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2018’s Best Books—and How They’re Still Inspiring Us

2018 best books how theyre inspiring

This last year came with a flurry of highs and lows. One of those highs? The astonishing number of books that hit stores (and our e-readers) from January through December.

From picture books for the wee ones to memoirs, thrillers, and histories, there was something for everyone, and then some. What we loved most about 2018’s best books, though, was the diversity of voices of the writers who shared their stories, their research, and their advice with us. We’re finally starting to see the publishing world reflect the world we live in, and all of us at A.T. Cross couldn’t be happier about it.

All these best-sellers have motivated us to grab our favorite fine pens and get to work. Curious to see what’s been occupying our nightstands for the past 12 months? Here’s our list of the best books of 2018—and how they’ve inspired us to pick up pen and paper and start writing.

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becoming book cover

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

The former First Lady (sometimes called the “forever First Lady”) is known for her rousing speeches and down-to-earth personality. She’s a mom, a wife, a professional, and, in her first memoir, Becoming, she’s also the friend and mentor we crave. We particularly love that the audiobook is read by the author.

Why we love it: Becoming makes us want to tell our own personal histories. This memoir is intimate and emotional. That makes it perfect for digging deep into our psyches and dredging up memories we’d thought long forgotten.

Pair it with … a pile of home movies and our favorite fountain pen for beginners from Cross’ Bailey Collection.

alice isnt dead joseph fink

Alice Isn’t Dead, by Joseph Fink

Though a polarizing pick at Cross HQ, many of us couldn’t get through this book fast enough. A page-turner based on the remarkable podcast of the same name, Joseph Fink’s Alice Isn’t Dead expands on the story audiophiles are familiar with in new and surprising ways. It’s horror and suspense done in a new way.

Why we love it: Seeing old art forms reimagined is what we’re all about. Horror as a genre dates back to the early nineteenth century. Alice Isn’t Dead turns it on its head while preserving all the spooky twists and turns that have us shivering in our slippers.

Pair it with … a flashlight (for late-at-night reading, naturally) and a smooth-flowing pen to capture your creepiest three a.m. thoughts. Our pick: a streamlined ballpoint pen from the Cross Click Collection.

washington black esi edugyan quote

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

This isn’t the novel you’re expecting. An antebellum history turned fantastical adventure story, Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black tells the story of a young field slave running toward freedom alongside a new master. A whopping dose of magical realism encourages all of us to push boundaries right alongside the daring protagonist, 11-year-old George Washington Black.

Why we love it: So many travel stories stick you in a car and take you on an expected road trip. Washington Black is anything but expected, just like every grand journey ought to be. It has us hankering for an open-ended trip with the barest of itineraries.

Pair it with … a rucksack and a fine pen that you can carry absolutely anywhere. We suggest a rollerball pen from the Cross X Collection.

circe madeline miller

Circe, by Madeline Miller

If you’re at all familiar with Homer’s Odyssey or Greek mythology, this new side of a familiar villain will be a delightfully entertaining read. Madeline Miller’s retelling gives this witch her agency—and a big reason to use it. Why does she turn men into swine? By the last page, you’ll be answering that question for yourself: “Why not?!”

Why we love it: Who hasn’t been wronged by a biased storyteller? If you asked that Q around the lunch room, you’d see more than a few hands leaping into the air. Spending a few days with Circe might even inspire you to set your own story straight.

Pair it with … an old yearbook or two and a pen fit for scribbling in the margins like a ballpoint pen from Cross’ iconic Classic Century Collection.

life and work fred rogers maxwell king

The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, by Maxwell King

After 31 years and more than 900 episodes, it’s hard to imagine anyone in America not being familiar with Mr. Rogers, his neighborhood, and his band of friends. This biography of Fred Rogers offers a never-before-seen look at the life that made the man—and the show—on the silver screen. It’s loaded with interviews, documents, and rich oral histories from people who were there when it all happened.

Why we love it: Compassion, equality, and kindness. Those are three values all of us at Cross live and work by. Reading about the man behind the screen had all of us itching to reevaluate the way we move through the world—we hope in the very best way possible.

Pair it with … a childhood favorite and a pen to write down your philosophies. We’re a fan of the heirloom-quality fine pens from the Peerless 125 Collection.

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Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

2018 should be known as the year of Wakanda and Tomi Adeyemi’s Orïsha—that’s how excellent this fantasy about magic, revenge, and royalty in West Africa is. It’s the biggest young-adult book of the year, for good reason: It’s fantastic no matter how old you are. And, since it’s the first in a series, Children of Blood and Bone is only the beginning.

Why we love it: Adeyemi’s series gives adults and teens common ground to bond over. Let it be the starting point for casual conversations that build into something more. Dare we suggest striking up some long-distance correspondence with far-flung relatives? Everyone likes a little mail, after all.

Pair it with … stationery, stamps, and a pen that will make even your worst chicken scratch look like an heirloom. We like the streamlined and ergonomically designed fine pens from Cross’ ATX Collection

ill be gone in the dark book cover

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara

How many true crime stories can claim that they helped put away a serial killer? Already hailed as a classic, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the unraveling of the Golden State Killer. It compiles 10 years of obsessive research by its late author, Michelle McNamara, who tragically passed away before it was published.

Why we love it: As McNamara’s masterpiece illustrates, solving the unsolvable is all about following every lead to the very end and connecting the pieces that seem entirely unrelated. Oh, and about never giving up. Everyone from the aspiring novelist to the daily-ish journal-writer can learn from that single-minded dedication.

Pair it with … a pen flexible enough for scribbling in the margins and working on a masterpiece of your own—like the elegant and budget-friendly ballpoint pens from the Beverly Collection.

julian is a mermaid jessica love

Julián Is A Mermaid, by Jessica Love

This delightful story about a young boy named Julián who adores mermaids is, quite frankly, a bedtime story you can read to us anytime. Paired with dreamy illustrations, Jessica Love’s debut tale for tots is fresh and heartwarming. And, per the parents we asked, it doesn’t sour by its 20th reading.

Why we love it: What do we want our kids to know? That’s it’s A-OK to be themselves—and that we’ll always love them and their uniqueness. This is one of a growing number of picture books that embraces that concept.

Pair it with … a sweet treat (other than this book, of course) and a pen you can use to write down the stories you want your children to grow up knowing. Try a writing instrument that reminds you of your favorite things—like one from Cross’ Star Wars Collection.

creative quest questlove

Creative Quest, by Questlove

There’s something comforting about watching famous creative people work through the same struggles we experience every day. This book is exactly that. In Creative Quest, Questlove takes us with him as he thinks through what creativity means, how it’s expressed, and how to occupy the same body as a truly creative soul.

Why we love it: An informal office survey revealed what Questlove probably already knows: That all creatives are insecure in their creativity. The best way to work it out? Well, our vote goes to being as creative as humanly possible. 

Pair it with … a blank page and a pen that lets you write and draw at the same time. Our suggestion: a fountain pen from the Century II Collection.

there there tommy orange quote

There There, by Tommy Orange

Twelve individual stories of Native Americans in California come together in Tommy Orange’s There There. The novel offers a window into a world that most of us never have a chance to see. It’s honest and devastating, and it makes it clear that there’s no such thing as one singular indigenous experience.

Why we love it: Too few indigenous stories are given a megaphone in the U.S., and this happens to be a beautifully written one. Examining the highs and lows of identities, ancestry, past, and present, this debut—yes, another debut!—inspires us to explore our own identities and histories.

Pair it with … a family tree and a fine pen that lets you switch between a ballpoint and a pencil when necessary—like a combination writing instrument from the Tech 3+ Collection from Cross.

magnolia table joanna gaines

Magnolia Table, by Joanna Gaines

For those of us who’ve watched every season of Fixer Upper (um … twice) and are keeping tabs on flights to Waco, Texas, this new cookbook from Joanna Gaines is the obvious next step. Packed with personal stories that induce the same aww-worthy emotions as the HGTV show and scads of recipes that are great for beginners and pros, this cookbook makes us feel like we’re all sitting at the same barnwood kitchen table.

Why we love it: We’re big on cookbooks that read like—well, books. This one does exactly that. With a little help from the Magnolia crew, we’re motivated to start seeing our own family recipes and entertaining favorites as part of the story of our lives.

Pair it with … a pile of fresh recipe cards and pen you can use in even the most flour-dusted of kitchens. Our pick: a ballpoint pen from the Calais Collection.

the immortalists chloe benjamin

The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin

What would you do if you knew how—and when—it was going to end? We’re betting a bunch of things on your to-do list would disappear, while others would leap to the top. The Immortalists is a magical saga that introduces this question to the Gold family. The story follows them across the decades as they work their way through a series of mystical prophecies.

Why we love it: This read had all of us reevaluating our priorities and growing excited about the future. There’s something exhilarating about approaching your life from the end, forward, don’t you think? We’ll also cop to crafting a few prophecies of our own for the Cross crew.

Pair it with … a Magic 8 Ball and a pen that will last (and last and last), like a writing instrument from Cross’ TrackR Collection.

barracoon zora neale hurston

Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston

More than 90 years ago, one of America’s most talented writers traveled to Alabama to interview the last living survivor of the Atlantic slave trade. Cudjo Lewis was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Zora Neale Hurston spent months speaking with Lewis and members of his community, and Barracoon is her original reporting, published now for the first time.

Why we love it: The only way to confront the ugly truths that have created our past, present, and future is to understand exactly what they are. This is a difficult read that has kept us thinking from the first page until—actually, we’re still thinking about it.

Pair it with … a strong cup of tea and a pen at the ready to help you wrestle with your thoughts. May we suggest a rollerball pen from the Edge Collection?

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