Award-winning novelist Mohsin Hamid joins this episode of The Stacks to talk about his newest book The Last White Man. We discuss what inspired the story, his exploration of how whiteness works through fiction, and the ongoing conversation between a reader and the author. We also get into Mohsin’s monastic writing rituals, his elite professors, and how his writing fills a need in his understanding of life.
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Instead of giving you a round up of the “best books” of 2018, I’ve reached out to past guests from the podcast and asked them to share their favorite reads in 2018. I loved talking to this diverse group of humans about reading, hearing their unique perspectives on books and their power to change, inspire, excite, and frustrate, so I decided I’d ask them for more! Each guest shared with me, in their own words, their favorite book they read in 2018 and one book they hope to get to in 2019.
Thank you all for listening to the show, and thank you again to this group of amazing humans for sharing their reading life with all of us.
Dallas Lopez Teacher and Law Student
Moving to Oakland and identifying as an Urban Indian, I was enthralled by the complexity of Tommy Orange’s There There and how he wove in the stories of multiple characters who all converge into one powerful yet, ironic ending. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Zora Neal Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo moved me in a profound way. The Atlantic Slave Trade looms large in US history and yet it often feels as if we know very little about it. This of course is not true as there are many, many studies and stories written about the Middle Passage and the experience of slavery once captives reached the Americas. What is largely absent from the literature on US slavery, however, are the personal stories of those who lived it. Barracoon gifts us a deeply human glimpse of what enslavement meant for one man. In the telling of this story, I was struck by the interactions between Hurston and Kossola. I couldn’t help but wonder what the experience of interviewing Kossola meant for Hurston, and what that can tell us about how the legacy of slavery continues to ramify across generations. Book(s) I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and As We Have Always Done: Indigenous Freedom through Radical Resistance by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
My favorite book I read in 2018 was Mystery in Harare by Dr. M. J. Simms-Maddox. Not only was I trilled to read my grandmother’s second novel within her trilogy, but I also enjoyed learning aspects about Apartheid amidst a page-turning thriller. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III
My favorite read of 2018 was Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. Friday Black , is a short story collection that must be read to be believed. He creates totally surreal universes that are more real than real life. This is the kind of book that made me breathless in the first few pages; that gave me that totally rare and specific feeling of knowing you’re reading something for the first time that you’ll carry with you forever. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I think my favorite book I read this year was An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. It is the story of a young black couple whose marriage is interrupted in its first year by the young man being falsely accused of rape and imprisoned. It is a harsh, tender, unpredictable story about relationships, the inevitability of change, being black in America, the prison system, and love. Jones is incredibly skilled at left turns, and it is one of those books that completely drew me in. I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next. Book(s) I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:Swing Time by Zadie Smith and On Beautyby Zadie Smith
One of my favorite reads of 2018 was The Hours by Michael Cunningham. He seamlessly weaved the stories of three women living in different places at different times so effortlessly. The writing was beautiful and eloquent with richly drawn characters. This book had such a profound effect on me. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
My favorite read of 2018 was Kiese Laymon’s Heavy. It’s one of the most emotional journeys I’ve ever experienced while reading a memoir. From it’s deconstruction and examination of the black male body’s place in America to it’s fascination with discovering truth, it’s an exceptional read. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young
Favorite book I read this year, Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I absolutely loved this read! Moriarty is the same author of another one of my favorite books, (and TV show) Big Little Lies. Her writing is fantastic and this is a very juicy read!!! Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:The Sound of Gravelby Ruth Wariner
I usually HATE short story collections. I feel like they’re usually just a big MFA masturbation, but I still think about every single story in Florida by Lauren Groff. I couldn’t wait to get to the next one and I have gifted it to at least 15 people. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:Becoming by Michelle Obama
My favorite read of 2018 was The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. It’s a (light) fantasy romp with elves and goblins, diplomats and spies. Part graphic novel, part prose, Brangwain plays with point of view in a way that challenges perceptions of politics, friendship, and diplomacy. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen
My favorite book of 2018 — which I had the delight of discussing with Traci on The Stacks! — was Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. It’s a masterful portrait of a charming sociopath/narcissist/whatever you want to call Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the “is there really anything here but hype?” blood-testing company Theranos. A friend recently told me that Carreyrou is his neighbor so you might be in for some real-life fan-girling from me in 2019. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump by Robby Soave
It’s been years since I’ve read a novel as beautifully written as The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, which centers around a woman incarcerated in a California prison. It’s as bleak as it is beautiful, offering grittier snap shots of San Francisco and Los Angeles while also exploring the women’s prison system. I found myself rereading paragraphs just because the writing was so incredible. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
My favorite read of 2018 was Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper. It is such an empowering book for black women (and probably all women) to read. Cooper reminds us that being angry isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that we should never settle for less than we deserve and that our “rage” is our superpower. OWN IT! Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
My favorite read of 2018 was Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. This collection of surreal feminist stories is the Joy Williams/George Saunders mashup of your dreams. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:Exhalation by Ted Chiang
Men We Reapedby Jesmyn Ward is a haunting memoir that has stuck with me throughout the year. Ward’s account of life in rural Mississippi set against the backdrop of the deaths of five young Black men in her life who died over four consecutive years. Ward’s writing is fantastic, and her story is as devastating as it is empowering, and what it all says about Black life in America is powerful beyond measure. A Black Lives Matter memoir, before we had the hashtag. Book I’m looking forward to reading in 2019:How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
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The Stacks participates in affiliate programs. We receive a small commission when products are purchased through links on this website, and this comes at no cost to you. Shopping through these links helps support the show, but does not effect my opinions on books and products. For more information click here