2018 Primetime Emmy
& James Beard Award Winner

Roads & Kingdoms’ Favorite Books of 2018

The R&K staff list their top books for the year.

While 2018 presented an endless stream of news to keep up with, we managed to read some outstanding books that were published this year. Here are our picks, with love and a healthy dose of nepotism, of some of the best books that were released this year.

Read more of our 2018 selections here.


Amateur by Thomas Page McBee

This memoir asks the question: Is aggression is innate to masculinity? As the writer, a trans, male journalist, trains for a boxing match, he considers how his relationship with violence has changed after his transition, adding a new layer to discussions of gender performance. – Emily Marinoff

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Pretty sure this was the only book that came out in 2018 that I read cover to cover. Excellent, Shirley Jackson-esque character study of a woman unravelling. Quick read and very suspenseful. – Danielle Renwick

There There by Tommy Orange

Besides the fact that is is a debut (!!), this novel is wholly original and pushes back against the Native American’s narrative white America has formed for them. – Tyler Elmore

We Fed an Island by José Andrés and Richard Wolffe

I’m biased—José is a close friend and partner of R&K—but his tale of feeding Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria should be required reading for all Americans. More than a singular act of heroism, what happened in Puerto Rico was a complex group effort that provided the framework for José and World Central Kitchen to continue to redefine disaster relief in the 21st century. – Matt Goulding

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Not only is this an incredible feat of investigative journalism conducted under the most hostile of circumstances—against the machine of a multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley company—but reading, drip by drip, the audacity and scale of the deception that Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos’ bogus blood-testing technology unleashed upon the world is car-crash fascinating. – Alexa van Sickle

A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo

Poignant narratives from the African continent about how ordinary people stand up for what they believe in. – Aleesa Mann

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

Alexander Chee’s essay collection, pretty much universally beloved, is crammed with wit and elegance and feeling and hard, practical lessons for being a better, smarter, more conscientious—and straight up more conscious—writer. – Michael Snyder

Northland: A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border by Porter Fox

It’s entirely possible I enjoyed this book so much because I read it while swinging in a hammock alongside a campfire in the woods of upstate New York. Fox’s adventures tracing our northern boundaries are both insightful and exciting, weaving historical detail and fascinating characters into his journey. It made me want to explore more of America. – Cengiz Yar

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Carreyrou’s took a deep dive into the false claims of multi-billion dollar biotech company Theranos, and wove a fascinating tale about the Icarus-like woman behind the company’s rise and fall. – Tafi Mukunyadzi

Pasta Pane Vino by Matt Goulding

I kept this book very close as I ate my way through Rome for five days this summer. The writing is delicious, inspiring, bold… and you simply can’t go wrong with it. – Shivani Mehta

Patriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers

Am I picking this because Lauren wrote this book while sitting at a desk ten feet from me? Because she rents a desk at Roads & Kingdoms, I can tell you she is an excellent human who eats very healthy lunches and is often on phone calls speaking what seems to be fluent Mandarin. But even if I had never met Lauren, this book would have been a revelation to me. It is a reporter’s dream story, really—she follows a man named Zhuang Liehong from his home village in China where she first met him, well into his new life in the Flushing, Queens. This book is a window into Zhuang’s world, but he is often looking back through the glass at the New York that Lauren and I inhabit. It’s a terrifically intimate story, and Zhuang is a compelling protagonist, but Lauren doesn’t miss the opportunity to use her friendship with him to really try to understand (and communicate) what it’s like to leave everything behind and move from China to New York City. It’s a very special work of nonfiction. – Nathan Thornburgh

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