NYWC’s Favorite Reads of 2018

Since the year is coming to a close, there are year-end lists everywhere. We thought it would be nice to get in on the fun by having our own list. We asked our wonderful NYWC staff, board members and workshop leaders to share their favorite thing(s) they’ve read this year.

Many picked things that were released this year, while others even chose classics. Some selected novels and others included poems. We hope you’ll find something that will intrigue you so much that you either click on the link and read it right away or head to you nearest local bookstore and/or library to pick it up! So here it is, NYWC’s Favorite Reads of 2018:

★★★★★★

Adepeju Adeyemo

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

“Mine is Stay with Me, the celebrated, unforgettable debut novel by Ayobami Adebayo. Can’t say enough good things about how much I enjoyed reading it this year.”

★★★★★★

Andrea Bozzo

The Overstory by Richard Powers

“Trees rule!”

★★★★★★

Judy Chicurel

The Death of a Once-Great City” by Kevin Baker. Published in Harpers Magazine, July 2018.

“I think he captured so much of what a lot of us miss about New York in the old days; the unique quirkiness that was allowed to flourish, the ability to live in the city on minimal funds, the mix of truly interesting folks, many of whom are being driven out by high rents and stagnant salaries. Other people have written articles on this theme, but Kevin Baker writes historical fiction about NYC, and I felt he really put words to feelings in a lovely way.”

★★★★★★

Victoria Cho

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

“I love this because it is pure poetry, and it’s about hearts being broken and put back together and has ghosts of those we love reminding us to do better in the future”

★★★★★★

Deborah Clearman

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Important, devastating; I didn’t think I’d be able to take it, but so glad I read it.”

Purity by Jonathan Franzen

“A novel for our times, the clash of Millennials and Boomers, up to his best standards, by a writer who gets undeserved flak.”

Romola by George Eliot

“Renaissance Florence comes alive, written by a strong woman about a strong woman.”

★★★★★★

Laura Cococcia

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

“It was compelling, thought-provoking and educational, giving me a new perspective on the issues immediately facing us – from community and justice to education and meaning.”

★★★★★★

Louise Crawford

In Family Lexicon by Natalia Ginzburg

“An Italian Jewish family comes to life with language, humor and eccentric routines set against the backdrop of the rise of fascism in Italy. It’s a novel but it feels like a memoir. And everything in it is true. ‘Everytime that I have found myself inventing something in accordance with my old habits as a novelist, I have felt impelled at once to destroy it,’ she wrote. Written in 1963, it just came out in a new translation by Jenny McPhee from New York Review Books.”

A Cleft in the Rock by Marc Kaminsky

“[It] is a gorgeous (and deep) book by a mature poet. Its centerpiece is ‘Days of Kivi’, an epic elegy about the poet’s brother, which vividly renders his madness and early death. Kaminsky shows us how to ‘live/with catastrophe in the world/of signs and wonders.'”

Other picks: The Writing Irish of New York edited by Colin Broderick / Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot / The Recovering by Leslie Jamison / Sick: A Memoir by Porochista Khakpour / After Kathy Acker by Chris Kraus / My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh / Why Religion? by Elaine Pagels / Counter-Desecration: A Glossary for Writing Within the Anthropocene edited by Marthe Reed and Linda Russo / The Last Days of Oscar Wilde by John Vanderslice

★★★★★★

Ann Marie Cunningham

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

“The story of the Trojan war, from the point of view of conquered women who have become the Greeks’ sex/work slaves.  You know all the women’s names from your classical studies, but you never considered what happened to them after their cities fell to Achilles and company.”

There There by Tommy Orange

“Beautifully written novel about urban Indians in Oakland, California.  Since I would like to hold a workshop for young Indians in NYC, the characters’ experiences were of great interest to me.”

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know by Colm Toibin

“Hair-raising nonfiction accounts of the fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce, who all grew up in the same Dublin neighborhood.  Very interesting on how the fathers influenced the sons’ work and lives.”

★★★★★★

Nicole Di Luccio

M Train by Patti Smith

“Her prose is so honest, slow and forthright, and yet it still, of course, manages to be poetic and eloquent. It is amazing to me that Patti can essentially write a whole book on the banalities of everyday life and on drinking coffee, and it still remains to be one of the loveliest things I’ve ever read.”

★★★★★★

Ben Dolnick

For the Last American Buffalo” by Steve Scafidi.

“I think it’s one of the more beautiful depictions of an animal I’ve ever read. “

★★★★★★

Timothy DuWhite

say it with your whole black mouth” by Danez Smith

“I love how honest this piece is, the author pulled no punches.”

★★★★★★

Daisy Flores

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

“It feels like such a relevant book for our current climate, with tragedies happening left and right, and conspiracy theories being widely digested as truth. This could work as a novel, but I find it much more powerful as a comic—from the unsaturated colors drenched in each page to the emotionless faces of every character that says it all.”

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

“I’ll be honest I was intrigued by the title and the cover (how could you not be?), but the story pulled me in. It’s a story about two sisters: One’s a serial killer and the other cleans up after her (pretty much in every sense). Each chapter is pretty brief, yet these characters were fully formed. It’s not just a novel about murder—it’s about the relationship between these sisters, their family and the society they live in.”

★★★★★★

Deb Levine

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

“The descriptions of the protagonist’s ‘thought spirals’ as a result of her anxiety/OCD rang very true for me. My OCD is far more manageable but I still felt affirmed/’seen’ by this reflection of the experience of a young woman struggling with these issues. I’ve been recommending this book to friends who have similar struggles because I’ve so rarely read such realistic representations of them. I didn’t love the ending, and the overly articulate/world-weary teen characters that are typical of John Green can get a bit grating, but it’s worth the read for the realistic depictions of mental illness and the intriguing mystery element in the storyline.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“The story of an African American teen girl grappling with the personal and societal repercussions of a police shooting of someone close to her is both timely and nuanced, and the protagonist’s experience feel authentic while also being very specific. As a writer/reader I think the editor could have used a slightly heavier hand when it came to some of the dialogue and descriptions, but for a first novel it’s an incredible accomplishment and the interweaving of various storylines into the narrative is seamless and powerful.”

★★★★★★

Ann Lewinson

Act One by Moss Hart

“A memoir of a young playwright finding his voice, after mimicking both the best and the worst of his era. (Hart just chalked up another posthumous screenwriting credit with the Bradley Cooper remake of A Star is Born.) What surprised me was the author’s unsentimental depiction of abject poverty in the Bronx, and how it infected family bonds, rendering an overcrowded tenement apartment a loveless, silent tomb.”

★★★★★★

 Derek Loosvelt

Census by Jesse Ball

“[The] central character, [based on the writer’s late brother], has Down syndrome. The novel follows this character and his father, a widower with a fatal disease, as they travel an unnamed country as census takers. Bringing to mind Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Kafka’s writing, Census is an inventive, philosophical, dreamlike work of fiction, devoid of sentimentality, a heroic feat considering the subject matter.”

★★★★★★

Alison Lowenstein

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

“The New York Review Books Classic republished this humorous novel of a woman in her twenties living in Paris in the 1950s. Originally published in the 1950s, the book is timeless and enjoyable.”

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

“One of my favorite books I read in 2018 is Convenience Store Woman, a short, quirky novel written by a Japanese author, Sayaka Murata.”

★★★★★★

Sophie McManus

Making of an American Terrorist” by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah. Published in GQ Magazine, August 2017

(Ghansah’s Longform podcast interview about writing the essay)

“I was floored by Ghansah’s portrait of Dave Chapelle a few years back. Her essay on Roof is a tough read, but she’s such an extraordinary writer that the excitement and depth of reading her prose and synthesis of American history make it impossible to put down. And her interview about it? I think anyone writing in any genre should listen to it. This is a run-don’t-walk reading recommendation; her’s is an essential, handful-in-a-generation voice.”

★★★★★★

Carla Murphy

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

“Believe it or not, a book published in the 1930s about Okies migrating west helped me to better understand the energy I’m seeing today re: wealth inequality, economic exploitation, and immigration. I love that it encourages marginalized communities to find strength in each other, and most of all, I love to read and re-read Steinbeck’s sentences”

★★★★★★

Judith Ohikuare

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

“This was one of the most inventive books I’ve read in a long time. The main character, Ursula, has the not-quite-intentional ability to relive her life over and over again, either undoing certain actions or pursuing new ones. It is slow-moving but the characters were so well created, I could imagine them perfectly. And Atkinson’s writing has so many great moments: In one section, which takes place in London during World War II, an acquaintance of Ursula’s is killed after an air raid. She and another character decide to move him away from the rubble, but when they pick him up, his body comes apart ‘like a Christmas cracker.’ (Sorry for the gruesome image.) Overall, it’s a great exploration of history, family, gender, and responsibility.”

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

“I’d wanted to read Shirley Jackson’s novels for a long time, so when Netflix aired its adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, I decided to read the book before watching the series; it ended up leaving a big impression on me. People often describe the book as ‘terrifying’ as if it’s a horror story, and I didn’t find that to be true at all. There’s absolutely a pervasive sense of dread once we get inside Hill House until the very end, but it’s more about internal psychological dread that the house feeds on and spreads outward — not a bunch of ‘Boo!’ moments.”

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

“I really enjoyed this book! Juliet is a young, queer woman from the Bronx dealing with heartbreak, her family’s expectations, and searching for community. She travels to Portland and finds just that in some ways and not in others. It would have been really easy for this book to present one setting as totally hostile to her self-exploration and the other (Portlandia) as Mecca, but Rivera complicates that a little. Some of Juliet’s family members surprise her in the best of ways; others in her growing professional and LGBT community disappoint her. And her story is hilarious and touching without being didactic, even though she’s learning a lot herself. I had a lot of fun reading this.”

★★★★★★

Tasha Paley

Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou

” I performed in a Village Playback Theater show which invites and then enacts, improvisationally, true-life stories from the audience. The theme was  ‘Listen Up! The Challenges of Being a Woman in a Man’s World.” In preparation for this show, I reread Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’  and it  helped me to grow into my own sense of womanhood and self-empowerment.”

★★★★★★

Avra Wing

Brick Lane by Monica Ali

“Brilliant.”

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

“Amazing.”

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

“Who knew L.M. Montgomery wrote more than Anne of Green Gables?”

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

“Enough said.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

“Charming.”

★★★★★★

Marcie Wolfe

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn West

“West explores three generations of a Black Mississippi family struggling to survive, love, and connect as they are haunted by the legacies of poverty and the criminal (in)justice system. West’s writing is heartbreaking and gorgeous, fantastical and grimly realistic.”

★★★★★★

Aaron Zimmerman

The Book of Love and Hate by Lauren Sanders

“I am of course partial, because my friend (and NYWC Board Member) Lauren Sanders wrote parts of this haunting and suspenseful book during writing workshops that I was leading. That being said, Lauren’s prose is beautiful and this novel is a spy thriller, a family drama, with some good old fashioned love and sex tossed in.”

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

This article says all you need to know about what kind of person Hanya Yanagihara is and how she can write such a beautiful, harrowing, and lengthy tome. I am a few years late to this, but it’s a masterpiece.”

★★★★★★

IF YOU WANT EVEN MORE RECOMMENDATIONS, PLEASE LOOK AT OUR LIST FROM 2016!

 

 

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