From twists and turns in The Woman in the Window, to socially relevant novels of fiction, to powerful new memoirs by Sally Field and Tina Turner, these are my picks for the 10 best books of the year.
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare. A standout character-driven psychological thriller with a big load of genuine twists.
The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis
Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer. Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs. A personal and very emotionally charged story that I recommend to anyone who likes YA and LGBTQ narratives.
I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter
Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished. Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper. But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her. The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place. I Stop Somewhere is not to be missed. Raw, emotional, powerful, important, and real. Please go read it, and don’t skip the author’s note at the end. Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend.
Falling With Wings: A Mother’s Story by Dianna De La Garza
Before she was mother to global superstar Demi Lovato, she was just Dianna Hart, and she tells her story from the very beginning in this complete and genuinely affecting memoir. Dianna had big plans of becoming a country music star, but her life went in a different direction than her dreams. She developed an eating disorder early in life to gain a sense of control in her strict upbringing. As she continued to struggle with body image and her obsession with being perfect her entire adult life, she was also met with other difficult situations. Her husband and father of her two eldest daughters, Dallas and Demi, had his own troubles that effected the entire family. She coped with alcohol and pills, forming a long-lasting addiction. She’s had terrible lows but also some great highs as she watched her daughters break out in Hollywood to become strong, empowered young women. As a mother caring for daughters with addictions while continuing to battle her own, Dianna offers a unique perspective. And as a family, they have survived everything life has thrown at them and come away from it stronger than ever. Dianna tells her story of living through and surviving adversity—with tremendous strength, love, and faith. Overall a very interesting and powerful read that will open the eyes of any Demi Lovato fan or anyone who has ever followed a child star. I can only commend Dianna De La Garza for finding a way to share her story with the world in such an open and honest way.
The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants—the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it’s located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming—until one of them mysteriously disappears… Vermont, 2014. As much as she’s tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister’s death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can’t shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case. When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past—and a voice that won’t be silenced. A good mystery for anyone in need of a good mystery.
Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession by Alice Bolin
A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women. In her debut collection, Alice Bolin turns a critical eye to literature and pop culture, the way media consumption reflects American society, and her own place within it. From essays on Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, Bolin illuminates our widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster a man’s story. From chronicling life in Los Angeles to dissecting the “Dead Girl Show” to analyzing literary witches and werewolves, this collection challenges the narratives we create and tell ourselves, delving into the hazards of toxic masculinity and those of white womanhood. Beginning with the problem of dead women in fiction, it expands to the larger problems of living women—both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate. Sharp, incisive, and revelatory, Dead Girls is a much-needed dialogue on women’s role in the media and in our culture.
The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously. The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.
In Pieces by Sally Field
One of the most celebrated, beloved, and enduring actresses of our time, Sally Field has an infectious charm that has captivated the nation for more than five decades, beginning with her first television role at the age of seventeen. With raw honesty and with all the humility and authenticity her fans have come to expect, Field brings readers behind-the-scenes for not only the highs and lows of her star-studded early career in Hollywood, but deep into the truth of her lifelong relationships—including her complicated love for her own mother. Powerful and unforgettable, In Pieces is an inspiring account of life as a woman in the second half of the twentieth century. The book doesn’t ever lose sight of the fact that it’s not only about Field’s career or her life as an actress, it’s about her life and all that has encompassed it. The end result is incredibly moving and powerful, and I recommend to any fan large or small of the beloved actress and icon.
My Love Story by Tina Turner
Tina Turner—the long-reigning queen of rock & roll and living legend—sets the record straight about her illustrious career and complicated personal life in this eye-opening and compelling memoir. From her early years in Nutbush, Tennessee to her rise to fame alongside Ike Turner to her phenomenal success in the 1980s and beyond, Tina candidly examines her personal history, from her darkest hours to her happiest moments and everything in between. My Love Story is an explosive and inspiring story of a woman who dared to break any barriers put in her way. Emphatically showcasing Tina’s signature blend of strength, energy, heart, and soul, this is a gorgeously wrought memoir as enthralling and moving as any of her greatest hits.
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
I know this book didn’t come out in 2018 but I read it in 2018 and loved it very much so I figured it deserved a spot on this list (also, did I need one last book to bring this list to 10 and couldn’t find one? Yes.) Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, “bitches gotta eat” blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette—she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”—detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms—hang in there for the Costco loot—she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths. Highly recommend for anyone who needs a good, relatable chuckle.