By my count, I read 59 books in 2018 (19 new comics / zines / kids’ books, 37 new prose books, and 3 rereads from past years).
I started the year with a bunch of audiobooks via public library apps, mostly because I was battling motion sickness on long commutes and couldn’t read visually. Then I picked up a few books during an overseas trip about local politics, culture, and history, which deepened my travel experience so much that I don’t think I’d travel again without carving out time for books. I also tackled my first structured reading challenge in a long time (or ever?) and while I didn’t finish every item, I made good progress.
All of these things pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is mostly memoirs, comics, and comic book memoirs. That said, I still read plenty of the above. Here are a few of the books that stood out to me in 2018:
Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi: An engaging and heartfelt memoir about growing up in the US in an undocumented immigrant family. The author addresses her family’s cultural differences and the fear that comes with being stuck in legal limbo, but the book isn’t a primer on those subjects, it’s a personal story of her life, with plenty of anecdotes about crushes on boys and embarrassment over acne.
Evicted by Matthew Desmond: This is one of the most important and well-researched books I’ve ever read. It’s also gut-wrenching, particularly in the way it complicates the standard liberal and conservative narratives about poverty in the US. I’ve come away from the book secure in my prior conviction that stable housing is a prerequisite for lifting people out of poverty. However, I feel much more despair than I did before about whether providing housing is sufficient; so many of the stories show people in need of supportive housing and other more intensive interventions than I think the US will ever be willing to fund.
Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw: I really, really love this saga of the interconnected lives of Malaysian Chinese living in Shanghai. It’s a melancholy novel about aspirational people in a wildly mixed, sometimes impersonal place. It’s approximately the kind of story that would have been told in New York about Midwesterners a century earlier, but since it’s written by someone who grew up in Malaysia, the characters’ names, tastes, and backgrounds all have a distinctive local flair.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang: This is a really sweet story about a prince who likes to wear dresses and the talented dressmaker he hires to clothe him discreetly. It’s beautifully written and illustrated, and the characters are real enough that I ache for them whenever there are setbacks. (I liked this so much that I read it twice! I also read The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story three times.)
Yes, You Are Trans Enough: My Transition from Self-Loathing to Self-Love by Mia Violet: This might be my new favorite book about gender. Mia Violet writes an incredibly engaging narrative, weaving together her own life story and basic information about transition to create an educational memoir. I love the overall message that trans people are the experts on their own experiences.