When Michelle Obama first joined her husband, President Barack Obama, in the spotlight, it seemed we had a reluctant FLOTUS-to-be. An accomplished attorney and dedicated matriarch who planted herself squarely between her daughters and the media, she seemed unlikely to paste a phony grin on her face and invite us all over for tea sandwiches. Luckily for us, she didn’t: with eloquence and elegance, she reminded women and girls the world over that there’s nothing they can’t become. In her own words, her memoir is a “re-humanization effort” that reveals “the ordinariness of a very extraordinary story.”
On the Other Side of Freedom
DeRay Mckesson became a key proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement after participating in and documenting the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and he’s now the award-winning host of Pod Save the People. His activism involves confronting our society’s ugliest injustices, but he believes we have to engage with the worst of our history if we hope to move past it in a meaningful way. In On the Other Side of Freedom, he offers the language and tools to do just that.
While the man-shaped accumulation of hope and light known as Lin-Manuel Miranda would have us all believe anything is possible, we’ll go on record saying it’s impossible to page through his Twitter greetings and sign-offs—a delightful “Gmorning” to encourage his followers as each day begins, and a tender “Gnight” to bid them farewell each evening—without breaking into a face-splitting grin. With witty illustrations by Jonny Sun, this collection is catnip for Hamilton fans, of course—but, like the very best hugs, it’s also a universal cure-all.
The Bullet Journal Method
The Brooklyn designer-inventor-TED-talker Ryder Carroll is to the messy modern schedule what Marie Kondo is to a cluttered home. His old-school Bullet Journal method encourages devotees to plan their 21st-century lives with pen and paper, and since its eruption on social media a few years ago, #bujo has become a very, very big deal. Curious newbies and intentional-living all-stars can bask in Carroll’s analog wisdom with his first book, which promises to help everyone “track the past, order the present, and design the future.”
You're on an Airplane
While we can’t all be indie-movie queen Parker Posey’s best friends—she only has 24 hours a day, after all—we can now stay up all night with her quirky, hilarious voice, thanks to her candid new memoir. You’re on an Airplane is as unapologetically idiosyncratic as its author, and the antithesis of Ye Olde Ghostwritten Redemption Story: Posey offers relatable struggles and triumphs, to be sure, but these are stories her friends were entertained by, she says, so why not share them? Perhaps she’d be amenable to a coffee date invite after all?
Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk and Karamo Brown
Netflix’s Fab Five joined forces for a coffee-table-worthy version of the game-changing guidance they offer TV audiences, and it’s much, much more than a how-to manual (though there are plenty of Hip Tips to round out its pages). Each expert helms his own section with input from his co-stars: Antoni Porowski’s food writing, for instance, shares space with favorite food and drink recipes from all five Queer Eye personalities. It’s also a peek behind-the-scenes and a collective celebration of individuality: these guys want everyone to live their best lives.
Sometimes the best way to power through the holidays is to remember that someone, somewhere is ending the year on a much weirder note than you are—and The Adults has a whole symphony of ’em. Exes Claire and Matt are trying to be grownups for their daughter, Scarlett, and they’re blending new partners, Scarlett’s imaginary friend, and Forced Fun Activities on a collective trip to the Happy Forest holiday park. What could go wrong? (Hint: this laugh-past-where-it-hurts odyssey begins and ends with a call to the police.)
Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down
New episodes of Stranger Things won’t reach televisions until next summer, but Hawkins and the worlds it conceals are an open book as of this fall. The official companion to the smash hit’s first two seasons offers deep dives with the show’s creators and stars, embedded secret messages (with a Morse code disk like Eleven’s to reveal them, naturally), and an exclusive first look at what’s to come. We dare you to read this one beneath a blinking strand of holiday lights.
The Oakland that Tommy Orange’s Native American characters inhabit has undergone growing pains to the point where there’s no there there, as Gertrude Stein once said. “We are memories we don’t remember,” Orange writes. “We know the sound of the freeway better than we do the rivers.” The cacophony he creates—voiced by 12 men and women made distinct by their feelings of facelessness—is gut-wrenching music, an old melody set to new words no one wants to say. It’s also utterly unforgettable.
My Sister, the Serial Killer
Younger sibs are the worst: one minute they’re hogging your parents’ attention, and the next they’re begging you to hurry over and clean up after their latest murder. My Sister, the Serial Killer isn’t a figurative title: Korede and Ayoola share DNA, a family home in Lagos, Nigeria, and the gruesome knowledge that Ayoola’s love affairs don’t end with wedding bells. Judge this weird, wonderful debut novel by its cover—but don’t make the mistake of letting your guard down with its characters, or taking their motivations for granted.
Part of the lasting pleasure of disappearing into a new read is reemerging at the other side to gush, gasp, even argue about it—and these bold new books are the ones that will be on everyone’s lips in the last months of 2018. We’ve got picks for your friend who makes a beeline for the “notable newcomers” table at her neighborhood store, your coworker who gulps down novels chapters at a time, and your brother who makes sure everyone knows how he feels about the Best Books of the Year article that came out 20 minutes ago. With 2018 coming to a close, these are the best gifts for trendsetters this holiday season.
Editor: Eliza Smith; Featured Image: Matt McCarty