2018 was an excellent year for books, and we’re beginning our look back at the year in culture with some thoughts on the nonfiction books that most impressed us.
Alexander Chee, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays
Alexander Chee’s eagerly-awaited essay collection was both a fantastic demonstration of the possibilities of the form and a moving chronicle of the disparate aspects of its author’s life.
Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir
Kiese Laymon has already demonstrated his skill at fiction and essays; with this memoir, he opts for a more expansive look at his own life, pondering questions of family and the body along the way.
Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America
In a strong year for essay collections, the debut from Morgan Jerkins was a particular highlight, abounding with a fantastic sense of place and its author’s personality.
Porochista Khakpour, Sick
Porochista Khakpour’s memoir is at once a document of one artist’s evolution and a harrowing account of life with chronic illness — an urgent and necessary work at a time when debates over healthcare are a regular part of daily life.
Brian Phillips, Impossible Owls
Brian Phillips’s collection serves as an informative and bold look at a host of fascinating subjects, written with resonant prose and a fascinating sense of detail.
Nicole Chung, All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir
Nicole Chung’s acclaimed memoir grapples with a host of issues central to life, including family and identity — and in doing so creates a moving portrait of the importance of understanding oneself.
John Lingan, Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
John Lingan’s Homeplace chronicles a fascinating place — in this case the Virginia town of Winchester — and then memorably expands on that, exploring how this town’s struggles are indicative of larger national questions.
Jenny Boully, Betwixt-and-Between: Essays on the Writing Life
Formally inventive and frequently gripping, the essays in this collection from Jenny Boully demonstrate just how challenging literature can be a mirror of its author’s psyche and concerns — and the often transcendental charge that can emerge from immersing oneself in them.
Alice Bolin, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession
At a cultural moment wherein crime narratives (fictional and nonfictional) abound, Alice Bolin’s essay collection delves beneath the surface to uncover exactly why these narratives resonate — and the unnerving aspects that go along with that.
James Bridle, New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future
In this work, James Bridle explores the convergence of technology and culture, delving into the ways in which the former influences the latter as well as how the two create seismic shifts in one another — influencing our daily lives.