Raquel’s Year in Books: 2018
As 2018 comes to an end, we consider the reading that defined each of our years. Next up, Creative Director and Fashion Editor Raquel.
What kind of reading defined your year?
I don’t think I got through much in the first six months; I haven’t been an academic reader for ages and so my cycles fluctuate through time. Sometimes I go months without anything leaving impact. The most effective catalyst for me was probably our What We’re Reading Series, not only because it gives me a few new titles to add to my TBR every month, but because it’s also served as a fun assignment for myself to make sure I regularly have something to contribute.
How many books are left in your to-be-read pile?
That depends on the pile! I think I’ve brought home more books than usual in the past year, and I tend to keep them in specific categories either by where I picked them up, or according to genre. My Switzerland pile is three or four? My Nashville pile as well, but I’m currently working through my New Year’s Eve/January pile which includes about six new books and a couple of Advanced Reading Copies I need to work through ASAP to write reviews for.
What are your top five books of the year?
What – personally – is the most important book you read this year?
I had started Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin before my trip abroad this summer and was touched when Olivia gifted me her copy during my stay. At some point in our friendship we bonded over our similar family dynamics and knowing she felt some sort of way about a book involving family almost guaranteed it’d affect me just as well. I can’t describe how exactly, but I still think about that book every time it catches my eye from my bookshelf.
And in terms of public reach – politics, current events, topics, etc.?
The Power. This book, oh my god. I have had so many emotions about it, not only during but since I’ve read it. To say that I had the most difficult chapters to get through during one of the hardest weeks of the year (the Kavanaugh hearings...) is a wrenching understatement. I’ve started and stopped an in-depth piece on this book a million times in my head.
Did anything you read inspire you aesthetically?
October reads are always magically-driven, but the last couple of weeks, I read Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford to get me in the holiday spirit and in the last few days I’ve been reading A Curious Invitation by Suzette Field to inspire my New Year’s party mood. The latter chronicles forty parties in literature, providing plenty of vicarious frivolities for the homebody in all of us.
Did anything keep you up reading until the early hours of the morning?
Most of what I finish is because it’s consumed me so much I can’t stop reading; I love to get lost in a book. I know I read snippets of The Power and French Exit during insomniac nights, but I think the only thing I actually stayed up for was Sally Rooney’s short story Mr. Salary. It wasn’t a long read but I definitely put off going straight to bed when I came across it one night in November.
How many books did you finish?
I didn’t start keeping track until July, but it’s been thirteen since then, including a handful of short stories but not including my regular dips into poetry. Although I can’t remember that I finished more than three full books before that. A small number in comparison but a decent leap from the horrific reader’s block of years past. Here’s hoping 2019 at least doubles that number.
Were there any books that you abandoned? If so, why?
A few, either because they didn’t manage to hold me long enough to keep reading, or because a different book or work responsibilities stole my attention. Short story anthologies like Lauren Groff’s Florida were picked up and dropped between longer reads, taking in one or two stories at a time but still not finished. I’m easily distracted.
Did you reread any old favorites?
I reread Rules of Civility every year, or as much as I can of it, already knowing where my favorite passages lie for easy access. I also did a mid-year reread of Pride and Prejudice, as it had been a while.
Did you read anything outside of your preferred genre?
My preferred genre is pretty vague, although as I’ve mainly stuck to Modern writers between 1900 and 1940 in the past I’ve turned that quite around in the number of contemporary reads I’ve picked up this year.
If you’re in the academic world, did you make time for leisure reading?
I’m not, but I’ll turn that around and make this a wild card: as all of my reading is leisure reading, I’ve also delved into a few things for work, mainly things on how to be your own PR (I worked for a bit in marketing) or how to function as a freelancer in the world today. The most effective was probably Manage Your Day to Day, a series of essays by creatives detailing the schedules that work for them. I’ve had a lot of luck testing out each routine and customizing to tailor a working method that suits me.
Did you read any books released in 2018? If not, are there any you want to read?
Started more but only finished French Exit, Useless Magic, and The Wedding Date. 2018 didn’t involve a list so much as picking anything up to get me into reading more, and I think 2019 will be a year for actually catching up with everything that’s caught my eye enough to bring home in the last twelve months. There’s plenty of new releases: Social Creature, Normal People, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and The Ensemble are all at the top of my list.
What book do you most want to recommend to people?
I’ve probably recommended everything mentioned throughout to at least one person, I like to tailor to people depending on what I know of their reading preferences and what sort of story they’re looking for in the moment. But if you want to spend a few days destroying your entire world go ahead and pick up The Power.
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