2018 was a year full of the holiest breaths, lit up & thrilling on breeze. It was, if you will recall, my Year of Inhale—& so I spent most of this year wearing art like a favourite sweater. The kind of devastation & joy that lives on the page, in the screen, but spreads inevitably through the whole body. A year unfolding in the arms of wonder & hurt, storm & sun, minutes & hours of art, wish bone-sharp, singing.
Here, then, is a list of the best literature, music, poetry, podcasts, & miscellaneous internet lovelies I consumed in 2018. The art that served as figurative & literal lifelines when the year pushed me far from shore, left me floundering beneath the surface. I hope you take them as the gifts that they are. Allow them to warm you on winter nights & light your way when all hope seems lost. That, after all, is what art has always been for.
(A note: below is the list of my absolute favourite art of this year, but it is in no way representative of everything I consumed. If you are so inclined, take a look at the full list of my 2018 art on Tumblr. If you'd like to see the past two years’ love lists, here you are.
Also: please don’t forget to fill out the 2018 Shadows of Cats reader survey! It only takes a moment & helps me enormously as I decide on what art to share with you in the New Year. Thank you so much.)
LITERATURE: Knock by Melissa Atkinson Mercer (the very first book we published at Half Mystic Press, brilliant & swerving, full of tongues & gods & doors); The BFG by Roald Dahl (a childhood favourite just as warm & full of babblement as I remember); Crowd Surfing With God by Adrienne Novy (even better than the title lets on; essentially, your teenage punk rock phase but with flowers); Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (profound, horrible, haunting, grotesque; like a car crash in slow motion, I couldn’t tear my eyes away); Happy Endings by Margaret Atwood (short & sweet & sobering, a choir in a story, full of tender & aching harmonies); Ocean Deep by Darshana Suresh (gentle, honey-soft, the way it feels to ask a sea for forgiveness); Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (an urgent, stomach-searing call for help; every time I open this book I feel myself wanting to vomit, & I’m not sure whether this means it’s the best book i’ve ever read or the worst); The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (a soft hum, an expansive wonder, a gorgeous grief, a search for light)
MUSIC: Blue Neighbourhood by Troye Sivan (favourite songs: “EASE” & “for him.”); Desert Sky by Paola Bennet (favourite song: “Desert Sky”); The Stranger (Legacy Edition) by Billy Joel (favourite songs: “Just the Way You Are” & “She’s Always a Woman”); A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by the 1975 (favourite songs: “How to Draw / Petrichor” & “Be My Mistake”); High As Hope by Florence + the Machine (favourite songs: “June” & “Hunger”); DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar (favourite song: “LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI.”); Expectations by Hayley Kiyoko (favourite songs: “He’ll Never Love You (HNLY)” & “Let It Be”); Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend (favourite songs: “Obvious Bicycle” & “Diane Young”); Without My Enemy What Would I Do by Made In Heights (favourite songs: “Pirouette” & “Murakami”); yours EP by Sundial (favourite song: “your text”); Pure Heroine (Extended) by Lorde (favourite song: “400 Lux”); Nina Cried Power EP by Hozier (favourite song: “NFWMB”); Cleopatra (Deluxe) by the Lumineers (favourite songs: “In the Light” & “Ophelia”); Every Kingdom (Deluxe Version) by Ben Howard (favourite song: “Promise”)
POETRY: June by Alex Dimitrov (People do know they’re alive. / They hardly know what to do with themselves); Wild Geese by Mary Oliver (Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine); In the Desert by Stephen Crane (But I like it / Because it is bitter, / And because it is my heart); Mourning Glory by Yves Olade (we are all going to die, some of us in more pain than others); Tell Me Something Good (You can walk away. You can be nothing / & still breathing. Believe me) & Aubade With Burning City by Ocean Vuong (In the square below: a nun, on fire, / runs silently toward her god — / Open, he says. / She opens); We Lived Happily During the War by Ilya Kaminsky (And when they bombed other people’s houses, we / protested / but not enough, we opposed them but not / enough); The Banana Room by Jeremy Radin (meet me here / I am so lonely / I learned a second language); Baking Lessons by Emily Paige Wilson (Real love, she says, / is the sound a fork makes / as it scrapes / a plate / clean); Downhearted by Ada Limón (Six horses died in a tractor-trailer fire. / There. That’s the hard part); MCR’s THREE CHEERS FOR SWEET REVENGE TURNS 14 YEARS OLD & I AM WRITING DOWN MANTRAS TO REMIND MYSELF THAT I NEED TO STAY ALIVE by Adrienne Novy (I will paint my nails black & I will not be a funeral); Two-Minute Personality Test by Jonathan Safran Foer (If your deepest secret became public, would you be forgiven? Is your best friend your kindest friend? Is it any way cruel to give a dog a name?)
PODCASTS: Welcome to Night Vale, hosted by Cecil Baldwin (favourite episode: “2 - Glow Cloud”); The Paris Review, hosted by Paris Review writers (favourite episode: “3. I Was There (with James Baldwin, Levar Burton, Morgan Parker, Dorothea Lasky, Dakota Johnson, Raymond Carver)”); Serial, hosted by Sarah Koenig (favourite episode: “S03 Episode 06: You In the Red Shirt”); How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz (favourite episode: “Radio One: Cathy Hughes”); In the Dark, hosted by Madeleine Baran (favourite episode: “S1 E5 Person of Interest”); Ask a Manager, hosted by Alison Green (favourite episode: “Getting Your Tone Right as the Boss”)
ESSAYS & MISCELLANEOUS INTERNET-LOVELIES: How Actual Smart People Talk About Themselves by James Fallows (Here are three traits I would report from a long trail of meeting and interviewing people who by any reckoning are very intelligent.); Six Fairy Tales for the Modern Woman by Renee Lupica (Once upon a time a woman was very good at her job, and she knew she had added value to the company she worked for, so even though she was nervous, she talked to her boss, and asked for a raise, and she got it.); The 10 Toughest Questions We Get by Bill & Melinda Gates (This is our 10th Annual Letter, and we’re marking the occasion by answering 10 tough questions that people ask us.); The Problem With “Not Caring” About Pop Culture by Philip Ellis (The media that young women and gay men enjoy is often dismissed as campy or trashy or culturally lightweight because as a demographic, girls and gays tend not to be taken seriously without “earning it.”); The Truth That Lives There by Cheryl Strayed (Wanting to leave is enough.); Why Children’s Books Should Be A Little Sad by Kate DiCamillo (How do we tell the truth and make that truth bearable?); What Happened When I Started Intuitive Eating by Kelsey Miller (I was so accustomed to eating with guard rails and following plans that the idea of just asking myself, what do I want? and eating it — in public, even — felt like a radical act.); Miscellaneous Files: Olivia Laing by Mary Wang (Really it’s a revelation that informs the whole book, and maybe all my books: that there is no one truth.)
BEST OF MY OWN ART (most popular & personal favourite creations of mine from 2018): Love Lives Bot (a digital art installation, an odd & romantic little machine; hosted on Twitter); Silver-Tipped Swallow: “Scene” (Issue VI of my column for Half Mystic, on the silence of illness & the interlude of unrequited love); “A New Chapter for SingLit” (an article I was interviewed for & quoted in—my first time appearing in The Business Times!); “Witch In Red” (a feature on the official Button Poetry Instagram that ended up going viral—to those who’ve found me from this little line, I’m grateful you’re here); Choosing Tenderness (such a gentle & furious heart-project of mine, & the gold-medal winner in the IASAS Original Oratory event this year); “War Story With My Father” (a poem recognised by The Ellis Awards, published in Sundog Lit, & featured by Entropy’s “Best of 2018” & Frontier Poetry’s “Exceptional Poetry Around the Web”)
p.s. please do share with me your own favourite art consumed in 2018. what books & music & poems & podcasts & internet lovelies must i not miss out on for 2019? i can’t wait to hear your thoughts.