Books to Beautify this New Year: What to Read in 2018

I made a resolution to only read poetry and essays/memoirs this New Year. An intuitive urge to stay in contact with only poetry for a long period of time, my explanation. And so here is the first reading list for 2018. There are so many books to beautify this New Year. It’s super exciting and comforting to know that the Word is always with us:


This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jenkins: A collection of essays, This Will Be My Undoing comes out January 30, 2018 from Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers. It centers on the black woman, with brutal honesty and beauty. About the book, Roxane Gay says, “With this collection, she shows us that she is unforgettably here, a writer to be reckoned with.”

Feel Free by Zadie Smith: Zadie Smith needs no introduction. This collection of essays comes out in February. The title alone draws the spirit and body into new heavens. Feel free to get a copy.

Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot: This is due on February 6, 2018. Lidia Yuknavitch says, “Terese radically reinvents language in order to surface what has been murdered by American culture: the body of a woman, the voice of a warrior, the stories of ancestral spirit jutting up and through the present tense. I am mesmerized by her lyricism because it is shot through with funny angry beautiful brutal truths. This is a writer for our times who simultaneously blows up time. Thank oceans.” Heart Berries was born in the hospital.

Sick by Porochista Khakpour: The blurb says, “Sick is Khakpour’s arduous, emotional journey—as a woman, a writer, and a lifelong sufferer of undiagnosed health problems—through the chronic illness that perpetually left her a victim of anxiety, living a life stymied by an unknown condition….A story about survival, pain, and transformation, Sick is a candid, illuminating narrative of hope and uncertainty, boldly examining the deep impact of illness on one woman’s life. Sick is published by Harper Perennial and due out in June 2018. Having read her essays online, I can’t wait to be touched by Porochista’s angelic voice.  

Old in Art School by Nell Irvin Painter: Has someone ever told you you’d never become an artist? that you’d never become what you dream of? Here is a book of inspiration, a book chronicling her life from one art to another, from hope to hope to beauty. As the Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita at Princeton University, Nell went back to the university and obtained a B.F.A. in Painting in 2009 and an M.F.A in Painting in 2011. Hers is a wonderful transition from one career to another, even at an old age. Old in Art School is due out in June 2018.  

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung: Nicole’s first book is about her childhood, having been adopted and raised by a white family in Oregon. All You Can Ever Know not only traces her adoption, it x-rays roots of identity.

The Body Papers by Grace Talusan: Winner of the 2017 Restless Books Prize for, The Body Papers is Grace’s first book and is due for release in fall 2018. About the book, Grace says: “The very things that I am supposed to keep secret are what I am drawn to write about. I write about what I cannot speak. The Body Papers is a memoir-in-essays, which explores my lived experiences with identity, intergenerational trauma, abuse, colonialism, immigration, returning, depression, and hereditary cancer. The book is also about faith, friendship, and the transformative possibilities of love.”

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley: A collection of personal essays. Sloane is a journalist, essayist and novelist. This is her third book of essays.

The Flame by Leonard Cohen: Days before he died in November 2016, the iconic Canadian poet and musician, Leonard Cohen, completed a selection of poems for his book, The Flame, which will be released in October 2018. Before this, his most recent poetry collection was Book of Longing published in 2016.

When You Die You Will Not Be Scared to Die by Lindsay Tunkl: The title of this book is a powerful catch. A book of meditations on death, When You Die You Will Not Be Scared to Die is due for release in March 2018 from Parallax Press.

Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs by Adura Ojo: Though reissued last year, the poems in Life is a Woman Breaking Eggs are ever-present and ever-fresh. Adura beautifully crafts an unbreakable truth with these lines: “water is how I know / the world cannot stop me.” The world cannot stop poetry and the poet.

Witch Wife by Kiki Petrosino: Published in December last year by Sarabande Books in the US, Gabrielle Calvocoressi says: “There’s not a poet out there who amazes and del

ights me more than Kike Petrosino. In Witch Wife, Petrosino’s characteristic formal and syntactic daring becomes even more lush as she challenges both our way of hearing and making sense of our world. These poems of the body, of the ecstatic utterance that ends in grief, or glory, or the ghost’s head turning toward us, seem to me to be an essential addition to this remarkable era of poetry we are in. Petrosino helps us see not just what we want, but what it means to want to many things at once. This is a necessary book in a time of great uncertainty. It is a treasure.”

Big Windows by Lauren Moseley: Big Windows comes out in February 2018. With this debut book, Lauren opens wide windows to the transformative potency of love, union, interrelationship even. A fellow at Yaddo and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Lauren lives in North Carolina.

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith: Currently the United States Poet Laureate, everybody can’t wait to read her new offering. Wade in the Water is due out in April from Graywolf Press.

Eye Level by Jenny Xie: This is Jenny Xie’s debut poetry collection, winner of the Academy of American Poets’ 2017 Walt Whitman Award. Speaking of the book, former U.S Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, says: “Jenny Xie’s Eye Level is a timely collection of beauty, clarity, and expansive humanity.” Eye Level will be published by Graywolf Press in April in the US.

Three Poems by Hannah Sullivan: Three Poems is set for release from Faber & Faber January 18, 2018. This is Hannah’s first poetry book, and it has been described as “a revelation—three long poems of fresh ambition, intensity and substance.”

Whorelight by Linda Ashok: Though this was published in August last year, I recommend it to everyone. The poems in Whorelight are urgent and lasting; they are compellingly pleasing to touch and to taste. One of my favorite lines in the book is: “the waters return home.”

Bloodroot by Annemarie Ní Churreáin: Another debut book, Bloodroot will shock you, will arouse you, will comfort you. In an article she said, “Bloodroot is a book dedicated to my foremothers, in particular the women of my family whose voices were not always heard.” Published last year by Doire Press, the poetics of Ní Churreáin is out of this world. See this line: “Openly, the sea prays” She continues to fill you with paranormal wonders: “The first time / a tree called me by name, / I was thirteen and only spoke a weave of ordinary tongues”. Please get a copy of Bloodroot.

A Woman’s Body is a Country by Dami Ajayi: Here is a line from Dami Ajayi’s second book that keeps me awake: “Time deceives stopwatches”. In a recent interview, Dami said, “I have no qualms about being open”. Uche Nduka has this to say about the book:  “The poems in this book are aesthetically passionate and sensually fearless. This poet teaches us anew the possibilities for language and the erotic. A Woman’s Body is a Country is tenacious, vital, honed. Dami Ajayi is a compelling and brilliant poet”.

Sexting the Dead by Monica Lewis & Joanna Valente: Sexting the Dead is a collaborative collection to be published by Unknown Press in New York in November 2018.