Looking back at the books that ruled our world this year, we see a hunger for understanding, going beyond quick and easy answers. Though the pace of social and political disruption stole our breath, robbing us of whatever security we felt was ours, books offered us a space to slow down and dig deep, uncovering the roots of our present condition. For many of our readers, this included a reevaluation of identity politics, complicating and sharpening our collective analysis of who we are as individuals and a society.
Hurricanes, fires, deportations, assassinations, ascendant nationalism... It doesn't come as a surprise that readers were looking for new resources to grieve and care for one another. Healing—both personal, as in bell hook's All About Love, and collective, as in AK Press' Rebellious Mourning anthology—emerged as a strong theme for our literary year. Here's to turning tides in 2019, with love and rage!
Invaluable and long overdue, this guide to Carolina mushrooms features stunning photographs and informative descriptions of hundreds of diverse mushroom species. A giant leap forward in documenting the diversity of macrofungi in the Carolinas.
—Rytas Vilgalys, Duke University
This novella packed with charming weirdos, reckless witchcraft, and anarchist subculture is a thoroughly satisfying addition to local author Margaret Killjoy’s Danielle Cain series—which author Alan Moore (V for Vendetta) calls “fast, eerie and crackling with disarmingly matter-of-fact phantasmagoria”—but also makes for a solid stand alone adventure!
Survival is damn hard,' Sonya Renee Taylor says in the introduction to her marvelous new book, The Body Is Not an Apology. A writer, poet, educator, and performer, Taylor brings the message that self-sacrifice and self-flagellation keep us from our highest good. Her manifesto on radical self-love is life altering – required reading for anyone who struggles with body image.
The collection contains fifteen essays, all of them offering thoughtful and incisive analyses written in masterfully beautiful prose… At a time when feminism is, paradoxically, both more widely accepted than ever before yet also more intensely contested than ever before, this collection offers a vital intervention in the fraught discussion and a beautifully written source of inspiration as well.
A collection of poems and flash fiction that “blurs the lines between good gals (and guys) and bad, questions the utility of goodness, and subverts the clichés and gendered stereotypes of the most recognized of fairytales – leaving readers to consider the characters whose stories aren’t being told. If you’re not already familiar with Gill, you should be. The British-Indian writer has been called ‘the voice of the generation’ – and with 441,000-and-counting followers on Instagram alone, she just might be.
A comic about a Seattle-based trans woman struggling as a sex worker to make enough money for hormones and gender confirmation surgery… In its raw depictions of sex—sometimes hot, sweet, perfunctory or grueling—between trans characters, The Pervert is breaking new comic ground. But neither Boydell nor Perez consider the work to be political. Rather, they see it as an autobiography, elucidating a story that’s rarely brought into focus, especially not in the comic world.
The best work of fiction I’ve read yet about the millennial condition – the alienation and cruelty that comes with being a functional person under advanced global capitalism, and the compromised pleasures and irreducibly personal meaning to be found in claiming some stability in a terrible world. I love how, in this novel, doom is inevitable, and yet it comes so slowly you might not even notice it. Ling Ma has written one of my favorite novels of the year.
—Jia Tolentino, The New Yorker
Southern Folk Medicine captures a part of our herbal traditions that is little known, practiced by fewer yet, and at risk of being lost. Much more than an individual’s personal journey or interpretation, it presents a history of the development of culture and medicine in the South, integrates this with its relevance to modern healthcare today, and is reflective of a living tradition whose evolution continues.
—Roy Upton, author of American Herbal Pharmacopoeia
By delivering these stories to readers it not only entertains but informs and heals as well. ‘Tales represents the rich and complex ways that we actively engage with and transform the world we live in,’ Aldama says. Future generations may look upon this anthology as a codex for the Latinx experience during turbulent times much like we now look back on the Nahuatl or Mayan codices.
A miraculous achievement, a book that wields ferocious honesty and originality in service of telling a story that needs to be told. This is a novel about what it means to inhabit a land both yours and stolen from you, to simultaneously contend with the weight of belonging and unbelonging. There is an organic power to this book – a revelatory, controlled chaos. Tommy Orange writes the way a storm makes landfall.
—Omar El Akkad, author of American War
Small presses across Appalachia and the Rust Belt consistently publish, to little fanfare, incredibly diverse work – books that are lush, gritty, surprising and so very true. Perhaps the best example, or certainly the best place to begin, is Catte’s What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia. This edgy, meticulous work of nonfiction from Cleveland’s Belt Publishing dispels many myths about the region.
—The Los Angeles Times
A rare and incisive examination of the system of white body supremacy that binds us all as Americans… With authenticity and clarity, [DiAngelo] provides the antidote to white fragility and a road map for developing white racial stamina and humility. White Fragility loosens the bonds of white supremacy and binds us back together as human beings.
—Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands