There’s a lot of greatness coming down the pipeline in 2018. Here’s Book Riot’s top picks. What are you excited about this year?
There’s always one of them in your school. The one you’re warned about. The troublemaker whose love life is always up for discussion: “You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that.” Here, Zarin Wadia is that girl. From the start, we know that she and an eighteen-year-old boy named Porus die in a terrible car accident. In the aftermath, we learn that there was much more to Zarin than just a troublemaker. With an interesting take on high school ostracism, class, and religion, this debut sounds totally thrilling. I’ve never read a book set in Saudi Arabia and I can’t wait to start with this one! (And have you seen that gorgeous cover?!)
Roy and Celestial’s new marriage is put to the test when Roy is wrongfully imprisoned for twelve years and Celestial is left grieving for a life that can never be spent together. To put it frankly, An American Marriage explores what happens when racism forces itself into your life and upends it completely. Tayari Jones lets us know she is a master of writing with this enchanting novel. This book is what literary fiction should aspire to be: timely, elegant, and powerful. Jones’ masterful prose and gripping characters makes An American Marriage an instant classic.
Labyrinth Lost was a book I didn’t know I’d been craving: a new take on the Magically Gifted Teen trope, a beautifully imagined magical system and world, an LGBTQ love triangle, and a Latina main character. While the main plot wrapped up nicely, Córdova threw in a surprise at the end that had me pacing my apartment, ready for the next installment immediately. And when I found out that the new book follows a supporting character from the first book? All the grabby hands! Secondary characters getting their own book is my jam. So I’ll just be over here until June, waiting waiting waiting for the next adventure of the Mortiz sisters.
Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel sounds like nothing we have seen before, in the best way possible. It’s a fantasy that promises to be enthralling and to totally ensnare you within its world, plot, and characters. I’ll be honest – as a reader of colour who devoured popular fantasy books with a slight annoyance at never seeing herself represented, I could not be more excited about this book featuring black characters, being steeped in Nigerian culture, and being set in an African-inspired world. It’s not something us readers of colour get every day.
Circe is Madeline Miller’s long-waited sophomore novel after her doozy of a debut. The Song of Achilles, a retelling of the Iliad, broke my heart into a million pieces and made me a fan of Miller for life. I was so thrilled to find out that her second book is also a Greek mythology retelling, this time tackling the origins of the sorceress, Circe. As a child, Circe is banished to a deserted island after her magic begins to reveal itself and Zeus feels threatened. She turns to companionship from the mortal world—creating a unique set of problems: who does she protect when push comes to shove and how will she survive against vengeful Olympians?
I’ve been a fan of Justina Ireland’s writing ever since I first read Promise of Shadows in 2014. Dread Nation promises to be as awesome as its incredible cover. Set in post-Reconstruction America, Dread Nation follows Jane McKeene, who attends a combat school for black and Native children where she learns to fight the undead. Though zombies plague the country, Jane just wants to return home, but when families start to disappear, she’s drawn into something bigger. While I love a good zombie story, it’s clear that Dread Nation isn’t going to be just that, but a book that deals with survival, racism, and so much more.
February 6th will see the release of Feel Free, Zadie Smith’s second collection of nonfiction (following 2009’s Changing My Mind). Collecting essays that have previously appeared in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, as well as previously unpublished pieces, the book takes on subjects as wide-ranging as the real purpose of Facebook, the importance of local libraries, and the slippery distinction between pleasure and joy. As in her novels, most recently 2016’s Swing Time, Smith brings to her nonfiction her impassioned close reading, comic sensibility, and incisive analytical capacity. She’s one of our keenest critics, and we are lucky to have her perspective as we orient ourselves to the cultural and political landscape of 2018.
I first heard of this novel from Garth Greenwell. Since I love his work, I figured I’d probably enjoy a book he recommends. When I saw that Jacqueline Woodson also blurbed the book, I was totally sold. The novel is about Maggie, a fiercely intelligent writer who believes herself to be unwaveringly devoted to her family and to God. But she meets a poet, James, and the two begin exchanging emails about philosophy and faith, which are some of the most intimate things two people can discuss. Their relationship develops into something… more. With short chapters, each packing an emotional and linguistic punch, this book is intensely beautiful.
Long before the critical acclaim and Obama mention of Fates and Furies, I was enchanted by Lauren Groff’s surrealist The Monsters of Templeton, which was also a sort-of love letter to one of the places that has made Groff who she is. Now, she’s releasing this short story collection about the state where she’s lived for 12 years, writing in her unstoppable prose about the sunshine, the animals, and the people. I find that often writers with gorgeous prose with novels I’ve loved perfect that style in their short stories, and I’m excited to see what Groff will do.
Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favourite romcom YA novels of 2017, and her next book, From Twinkle, with Love promises to give readers another delicious helping of adorable and romantic hijinks. Twinkle Mehra is an aspiring filmmaker, and we learn about her dreams through her letters to famous female directors. When she gets the chance to make a real film, through the help of fellow classmate Sahil Roy, it’s almost everything Twinkle has ever wanted—at least, it will be if it brings her secret crush Neil Roy, Sahil’s twin, closer to her. I can’t wait to see how Menon works her magic for Twinkle in this book, and if my reaction to seeing Dimple on shelves is any indication, even seeing the cover for Twinkle in bookstores will make my day.
Abbott uses the haunting of an unsolicited past secret to create a smart, sharp, and electric novel with a research lab as the backdrop. Kit Owens may be about to grab the future she’s always envisioned by being selected for a research team about PMDD, but a childhood friend she’d prefer to forget may bump her out of the running–and that’s the least of Kit’s problems… Abbott, an excellent writer with an impressive catalog, has managed to outdo herself with this page-turner.
These essays are exactly the hope we need during our present garbage fire. When we look back on the next few years – if we make it through the next few years – Chee will undoubtedly stand out as one our most important voices. His novels, Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, are beautiful marvels, but it is when he speaks in his own voice that his brilliance really shines. Ranging in subject from his own writing, past jobs, his father’s passing, the current administration, and more, Chee is a concise thinker who examines his personal choices, as well as our public issues, with a level head, wry insight, and heaps of compassion.
I first met and fell in love with Leah Burke in Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Despite being loved by her friends, by the end of the book it seemed very clear to me that Simon and the whole group mis-imagined Leah. That’s why I’m so excited the spotlight will be shined on her as a main character in this oh so swoon-worthy follow up. I’m sure this sarcastic, hard edge drummer girl will have a soft, emotional center to explore with insecurities about her appearance, not being out as bisexual to her friends, and a secret love of drawing. I would read (and probably love) Becky Albertalli’s grocery lists, but I’m beyond thrilled that instead I’ll get the chance to immerse myself in the high stakes drama of senior year, complete with college applications, first love, and prom.
Maya Aziz, a 17-year-old Indian-American Muslim, is figuring out this whole life thing — choosing between what her parents want for her and what she wants for herself, choosing a college, choosing how to go about romance — with the addition of Islamophobia. It’s an #ownvoices portrayal of hatred and bigotry, and sounds like just the book we need to kick off 2018. Somewhere on the internet, someone said this is Angie Thomas meets Jenny Han, and, just, yes. Give me it now.
The first volume of Emil Ferris’s My Favorite Thing is Monsters is nothing less than an absolute game-changer, a boundary-pushing, awe-inspiring work of art destined to enter the pantheon of all-time great graphic novels. At once harrowing and boisterous, the story of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, a girl whose obsession with pulp fiction propels her to solve the murder of her Holocaust-surviving neighbor, is also the story of American itself: an ecstatic and agonizing reconciliation of race, gender, sexuality, and class. Even if the second volume is only half as good as the first, it will still be a monumental achievement.
When it comes to topics like sexual violence and rape culture, there’s no one I trust more to handle them with grace than Roxane Gay. After all, Gay is the one who ably analyzed this aspect of our culture in Bad Feminist. She stared it down unflinchingly in An Untamed State. She gutted me with Hunger. In Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture, she brings together a collection of writers who have been touched by rape culture, including Amy Jo Burns and Lyz Lenz, and even actors like Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union. What does it mean to live in this world as a woman? This book is undoubtedly the answer.
The Exadans—humans immigrants from Earth—are well known throughout the Galactic Commons. Their descendants wear their Exadan heritage with pride and have been welcomed throughout the galaxy. But for the few left on the Exadan fleet, one looming question remains: what happens after a ship reaches its destination?
I’ve been eagerly anticipating the third Wayfarers book since falling head first into the series last year. Wayfarers is the most imaginative and compelling space opera I’ve read in years. The worldbuilding is unbelievably intricate, and—though the science is well written and prominent—the characters are always at the heart of the story. If you love good sci-fi, you absolutely have to read this series!
In this Atwoodesque dystopia, abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and only married couples are allowed to adopt. The novel follows five women–a single teacher desperate for a child, a pregnant high school student, a polar explorer, a frustrated mother of two, and an herbalist living on the fringes of society–as they navigate these new restrictions. Their lives converge when the herbalist becomes the target of a modern day witch-hunt. Red Clocks hits close to home and serves as an urgent reminder that we must continually fight not only to advance women’s rights, but also to preserve the rights we’ve already won.
In Emily X.R. Pan’s debut young adult novel, you follow Leigh Chen Sanders, who is convinced that when her mother committed suicide, she turned into a bird. She then travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time and find her mother, the bird. While she is searching, she uncovers family secrets and forming a relationship with her grandparents. This novel explores the depths of love and grief and trying to find who you are through all of that. I can’t wait until I can read this book and have it completely break my heart and then heal it.
Dhonielle Clayton, one half of the author team that created Tiny Pretty Things, is out with a new YA fantasy series! Camellia Beauregard is a revered Belle in the damned city of Orléans, where people are born gray and can only be made beautiful with the help of a Belle. But Camellia isn’t satisfied with just being a Belle…she wants to be the favorite Belle — the one who tends to the royal family and their court. But when she and her Belle sisters arrive at court, she soon realizes that being the favorite Belle is nothing like what she’s been led to believe. And if that cover is any indication, this book is going to be gorgeous, glamorous, and fierce as hell.
I first started to hear whispers about this book during the summer of 2017 and immediately started hunting down an ARC. The beautiful cover caught my eye, and what I found inside was a dark and intricate story about race, religion, and family. The book deals with some adult themes (drugs, mass shootings, mental illness, sexual assault) but is told so expertly that you’ll find yourself taken by the whirlwind. If you want something intense and exciting, this is definitely a book to pick up.
The Comfort Zone
Thorne’s 2016 office place romcom debut, The Hating Game, was by far the best contemporary romance I read that year, and arguably one of the best I’d *ever* read. It was a hilarious, intense, unputdownable book whose two main characters inhabited a fully realized world and had insane chemistry. If there’s one thing I took away from that book, it’s that Thorne is a woman who knows how to tell a good story. At this point I don’t even care what her long-awaited second novel is about: if The Comfort Zone is half as good as The Hating Game, I will enjoy the heck out of it. Please take my money, kthnx.
Coldest Girl in Coldtown and The Darkest Part of the Forest have cemented my belief that no one writes the tension between mortality and the lure of immortality like Holly Black. From what I gather from early reviews, The Cruel Prince has truly instated Black as the queen of the fey. The novel follows a mortal girl, kidnapped by and raised among the faeries. Her quest to belong among the people she so admires and loathes forces her down a murky path of violence and royal politics. Girls being powerful players in a world that constantly belittles and victimizes them is everything I need right now. I can’t wait to dig into this world.
As we look more toward feminist role models, The Female Persuasion reigns. Wolitzer’s ability to write nuanced female relationships makes her the perfect author to take on this topical-yet-eternal tale. Greer Kadetsky’s story is set against her initial waking to a new wave of feminism, incorporating the passion and hope in the discovery of that first cause that so fully captures your attention. The intensity of that moment and the people with which we experience it become crucial to our story, an idea that Wolitzer not only embraces but celebrates. As the author described herself, “I wanted to write about the people you meet who change your life forever.” She accomplished that in her popular work The Interestings, and pushed that theme even harder in her latest work.
Not gonna lie — I was initially drawn to the gorgeous cover of this novel. But then I read the blurb and was enthralled by the thought of “what if?” What if we know the date we will die? Would I live a meaningful life? Would I try to find a way to cheat death? What would I do differently with my time if I knew when it would end? Why would it be any different than living my life without knowing the date of my death? The Immortalists looks at all these questions and more, through the experiences of four siblings over the course of 50ish years. This novel attracted me because I’ve been missing my grandad a lot lately, and my grandmother died just past Christmas. Death and life are on my mind and it is a timely novel for me right now. I want to think about it but have a little distance to breathe…
Fans of creepy tales and The Toast can all rejoice, because Mallory Ortberg is gracing us with another book in 2018! The Merry Spinster is described as “collection of darkly playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales (but with a feminist spin).” The stories are based on Ortberg’s popular series of posts, “Children’s Stories Made Horrific,” for The Toast (RIP). Ortberg’s irreverent humor, feminist perspective, and unerring ability to find the most unnerving details in familiar stories are all sure to make this collection a winner. Plus, what could be better than curling up and waiting out the rest of winter with a scary book?
Now is the time (it’s always the time) to listen to the voices of black women, and Morgan Jerkins’ collection of linked essays This Will Be My Undoing is essential reading for 2018. The essays cover pop culture, feminism, racism, life as a black woman in the U.S., and more. They are both personal and political, centering the experience of being a black woman in a way that not many books do. People will come to this collection for different reasons, but everyone who reads it will find much that illuminates, provokes, entertains, and challenges. Morgan Jerkins is a young writer to watch. This is her debut book, a powerful start that promises great work to come.
Marilynne Robinson’s novels are among my all-time favorites, but I love her essays as well. So her new collection, coming on February 20th, is most definitely something to look forward to! In her nonfiction, Robinson writes with clarity and passion about America and its values. She digs into historical texts to consider how ideas from the past apply to our lives today—and how those ideas get misinterpreted and misused. Her words on these topics always feel fresh and original, as she challenges me to think beyond the sound bites and stereotypes that too often pass for discourse today.