(Lit)erature: Best of 2018

The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison

My first Morrison read and, wow… what an introduction.

Morrison had a Pulitzer & a Nobel; based off this novel alone – she deserved both. This is one of the best books I’ve read in my lifetime, let alone 2018.

Toni Morrison was such a compassionate and concise writer, she managed to convey so much emotion with so little. The book is just over 300 pages yet she condensed so much grief, pain and sadness into it. I have a hard time describing books like this as, it’s not so much the plot that got me, but the way it made me feel.

When we lost Ms Morrison earlier this month, I was beyond devastated. I spent so much of 2018 discovering her prose, it felt like I’d lost a beloved member of my family, and so soon. I quickly realized though, I should be thanking my stars. To have had a woman like Toni Morrison exist, to have lived in the same time as her, to have had her share her gift as she did, and to have so much of her left behind – we are truly blessed.

Hunger – Roxane Gay

Quite possibly one of the most powerful & poignant memoirs I have ever read. With this book, Gay brought a variety of issues to the forefront, some of them so taboo, I didn’t realize how much we don’t speak about them until she brought them up.

The real magic of this book is, despite the sadness, trauma, anger & general horrible events it contains, it’s not a memoir where Gay asks for the reader’s sympathy or pity – it’s simply her truth.

Amongst many other things, reading the truth about how the world views & treats fat women from an actual fat woman’s perspective changed many things for me. One of them was my own vast privilege when it came to my body. The other was that I, too, without realizing, often viewed fat women the same way.

This is the book that single-handedly changed my entire perspective regarding women and their bodies and pushed me to a lot of self reflection about my own. Hunger is a book that desperately needed to be written, and I’m so glad Gay wrote it the way she did.

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

When I first finished this book, I was not expecting for the story to stick with me the way it did. I know quite a few people regard this as a love story and, if they mean that in the sense the protagonist falls in love with herself – I guess they’re right.

Janie Crawford is a character who will stay with me for a long, long time. Janie unapologetically choosing herself, her wants & needs, her life, and putting herself first despite the consequences, is something that resonated with me so much. It’s hard to believe this novel was published over 80 years ago. Hurston was way, way ahead of her time – sometimes I wonder if she realized.

This book covers a plethora of subjects such as life during Jim Crow, colourism, misogyny, and domestic violence. It’s an important novel, for both African-American and feminist literature.

If You Leave Me – Crystal Hana Kim

If you know me, you know I love a good, tragic historical novel with multiple narrators. Kim’s book was really that for me in 2018, but it was also so much more.

Kim’s complex & well-written characters live out their lives with Korea, both during the war and over the decades, as the backdrop. Kim’s writing is so immersive, I almost felt like I was there.

Sometimes I’ll read a book and can’t believe it’s a debut novel, this was one of those moments. The execution of the main character, Haemi, was flawless. The way Kim weaved the history of Korea through the lives of the characters was engulfing, and the insights into love, war, and womanhood were heartbreaking. What talent, and what a read.

Things We Lost in the Fire – Mariana Enriquez

As much as I initially enjoyed this book, I wouldn’t have expected it to end up in my top five. However, as I went over my 2018 reads, it just stood out to me, but not for the same reasons as the other books on this list.

I have never read anything quite like this. Maybe it’s because I don’t typically read the horror/gore genre but this book is still pretty unique.

Set in Argentina, this book was originally published in Spanish and it uses ghosts, monsters & demons as subtle commentary on Argentinian society and the country’s dark past. The stories are human, the characters are downright realistic and live regular lives, and that is what makes it so unsettling.

Obviously, there were a couple of stories that I enjoyed less than others but I’m learning that that is often the case with short story collections – however, it did not take away from the fact this book is a brilliant read. I found it almost impossible to put this book down, the writing is so exquisite and life-like, I had a hard time believing it was a translated work. A standout read, and one of the best short story collections I have read.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s