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  • Writer's pictureSanjay Saverimuttu

A Year in Books (2018)

New Years Resolutions are always difficult to maintain. We can start off with the best of intentions, but 12 months is a long time to sustain a habitual change. I did manage to follow through on one resolution I set forth at the beginning of the year. Read 52 books in a year; one book a week. Posting my progress and receiving feedback via social media, really helped to hold myself accountable. It’s important to have a support system and cheering squad, even when it comes to the small goals. So thank you to everyone who said they were inspired to read more, because they saw my reading list.

Just some of the books that I read this year.

As you can see from the list at the end of this post, my reading pace differed from month to month, but my love and anticipation for the next book never died. I now get anxious if I don’t have a book lined up after my current read. I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of TV I watch. More importantly, I’m extremely conscious of who authored what I’m reading. I’m actively seeking books and authors that’ll help me “decolonize my bookshelf” filled with the novels of white straight men. This endeavor isn't always successful, but just as my art seeks to expand the narratives told in ballet, it is important for me to do the same in the literature I read.

Here are just a few of my favorites (in no particular order) from this past year:

Dear World: A Syrian Girl’s Story of War and Plea for Peace by Bana Alabed

She may be the youngest author on this list but one of the most impactful. There’s just something about the candor and honesty of a child’s perspective and that is essential to the power of Bana’s story. As her family tries to navigate living amidst the conflict in Syria, Bana’s innocent perspective keeps the audience focused and not overwhelmed by the extreme chaos and violence surrounding her. Throughout the book her mother interjects her own perspective and anecdotes, to not only color the story but to add context to the overall conflict. This book showcases that you are never too young to tell your story, and you are never too young to be heard.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

This is a fascinating story that explores the intersection of science and racial politics, so naturally it’s up my alley. Everyone who has studied biology has come across HeLa cells, but we don’t necessarily know the story of their origin. This story calls into question the morality and ethics of science and those that are left behind in the wake of scientific breakthroughs. It serves as a reminder how those of us in the sciences have a responsibility to the communities we benefit from and serve. Hopefully intersectional stories such as this one, lead to a scientific revolution that involves a more comprehensive and socially conscious path forward.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I was skeptical of a novel written about queer people by a straight person. The fact that it was being turned into a mainstream movie also didn’t help these doubts. But it is undeniable how simply adorable and honest this relationship is as depicted. Sometimes you just need that teen romance novel. For many in my generation and older, a novel that showcased a relatable queer relationship didn’t exist. Not to mention a realistic multi-ethnic cast of characters. If anything this book is a call to subvert genres and write the stories you needed in your youth.

No Single Sparrow Makes a Summer edited by the Louisville Story Program

I encourage everyone to find a local author and go buy their book. What’s great about the Louisville Story Program is that they are helping develop those authors and telling stories that are often overlooked. Many people who aren’t from Louisville would be surprised to learn of the racial diversity that does exist here. All of the young girls who contributed to this book just graduated from Iroqouis High School (where my partner teaches), and provide us with glimpses into their lives as refugees, immigrants, teen mothers, and residents of the West End. For Louisville residents this is a must read, as we discover that there are so many stories this city has to tell. Support local authors and empower young people to tell their stories.

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

This is the most emotional book I read all year. How do you continue on with life when your partner, your parents, and your children are killed in an instant? Sonali gives a raw look at her survival of the 2004 Tsunami that fatally hit the east coast of Sri Lanka, where she and her family were vacationing. She isn’t afraid to say the horrible thoughts that crossed her mind, or her dips in and out of mental stability. Sonali was my mother's classmate which brought the reality of this story closer to home. There’s nothing easy about this novel, and probably should not be read in one sitting. Loss and trauma is something you can’t just get over, but it is important to keep going.

And for those that wanted a list of all the books I read this year, enjoy. Here's to the next 52.

Books finished in 2018 (58 total)

Books read in January (12 total)

  • Call Me By Your Name (Andre Aciman)

  • Even This Page is White (Vivek Shraya)

  • The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)

  • Day (Elie Wiesel)

  • Fire and Fury (Michael Wolff)

  • Dear World (Bana Alabed)

  • The Runaway Species (Anthony Brandt & David Eagleman)

  • Milk and Honey (Rupi Kaur)

  • The Story of Stuff (Annie Leonard)

  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

  • Kindred (Octavia Butler)

  • Black Genealogy (Kiki Petrosino)

Books Read in February (7 total)

  • The Good Immigrant (ed. Nikesh Shukla)

  • Large Animals (Jess Arndt)

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot)

  • Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro) Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People (Reni Eddo-Lodge)

  • The Sympathizer (Viet Thanh Nguyen)

  • Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves)

Books Read in March (8 total)

  • The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (bell hooks)

  • Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

  • A Plea for the Animals (Matthieu Ricard)

  • Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness (Susannah Cahalan)

  • The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (Scott Galloway)

  • Inside/Out (Joseph Osmundson)

  • IRL (Tommy Pico)

  • Intimacy Idiot (Isaac Oliver)

Books Read in April (2 total)

  • Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)

  • Nature Poem (Tommy Pico)

Books Read in May (5 total)

  • Siddhartha (Herman Hesse)

  • Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)

  • Less (Andrew Sean Greer)

  • Heart Berries (Terese Marie Mailhot)

  • The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

Books Read in June (2 total)

  • Freshwater (Akwaeke Emezi)

  • There There (Tommy Orange)

Books Read in July (6 total)

  • The Power (Naomi Alderman)

  • The Argonauts (Maggie Nelson)

  • The Sun and Her Flowers (Rupi Kaur)

  • An American Marriage (Tayari Jones)

  • Call Her By Her Name (Bianca Lynne Spriggs)

  • Witch Wife (Kiki Petrosino)

Books Read in August (2 total)

  • The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

  • Super Late Bloomer (Julia Kaye)

Books Read in September (2 total)

  • George (Alex Gino)

  • Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan)

Books Read in October (2 total)

  • Transgender History (Susan Stryker)

  • Delusions of Gender (Cordelia Fine)

Books Read in November (6 total)

  • No Single Sparrow Makes a Summer (Louisville Story Program)

  • Sister Outsider (Audre Lorde)

  • Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (Jose Antonio Vargas)

  • Becoming (Michelle Obama)

  • Eloquent Rage (Brittany Cooper)

  • Show Your Work (Austin Kleon)

Books Read in December (4 total)

  • Nepantla: An Anthology (ed. Christopher Soto)

  • A View from the Bottom (Nguyen Tan Hoang)

  • The Unwanted (Don Brown)

  • Wave (Sonali Deraniyagala)

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