My Favorite Reads of 2018

To know me is to know that I am an avid reader-I always have been, and I probably always will be. I prefer print books to electronic. I mean, c’mon! I am always on the hunt for my next read, even when I have 10+ unread books waiting on the shelf at home, and I could get lost in a bookstore for hours (not exaggerating). Usually, my reading pace slows down quite a bit when school is in session, especially now that I’m in college; after all of the reading and studying I have to do for my grades, the last thing my brain wants to do is keep working (even if it’s for my own leisure). However, more recently, I’ve been trying to take a bit of time to read on my own each night, even if it’s only for ten minutes. Reading for fun is definitely a destresser for me and a fun, little reward for getting through all of the not-so-fun stuff. Setting aside that time has definitely done wonders, and I’ve read some incredible books this year! If you’re searching for your next read, here are the stories that really stood out to me.

1) Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

In this stunning, young adult novel, Bowman explores the themes of insurmountable grief, forgiveness, and finding certainty within the unknown. Rumi had recently lost her younger sister, whom she could depend on for everything, to a car crash, and is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii for the summer by her grieving mother. Feeling alone, angry, and unsure, Rumi finds herself facing not only her worst nightmare, but feelings and memories she'd never confronted before. Filled with stunning visual imagery, immense character growth, and bonus asexual-spectrum representation, this book is a must read for any YA fiction fan, for anyone who may be struggling with grief or loss, and for everyone in between.

2) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, and Gyasi really brings everything to the table with this one. In Homegoing, each chapter follows a different descendant of one Asante woman named Maame, starting with her two separated daughters. One is married off to an English nobleman while her half sister is held captive in the dungeons of his castle. Gyasi explores eight generations of descendants, switching between birth lines while simultaneously taking the reader to Mississippi plantations, the modern Gold Coast, jazz-age Harlem, and everywhere in between. This novel is a spectacular exploration of the lasting effects of colonialism and slavery, family ties, and how circumstance can radically shift our worlds forever.

3) And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Admittedly, I am rather enamoured with Hosseini’s work. Ever since I read Kite Runner for my summer reading assignment in AP Language, Hosseini has very steadily remained one of my all-time favorite authors. And the Mountains Echoed certainly lived up to my expectations. Unlike his other two novels, Hosseini decided to follow many narratives as opposed to simply focusing on one or two. Many have criticized this approach, believing it to be impersonal and messy. However, I like the omniscient status it gives the reader, allowing us to see the story from all different angles and aspects. A few narratives seemed a bit irrelevant to the story, but for the most part, Hosseini once again displayed his acute ability to weave many different stories and lives together in such an intricate and beautiful manner.

In 2019, I am hoping to continue expanding my horizons as a reader, and to continue setting aside this time in order to recharge and reward myself. While it may be the last thing on my mind after a full day of information and academic text, I know that this little bit of time can do wonders for my mental health and well-being. Even if reading isn’t your niche (I understand it’s not everybody’s cup of tea), it’s important to recognize the things you love to do that help you relax. Take some time to do them everyday! Even ten minutes out of your day to yourself can really make a difference. It may not be the cure for everything, but it can definitely make everything seem a bit less hectic and overwhelming.