The battered copy of this book sat on my shelf for years. I must admit, the idea of reading this terrified me, because it was the best friend’s favorite. There was too much pressure. But I asked him so many months ago when I should finally read it, and he said, save it for the sun. So I took this worn copy on vacation. With the sound of the ocean and the too-warm breeze, I experienced the utter beauty and heartbreak that is this book. And somewhere along those many pages, this book became my favorite, too. I shared it with my other best friend, and now the three of us have collectively been ruined by this stunning story. I even received my own used copy, and I can’t wait to reread.
“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.”
Since childhood, Practical Magic has been one of my favorite movies. So when I discovered Alice Hoffman had released a prequel to that beloved story set in 1960’s New York City, I knew it would be good. I had no idea it would be such an all-consuming read. It was both devastating and hopeful, filled with magic that was all-at-once practical and haunting. This is another book I can’t wait to revisit.
“When you truly love someone and they love you in return, you ruin your lives together. That is not a curse, it’s what life is, my girl. We all come to ruin, we turn to dust, but whom we love is the thing that lasts.”
The promise of a novel filled with the essence of both Practical Magic and Hocus Pocus is fulfilled by reading Shea Ernshaw's debut. Within these pages is a story filled with regret, revenge, lies, and most of all, love. And every bit of this summertime story is just as wicked and deep as the title assures. To read more about my thoughts, check out my review, “So Easily Conjured.”
“Perhaps we all have some oddity, some strangeness we keep hidden along our edges, things we see that we can't explain, things we wish for, things we run from.”
4.) circe by madeline miller
After finishing Miller’s debut, The Song of Achilles, I was excited to read her sophomore novel. Being obsessed with Greek mythology, I couldn’t wait to start reading this. With the combination of heartbreak, fierce femininity, and witchcraft, I was in love. Now I’m left looking forward to whatever Madeline Miller writes next.
"Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”
As someone who enjoys the mysteries of tarot and prophecy, this novel, which begins with the Gold children discovering the day they will die was a perfect read. What follows are five decades filled with family, ambition, dysfunction, and belief. The unbelievably flawed characters within this narrative fear and follow their fate, and the result is both stunning and devastating.
“The power of words. They weaseled under door crevices and through keyholes. They hooked into invididuals and wormed through generations.”
6.) my ariel by Sina Queyras
My unending love of Sylvia Plath led me to this collection of poetry. Sina Queyras explores the pull many feel to Plath’s last collection Ariel, taking inspiration from the groundbreaking text while still making it her own. After following the Plath Poetry Project myself, I recognized some of the most beautiful and horrific themes from Plath’s work, making this one of the most memorable collections I read all year.
“How can I escape the force of her narrative, how she pulls everyone and everything into her design?”
Upon the recommendation of a coworker, I went into this book expecting some kind of Jane Austen story, but I suppose I was judging too heavily on the cover. What followed was one of the most unlikeable narrators I’ve read in some time, but whom I continued to enjoy page after page for that very reason. Following the year of this unnamed character as she tries to escape the resentment of her past with sleep, much of this story reminded me of The Bell Jar. As such, this book was one of the most surprising and satisfying reads all year.
“But I think I was also holding on to the loss, to the emptiness of the house itself, as though to affirm that it was better to be alone than to be stuck with people who were supposed to love you, yet couldn’t.”
8.) What if it’s us by becky albertalli & adam silvera
Going into this book, I thought about how much I enjoyed Love, Simon and how devastated I was with They Both Die At the End (the title says it all, and yes, it almost made this list). While this book did make me cry, it wasn’t in the same way as the latter. As someone who loved Dear Evan Hansen, who has a fierce appreciation of musical theater, and of course, Hamilton, I absolutely devoured this book. At times adorable, heartwarming, and so honest, this was one book I can’t wait to return to when life gets rough and I need some happiness brought back into my world.
“I just think you’re meant to meet some people. I think the universe nudges them into your path.”
Since its debut, I’ve wanted to read this gorgeous book. Upon reading, however, I had no idea how dark and twisted this story would be. But I loved every moment within Wink, Poppy, and Midnight’s connected lives.
“People aren't just one thing. They never, ever are.”
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from this collection of poetry written about actresses lost before their time. But it wasn’t the haunting beauty of this book. Throughout reading, I found myself stopping to look up these tragic stories, or recalling the times I’d heard of these women before. Overall, the experience was somewhat obsessive, so I haven’t read again since, but it is a collection I continue to think about almost a year later.
“I’m told Galileo wept at how big his hands looked, how small they felt, while pointing at the stars.”
11.) belzhar by meg wolitzer
Another book brought into my life based on my love of Sylvia Plath, became one I so loved. This was a story I talked about at work and at home and one that truly surprised me, which as a writer, is often a difficult feat. The narrative tackles ideas of lost love, isolation, memories, and writing. With obvious connections to The Bell Jar, I found myself enthralled as these characters tried to bring themselves back to life.
“Books light the fire—whether it’s a book that’s already written, or an empty journal that needs to be filled in.”
Technically this book was a reread, but this time, I enjoyed the story as an audiobook. This second read reminded me why I so loved this story the first time around, and truly came to life through the audio rendering. I found myself getting lost in the circus, and wishing it were real long after the story was through.
“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”
13.) the bees by laline paull
As a writer obsessed with honeybees, this story told from the POV of a bee was an absolute delight. This story handled the beauty and horror of what happens in hives, culminating in a terrifying tale of Flora 717.
“You have wings and courage and a brain. Do not annoy me by asking permission."
14.) malagash by Joey Comeau
This strange little book found its way to me during one of my many visits to The Strand in New York City. It was one, which sat on my shelf for too long until I took it on this year’s vacation. It would’ve been difficult for even the best of books to follow The Song of Achilles, yet this story still captivated me. Told from a daughter about to lose her father, Sunday attempts to create a computer virus that will preserve her dad forever. It was a beauty and a barrage of heartbreak.
“And if words mean something to you, if an idea moves you, aren't you changed, just a little?”
Narrated by Cheryl Strayed, this collection of advice columns, both dazzled and destroyed me as I listened to the audiobook. So many of the anecdotes and advice were profound examinations of humanity and how we try our best to survive. I can’t wait to own a copy of this for myself to go back and discover the beautiful writing that stuck me so completely the first time.
“Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore.”
I purchased this book for the best friend long before reading Ted Hughes’ Crow. However, it wasn’t until after my love of Sylvia Plath led me to the aforementioned title that I found my way back to this book. It was an oddity, to say the least. But one which examined the profundity of loss and grief in the most vulnerable way. This definitely is a strange read, as Crow helps two young boys and their father work through their grief for the mother and wife they’ve lost. I think I enjoyed this a smidgen more than the best friend for having knowledge of Hughes’ work. But this stunning story is one that can be enjoyed by anyone who’s felt the echo of losing someone they love.
“Ghosts do not haunt, they regress. Just as when you need to go to sleep you think of trees or lawns, you are taking instant symbolic refuge in a ready-made iconography of early safety and satisfaction. That exact place is where ghosts go.”
Another book purchased for the best friend, this collection reminded me of everything I loved about Amber Tamblyn’s collection. These poems follow different fictional female characters from horror films. It is a timely collection, which tackles violence, femininity, and the act of surviving.
“There is nothing else in this world like realizing you’re going to live and not being sure you can.”
This might be cheating, but if I am being truthful, this book is both my favorite read and proudest accomplishment of the year. Inspired by the women within Greek myths, my micro collection of poetry examines femininity, both past and present. I hope if you are reading this post that you might take the time to discover the women we write about, but never really know.
“I’m still too brilliant to become anything else. But I’m not sorry for what I’ve written.”
As I dive into some new books this year, I can’t wait to be transported to different worlds and to voyage through time, book after book!
Want to know more about the books I read in 2018? Be my friend on Goodreads!