Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2018 | Favorite Books

End of year roundups of any sort are my favorite to read, and none more so than a collection of favorite books read over the year. This year, like every year I've written this post, has a mix of nonfiction and fiction, and unintentionally, these are all written by women.

What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
A stunning, semi-autobiographical debut consisting of a series of vignettes about Clemmons' life as a mixed race girl in her native country of the United States and her mother's home country of South Africa. It can be hard to follow as, though there is a plotline, it's not chronologically written, but the book is less about a storyline and more about the emotions that accompany loss, race, family, and identity.

Notes on a Foreign Country by Suzy Hansen
Suzy Hansen, an American journalist living in Turkey, wrote Notes on a Foreign Country as an exploration of her evolving perception of the United States, what it means to be an American, and how American history has impacted foreign nations. I found Hansen's notes on American influence in the Middle East and Americans' ignorance of their own country's international reputation refreshing blunt and honest, and in line with many of the things I've discovered on my own and heard from others over the years. Hansen interweaves her own experiences and travels with articles, books, and musings from historical and modern day writers to create a book that challenges Americans to dig deeper into their own country's history and influence on the rest of the world.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
I'm very over the "powered" people genre except for Schwab's Villains series/duology. Vengeful, the sequel to Vicious, continues the chase between Victor and Eli, two former roommates who gave themselves "extraordinary abilities" and developed opposing opinions on the morality of these abilities, and are now determined to enact revenge upon each other. Schwab takes an otherwise unoriginal concept and gives it to exquisitely crafted characters, making for a story that is truly impossible to put down.

Dopesick by Beth Macy
A fascinating explanation of how the opioid crisis started and spread, Dopesick focuses on small towns in Virginia where the spread of drugs was first unnoticed, then explosive. Macy connects the different types of drugs people tend to use: first Oxy as a prescription, then after getting hooked -- purposely or accidentally -- spiraling off onto other pills and eventually heroin. Macy doesn't only look at the users' side, but also at the roles of dealers and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as the the various treatment methods available and  their effectiveness. Macy weaves personal stories together with the facts, making for a heartbreaking and frustrating but important read.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
The Girl Who Smiled Beads is a raw, hard look at the Rwandan genocide from the perspective of Clemantine, one of its survivors. She was six when she fled with her older sister and was separated from the rest of her family, and the book chronicles their journey through several countries as they searched for safety and stability. Clemantine doesn't shy away from or diminish the darker emotions surrounding the events but gives her anger, sadness, and fear their full weight. She provides an individual voice to a horror that seems too overwhelming to think of, and captures the very real sentiments of destruction, disorientation, and finality.

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice
I often struggle to connect with memoirs, but this is easily one of the most honest, heartfelt, beautiful books I've ever read. Ruth Fitzmaurice's husband Simon has Motor Neurone Disease, which leaves him motionless and only able to communicate via an eye gaze computer. I Found My Tribe is Ruth's explanation of her married life -- given not in a chronological timeline, but switching back and forth as she tells of her relationship with her husband, their five children, and her friends. She alternates between tales of what goes on inside her home and her own head, and how she and her friends -- the self-named Tragic Wives Swimming Club -- cope with their lives' challenges by swimming in the sea. Ruth's words are equally humorous and lump-in-throat-forming, and I Found My Tribe is a delight from start to finish.

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