12 Must-Reads for the Rest of Us – 2018 – Part I
It’s a new year and that means a whole new host of books to read. And 2018 has no shortage of amazing new books that I can’t wait to get my hands on!
Now I must admit that there are many titles left over from the last year (or two, or three…) that I just didn’t get to. On this list, I stick to fiction titles coming this year. Confession: I will not be able to get through all of the books I want to read this year either (although I am sure going to try), so I have limited this initial list to 12.
I can’t include everything I am interested in on this list so, as usual, I prioritize debut books written by women, authors of color, Black women, queer and gender noncomforming authors, authors from the Global South, and other authors of historically marginalized populations. They are listed below by the month in which they will be released.
You’ll see some books left off of this list that you might think should be on it. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to or won’t read them, it just means that they have gotten a lot of attention on other outlets and I wanted to focus on ones you may or may not have heard about yet. Think: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (only because I haven’t read the first two yet).
Another confession? You should come back to this list every once in a while because I will probably keep sneaking more titles on the list throughout the year… and there will be more coming in the second half of the year that I’ve not included. But this is a start, so here we go!
Added July 19: As of today I have read 8 of these 12 books and the others are on my TBR. I’ve added links to my reviews to each book I’ve read below. You can check out my list for the second half of 2018 here! Happy reading.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (@lenizumas) – January 2018
In a starred review, Library Journal describes Red Clocks in this way: “In language both poetic and political, Zumas presents characters who are strong and determined; each is an individual in her own right. Inevitably, there will be comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, but Zumas’s work is not nearly as dystopic or futuristic, only serving to make it that much more believable. Highly recommended.”
This is Zumas’ second novel and Elle says it is “Spooky-good.”
I don’t want to miss it.
Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (@azemezi) – February 2018
Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Electric Lit, Bustle, Bitch, Book Riot, and others, this debut by Emezi received starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist.
Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go, describes it this way: “Freshwater is one of those dazzling novels that defies these kinds of descriptions. We can gesture to the story―set in Nigeria and America, told by all the selves of its Tamil/Igbo protagonist―but such synthesis fails to convey the magic that awaits its reader. At once fiction and memoir, potent in its spiritual richness and sexual frankness, the text seems not to have been written by but channeled through its brilliant author.” #ownvoices
Song of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik (@jasmindarznik)- February 2018
A story about groundbreaking Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad, this debut was described by Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage and Silver Sparrow: “Written with the urgent tenderness of a love letter, this soaring novel is a heart-breaker and heart-mender at once—a gorgeous tribute to the brave and brilliant poet remembered in its pages.” #ownvoices
Who can argue with that recommendation?
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (@ShobhaRaoWrites) – March 2018
I am in the middle of reading this book now and I find it hard to put it down. Rao’s writing allows the reader to access the intricacies and darkness of her protagonist’s life in India in a way that one feels her intense heartbreak and resilience at once.
I’ll finish this one in the next few days, so be watching for a full review soon! #ownvoices
Stray City by Chelsey Johnson (@chelseyhotel) – March 2018
If Carrie Brownstein says a book is good, I’m pretty certain I’m going to read it. Of Chelsey Johnson’s debut novel she said: “Insightful and brilliant, Stray City explores the stickiness of doing what’s expected and the strange freedom born of contradiction. I tore through this novel like an orphaned reader seeking a home in its ragtag yet shimmering world.”
Author Michelle Tea described it as “A love letter to Portland in the 90s,” and “a gorgeous, funny, sharply spot-on tale of growing up and making family again and again and again.” So yeah, sign me up.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (@tomi_adeyemi)- March 2018
Like many of you, I cannot WAIT to read this book.
Nigerian-American writer Adeyemi’s debut novel features all-black characters in a good versus evil fantasy tale.
In a starred review, Publisher’s Weekly says, “Adeyemi’s devastating debut is a brutal, beautiful tale of revolution, faith, and star-crossed love.” #ownvoices
Heads of the Colored People: Stories by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (@TisforThompson)- April 2018
People are already raving over this debut collection of stories about Black identity, culture, and citizenship. It’s been described as wicked, awkward, wise, intense, inventive, honest, funny, smart, rewarding, original, and urgent.
From Publisher’s Weekly: “Stuffed with invention… Thompson-Spires proves herself a trenchant humorist with an eye for social nuance.”
Author Kelly Link calls it “a knockout.” I am really looking forward to this one. #ownvoices
Added July 19: My review is coming soon!
OK, Mr. Field: A Novel by Katharine Kilalea – June 2018
The description of this debut novel is so compelling… an injured concert pianist impetuously buys a house on the coast of Cape Town (who wouldn’t) but over time, the house seems to affect the man in disturbing and mind-altering ways.
The author, poet Katharine Kilalea, grew up in South Africa and my love for the country makes this an especially intriguing new book for me. She’s got a two-book deal from Faber & Faber and The Paris Review is publishing the book as a serial, so not a bad start. Looking forward to this imaginative story.#ownvoices
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd (@pengshepherd) – June 2018
In her futuristic debut novel, Peng Shepherd examines themes of memory and the darkness that forgetting can bring. I haven’t read a lot about this book except for a Library Journal preview and description from the author’s website but it was more than enough to pique my interest.
I am fairly new to speculative fiction but am looking forward to reading more fantasy, sci fi, and afrofuturism this year. I am eager to dive into these genres and The Book of M is on the list.
The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon (@rokwon_) – July 2018
R.O. Kwon said on Twitter recently that she had been working on her debut novel for a decade and that it’s now a “strange and wonderful feeling” to see it out in the world.
Indeed, The Incendiaries is generating quite a buzz. Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You, says, “The Incendiaries probes the seductive and dangerous places to which we drift when loss unmoors us. In dazzlingly acrobatic prose, R. O. Kwon explores the lines between faith and fanaticism, passion and violence, the rational and the unknowable.”
I’m eager to see how Kwon intertwines terrorism, love, loss, and faith into this much-anticipated story. #ownvoices
Suicide Club: A Novel About Living by Rachel Heng (@rachelhengqp) – July 2018
Heng’s debut futuristic novel has been described as glittering. Kristen Iskandrian, author of Motherest, said “Suicide Club bends genre with grace and artistry, delivering us to the outermost reaches of what’s familiar and affirming what dares to still exist there: family, friendship, and forgiveness. With superb writing, Rachel Heng has crafted a world inside of a world gone mad, one where love faces its most difficult test. This is an exciting, bold, inventive novel.”
Will her main character chose to live for the 300 years that many do? Or will she instead opt to join the Suicide Club? I can’t wait to find out.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras (@ingrid_rojas_c) – July 2018
In her debut novel, Rojas Contreras tells the story of two women making their way in war-torn Colombia in the 1990’s. Called “Spellbinding…” by Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans, this book centers women’s experiences with violence, secrecy, and unexpected connections.
Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, had this to say: “When women tell stories, they are finally at the center of the page. When women of color write history, we see the world as we have never seen it before. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras honors the lives of girls who witness war. Brava! I was swept up by this story.”
I can’t wait to get swept away too! #ownvoices
What is on your reading list this year? What women, queer, or gender nonconforming writers need to be on my watch list? Comment below to let me know!
This post contains affiliate links.