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Year in Review + Top 10 Books of 2018

Another year has passed, which means it’s time for my annual top-ten book post. But first: some stats and facts from the business.

I took on 24 editing projects this year—22 books of varying length and genres, and two short stories. I also started editing articles for Twin Cities Geek, a local news source for all things nerdy. To continue my editing education, I joined the Editorial Freelancers Association and ACES: the Society for Editing, along with my membership to the Professional Editors Network.

Every year, I try to attend a few author readings, and this fall, I made it to three. In August, I went to Magers & Quinn for a reading by Brian Abrams, in discussion with Ana Marie Cox about Obama: An Oral History 2009-2017. Next, my mother-in-law told me Deborah Harkness was doing a reading for her newest novel, Time’s Convert, at the fancy Barnes & Noble in Edina in September, so Andy and I cleared an evening to hear her talk about vampires and time travel. Finally, one of the authors I worked with at North Star Press, Thomas D. Peacock, has a new book out, so I headed to Magers & Quinn on a chilly November evening for his reading and discussion of Beginnings. It’s always fun to see authors talking about their work, and I hope to attend many more readings in the coming year!

In sad editing-related news, I said goodbye to my friend and mentor, Corinne Dwyer, in September. She was the senior editor at North Star Press, where I began my career, and taught me so much—not only about the nitty-gritty of editing, but about how to work with authors and how to edit with compassion and conviction. Though we hadn’t talked much in the year and a bit since my leaving the company and her diagnosis, I find myself with all sorts of questions to ask her about this business, what she would do in this situation or another. In short, I miss her. The local publishing scene won’t be the same without her.

On to the books! In the order I read them, here are 10 of my favorite books from 2018.

The Bear and the Nightingale & The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden. I started the year with these two books—and what a way to start. The books are set in medieval Russia, in the winter, so the timing was perfect. The story focuses around a girl named Vasilisa and her family, who follow the old ways and honor the local and household spirits. But when her father brings home a new wife who forbids the practices, the beings of the forest creep closer to the village. Vasilisa might be the only one who realizes the dangers, and she risks her life to save the ones she loves. The third book in the Winternight Trilogy drops soon, and I cannot wait.

The Power, by Naomi Alderman. This book has been raved about just about everywhere, and I’m adding my voice to the positive reviews. Girls and women wake up one morning to realize that their touch brings a shock to any men they touch. This quickly creates chaos around the globe. The story is told from a few different points of view, so we see the impact in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and Africa, among other areas. Though the premise is a little transparent—what if rape culture were reversed?—the story is very well told and utterly chilling, and I couldn’t put it down.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. A YA novel that has dominated the New York Times Bestseller list, The Hate U Give is absolutely a story for our time, dealing with police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr Carter is your average teenage girl, but her life is upturned when she witnesses the death of her friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. She can no longer pretend like everything’s fine at her mostly white school, while her neighborhood is in turmoil. Especially since Starr was the only witness to the shooting, when misinformation starts circulating, she knows she can’t stay silent, drawing attention to herself and her family. This book is a must-read for anyone wishing to see the human impact behind the Black Lives Matter movement. Be prepared to cry.

Gunslinger Girl, by Lindsay Ely. After the Second Civil War, Serendipity “Pity” Jones finds herself in a frontier town after fleeing her commune, determined not to become someone’s bride. Beyond the reach of the government, the city of Cessation is full of renegades and outlaws, and Pity finds a family of sorts at the Theatre Vespertine, where everyone makes their living performing death-defying acts. The book is an interesting mix of science fiction, dystopia, western, thriller, and a little romance, and I loved it. (I wrote more about this book in September.)

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz and Hatem Aly. The story is just as interesting as the lengthy title would lead you to believe. The tale centers around a peasant girl, a half-European half-African oblate, a Jewish boy, and a holy dog. The story itself is told in a way reminiscent of Chaucer, with various people at an inn taking turns to tell the tales of these three children, and why they’re on the run from the king of France. Marketed as middle grade, I found the book an absolutely wonderful read for adults as well, with the added bonus of delightful illuminations throughout.

The Queens of Innis Lear, by Tessa Gratton. I also wrote about this book in September, so here’s a quick recap: it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear, an intricate, completely enthralling tale of three sisters, their allies and enemies, and the sisters’ fight for the crown. I’ve actually never read the famous play, so everything in this novel was new to me. The worldbuilding was fantastic, and I loved the magic system, which relies heavily on a connection with nature and reading the stars. The characters are complex, and thanks to shifting points of view, we get to see each of their motivations and struggles in this time of upheaval.

Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. While I have yet to see the musical, I love the Hamilton soundtrack and, of course, the history behind it. I was delighted to receive this book as a birthday gift. Not only does it contain the entire libretto for the play, but we get behind-the-scenes look at the compositions and staging, as well as notes from Lin-Manuel on the lyrics and information about the history he draws upon and the history of the musical forms he plays with. Highly recommended for fans of the musical.

84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. This is a slim volume, easy to read in one sitting, and is absolutely charming. This book is a collection of letters between Helene Hanff and Frank Doel, a bookseller in London (and a few others from the bookshop). Helene had a great sense of humor, though sometimes I felt bad for poor Frank, on the receiving end of her queries for little-known books. We see a friendship grow throughout the year, as they exchange letters, Christmas packages, promises of places to stay when visiting, and, of course, books.

The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey. A mystery set in Bombay in the 1920s, the first in the Perveen Mistry series has me wanting more. Perveen is a female solicitor at her father’s firm, at a time when she cannot actually argue cases in court. Nonetheless, she’s determined to put her law degree to good use, and gets her chance when Mistry Law is tasked with handling the estate of a deceased factory owner. His three wives live in purdah—screened from the outside world, and unable to see any men who are not family—and Perveen sees a unique chance to speak with them about what they actually wish to happen. It being a mystery, this doesn’t exactly go to plan, and Perveen must use her skills to stop a killer and find the truth.

Thanks for reading this far! What were your favorite books of 2018? What are your reading goals for 2019, or what kind of books are you hoping to devour? (If you’d like to see what I’m reading, feel free to follow my Instagram or find me on Goodreads.)

Looking forward to hearing from you all in this new year!

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