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Amanda Berglund for BuzzFeed News

It was a busy year for the Reader team!


We kicked off January with Opportunity Costs, a collaboration between BuzzFeed News and the podcast Death, Sex & Money that was all about class and cash, grappling with losing it after a divorce, what $75K gets you around different cities in the US, and what happens when parents use their kids for identity theft — in addition to many other great personal essays and personal finance tips.


In March, we turned our gaze abroad with Unpacking, a series about travel which featured stories about everything from how Nashville became America’s premier bachelorette party destination to one writer’s walk from Selma to Montgomery. In July, things got heated with our series on how we have sex now, which included a sprawling unscientific survey on how people think about consent, personal essays about the dark side of sex positivity and why some men like to jerk off together, and much more.


And we’re closing the year with Nostalgia Week. We teamed up with BuzzFeed’s Arts & Entertainment desk for a series of pieces about our favorite pop culture artifacts, from the Sweet Valley High books to You’ve Got Mail’s rose-colored depiction of the internet. We’ve also got some excellent year-end lists (from the best books to the best movies) and a wonderful column from executive editor Karolina Waclawiak about freeing yourself from the pressures of perfectionism — a worthwhile reminder as we head into the new year.


Thank you for reading!

Tomi

 

 

Poetry

Lixia Guo / BuzzFeed News; Getty Images

"Brooklyn, Ocean Avenue. 2006" by Rachel McKibbens

 

Personal Essays

Jade Schulz for BuzzFeed News

Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen Chefs Are The Only YouTube Stars I Care About by Louis Peitzman

 

I may never get better at cooking, but I will follow these chefs to the ends of the earth.

 

This '80s PBS Show Made It Cool To Love Math by Anne Helen Petersen 

The best kids’ TV activates something that becomes an orienting beacon for the rest of our lives. That’s what the math show Square One did for me.

 

Random House

When I was a teenager, Francine Pascal’s iconic series was an escape to a destination that I already knew my way around.

 

7th Heaven Duped Me Into Believing In A Christian Family Fantasy by Shannon Keating

Growing up, 7th Heaven offered me wholesome Christian comfort. But then I saw myself in queer shows like South of Nowhere, in which the Christian grown-ups weren’t saviors.

 

Jade Schulz for BuzzFeed News

 

The real reason to read Amazon reviews — specifically that trail of reviews left by one person, product after product — is to get a glimpse into a life utterly unlike your own.

 

Ross Hanchett

 

My brother lives in Paradise, California. For five hours on November 8, while wildfire devoured the town, I had no idea if he was alive or dead.

 

Like Everyone Else In The Aughts, I Loved Norah Jones by Tomi Obaro 

Reviewers dismissed Jones’ first two albums as Starbucks music, but there’s no denying how popular they were.

 

Newsletter exclusive: an astrology column from executive editor Karolina Waclawiak

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We’ve almost made it to the end of 2018. How do you feel? If the answer is depleted, run-down, or burned-out, you are certainly not alone. This has been a tumultuous year for a lot of people. One brief look at my Spotify top songs of the year paints a pretty clear picture of my headspace this year. How many times can a person listen to James Blake before they curl into the fetal position? Apparently, I was on a mission to find out!


The final Mercury retrograde of the year just finished up on December 6 (praise be!) and was a good time to reflect on how far you’ve come this year. And while it’s good to look back and think about both the hurdles you managed to overcome and the struggles you haven’t quite come to terms with, it’s also important not to let the past hold your gaze for too long. Let the past stay there. On December 7 came the expansive new moon in Sagittarius, and with it a chance for some renewed optimism as we look toward 2019. Give yourself the space to think about what kind of future you want. What did you learn this year? How can you take those new ideas and tools into 2019 with you? Moving into a new year is always a good opportunity to leave behind behavior that no longer serves you.


This auspicious new moon is also a good time to think about how you can expand your vision of what you think your life could be. Every year, I make a list of things I hope to accomplish in the new year, and have gotten all my friends to do it, too. It’s exciting to open that list at the end of the following year to see what you actually accomplished from it. (Capricorn season is the perfect time to do it. Think of it as trying to actualize your dreams by saying them out loud and really owning them!) BUT. This isn’t a way to look at all the things you’re NOT doing and DIDN’T achieve and weaponize those bad feelings against yourself. Even if you didn’t achieve everything you wanted in 2018, chances are that after verbalizing those wants, you — consciously or unconsciously — will start laying the groundwork for them. It might just take some time. Or you might not get what you think you want, because you are destined for something better. Someone recently told me that if I got all the things I wanted I would be selling myself short. I had never thought of it that way, but it’s true.


I recently realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in achievement. (I’m an immigrant, OK? Striving and achieving is in my DNA.) So at the top of my 2019 wish list is disentangling achievement (and perfectionism) from self-worth. This, of course, is a lofty goal. But optimism, right?


Perfectionism is so destructive, especially when you weaponize it against yourself. Said the wrong thing? Appeared to be too emotional at an inopportune time? Dropped the ball on something? Are you still standing? Of course you are. Because while you might not be perfect, you are a resilient human being. It’s hard not to constantly strive for perfection when everywhere we turn on social media reinforces the need to be perfect. But maybe 2019 should be about learning to give yourself a break.


That doesn’t mean you can’t strive for things — the rest of the items on my 2019 wish list include a lot of striving — it just means being kind to yourself if you don’t hit your target. Accept the things that do come your way and learn how to work with them. They might not have been exactly what you wanted, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t help you learn, grow, and change. Happy holidays and may your list for 2019 be as inspiring as you are!

 

 

Features

Richard A. Chance  for BuzzFeed News

 

Natasha Trethewey Wants America To Have A Personal Reckoning by Hanif Abdurraqib

 The Pulitzer Prize–winning, former US poet laureate’s new collection, Monument, feels timely, but she’s been reckoning with America’s sins for decades.

 

Glennon Doyle Is Trying To Wake Up White Women. Is It Working? by Shannon Keating 

 

The author, activist, and former mommy blogger has been encouraging her mostly white fans to speak up and empower themselves. What happens when her new advice is to shut up, listen, and let women of color lead the way?

 

Netflix

 

While urban Indians like me run our own home into the ground, the 50% foreign community of Auroville has turned barren land into a lush forest. For more on this story, watch Follow This on Netflix.

 

 

 

Books

 

This Is The Best Fiction Of 2018 by Arianna Rebolini 

 

Our favorite novels and short story collections, presented in no particular order.

 

Read An Excerpt From National Book Award Winner The Friend By Sigrid Nunez 

 

In this excerpt from The Friend, the protagonist recalls teaching a writing workshop at a center for victims of human trafficking.

 

Isabel Seliger for BuzzFeed News

 

Women's rage is in the spotlight in three of 2018's most thrilling novels: Megan Abbott's Give Me Your Hand, Oyinkan Braithwaite's My Sister, the Serial Killer, and Adrienne Celt's Invitation to a Bonfire.

 

16 Heartbreaking Books To Get You Through Your Own Heartache by JM Farkas 

 

Sometimes the best way to deal with a broken heart is to break it even deeper.

 

Zakiya Noel for BuzzFeed News
 

In this excerpt from Oyinkan Braithwaite’s novel My Sister, the Serial Killer, Korede starts to suspect that her sister Ayoola isn’t the victim she claims to be.

 

35 Books Librarians Have Recently Loved by Arianna Rebolini 

 

Romance, biography, manga, and so much more.

 

Cultural Criticism 

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Everett Collection

 

These Are The 11 Best Movies Of 2018 by Alison Willmore 

This year was bad, but at least the movies were good. Here are my favorites.

 

Will John Legend Ever Make Interesting Music Again? by Tomi Obaro

 

The R&B singer, despite his progressive politics, has remained uncontroversial in an increasingly polarized moment. But has it come at an artistic cost?

 

Lixia Guo / BuzzFeed News; AMC; HBO 

 

From The Walking Dead to True Detective, this year was replete with bad wigs that suggested a casual disregard for black people’s interiority.

 

How Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg Went From Superwoman To Supervillain by Anne Helen Petersen

 

The reality of Silicon Valley is that it’s commerce by any means necessary. And the reality of Sandberg is that she’s excellent at it.

 

Lixia Guo / BuzzFeed News; 20th Century Fox / Everett Collection; Netflix

 

This year’s breakout teen movies, like To All the Boys I've Loved Before and Love, Simon, reglamorized old tropes for a new audience.

 

Tumblr Has Closed The Door To Users Who Don’t Have Many Places Left To Go by Bryan Washington 

 

With the end of adult content on Tumblr, people whose identity, sexuality, or interests fall outside the mainstream have lost one more online space to find ourselves.

 

AF archive / Alamy Stock Photo

The 1998 rom-com believed that the internet could be used for something beautiful.

Another newsletter exclusive: an interview with a writer we love! This month: Nichole Perkins, cohost of the podcast Thirst Aid Kit and author of the poetry collection Lilith, but Dark, out now.

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Sylvie Rosokoff

  

“I’m currently on vacation and I wanted to be smart about how many physical books I packed, so I kept the number to two (plus everything on my iPad). Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient kept me glued to the beach, much to my sunburned shoulders’ regret. I could not put this book down. In this juicy contemporary romance, 30-year-old Stella Lane decides she wants to learn how to have a relationship despite the challenges of Asperger’s syndrome. She hires Michael Phan, an escort with a “no repeat customers” rule, but something about Stella makes him agree to take her on as his only client for the next few months. Stella finds comfort in her math- and data-driven career. Michael’s devotion to his family keeps him from forming any real intimate connections, but when these two get together, things get sweet and spicy quickly.


I’m an avid romance reader and I found myself sitting straight up, my hand clutching my imaginary pearls, as I read some of the love scenes that had the perfect combination of tenderness, humor, and downright filth. I can’t stop thinking about how wonderfully the author Helen Hoang shared Stella’s struggles (and triumphs) with Asperger’s without making her pitiful or a victim. The Kiss Quotient is charming as hell and I’m so glad I brought it along with me to the beach.


I just cracked open Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller, a mystery that reminds me a bit of Atonement. From her deathbed, Frances Jellico looks back at the summer she spent spying on and then connecting with a couple, Cara and Peter. I’m still settling into the book but so far, I’m loving the bit of menace Fuller threads into her storytelling. I’m sure I’ll finish it in a day as well.”

 

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