The books I loved in 2018

I set myself a goal of reading 52 books in 2018. Most were in English, some were in french, mostly paper books with few ebooks and audiobooks. A mix of fiction and non fiction. A lot of exploration into identity, religion and politics.

I didn’t force myself to read the ones I didn’t enjoy (life is too short) but some were really amazing. I wanted to share the short list here with you.

Fiction:

Sing Unburied Sing: this one was hands down the one that will stay with me for a while. A haunting exploration of race, power and family bonds.

The Perfect Nanny: Through the precise description of the young couple and that of the fascinating and mysterious character of the nanny, it is our time that reveals, with its conception of love and education, relations of domination and money, prejudices of class or culture. Leïla Slimani's dry, cutting-edge style, bursting with splashes of dark poetry, sets off a mesmerizing suspense from the very first pages.

L’Art de perdre: unfortunately this one was not translated but it’s a gem of a book. It resonated with me because I’m algerian but it is on the main theme of cultural inheritance and displacement.
The Algeria from which his family comes has long been for Naima a backdrop of little interest. Yet, in a French society crossed by identity issues, everything seems to want to return to its origins. What connection could she have with a family story that has never been told to her?

Ordinary Grace: It’s a wonderful coming of age of young boy through his family’s tragedy.It’s full of twists and turns and really hard to put down.

Non-Fiction:

Devil in the Grove: i listened to this on a long drive back and from to PA. Most things I knew about Thurgood Marshall were related to his work on Brown vs. Board of Education but the events on this book happened before that. A violent sheriff keeps rules Lake County assuring the Orange Baron’s their profitability on the backs of cheap Jim Crow labor. A 17 year old white girl cried rape and four young black men were rounded up. Their main crime being imagining a future beyond the citrus grove. Gripping and gut wrenching.

Les derniers jours de Mohamed: The last days of Mohamed. Yet another book that deserved to be translated. Being muslim, I’m always looking for reference book and research that goes beyond the dogma. This book was enlightening. Throughout this day-to-day account of the most mysterious event in the history of Islam, Hela Ouardi, a Tunisian academic, explores and confronts the oldest Sunni and Shiite sources. These reveal to us another face of the Prophet, that of a man threatened on all sides, weakened by the internal rivalries and the enemies born of his conquests. Everything is done so that he leaves no clear direction on his succession. His Companions are engaged in a struggle for power and his clan is tearing open, paving the way for murderous wars that still bloody our world today.

Janesville: In the aftermath of the Trump election many books have been written to try and understand the motivations of the MAGA voters. This book is the story of what happens to a town after it’s factory stills. The aftermath of the 2008 crisis and the truth no politicians dares to stay. The jobs lost are lost forever and we need to find new ways to re-create a healthy prosperous working class.

The Origin of Others: i wasn’t born in the US and my reflection on race and why it matters only started since I’ve moved here. I was an immigrant in two countries and i am sensitive to the way we can point to the “others” but I could never put to words so elegantly my thought on the themes addressed in this book. Race, Fear, borders, mass movement of people, desire of belonging… all themes that preoccupy me and dominate today’s world politics.

Educated: I read this one twice. Once for me and another time because my book club picked it up. The author was born to survivalists in rural Idaho and had nothing resembling a formal education or life for that matter. It might sound trivial but to me it was liberating in a way. Children are resilient and their success is also determined by who they are. It’s not all on me