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Get Lit with Shefali’s Best Books of 2018

by  | December 28

Working in book publishing is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’re always reading (which is the best thing in the world, obviously), but on the other hand, you’re almost always reading something that doesn’t hit the shelves for another three, to six, to sometimes twelve months! That means I’m constantly reading into the future, and I don’t always have as much time as I’d like to pick up books that people have been gushing about for months or years, or even decades (I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird)!

This year, I set a goal for how many books I wanted to read in my personal life. I’m not going to tell you what it was because I did not get close, BUT I did better than last year, so I’m giving myself points for progress.

Here are the best books I read this year—some are new reads that came out in 2018, and some are a wee bit older, but they all made my year better.

American Like Me

American Like Me

by America Ferrera

Okay, if you’ve been on the site before and have read my previous posts, then you’ve already seen me gush about American Like Me a ton! This definitely isn’t the last time I’ll be doing it, but it’ll be the last time in 2018!

In essence, American Like Me is a collection of essays by various celebrities—who are also immigrants— about their unique experiences of being American. Who are first-, second-, and third-generation. Who are biracial, multiracial, indigenous, or otherwise grew up with deep and personal connections to more than one culture. Organized and edited by America Ferrera (my OTL), the collection features a lot of amazing creatives like Issa Rae, Roxane Gay, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and their stories range from downright funny to quite serious. There’s something for everyone in this collection, especially for anyone who has ever questioned whether they were American “enough.”

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By the Book

By the Book

by Julia Sonneborn

If you read my piece in honor of Jane Austen’s birthday, then you’ll know I am a full-blooded Austenite! Now, I’m not so orthodox that I won’t pick up any retellings or watch any adaptations (I mean, Colin Firth, amirite?), but I AM super critical.

By the Book is a recent retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that truly stands up to the test (my test, just to be clear). It follows an English professor (Anne) struggling for tenure, who discovers that her ex-fiancé (Adam) has just become the president of her college...a.k.a. her boss. The situation is just as awkward and uncomfortable as it sounds, but Anne and Adam are #adults, so they try to go about their lives as responsibly as possible. But do they run into each other a ton? Yes! And do they regret their breakup? Most definitely!

By the Book is a romance, so you know going in that A and A are going to wind up together, but the outcome is only worth as much as the journey—and watching these two build their relationship back up is 100% satisfying.

BONUS: Listen to my favorite ladies from XOXO After Dark chat with Julia Sonneborn about all things Austen and By the Book! Like which actor the main hottie is loosely based on.

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Elevation

Elevation

by Stephen King

I’m a scaredy-cat. It’s just an unavoidable truth—which is confirmed from time to time when my friends (supposedly they are my friends!) force me to watch horror films. Most recently, I was dragged to the theater to watch It, and lemme tell you—that did not end well.

As such, I’ve always had a complicated relationship with Stephen King. I admire the man’s skill (not to mention his work ethic!), and I love complex characters, a crazy adventure, and textured storytelling. The first King tale I ever picked up with Salem’s Lot, and I haven’t been able to put his books down since (despite the ensuing nightmares).

When Elevation came out, I was pretty pleased, because it’s a bit of a departure for King tonally. It’s kind of a warm and fuzzy story (well, as warm and fuzzy a story as a King tale can get!) about hope, community, and accepting that the differences between people are actually what make us stronger. If you’re new to the King club, this is the one I suggest you start with.

 

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Her Body and Other Parties

Her Body and Other Parties

by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties technically came out in late 2017, but I really only heard about it earlier this year, and am so thankful I did.

All I can say is that Carmen Maria Machado is magic. This collection is everything you can think of that it could be—it’s psychological realism, it’s science fiction, it’s comedy and horror, it’s fantasy, it’s fabulism (yes, that’s a word!), it’s at times downright ridiculous, and it’s wry at every turn. Every story in this book is a little different and bends its genre, but Machado’s common thread? Each narrative explores the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

This collection is for everyone.

 

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American Gods

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman

I am extremely behind the curve on this one. I only started reading Neil Gaiman about five years ago, and only added American Gods to my TBR a couple of years ago after the Starz adaptation was announced—even though the book is incredibly famous, and came out almost two decades ago!

American Gods follows a just-released convict named Shadow (with a heart of gold!) who is hired by Odin (yes, that one) to be his bodyguard. Odin is in the midst of navigating an impending war between the “old gods” and the new (basically millennials), and he’s trying to rally people to fight.

For anyone who’s read Neil Gaiman, you know the man can spin a yarn. The story is part Americana, part magical realism, and all adventure. If you spent your childhood reading mythology, you will love this tale that references mythos routed in cultures from all over. It’s the kind of book you can go back to multiple times because there are little Easter eggs everywhere that you missed during the first read through.

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Shefali is a former digital marketer of the Corporate Digital Marketing team at Simon & Schuster. Because her whole life is #reading, it’s hard for her to pick a favorite genre—anything with strong voice is amazing. She sometimes has unpopular opinions, loves Jane Austen, and finds snark, sassiness, and Oxford commas to be necessary parts of life. Follow her on Twitter at @ShefaliLohia or Instagram at @shefallsgracefully.