1. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje This book was recommended by a friend. I especially love reading older novels that come recommended-how else would I pick them up? This book moves effortlessly between romance, history, and myth, producing a reading experience that felt anything but dated. In the Skin of a Lion felt filmic, making it difficult to read on short subway rides. I can't wait to read Ondaatje's latest, Warlight, which came out recently.
2. Eye Level by Jenny Xie I don't want to jump the gun and name Eye Level my favorite book of poetry in 2018, but anything else feels dishonest. This debut collection artfully laces the importance of becoming and one's geography. Place is just as important as character; they build next to each other. Xie's poems help create questions for the reader without answering them, a talent I find so characteristic of my favorite female poets. There is space for wondering, space for sudden bursts of clarity, as well.
3. Tropic of Squalor by Mary Karr Listening to Mary Karr read "Carnegie Hall Rush Seats" on the top floor of the Upper West Side Barnes and Noble (essentially, Fox Books) was one of my May highlights. She introduced her new collection of poetry pragmatically, describing her roots in a "Texas shit town" and poking fun at her children in the second row. Karr speaks of New York, of spirituality, and of Jesus himself in the exact way I want to-honestly and irreverently. No small, holy moment goes uncovered by Karr in this hilarious at times, moving always, book of poetry.
4. Aftermath: Explorations of Loss and Grief Visiting Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn has become a sort of weekend ritual for me. The walk there is lovely, it's right to my favorite movie theater, and I always leave with a book I've never heard of. After a stream of novels, I was excited to settle back in to my favorite genre: essay. And when it comes to essays, the more personal, the better. I loved the variety of essays-some written in conversation, others in a graphic novel sense, some short poems. Art was paired with other essays, helping the book to feel more like a magazine and opening the conversation of grief to a host of experiences/creative energies.
5. All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks My obsession with nonfiction is in competition only with my appreciation for a good love story. Hooks combines the two into a relatable, fascinating look at love and its many faces. Her feminist perspective lends effortlessly to her understanding of how coming home to the heart of love changes everything. By holding up her own experiences against larger cultural narratives, she is able to create an argument that feels bolstered and true.
6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt I've yet to read The Goldfinch, which beckons from my new bookshelf, (more on this later) so save your controversial comments for then. I am, suddenly and totally, a massive Donna Tartt fan. Traditionally, fiction was something I rolled my eyes at, much more keen to read a book of essays or nonfiction. But this year has been chalk full of old and new examples of how good fiction can be as arresting as non. This book is set on a Northeastern private college (check), features not only incredibly complex friendship dynamics, but also familial (check), and explores the idea of recreation in line with the starting of school in a new climate (check.) It's incredibly intense, maybe not PG-13 in every sense, but really, really breathtaking. Read if you enjoyed A Little Life.