The Best Books We Read In The First Half Of 2018
It was a very good year for books with "Mother," or "Motherhood," or some variant thereof in the title (following the surge, circa 2016, in books with "Girls" in the title). But which of the many dazzling new books on shelves are worth reading? As moms, we are generally too tired to read every new book or every buzzy book, and we are certainly too tired to pretend we wish to read George Saunders, so this list is all about what we ACTUALLY liked. Having trawled our GoodReads lists in search of the best books we read so far in 2018, we think you'll find there are some real goodies on here.
At least two books on the list offer a cursory or ongoing glance back at Princess Diana (interesting!), one series has become a movie in the time since it was first published, and the fiction and nonfiction works below generally all offer a window into our forever see-sawing emotions ( fear! love!). They are the books that we obsessively photographed and stored in our camera rolls; that we screen-capped in our Kindle apps, and posted in our Instagram stories with passages underlined in a thick, messy, finger swipe, convinced at the time that everyone we knew needed to see and understand the moment we had just passed through in our minds.
Please enjoy. (And then tell us about it.) — Romper's editorial team.
'Laura & Emma' by Kate Greathead
Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead (Simon & Schuster) $25.00 from Indiebound.
Laura is an Upper East Side WASP who grows up determined to buck convention and never have kids as a service to the planet... Emma is the daughter she conceives from a one-night stand, and who believes she is the result of a Swedish sperm donor.
From Emma's birth in the early '80s on through childhood and adolescence, the mother-daughter bond between Emma and Laura constantly shifts — I studied it with a pang in my stomach, looking for assurances about my relationship with my 3-year-old down the road.
Laura sees the way distance transmits itself from the relationship between herself and her own mother, the riotous "Bibs," down to the next generation — to the ties between Laura and the child she couldn't imagine not having.
In Laura's sister-in-law's painful off-stage suffering through postpartum depression, there is an acknowledgement of the high stakes of stepping off into thin air, into motherhood, even with the cushion of privilege and wealth. — Senior features editor, Janet Manley
'The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir' by Yrsa Daley-Ward
The Terrible: A Storyteller's Memoir by Yrsa Daley-Ward (Penguin Books), $10.22 from Amazon.
I read The Terrible because I heard author Yrsa Daley-Ward on the Call Your Girlfriend podcast and fell immediately in love with her voice. Upon arrival, it was one of those books I devoured in a day and then felt bereft. I've actually had a hard time finishing up this blurb because I fear my attempt to sum up or even describe this work will be totally inadequate.
In the official book description you'll find this: This is the story of Yrsa Daley-Ward, and all the things that happened — “even the terrible things. And God, there were terrible things.”
On the face of it, The Terrible is a coming-of-age memoir written by a poet of mixed West Indian and West African heritage, who grew up in the northwest of England. It's prose, but also poetry — Daley-Ward dives unashamedly and with great beauty and strength into the terrible ... and the exquisite and also the mundane. There is the particular brutality of adolescence; there is horror, loneliness, heartache, loss, addiction; and there is truth and magic. Every woman no matter her background will recognize what Daley-Ward means when she writes about the awakening "powerfear" that comes with being a girl who is becoming a woman.
It's stunning. I'll stop typing now because really you should read it for yourself. — Managing Editor, April Daniels Hussar
'Crazy Rich Asians' Trilogy
Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy by Kevin Kwan (Anchor), $9.60 from Amazon.
Let me just preface this by saying that I love a good piece of fiction that will totally distract me from reality. These days, I feel like my brain is operating at nearly-max capacity and experiencing heightened levels of anxiety thanks to motherhood, current events, and general adulting. The books I read & loved this year — and full disclosure, when I say "read" I mean "digested via audiobook" because I'm all about efficiency — are from the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy.
Yes, there is currently a movie based on the series in theaters. Yes, I was obsessed/addicted/transported. Yes, I was heartbroken to finish the third installment. Yes, I wish I could watch it in a movie theater without spending over $150 (for a sitter, tickets, transportation, and drinks).
What I loved about the series is that it delivered exactly what I expected and wanted. I'm also Asian, and I found several of the storylines especially relatable. It's a story about a girl who falls in love with a boy while they're living in the states, not realizing that his family is ridiculously wealthy, which means he's a hot hot hot commodity in his home country (Singapore). When he brings her overseas to meet his family and closest friends, there's a lot of juicy drama that goes down. Cue "do not disturb" sign. — Senior lifestyle editor, Anne Vorrasi
'Unwifeable' by Mandy Stadtmiller
Unwifeable by Mandy Stadtmiller, (Simon & Schuster), $27.00 from Simon & Schuster.
In this memoir, Stadtmiller takes us on sex-filled ride through post-divorce life as an editor and writer in New York City. What makes Stadtmiller's book so profound, moving, hilarious, and, at times, uncomfortable, is her willingness to be unabashedly honest. What most people wouldn't dare whisper, she leaves bare on the page. There are moments in the book when you fear for her, want to be her, feel an intrinsic need to protect her, all the while learning so much from her.
Unwifeable is a journey inward via the mistakes, lessons, and successes of someone else. By the end of the book you realize, like Stadtmiller, that you're not alone. — Senior identity editor, Danielle Campoamor
'In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox' by Carol Burnett
In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett (Penguin Random House), $11.41 from Amazon
Look, you don't have to be a classic television buff like me to enjoy the words of Carol Burnett, especially when it comes to hearing about the incredible 11 years she spent performing in her own musical comedy variety series. You guys, Carol Burnett is serious #goals. She and her team managed to put an entire hour-long show, complete with choreographed musical numbers, original songs, custom costumes, and timeless, hilarious sketches in a week. A week. I've had four piles of laundry on my couch that I still haven't tackled and it's been five days.
Basically, this book is full of Burnett sharing a ton of what she went through to make her show happen. From being ignored because she was just some female talent to having to learn how to handle confrontation in the writing room, it's an inspiring, balls-y look at how Hollywood could have tried really hard to keep her from having a good time — but she didn't let it. Bonus? She and her husband, who was also part of the show, were home for dinner with their kids every night and made it a huge part of their schedule. Like I said, #goals.
And if you like Carol Burnett and all of the amazing things she did, you'll love the behind-the-curtain peek at one of the most classic, beloved shows on television. — Lifestyle editor, Samantha Darby
'Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain' by Abby Norman
Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women's Pain by Abby Norman (Hachette Book Group), $24.98 from Hachette Book Group
This book is for anyone who has endured the pain of endometriosis and had that very same pain doubted, downplayed, or ignored entirely. Through her own personal story and a detailed history of how women's pain is often dismissed by the medical community, Norman chronicles a harrowing truth far too many women, non-binary, trans, and other marginalized groups know too be very real: when your pain is labeled as hysteria, it's impossible for you to obtain the treatment you need and deserve.
Through her prose and her candor, Norman makes you feel as though you're sitting across from a dear friend and having your own endometriosis story told back to you. Whether you're seeking to better understand what it's like to live with chronic pain, or you are in need of some solidarity, this book is a much-needed reminder that our pain is valid. And so is everyone else's. — Senior identity editor, Danielle Campoamor
'That Kind Of Mother' by Rumaan Alam
That Kind Of Mother by Rumaan Alam (HarperCollins), $26.00 from HarperCollins.
A white woman adopts the black baby of her deceased nanny.
Those are the outlines I encountered with trepidation as a guilty white lady, only to find a complex and layered look at motherhood that stayed with me long after I closed the book.
Rebecca, a diplomat's wife and poet, gives birth to her son around the same time icon Princess Diana has her sons, and comes to rely on Priscilla, her nanny, snagged from the hospital, for support as she flounders. Considering Priscilla "family" — despite the limitations of her understanding of Priscilla's experience as a Black woman, or that of Priscilla's grown daughter Cheryl — Rebecca pushes to adopt Priscilla's baby when she dies shortly after childbirth. Cheryl has a newborn, too, and acquiesces, it being the easiest option at the time.
The intervening years prove that motherhood, and, yes, transracial adoption, challenge everything you know about yourself; every bias (even in how Rebecca treats her two children).
A moving imagined scene between Rebecca and Princess Diana late in the story seemed to speak for every unspoken fear or doubt I have had as a mother. Incredible. — Senior features editor, Janet Manley