I didn’t originally plan to exclusively read books written by women in 2018, at least not in the beginning. In the beginning, I just started reading. Then it was February, I was dutifully logging my latest reads on Goodreads, as I’ve done for past decade or so, and I realized all seven of the books I’d read in 2018 were written by women.
“Huh,” I thought. “Maybe I should make this a thing.”
I privately declared I would only read books written by women for the first quarter of 2018. And then March ended and I realized I hadn’t once wanted to read a book written by a dude so I figured, fuck it, let’s keep this thing going.
I wanted to do it for a few reasons, mostly because I was curious. I wanted to know how much effort it would take to read only the woman-written. (Mostly none.) I wondered if I’d feel like I was missing out by not reading best-selling new releases written by men. (I didn’t.) I wanted to challenge myself to discover new authors, to wander away from that list of best sellers and hear from new voices.
It wasn’t just that I wanted to read books written by woman, I wanted to read books written by a diverse array of women, from women of color and deaf women, from female immigrants and women who live in countries far different from my own, from poor women and wealthy women and LGBTQ+ women. I wanted to diversify my reading portfolio.
And I did. By the end of 2018 I’d read 69 books written by women and not a single one written by a dude. It was pretty easy. Only twice were there books I wanted to read that were dude-written: Scott Jurek’s North about running the Appalachian Trail and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. And that’s it.
Here’s what I read in 2018:
JANUARY || The best: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn + Girl at War by Sara Nović, a deaf author who writes about the challenges of being a deaf author here. Notable mention also goes to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which was and is super relevant.
MARCH || The best: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah + The Power by Naomi Alderman which made me think about power and how dangerous it can be, no matter whose hands it’s in, + An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.
APRIL || The best: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel + Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, which I found solidly boring until halfway through everything changed and it suddenly became a very, very good book.
MAY || The best: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell which was probably one of the best thrillers I read all year, + Educated by Tara Westover which I related to in a few all-too-real ways even if Westover’s tone annoyed the fuck out of me, + Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, an incredible work of historical fiction.
JUNE || The best: Circe by Madeline Miller which is the grown-up version of the Greek myths I devoured as a preteen, + Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao, probably the most gut-wrenching book I read in 2018. Notable mention goes to Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls. The worst: Lauren Groff’s latest, Florida, which I hated so much it made me question my judgement on Groff’s other books, which I’d generally enjoyed.
JULY || The best: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng + Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate which revealed a terrible and dark history of taking children from poor families and adopting them out to wealthy southern families, + The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya.
AUGUST || The best: Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle by Kristen Green which taught me about my own high school’s desegregation story, + We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter.
SEPTEMBER || The best: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter who writes terrible things quite well.
OCTOBER || The best: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. I read six books in October but this is really the only one worth mentioning.
NOVEMBER || The best: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui, one of the best books I read last year. Notable mention goes to The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. The worst: Home Front by Kristin Hannah because I should have known better than to read a book about women in the military as a woman in the military because I know too much and was enraged in the first 20 pages but kept reading anyway just so I could sass about it on the internet. I also mostly hated My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh because really, what was the point of that book?
DECEMBER || The best: Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the oldest child of Steve Jobs who spent the first few years of her life denying she was his, + Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. The worst: The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes which I read because sometimes I need easy chic lit in between heavy tomes about death, war or poverty but this stupid book took me two full months to read and was absolute garbage.