We thought it'd be fun to round up our favorite, new-to-us books, shows, and movies from 2018. Enjoy—then don't forget to share your own in the comments! xEmily
Educated by Tara Westover: I was slightly reluctant to read this book because of the title. I assumed it would be about the education system, and while it's something I care about deeply, isn't necessarily a genre I want to read about on my spare time. But it's actually a riveting memoir written by Tara Westover and her experience growing up in a religious household with a survivalist father, abusive brother, and no formal education. Her story is so inspiring and harrowing, I read it in fewer than 48 hours.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara: For anyone who's followed me for a while, you know that I can handle scary stuff. But this book, about the wrath of the Golden State Killer, rocked me to my core. I literally had to take breaks while reading it, despite the fact that most of the atrocities took place nearly fifty years ago. Michelle McNamara's story telling was so chilling that I had to finish the book only during daylight hours and it stayed with me long after I finished.
Calypso by David Sedaris: David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors and anytime he comes out with a new book of short stories, I devour them almost immediately. For this one, I tried out one of his audio books for the first time while traveling and found myself yell-laughing in public places.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: During one of my breaks between the thriller genre, I picked up Kristin Hannah's The Great Alone, the same author of one of my favorite books, The Nightingale. A family relocates to the wilderness of Alaska after the father returns from war a different man and their harrowing experiences are both daring and beautiful.
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn: This book had Rear Window vibes, moved at a good pace, and offered a fun twist that I didn't see coming.
The Haunting of Hill House: This show was brilliant and I actually missed it after we binge-watched it over the course of a week. The story of a terrorized family living in a haunted house is told from different perspectives over the course of several decades and the scares are jump-out-of-your-seat terrifying. The writing was tight, the acting superb, and unlike other supernatural shows, the ending wasn't a disappointment.
May it Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers: The Avett Brothers are one of my favorite bands, so it's no surprise that I found their documentary absolutely exquisite. They're some of the most profound lyricists of our time and getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how they write their songs was such a joy.
The Grinch: I've been reading Sloan How the Grinch Stole Christmas for months, so when we found out there was a new version of the movie coming out, we decided to take her to see it in the theater for the first time. It was exactly what I'd wanted in the experience: It was magical, fast-paced, hilarious (I guffawed several times), and appropriate for both adults and kids.
Hereditary: G and I had meant to see this film in theaters and somehow just missed the boat, so we watched it at home recently and were blown away. It was both disturbing and shocking and I swear that Toni Collette deserves an Oscar for her performance.
To All the Boys I've Loved Before: The sweetest, feel-good rom-com I've seen in ages that I've since re-watched several times since.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles: This book came out a few years ago, but I only read it this year—and can't believe it took me as long as it did. This novel, about an aristocrat sentenced to house arrest at a hotel in the middle of Moscow in 1922, is stunning, despite taking place entirely within four walls. After a few pages, I started reading it with a highlighter so I could mark my favorite passages and reread them after the fact—it's that beautiful.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday: I picked this book up as soon as I read its description on the list of best books by the New York Times last week, and devoured it over the course of a single day. Its seemingly unrelated stories (one about a love affair between a writer and older editor, another about an Iraqi-American economist detained at Heathrow airport) are truly thought-provoking and mind-bending. I can't get it out of my head.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: I've never read a "self help" book before, but this one reminded me not to write them off. It single-handedly changed the way I think about creativity, especially around writing, and inspiration. The advice I continue to return to is to just try anything: If you have even an inkling in trying something, do it! If you just keep pulling at the string, chances are it will snowball into more sources of inspiration and joy.
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani: This novel was incredibly controversial when it came out because it's based on the true story of a beloved nanny who killed the children she cared for in New York City. It's a parents' worst nightmare, and there are moments when I wanted to read it with my eyes closed, but it's also a true page-turner.
If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim: While I'm not usually drawn to wartime dramas, this love story set in the middle of the Korean War in the 1950s is so beautifully written that it instantly transports you to a world and culture I knew almost nothing about prior to reading the book, but miss now that it's over.
Free Solo and The Dawn Wall: These climbing movies are often grouped together because they were released at the same time and feature El Capitan in Yosemite—but they're inherently different, beautiful movies, both of which are worth watching. In Free Solo, Alex Honnold becomes the first person to scale El Cab without ropes; in The Dawn Wall:, Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson climb an "unclimbable" route on the gargantuan granite wall. They're stressful, inspiring, funny at times, and absolutely worth your time—even if you think you don't care about rock climbing.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: I almost didn't watch this show because the branding is so weird (am I the only one who thought it was a modern take on Mary Poppins, based on the purple font?). But I'm so glad I gave it a try—it may be my favorite comedy TV show of all time. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (of Gilmore Girls), the show follows Midge Maisel as she becomes a standup comic in New York in the 1950s after her husband leaves her for his secretary. Plus, the second season is even better than the first.
Call Me By Your Name: I could live in this movie. The beautiful Italian villa and love story between a professor's student, Oliver (Armie Hammer), and the professor's son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), set in the 1980s is hypnotizing to the point individual scenes would have qualified for the "best thing I watched in 2018."
Phantom Thread: In Daniel Day-Lewis's last role before retiring, he plays an obsessive, genius dress designer in 1950s London. He's regarded as a playboy, until a waitress becomes his muse. The costume design alone is worth the watch.
Tully: I've probably thought about Diablo Cody's dark comedy, Tully, more than any other movie this year. In it, Charlize Theron plays an exhausted mother who's just had her third child and finally gets relief when she hires a night nurse. It's poignant, beautiful, and has a fantastic twist I didn't see coming.
A Million Little Things: My mom and I love This Is Us, but when she recommended ABC's take on a relationship-driven dramedy, I had my reservations. Still, once I started I couldn't stop. The show follows three friends who are shell-shocked when their fourth member of their group commits suicide, seemingly out of nowhere. It's sappy yet earnest, and manages to be heartwarming even though it's rooted in such a devastating topic.
Season 2 of Handmaid's Tale: The first season blew my socks off. The second was a masterpiece. Handmaid's Tale easily could have soured, since the writers no longer had a book to follow, yet it managed to remain an emotional rollercoaster while developing rich and complicated characters. If you need me, I'll be on my couch, anxiously awaiting season three.
Three Identical Strangers: I generally don't gravitate towards documentaries, but the trailer for Three Identical Strangers intrigued me. Triplets separated at birth, all living within a few miles of each other without any knowledge that the others existed? Sign me up. But it winds up being even more twisted, and was one of those "how the hell is this real?!" stories that haunted me well after the credits rolled.
RBG: By far my favorite superhero movie that's ever been made. Ruth Bader Ginsburg's story is groundbreaking, devastating, and inspiring all at once. I laughed, I cried (many, many times) and felt a wave of gratitude for all the progress she's made for women.
Deadpool 2: Is there anything worse than waiting for a sequel, only to be disappointed? Good news–if you haven't seen it yet, Deadpool 2 lives up to the hype. It far exceeded my expectations, and wound up being my favorite of the franchise. Ryan Reynolds tapped into my exact sense of humor, and I was laughing so hard that I had trouble breathing, even through the opening credits.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin: There are few books that stay with you after you read them. The Immortalists wound up being one of them for me. Four siblings seek out a psychic, who predicts the date that each of them will die. The story follows each of their four narratives, and leaves you wondering if each of their fates were truly inevitable, or if the knowledge wound up causing their own demise.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: If Oprah tells me to read something, I obey. I went into this novel knowing nothing beyond the title, and wound up receiving an education in the process. It's a tragic love story about two newlyweds who, due to unforeseen circumstances, wind up facing a prison sentence within the first few years of their marriage. I found it to be an eye-opening anecdote about the consequences minorities pay for discrimination in our justice system.
Crazy Rich Asians Series by Kevin Kwan: When the trailer for the movie adaptation was released, I told myself I'd finish the first of the three books before I saw the movie. I powered through them so quickly that I ended up finishing all three before seeing it in theaters. If you're looking for something lighthearted, indulgent and addictive, the CRA series is the way to go.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer: After a bachelorette party this past summer, my girlfriends and I created a virtual book club. On our spreadsheet listing everyone's favorite books, Less appeared more than a few times. I opted to pick it up first, and it was a true delight.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll: I was perusing the book section of Target one afternoon and saw Luckiest Girl Alive was on sale. I threw it in my cart, with little to no idea about what I was getting myself into. It's a perfect, thrilling beach read with twists and turns I did not anticipate.
P.S., Here are the top things we read and watched in 2017.