These might not be wine or food-related…but I’ve definitely read all of them over food (and sometimes drinks). Seriously, my version of “sad desk lunch” is “ladies who lunch…while reading.” Bon appétit and happy reading.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara: "The bane of cold cases: knowledge disregarded as irrelevant but later deemed critical has died with the knower." This excerpt could not be more prophetic, and chilling, considering McNamara passed before she saw the Golden State Killer finally arrested this year. And while she might not have been an official detective, her tenacious research and unshakable commitment to this project (not to mention riveting narrative style) absolutely contributed to finally catching him, no doubt whatsoever.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou: Carreyrou digs deep into the Theranos backstory, well beyond the shocking revelations first revealed thru his diligent investigative reporting for the Wall Street Journal in the fall of 2015. Carreyrou does a masterful job of weaving together a wide swath of characters and story threads, keeping readers hooked—even if they happen to know Theranos’s current state of affairs (spoiler: not good) or not. And for literary nerds, there is a narrative voice shift midway through that amps up the suspense level in an unexpected but completely welcome manner.
Robin by Dave Itzkoff: The world has never felt more empty without Robin Williams. I still remember where I was when I found out about his passing. It was shocking then, and sobering now. Itzkoff is brilliant at the celebrity profile (not a dead art!) and he really brings that talent into telling a story worthy of someone as genuine, complex, and one-of-a-kind as Williams.
Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal by Ken Bensinger: While the Olympic and World Cup champion U.S. Women's team is always overlooked, many sportscasters and fans often assume most Americans don't care much about soccer. But the FBI and the IRS certainly did as the two agencies teamed up (with a number of international intelligence agency partners) to bring down the world's largest sporting body of the world's most popular sport in a corruption scandal spanning decades, dozens of countries, and billions of dollars. (None of that is hyperbole.) And yet, it might not have been possible without a few IRS agents who love the sport—as well as a few of soccer's grand dons willing to turn witness for a deal.
Becoming by Michelle Obama: Come on—did any other book matter this year as much as this one? A complete rebuttal in tone and substance to the current political tone in this country, the former First Lady’s memoir might be the most inspiring and hopeful book I’ve read since November 2016. And while the world became acquainted with Michelle Obama when she became First Lady, that truly is only the last part of this book. The parts I enjoyed most were her college and post-college years, her experiences in the workplace and in life truly so relatable. I look forward to when the sequel to this comes out decades from now.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: I still shudder every time I catch myself thinking about the premise of this book. And yet the last fourth of the book manages to do what I would not have thought possible given the first three acts and that is leave a positive, hopeful ending—an ending that is some how resolved and unresolved simultaneously. I can’t explain that last part too much, but when you get to the end, let’s just say you’ll understand. (Also great historical fiction for 1970s-thru-present day New York and San Francisco.)
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: You will be mentally exhausted after reading this book, but the effort and commitment pays off (for the reader) in the end. An end that is predictable to the reader (intentionally so), making it all the more gutting when you finally reach that inevitable point. Many of the foreshadowing elements are meant to stand out as obvious, but then there are still some subtle nods on the narrator’s part and the few characters around her that point toward what is coming next, leaving a lingering melancholy over the reader well after turning the last page.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal: I can’t remember which book club it was that sparked my interest in this one. (I want to say it was the Reese Witherspoon Hello Sunshine book club on Instagram.) But wow, this one did not get the attention it deserved from end-of-year book lists or even social media during the year. Perhaps just because not only was there So. Much. News. this year, but also So. Many. Books. That said, do not let this one fall through the cracks. It might sound saucy or like a romance novel based on the title, but it is So. Much. More. Than. That. Truly this is such an insightful (albeit fictional) but also entertaining read into a specific culture, especially from a young and female perspective.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi: Good news: this is only part one of a trilogy. Bad news (but not so bad each day…): The second installment comes out in February, which is incredibly closer now than when I finished this book in August. Sure, there are some plot holes and demands for leaps of faith on the part of readers. But this is fantasy. You know what you’re getting into when it’s fantasy. Adeyemi is already a gifted world-building I haven’t had this much fun diving into a new fictional series—YA or not—since The Hunger Games a decade ago.
Circe by Madeline Miller: This isn’t just one of my favorite books of 2018—it’s not one of my favorite books, full stop. I get all of my books from the library—or else I’d be more broke than I already am—but I enjoyed Circe so much that I’m getting my own copy because I already have plans to reread it over and over again.