Our Biggest Bookish Achievements of 2018

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Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

2018 will go down in my personal history as the year I finally got a book deal after a decade of writing seriously. Unscripted is a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and it comes out on 4th April 2019.

I’m far from the only one in our community with something bookish to celebrate, though! I loved reading about all that my fellow Rioters had accomplished last year, so I asked them again this year.

If you’re looking for inspiration for a bookish challenge for 2019, maybe you’ll find something here to emulate, too.

In January, I made a list of goals that included reading either War and Peace or Anna Karenina. As luck would have it, my local library initiated what was called the Big Book Club, and the inaugural selection was War and Peace. Over the summer, we read on a schedule and met for regular discussions online (and some of us live tweeted our experiences). It was an uphill climb most of the time, but I can say I finished it while getting through Summer Reading as a solo children’s librarian and while reading the entire Anne of Green Gables series in preparation for  a trip to Prince Edward Island. Would I recommend it? Probably not—but lucky for you, I pulled out all the best quotes.

Abby Hargreaves 

This summer, after admiring the Full Stop Quarterly, I decided to make a quarterly magazine from the resources I’d gathered around my blog-cum-e-magazine (ArabLit). This was utterly insane and a totally bad idea, financially speaking, but I discovered some amazing literary works, translators, and authors. November 15, I finally launched ArabLit Quarterly, and although it was definitely a failure in some logistical respects (I will never figure out how to work with university library systems!), I love the magazine itself, and am so delighted to have featured translations of amazing women writers like South Sudanese short story writer Stella Gaitano, Saudi novelist Raja Alem, Syrian writer Rasha Abbas, Palestinian poet Asmaa Azaizeh (whose name I kept endlessly mistyping, thank goodness for friends who copy edit), and more.

M Lynx Qualey 

There is a lot I could list this year (1,000 followers on Instagram, my first ever book convention with a media badge), but I am most proud that I finished my novel and began sending it to agents. In college, I found myself wondering if I could write long-form anymore—but the most I was graduated, the moment I was out from under a 24/7 concern, the juices started flowing once more, and this novel began to form in my hands. It’s a strange novel, but also one only I could have written, and I spent two years sculpting it; this year, I put it through several rounds of edits, got it to sensitivity readers, made more rounds of edits, wrote up a query letter and a synopsis…and started sending it. It was stressful, putting it out there for the first time and hoping someone would like it, and I’m still hoping. But it was also such a huge accomplishment on its own, and I’m already working on the next one.

Leah Rachel von Essen 

After a rough 2017, I decided to approach my bookish life in 2018 very gently. I set my Goodreads book challenge to 40 new books (easily achievable with many audiobooks), and had only one other reading goal for myself: read every book I checked out from the library. I’ve long been in the habit of checking too many books out at once—my eyes are often bigger than my available time—and of also checking out digital copies of books and audiobooks and never reading them before they vanish from my mobile devices. But after learning more about how libraries are charged/pay for each digital checkout, I decided I needed to change my habits. And so in 2018 I have cut back on my library usage, both physical and digital, but in doing so I have read or listened to every single book I did check out, yay! Now to keep it up in 2019, and perhaps actually return all my books when they’re due?

Christine Hoxmeier 

I had a baby and still managed to read. As of the end of November, I’ve read 86 books. My usual goal is 100, so it’s almost my normal amount. This is particularly awesome because for the first couple months of this year, I was only able to read a few books. My baby is anti-sleep, so I’ve learned to read in all the nooks and crannies of time, even if it’s just for 10 seconds. I’m finding the kindle and Libby apps super helpful for that. I also listen to short audiobooks on the couple days I work outside the home, and I’ve been reading more graphic novels. All of which I’m enjoying very much. Will I be able to reach 100 books by the year’s end? Probably not, but I’m proud of myself for getting so close.

Margaret Kingsbury 

I too am proud that after two years of hard work and lots of Skype sessions, my co-editor Meghan McGrath and I finally published our first issue of our literary magazine, The Antelope, a Journal of Oral History and Mayhem. The first issue has the theme of Flight and includes Space Themed cocktails, oral histories with pilots, beekeepers, and falconers, lists of things not to do a plane, photographs of hot balloons and aerialists, and much  more. We are working on issue 2 with the theme of “Code” right now.

I also have continued hardcore on my freelancing and have been published in lots of cool publications including the Boston Globe and the Rumpus.

Elisa Shoenberger 

One of my goals this year was to read four books in Spanish. It’s my second language, learned from university classes and a year abroad in Spain, so I wanted to use this goal as a way to help maintain and expand my language skills. I successfully crossed it off my list a few weeks back, having read the following four titles: I listened to a Spanish translation of a The Fault in Our Stars (an old YA favorite), finished One Hundred Years of Solitude (a dense classic of magical realism that took me months), La canción pop (a novella from an indie publisher in Spain that specializes in LGBT/feminist titles), and Viaje de regreso/Return Trip (a bilingual poetry collection from Cuban poet Israel Dominguez). This was my first time reading anything other than Harry Potter in Spanish, and I loved the challenge of it. I plan to repeat it in 2019 as well!  

Emily Polson

After trying to meet my reading challenges for the past few years, and either failing or barely squeaking by, I set myself a modest goal of 50 books for 2018. I knew I wanted to finally read The Brontës: Wild Genius of the Moors by Juliet Barker this year, so I decided that less than one book a week would give me some breathing room. But lo and behold, so far I have read 81 books, including The Brontës and The Portable Dorothy Parker! With a few weeks until 2019, I hope to squeeze a few more great books.

Carolina Ciucci

Reading-wise, I feel proud of reading more graphic novels from First Second books. There are more stories coming out from the medium, and we should cherish them all. Also have been regularly listening to Levar Burton Reads and The Gallery of Curiosities. They are great podcasts for those who like short fiction.

Writing-wise, I’m proud to say a four-book project is coming out next year. It was a lot of work, but very worth it

Priya Sridhar 

I unexpectedly lost someone very close to me this year. He loved to write about his hobbies. To honor his memory, I started to write about one of our shared hobbies, reading, and became a Book Riot contributor. I can totally see why he loved writing about what he loved—it helps you reflect and organize your thoughts as well as connect with others.

Linh Anh Cat