2018 is nearly over. And with the new year comes reflection, retrospection, and some top ten lists. This year gave us an onslaught of pop culture, and now Street has endeavored to choose the best of all of it—best albums, best television shows, best books, and best movies from this year, based on staff's picks.
In one of the most talked–about books of the year, Otessa Moshfegh takes a self–obsessed protagonist's journey to spend a year in a pill–induced haze to some in–between zone of absurdism and hyper–reality. While the narrative is darkly funny, the novel shines in interactions between the unnamed main character and her best friend Reba, in a beautifully wry depiction of a friendship with power and wealth imbalances pulling at either participant. Moshfegh covers a lot of ground in the novel considering the protagonist rarely leaves her house: The vast landscape of New York City just before 9/11 folds into itself and inhabits a single apartment. It's a remarkable feat when a writer accomplishes a narrative despite so much of the plot being predicated around inaction, and Moshfegh's razor–sharp prose and darkly funny plotting delivers.
Short stories deliver all the fun, intrigue, and flavor of a novel without the commitment, and often with some tighter pacing. Yukiko Motoya’s English–language debut, in a new translation, delivers exactly that. In her eleven stories, Motoya’s characters range from a housewife consumed with a dream of becoming a bodybuilder to a possibly non–human boutique customer who sequesters herself in a dressing room.
Ling Ma's debut novel defies any easy categorization. Perhaps dystopian office novel cum–immigrant narrative with a funny edge would do the trick? But categorizing Severance misses the point: it's arresting, the dialogue shines, and the characters ground an absurdist narrative that verges on zombie apocalypse territory.
Tara Westover's memoir is the kind of story that seems not to exist outside of fiction: She was born into a radical Mormon survivalist family, endured terrifying abuse from her older brother, but finally left—despite never receiving a formal education—to attend BYU and eventually Cambridge.
The Overstory is, put simply, a book about trees. But the novel links people–focused narratives together in breathtaking scope: The trees are the connective tissue, and Powers' characters and prose shine.
Michelle Dean's collection exploring the lives of ten "sharp" women in creative industries, from Dorothy Parker to Joan Didion to Nora Ephron, is pure fun for media obsessives and those who want to know what Susan Sontag was like at a cocktail party.
This incisive collection of essays examines pop culture's favorite "Dead Girls," from Laura Palmer to—surprisingly—Britney Spears. It's a meditation on a cultural fetish and a sharp look at how creators pin their own preconceptions and desires on their "Dead Girls" while stripping them of any agency. It's a thought–provoking read for any pop culture obsessive with a feminist eye.
Sittenfeld’s unique talent for capturing wry observations and social discomfort are what prompt journalist Katy Waldman to describe her as the “scribe of awkwardness.” In another writer’s hands, the cerebral nature of You Think It, I’ll Say It could seem claustrophobic, especially considering the sense of suburban tedium that permeates a majority of these stories. Yet Sittenfeld imbues this collection with enough palpable imagery and biting narration to carry it through some of the less inviting stories. Sittenfeld’s protagonists are often unlikable, but it is precisely the willingness to be unlikable that keeps You Think It, I’ll Say It sharp. Not every short story here shines, but loyal readers of Sittenfeld will recognize her trademark union of clear, crisp pose and robust narration. Reading Curtis Sittenfeld’s short stories is like having a conversation with yourself: If you think it, she’ll write it.
Michelle Obama's best–selling foray back into the public sphere, and its associated book tour, have dominated the news cycle recently. But what press coverage doesn't always touch on is that the book is a surprisingly intimate and reflective look at the life of a famous and little–known figure, more so than most political or celebrity memoirs.
In this book, author and reporter Sarah Weinman tracks the 1948 kidnapping of Sally Horner, which Vladimir Nabokov referenced in a singular line of his controversial masterwork Lolita. Her verdict, backed by reporting and interviews but contested by Nabokov himself, is that Horner's kidnapping inspired much more than Lolita's author let on. While the reporting is interesting, what really shines about this book is its compassion for Horner and Weinman's dedication to seeing her story told.