by Anna Sandy-Elrod
These are in no particular order.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
When I heard that Colson Whitehead had written a book about American slavery in which the metaphorical Underground Railroad was turned into a physical, working railway for slaves to escape to freedom, I had to buy it for the sake of my childhood self who definitely thought that the Underground Railroad was an actual, physical railroad that ran underground (I was obviously corrected at some point). Aside from the fantastical railroad, this book takes a profound look at the life of a runaway slave and honestly is one of the best things I’ve read ever.
- Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Honestly, everything Jesmyn Ward has ever written is the best thing I’ve read. There’s a reason she’s won the National Book Award twice and anything else I could say would be redundant.
- Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
This book of poems was so good that only a string of curse words could properly describe my reaction to it. Read it yourself.
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I’m definitely late to this book, which was published when I could barely read, so you may already know this but oh my god this book is equal parts breathtaking and devastating. Centered around the story of two fraternal twins, the book unravels the past childhood tragedies that led the adult twins to a present reunion, excavating how love, and its small things, destroyed the lives of these twins and everyone around them. I cried in public.
- Circe by Madeline Miller
I’m a sucker for a good Greek myth retelling and this is one of the best.
- Bluets by Maggie Nelson
You might think a book of prose poetry about a color would quickly get redundant, but you would be wrong. Part autobiography, part philosophical musing, part love letter, part one-hundred other things, Bluets absorbed me and took me along with its fascination for all things blue.
- On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
I never thought I would get that into a book about the vaccination of children, but boy oh boy I did. I read this in the bathtub and kept having to let the water out and run more hot water because I couldn’t put it down (my apologies for the waste of resources, I know).
- Milk by Dorothea Lasky
In Dorothea Lasky’s new book, there is a poem called “Do You Want To Dip The Rat,” that begins with the lines “Do you want to dip the rat/ completely in oil/ do you want to dip the rat/ before we eat it eat it.” That should be all I have to tell you. You should be ordering this book right now in another tab.
- The Girls by Emma Cline
If you don’t think you’d be into a fictionalized retelling of the story of the infamous Manson girls, then honestly I’m probably not the reader for you to take suggestions from.
- Florida by Lauren Groff
Groff’s collection of short stories (set in, you guessed it, Florida) is sometimes absurd, sometimes delightfully mundane, and always rendered gorgeous on the sentence level. It barely made it onto my 2018 list; it was a Christmas gift and I read it in a day.
These are in order.
This biopic based on Sidonie Gabrielle-Colette, a late 19th/early 20th century French writer who wrote and published several highly successful novels under her husband’s name, seems to have flown mostly under the radar, but was easily the best film I saw all year. Not only was it visually stunning, but it also tackled gender identity, sexual orientation, women’s rights, and a host of other social constraints that we like to think of as modern. Also, Keira Knightley is never not good in a period drama.
- The Favourite
Dark, witty, farcical, and gorgeous, The Favourite is unafraid to upend our expectations of a period drama about royalty, painting its queen as absurd, easily manipulated, and often gross, while also making its female characters full and defiantly well-rounded, with all of their flaws and strength on display. The costume design alone is worth seeing, but the film holds up at every turn. At the end, I sat staring at the screen in surprise, thinking it surely could not have actually ended that way, and I absolutely loved it.
- A Star Is Born
You’ll be heartbroken for a solid week, but it’s worth it.
I just wanted to go out and blow my life’s savings (who am I kidding? I’m a PhD poet; I have no savings) on super-structured, completely impractical clothes made from metal and paper after seeing this documentary that takes a personal look at the life and career of the late Alexander McQueen. I also definitely cried more than once.
- Black Panther
I mean, obviously. And I’m not ready to talk about Infinity War.
These are things I ate in 2018 that I can’t stop thinking about.
- Bolognese pasta + a hand-sliced ham & cheese platter, SimBIOsi, Florence Italy
This is the actual best meal I have ever eaten. This is a meal I would fly to Florence just to eat if I could. This is a meal that haunts my dreams.
- Rose + dark chocolate gelato, Gelateria del Vialle, Rome Italy
I ate this gelato so often in my 48 hours in Rome that the shop guy started laughing when I walked in.
- Veggie melt, Oxford Exchange, Tampa Florida
I ate this every day that I was in Tampa, and not just because all of the other restaurants were gross, tacky, chain options.
- Brown sugar tart, Swan Restaurant, London England
I dream about this tart.
- Al pastor tacos, Muchacho, Atlanta Georgia
I’m there embarrassingly often eating an embarrassing amount of these tacos, but so what? I was there this morning.
- Honey gold wings, Mr’s P’s, Memphis Tennessee
Real talk: why is honey gold wing sauce only a thing in Memphis? Why haven’t other people heard of it? Every time I visit home, I inhale an order of honey gold wings, all flats, and feel alive again.
- Pulled pork plate, Central BBQ, Memphis Tennessee
The other thing I inhale every time I visit home. My husband’s biggest flaw is that -he thinks Memphis’ barbecue is second-best to Kansas City’s and he’s just wrong.
- Biscuit with pineapple jam, Rising Son, Avondale Estates Georgia
I’m gluten intolerant but I’ll eat this biscuit anyway.
- Honeycomb Forest ice cream, Butter + Cream, Decatur Georgia
If I’m having ice cream, I’m probably having this one flavor from this one place.
- Butternut squash soup, Revival, Decatur Georgia
Everything at Revival is delicious but if I close my eyes right now, I can taste the butternut squash soup. Yep. There it is. Excuse me while I call and make a reservation.