January 8, 2019

We Asked. You Replied. Now It’s Our Turn.

We Asked. You Replied. Now It’s Our Turn.

Last week we asked you, our faithful Coffee Club members, to share your favorite book(s) of 2018 (after all, it’s a time-honored ritual). We were delighted with your responses and your choices. As promised, now it’s your baristas’ turn to share our 2018 faves. (You can see our bios and pictures of us here.) Our hope is that all of us get to tip one another off to a good read!

Jason: “Absolutely THE MARROW THIEVES, I’M AFRAID OF MEN, and THE GHOST KEEPER. Three very different books by amazing authors.”

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Ruby: Sea Swept of The Chesapeake Bay Saga by Nora Roberts is one of the sweetest books I read in 2018. Set on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, each book focuses on one of the four Quinn men. In true Roberts fashion, she provides the reader with a rich background of information and insight into their dreams, desires and inner demons. 

Book One introduces Cameron Quinn, a devil-may-care man who enjoys the speed and adrenaline of the fast life, but who comes home when his foster father, Ray Quinn, is on his deathbed to help raise the newest foster child, Seth. With whispers from the community that Seth is the product of a scandalous affair Ray had with one of his college students, Cameron must put his fast-paced life on hold to deal with his prickly new brother, who still has nightmares of the hard life he led before Ray took him in. There’s also the matter of Seth’s social worker, Anna Spinelli, an intriguing enigma of a woman who seems like a by-the-book conservative worker bee, but who has a few charms of her own once she lets her hair down. And a few demons that still need to be healed. 

A truly heartwarming story about the joys and trials of family and brotherhood, this book is a solid, epic introduction to The Chesapeake Bay Saga. I would highly recommend this, and the rest of this four-part series, to anyone who asks.

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Simran: Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward. An aptly named poetry collection by the brilliant Yrsa Daley-Ward, because it chilled me right to my bone with its wise words. Drawing from her own life, Daley-Ward muses on love and family, her identity as a black woman, and on the loss and growth that happens as we all grow up. I go back to certain poems all the time, as they are thought-provoking and fitting for any instance in life. 

The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin. In 2018, I rediscovered James Baldwin’s work for myself and have been on a tear to devour his oeuvre ever since. I single out this essay collection because of his profound musings on film and racism at the time (1976), a topic which I haven’t been able to find many books. For anyone looking to learn more about the history of race in film or gain some context for recent films like “Black Panther,” “Moonlight,” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” (the last based on a work of fiction by Baldwin!), I urge them to grab this small book.

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Sarah: OK! This book is old, but because I read it in calendar year 2018, I’m mentioning it: Music for Chameleons (short stories) (the collection also includes the nonfiction novel, Handmade Coffins), by Truman Capote. Such engrossing, vivid, weird, bold, outlandish reads with real human beings at the center. If you’re a writer, you will learn a great deal about craft from reading these writings.

P.S. I’ve also begun reading Karl Ove Knausgard’s seven-volume autobiography, My Struggle.

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Mike: Sadly, I only got to read one book this year: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I loved finally knowing the original vision for what has become an oft-replicated character.

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Caitlin: My favorite read of 2018 wasn’t a book—it was the collection of short story submissions published here on The Fictional Cafe. I really enjoyed visiting our virtual coffee shop to peruse new, interesting pieces written by equally unique authors!

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Steve: My favorite book of 2018 was Art & Fear. It was an excellent look into the trials and tribulations of art making—all art making. An excellent book for anyone who is creatively engaging in a craft. One of my favorite takeaways was: “Compare yourself to the person you were yesterday, not the people around you.” Which paired nicely with: “Remember a crucial condition about your current and potential audience: they can only compare you to your peers, not the creator you were yesterday. Therefore, YOU and ONLY you can make any accurate and honest judgements on personal progress.” 

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Jack: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut short story collection, Friday Black. Adjei-Brenyah is a natural writer of pure talent, a magus of the imagination who can, in a few words, transform the mundane into moments of deep insight and powerful significance. I continually found myself carried away by his insights into human behavior and ability to transmute that into splendid works of fiction. There wasn’t a single story in Friday Black that did not move me. As I read, I found myself seeing and feeling and experiencing perspectives on life quite unlike my own. I will not see or feel the same again.

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Latest submissions

Melissa wrote: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan. Mystery, suspense, psychological fiction. I bought it because Matt is in my writing group and a wonderful writer. I read the whole thing in a weekend because I was captivated.

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Last but not least, this from one of our earliest contributors, Laurie Skiba: SUMMER HOURS AT THE ROBBER LIBRARY by Sue Halpern. A librarian with secret failures, a teenager who has stolen a dictionary and must do community service in a library, a Wall Street investor who has lost everything come together at the Robbers Library in a small New Hampshire town. Favorite quote: “‘So the dictionary,’ I said [to Kit, the librarian], “it was this thing I read someplace, and it really got to me. It said that a dictionary is every book written and every book that will be written, just in a different order. And it seemed magical. You could own every book just by owning one book. I loved that. And I just had to have it.”

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So, Coffee Clubbers, if you’re wondering what to read next, here are many, many selections to choose from, recommended by FC members and baristas alike. This was a lot of fun, and we’ll do it again next year. Thanks for participating, for reading, and for being a member of our Fictional Café society!

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