Wow! 2018 was a great year for books. It was the first year since I was a toddler that I wasn’t in school, so I had more time to read than I had for years. Here are some of my faves from the last year.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
I first heard about Sheila Heti probably five years ago and instantly fell in love with her writing. Her words are always inspiring and make me want to write and read as much as possible. They’re magical in that sense. Motherhood blew me away. Midway through, I started telling everyone to read it. I didn’t care that I hadn’t even finished it. I knew it would be amazing.
Motherhood is a fictionalized memoir by Canadian author Sheila Heti. The book follows the fictional Sheila as she navigates the possibility of motherhood. She asks questions about what it means to create art, to write, to create a person, to become a mother. Heti breaks open biblical tales of Jacob wrestling with God, Chinese coins, and psychics to give her an explanation for her own inner tensions and conflicting views on motherhood. The prose is poetic, often stark, and always honest. It brings up generational pain passed from mother to daughter to daughter and so on. Motherhood is a book that will leave you asking yourself what it means to make something.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
I'll Be Gone in the Dark is a true crime novel about the crimes of and the search for the Golden State Killer. The book was published nearly two years after McNamara’s sudden death. Fascinated by the finality of death and the never-ending questions that surround cold-cases, McNamara started the blog True Crime Diary. Eventually, her research led to an all-consuming obsession with the crimes of a murderer, burglar, and rapist whom she called the Golden State Killer.
The book tells the story of her search to find out who had committed heinous strings of crimes across the state decades ago. It’s a horrifying and exceptional read and gives life to the victims and the communities that were destroyed by one man’s unfathomable actions. Her dedication reminds us of the importance that journalists and writers play in uncovering the truth.
Months after the release of the book, the Golden State Killer was arrested in Northern California, not far from some of his original crime scenes.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
This feels like an obvious pick, but honestly who doesn’t love Michelle. Often celebrity memoirs are cringey to read. They feel forced and are often pushed along by a ghost writer. Don’t get me wrong—they’re still entertaining—but usually not well written. I was surprised by how good of a writer Obama was. Clearly, her husband’s notoriety distracted me from her qualifications and talent. Becoming tells the story of a black girl from the South Side of Chicago who worked her way through Princeton, Harvard, up the corporate ladder, and eventually becoming one of the most memorable and impactful FLOTUS. Obama is inspiring and insightful and reminds us of those good times before the 2016 election (you know where I stand), yet she speaks optimistically for the future and calls Americans and even those of us who aren’t American to stand up for what we believe is right, act with kindness, and to work hard. I’m usually not one to cry when I read, but this book had me reaching for a box of Kleenex more than once.
Educated by Tara Westover
I grew up in a town where around half of the people were members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, so I’ve always been drawn to any book remotely related to the topic.
Westover grew up in rural Idaho in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains and raised by parents who were fundamental Mormons. She didn’t go to school. She grew up working in a junkyard and helping her mother secretly midwife children of other fundamentalist women. Educated tells the story of a woman determined to get a formal education outside of the one provided by her father. We are shown the dedication of a father who is trying his hardest to do what he believes is morally right. Seemingly against all odds, Westover ends up attending BYU in Idaho and eventually completes her post-graduate studies at Cambridge. Westover delves into what made her who she is and opens up about her struggle to stay connected to her family who follow an ideology that doesn’t exactly match her own. This book is shocking and heartbreaking and is a reminder of the importance of education whether it comes from a classroom or from atop a crane.
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
When a cargo ship carrying five hundred refugees from Sri Lanka crosses into Canadian waters off the coast of British Columbia, not only will the lives of those onboard be forever changed but also those of a young lawyer and a public adjudicator.
The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Mahindan, a man looking for a brighter future for himself and his son after the death of his wife and a brutal civil war; Priya, a second generation Sri-Lankan-Canadian who a reluctantly represents the refugees; and Grace, a third generation Japanese-Canadian whose mother was interned during the Second World War.
Bala presents a poignant narrative that brings to light the complexities of citizenship and the heartbreak and often inhumane nature of bureaucracy. It’s a reminder of the implications of heritage and the stories that get lost in the busyness of business.