FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2018 – BROW STAFF EDITION

Photo by Alexis Brown. Reproduced under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.

It's the end of the year and you know what that means: overwhelming listicles of books to fill your summer with! Of course, we'd first recommend you check out all the wonderful work we've published, but if you're looking for even more Brow Approved BooksTM, this list of favourites from our talented, beautiful and well-liked staff is for you!



 
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Everything Lale Westvind produces has a crazy, cosmic energy to it. Her drawings are like one of those illusion posters that appears to be moving when you look at it but much cooler. Her new book Grip Vol. 1 is a great way to get into her work if you’ve not seen it before. She uses the comic form to trigger a strange, immersive and very bodily experience for the reader. Lale dedicates this book to 'women in the trades and anyone working with their hands'—what could be more enticing than that?
—Bailey Sharp, The Lifted Brow Art Editor

 
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Von Spatz by Anna Haifisch has a premise that's weird, insular and borderline magic realist, but not so much that the rest of the book has to rely on its wackiness. Her deadpan delivery and timing are impeccable, and she's an expert with negative space.
—Ben Juers, The Lifted Brow Art Editor


 
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Ooft, the end of another year, time to think synoptically. If a good epitaph teaches us anything, it is that we want any talk of death to be succinct. Mercifully, Kim Hyesoon disagrees. In the 49 poems that represent the days the spirit wanders the afterlife before reincarnation, she imagines the daily habits of the dead. It is a purgatorial book, yes, even a haunted one, but isn’t that what haunting is about: the attempt to work through things we don’t know how to, or can’t? Autobiography of Death tries to give structure to these major and minor traumas, it tries to frame an impossible but necessary conversation. It’s a great read for a season that sometimes stresses we be a little too resolute.
—Lachy McKenzie, The Lifted Brow Fiction Editor

 
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My book of the year was the one I was most impatient for, Rachel Cusk's trilogy-closing Kudos. Beyond everything else that can be said about these books, their formal inventiveness etc., each of them has just been a hugely enjoyable reading experience for me. The kind of sentences I want to keep reading forever.
—Luke Horton, Editor of The Lifted Brow Review of Books

 
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It’s no word of a lie that my absolute favourite books I read this year are Brow Books books, and sure that might be because I as publisher and/or editor have such an intimate relationship with these books and so was no longer just a ‘reader’ of these books. It’s also the truth because they are competing with not a huge amount of other books — I read less ‘published’ books in 2018 than I have for several years now, what with a lot of my reading being manuscripts for Brow Books, both unpublished submissions and also submissions of books published by presses from different parts of the globe. (I’d like to list any of these latter books, but my favourites of these are titles which we are going to publish in Australia in 2019, or are still hoping to.) I also read a lot of emails this year — I don’t even want to think about the ratio of words I read on email compared to words of honed, good writing—but no one ever wants to create a list of ‘best emails of the year’ because that wouldn’t make any kind of sense. I also spent way too long reading the timelines of various social media platforms, of which I barely remember a thing except vague colours and vibes. Among all this noise, the book from 2018 that springs to mind most that I’d like to mention is Motherhood by Sheila Heti, which I read in bursts on buses and trains throughout a long day of criss-crossing London visiting various publishing houses and people, before finishing the last long bit of the book in a heady slog in a bar with a beer or two. Motherhood is so full of sharp observations and it is also full of many hypocrisies; it feels very honest the whole way through, very human. The protagonist spends years sometimes musing and sometimes agonising and sometimes somewhere in the middle. She is flawed and she has blind spots and she just wants simplicity but she doesn’t really. The book made me stop reading a lot, to think, which is rare for me because my book-thinking usually happens while I keep reading, and I also underlined bits and circled other bits and folded down the corners of many pages.
—Sam Cooney, Publisher

 

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the stars align and you read a book at exactly the right place and time. This happened to me with Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, which I picked up while visiting Europe. Described by the author as a ‘constellation’ novel, Flights strays from the linear path of traditional travel memoirs. Instead, Tokarczuk gathers the expanse of human experience through 116 distinct vignettes — from the imagined biography of a Flemish surgeon identifying the Achilles tendon to a story about a woman traveling back to Poland to euthanise her high school sweetheart. Contemporary in its approach, yet timeless in its beauty, you don’t need to be on the road to enjoy this truly excellent book.
—Clara Sankey, The Lifted Brow Fiction Editor

 
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Surprising absolutely no-one, my favourite book this year was Andrea Lawlor's Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. If you're yearning for a speculative queer history that embraces fluidity, chaos and failure: this is it. It's hilarious and tender and avoidant, and reading it made me feel like a real person. Eileen Myles described Paul as making 'both what’s out there and in here less lonely, less fixed, and less fake.' I don’t think I could put it better than that.
—Jini Maxwell, The Lifted Brow Editor

 
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I read a lot of amazing books this year, but the one I've probably thought about the most is Naben Ruthnum's Curry. In three interlinked sections 'Eating', 'Reading', and 'Race', Ruthnum considers the South Asian diasporic experience with an honesty, tenderness and rigour that really floored me. Reading this book made me realise how much I'd needed it. Honorable mentions also go to Maria Tumarkin's Axiomatic, Anne Boyer's A Handbook of Disappointed Fate and Elif Batuman's The Idiot.
—Adalya Nash Hussein, Online Editor

 
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I'm never on time with new releases but Kudos , the culmination of Cusk's trilogy of masterclasses in subtle prose, was an exception. Cusk continues with the deft observation and delightful snark that made Outline and Transit such pleasures, with more offerings than ever in the realm of bitterness and resentment. I particularly like the novel's perpetually disappointing fathers and husbands, and the intricacy with which she renders the terrors of parental power struggles over children. A breeze, a joy, a flex.
—Justin Wolfers, The Lifted Brow Editor

 
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My favourite book this year is Radiant Shimmering Light by Sarah Selecky. This is a long and detailed book that I wish could have been longer. It follows impoverished Etsy-artist Lilian as she moves from Toronto to Manhattan to work in her cousin’s booming wellness cult. Before long, Lilian finds herself caught up in a world of meditation apps, golden lattes, pyramid schemes and sleazy yoga instructors. Selecky’s critique of ‘benevolent marketing’ and competitive Insta-culture is sharp and funny, but never mean-spirited or didactic. I’m looking forward to whatever she puts out next.
—Oscar Jonsson, Website Manager