
The Best American Essays 2017 edited by Leslie Jamison
Jamison sets out to create an anthology that grapples with the America many people suddenly woke up in after the 2016 election. I found it to be one of the more engaging The Best American Essays collections that I’ve read.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink, Jeffrey Cranor
Like its podcast namesake, Welcome to Night Vale is a surreal story with an existentialist framework. The prose is straightforward in a way that invites readers in, but shapes the story in a way that invites wonder and despair. You don’t need to listen to Welcome to Night Vale to follow the novel but you’ll get more mileage out of it if you do.
The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner
I finished three-fourths of this book before putting it down. Weiner paints the Galapagos Islands evocatively and it does an excellent job explaining how natural selection and evolution work, I just felt like I had learned enough.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
The title succinctly sums up why you buy this book. Oluo works hard to make break down the complexities of systematic racism in America and provide the reader with a basic understanding of what its effects are, what enables it, and how to respond to it. Having these conversations are hard, and you’ll probably fuck them up regardless, so keep the book handy as reference. Also, consider reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, on my reading list from last year, for a deep dive into the systemic racism of America’s justice system.
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
I like stories about diaspora. Not necessarily about people traveling to new countries but what happens when they arrive and settle down. How their new country changes them and their relationship to their former country. Nguyen’s stories capture wildly disparate experiences of Vietnamese people, living in the US and back in Vietnam, while grounding them in the ordinary routines of their lives.
Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life by Chelsea Martin
Martin is a funny writer and as a child of the 90’s I enjoyed the nostalgia but I think I’ve read enough quirky-kid memoirs for awhile.
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron
This is a craft book for plotting a novel. As such it’s very prescriptive and a little hokey. But I found it useful for focusing on the internal structure of your work, what moves a story, rather than general advice about what makes writing good a nice change of pace from other craft books I read in the past.
The Emissary by Yōko Tawada, Margaret Mitsutani (Translator)
Tawada’s dystopian Japan is wistful and weird and she builds it in subtle and surprising ways. The story unfurls slowly through most of the short book and then bursts at the end like a single firework on a quiet night.
The Art of Mystery: The Search for Questions, Maud Casey
This isn’t a how-two for writing mystery novels, it’s an exploration of what mystery is, why it engages readers, and how writers construct a sense of mystery in their work. Casey’s prose combines her own observations with examples taken from a variety of writers to build the work. There are no nicely summed up lessons rather, appropriately, you have to find the lessons hidden in the text.
The Tragedy Series: Secret Lobster Claws and Other Misfortunes, Benjamin Dewey
I fell in love with this series back when it was only on Tumblr. There’s a great efficiency to Ben’s line work and shading, and he gets a lot across in every single-panel comic. Tragedy Series is equal parts whimsical and heartbreaking and it never feels mean-spirited with its rotating cast of talking animals, sentient objects, and diverse Victorian-era characters.
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays, Alexander Chee
Sometimes you feel like you’ve been waiting your whole life to read a book. That’s what How to Write an Autobiographical Novel was for me. Chee weaves together his time as an AIDS activist in the 90’s, his literary career, his identity as a mixed-Asian gay man, and trauma from his past into a work that feels expansive, vulnerable, and hopeful. This book couldn’t have existed till just now, but I wish I had been able to read it when I was in my undergraduate program, when I was a young half-Asian gay kid struggling with trying to understand who I was and why I wanted to be a writer.