My 35 Favorite Reads of 2017

Since becoming a contributor to Book Riot last year, my reading horizons have really broadened. There was a time when I could place most of my books into three main categories: horror, freelance writing how-tos, and sex. But when I put together my first favorite reads roundup last year, it was clear that things had shifted. I had become more open to celebrity memoirs, magical realism, YA, comics… all things I’d assumed weren’t for me. And because of Book Riot’s diversity requirements, I’d also moved away from reading 95 percent white chicks.

This year, I read even more (if you can believe it), and I also tracked some of the trends in my reading. Out of 157 reads this year (not including single-issue comics), I read a whopping 69 trade paperbacks (multiple comic issues collected into a single volume), with some additional graphic memoirs, novels, and anthologies sprinkled in (clearly, my new favorite medium). Next runner-up? Literary fiction (21), followed pretty closely by memoir (19). And then there was a general smattering of essays, horror, how-tos, narrative journalism, sci-fi, self-help, short stories, thrillers, and YA.

The authors I read were more diverse, too. I read 65 percent women, 24 percent authors of color, and 18 percent queer authors. Slowly, I’m trying to boost the number of books I read that allow me to learn more about the experiences and perspectives of others.

So which books did I lose my shit over?*

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That Time of Year When I Get to Bask in the Splendor of a Whole Bunch of Sex Educators

Almost two years ago, when I was trying to find a job that would challenge and fulfill me as much as the one I’d had with AASECT, I briefly considered getting a degree in public health and becoming a sex educator. At that point, I’d interviewed many educators for Contemporary Sexuality, and had also written articles about sexuality education for publications such as the Atlantic and Jezebel. I was fangirling hard over these men and women and the work they did.

But then I was like: Dude. You have an infant. You’re juggling a billion projects. You’re writing a book and teaching yoga. You can’t even commit to the local choir! How are you supposed to get a degree?

So instead, I contacted the fine folks at the Center for Sex Education and begged them to let me do volunteer work for them so I could soak up their wisdom and be cool by association.

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There Are So Many Books About Sexual Violence and It’s Depressing But It’s About Damn Time

In an age of high-profile sexual assault allegations and #metoo, at a time when whisper networks are becoming less whispery, it’s hard to know how to feel. Should we feel optimistic because men (at least men in power) are finally being forced to face consequences? Disillusioned because there really are no safe spaces for women? Frustrated by those to whom all of this comes as a surprise?

Feeling all of these things simultaneously, I’ve mostly kept my head down. After all, I have a book to edit, a book that is perhaps the biggest #metoo I have ever shared. [Read more…]

Why I Feel Extra Murder-y Sometimes and How You Can Avoid Feeling the Same Way

me feeling murder-y

There was a day last week when I felt extra murder-y.

It started early on. Like, within the first few minutes of waking up. After that, I spent my entire day with a permanent scowl on my face, my head throbbing, my fingers clenching, my skin hot. I had zero patience for anything and felt that, at any moment, the smallest thing could set me off and I’d be all:


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There Are Things I’m Supposed To Be Doing Right Now, Aren’t There?

Life can often feel like a series of things you’re supposed to be doing: Go to college. Get a corporate job. Buy pumps and blazers. Work your way up the corporate ladder. Earn regular-yet-adequately-spaced-out promotions and raises. Get married and have babies. Eventually conquer the corporate world. Die.

Even when you step off that path and do something idiotic like become a freelance writer, there are things that are…well…expected of you. Mostly, they involve building the giant Jenga tower that is your platform, eventually becoming so cool that publishers pay you to write books on the regular, and then—I don’t know—ascending to a higher plane of coolness that involves a lot of literary readings and a-line dresses?

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Sometimes You Need Gentle Yoga But Sometimes You Need Beer. And Sometimes, You Need Both

(image by Chris Costes, via Flickr)

I was sick recently because of course I was. I’m allergic to everything (except food, thank god) and when I let my allergies go unchecked (which I always do), I turn into a sniveling, sneezing, snotting, coughing mess. For, like, ever.

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My Writing Allows Me To Be Just Slightly Braver Than My Typical Wussy-Wuss Self

(photo by roanokecollege, via Flickr)

In the hours leading up to my very first self-defense class, I worried about everything. I worried that my lack of coordination would be revealed within the first five minutes of class. I worried that there would be role-playing exercises, and that I’d make a fool of myself. I worried that, because of the nasty cold I’d had for the past week, I’d have a cough attack that I would be powerless to control. I worried that I wouldn’t find parking or that, because of rush hour traffic, I wouldn’t even get there on time.

Worrying. It’s just a thing that I do. It’s why I don’t do much else. Not anything outside of my comfort zone anyway.

Except when I’m on assignment.

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How Saying No To Everyone And Everything Ever Can Leave You The Space To Say Yes

SRS Photography, Sara Stadtmiller, Yoga, Yoga on the beach, Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, yoga photography SRS Photography, Sara Stadtmiller

Does anyone else remember when this was me? A fresh-faced, newly certified yoga teacher substitute teaching classes at eleventy billion different gyms and yoga studios, eleventy billion different times a week? No? Me neither.

According to my records, however, it was only four years ago. By the time I walked away from it all, I was teaching regularly at three different studios, with the occasional workshop thrown in.

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TFW You Realize That Sharing The Details Of Your Sex Life With Thousands Of Perfect Strangers Is Way Less Terrifying Than Sharing Them With Those You Know IRL

[image by Alex Proimos, via Flickr]

Fifteen years ago, I came home from college with a trunk full of vibrators, condoms, and a riding crop, plus the beginnings of a sex writing portfolio. My dad made jokes about it. And my mom decided to operate under the assumption that it was just a passing phase. (Though she still made photocopies of my very first print clip—in Playgirl magazine—and passed it around to her friends and colleagues.)

A year later, I met the man who would become my husband. I often think that, if I’d married anyone else, my career might look very different right now. But Michael has been nothing but supportive of my professional pursuits, even when it’s caused him some small bit of embarrassment, or when it’s forced him to push against the bounds of his own comfort levels.

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When You Assume You Are Set in Your Bookish Ways and Then Everything Changes at the Age of 36

library haul

What I am about to tell you fills me with shame. It’s more embarrassing than that time I passed out during choir rehearsal back in high school and my choir director thought the risers were falling. It’s more embarrassing than the level of drunkenness I achieved at my bachelorette party. It’s more embarrassing than that time a yellowjacket flew in my car window and landed on my steering wheel, leading me to screech my way into the mall parking lot, pull diagonally into four parking spots, yank up my emergency brake before fully stopping, and run laps around my car.


Here it is.

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