Goodbye, 2018! A Reckless Rec List of Scrumptious Reads
Oy! Ready or not, 2019 is coming. The Queerly Reads gang got together one last time in 2018 to look back at our year in reading and take a peak forward. To read about our favorite queer books of 2018, click here.
What were your favorite not-centrally-queer reads from 2018?
Tel: The Poppy War. Hard-hitting, sometimes cruel, and unforgettable, this book mixes Chinese history, a unique magic system, and intriguing, flawed characters.
Pride. A thoughtful and vibrantly new retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Brooklyn.
American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes: Poetry, or crackling brain puzzles that unlock themselves when you read them two or ten times, spanning the history of the United States and its tangled racism.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: The Trojan War as seen through the eyes of Achilles’ bed slave, Briseis, who never got a spoken line in The Iliad.
The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya: Surreal, feminist stories about men and women who duel each other in kitchens and in moonlight.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult: A shooting at a Southern abortion clinic, told backwards.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn: How do you take a theme and make it echo in every word and punctuation mark in a novel? Gillian Flynn convinced me of her genius in this misanthropic small-town thriller.
Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun: Nigerian immigrant scientists try to make it back to their home country to start Nigeria’s first space station. Hijinks immediately ensue.
Kindred by Octavia Butler: A Black American woman accidentally travels back in time and meets her ancestors, who are enslaved on a southern plantation.
The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues by Edward Kelsey Moore: I read this sequel to the even-better The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat a year after its publication because Edward Kelsey Moore is a deeply underrated and under-advertised writer. He writes about female relationships, love, and grief in ways that sing to my soul.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: My first read of 2018 remains my favorite. Abraham Lincoln’s son is dead, but his soul hasn’t moved on. He’s stuck in a graveyard with the other trapped souls of troubled people who haven’t yet gained the courage to move on.
I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men and What I Had On by Khadijah Queen: Poetry as a multi-generational record of men being garbage to Black women, mostly in L.A. in the 90s, but also earlier and later and in other places.
The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Van Der Meer was some of the finest scifi I read in 2018. Imperial Radch, the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt, We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, Into The Woods by Tana French, Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.
What new, queer releases are you most looking forward to in 2019?
The Deep by Rivers Solomon: She wrote one of my favorite queer books of 2018, and this year we’ll be blessed with a story about “an underwater society inhabited by descendants of African slave women.”
The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare: It’s hard to remember how the inclusion of Alec, a gay boy, was so novel in a best-selling YA when Clare’s first Shadowhunters series came out. Now we’re getting a whole series about him and his immortal boyfriend Magnus Bane. I love these series and I sincerely hope that this book isn’t uncomfortably m/m-y, even if Alec is no longer a minor in it.
Not Dead Yet: I’m cheating, because I read this as a beta reader, but this is an awesome m/m supernatural fantasy that was just the right mix of romance and fantasy, packed with all the adventure and friendship I’m always craving from a good series.
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy: An Alyssa Cole f/f novella published by Avon Impulse. I’m crossing my fingers that it sells well and more mainstream publishers open themselves up to more f/f works in the future.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics: ANOTHER f/f with Avon Impulse. I’m so excited for these changes, guys.
Semper Augustus: Mackenzi Lee of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is going to give us some 1637 Holland, Dutch tulips, and queer girls.
PERHAPS THE STARS BY ADA PALMER!!!!!!!!
What probably not-centrally-queer new releases are you looking forward to in 2019?
Hannah: Robert MacFarlane’s Underland will be environmental nonfiction about the land beneath our feet. I honestly don’t care what it’s about; I read anything he writes and any book he recommends.
The White Card: Claudia Rankine is one of those writers whose website I periodically check because I’m always hungry for new work by her. Her next release will be a play, and I already know I’ll read it about fifty times.
Morgan Parker is one of my favorite poets, and her Magical Negro collection is “an archive of Black everydayness, a catalog of contemporary folk heroes, an ethnography of ancestral grief, and an inventory of figureheads, idioms, and customs.”
N.K. Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month just came out in November, but in 2019 we’ll get an entirely new urban fantasy by her—her first book taking place in our real world.
Balm in Gilead: A Theological Dialogue with Marilynne Robinson: I’m not Christian, but I appreciate Robinson’s pleas for religion in an increasingly secular America.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson: Her Enchantment of Ravens is a book I’ll reread again and again. Sorcery of Thorns looks equally bewitching, involving a lady librarian, a wizard, and a magical grimoire.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf: I’ve been promised an African Lord of the Rings, and I don’t like oversimplistic comparisons like that, but I’m so excited for this new epic
fantasy. I’ve been thinking about it literally daily since 2017.
The Priory of the Orange Tree: And this one was marketed as a Lord of the Rings with feminism. Again with the oversimplistic comparisons that clearly work on me.
Giorgi: I’m always a fan of the Best American Short Stories for each year, as well as the Best American Science Fiction Fantasy Short Stories! I’m thinking I’ll also check out Best American Non-Required Reading this year too, thougnh it kinda just looks like a collection of the most popular articles on the Atlantic and in the New Yorker for the year.
Are there any notable writers you discovered in 2018? Any writers you'll be keeping your eye on in 2019?
Hannah: I discovered Roan Parrish, even though I already feel like I’ve been reading her for ages.
Giorgi: Siri Hustvedt, Tana French, ADA PALMER ALWAYS, Jeff VanderMeer, Roxane Gay.
Do you having any reading-related New Year’s resolutions?
Tel: According to my Goodreads profile, I read 10 books this year; that number's off, but not by much, though that's partly because I did plenty of non-book reading too. I really want to bring it up again. Maybe to read a couple of books per month?
Hannah: I spent a lot of this year reading contemporary romances. I’m not dissing the genre, but I don’t want to get “stuck” in one kind of book again. I always aim to read more and read widely.
Giorgi: Hmmmmmm I feel pretty good about my reading!
Any non-book related New Year’s resolutions?
Tel: Keep reading manga, for one! I'm slowly coming to the point where my Japanese level is high enough that I can consume content for fun. I'd love to be able to read prose-only stories by the end of 2019.
Giorgi: I generally just try to step up my productivity/find the next steps in my various endeavors every year. However, this year I’ve made the decision that I want to figure things out a lil more, so I’m going to try to be as productive as I need to be, but also take plenty of time to be a person. We have so little time before the global warming apocalypse, and I want to read a lot of books and nuture my relationships as much as possible.
Hannah: I started a journal recently and I suspect it is going to become an indispensable tool for guiding my own thinking. Can’t believe I forgot about the power of pen and paper for awhile. And like Tel, I’m also working on my Japanese.
Any movies, albums/songs, poems, magazines, recipes, etc., you want to give honorable mention to?
Tel: The rhythm-game app Uta no Prince-Sama: Shining Live has taken over my life in the past few months, and I'm honestly grateful. Shining Live is the latest installment in an 8-year-old franchise; while it's light on story, the story that's there is basically just 11 beautiful anime men flirting with the player and being nice to each other. I don't think I've seen such a large volume of casually positive interaction between men since Lord of the Rings, and it honestly gives me so much strength and hope.
Also, while not a reading-based medium, the RPG podcast Friends at the Table is a fantastic example of storytelling. I've been following it for the past couple of years, and everything from the music to the worldbuilding to the character interaction to the interaction between players is comforting and inspiring. This podcast is a haven of creativity, a fun place to hang out even when I'm by myself and a reminder that the storytelling process can be wonderful even when it is impromptu and imperfect. (The link leads to the Patreon because that's what's updated most often, but the podcast itself entirely free and can be found on a variety of podcast services.)
Giorgi: You should play this board game called Heart of Crown; it’s a deckbuilding game about anime princesses where you get to choose between such characters as Scholar Princess Bergamotte and South Sea Princess Klam Klam.
Hannah: I recommend breathing deeply. I recommend taking three minutes a day and clearing your brain of busy thoughts. I recommend the queer lady movie Colette starring Keira Knightley. I recommend setting specific times when you read the news and when you do not. I recommend Janelle Monae, such as Jonalle Monae here or here or here. Watch all of director Steve McQueen’s movies. I recommend various kinds of cakes. If you are too poor to decorate, I recommend you write poems on strips of paper and tape them to your walls. If you are rich, you can frame the poems. I recommend for instance this poem or this poem or this poem. I recommend thirty minutes of exercise a day and looking at birds when you can. I recommend your local library. I recommend you take a long deep breath right now, and exhale it when you’re ready.
Any projects you're working on that you want us to know about?
Giorgi: I’m going to publish a poetry book soon, so be on the lookout for Places I’ve Been Alone!
Hannah: I might have news coming soon…!