2018 was a year whose realities sometimes seemed to approach the dystopias and dramas of fiction, as stories of family trauma, environmental disaster, and sexual assault played out on the world stage. The books our writers and editors were drawn to this year include many that illuminate these struggles and inequities, whether in the form of visceral sonnets, lyrical history, or dizzyingly surreal detective yarns. But they also reach past political themes to the most intimate and universal of stories: a cross-continental meditation on transitory love, a warm and funny account of aging, a timeless reinvention of an ancient myth, and an absorbing deconstruction of faith, to name a few. Our list isn’t definitive or comprehensive, but guided by individual interests and tastes. Below, you’ll find essays, poetry, three striking fiction debuts, the first graphic novel to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and more.
Several studies show laughter is among the best medicines for pain. In Japanese studies of arthritis, people who watched a humorous show reduced their pain by more than 50% for as long as 12 hours. You can watch funny videos or read humorous writing, watch kids or puppies play, or do whatever it takes to make you laugh. You can also laugh for no reason at all. The effect seems to be the same.
The emphatic takeaway is that the opposite of addiction is connection. Beating the disease is fundamentally about preempting the point where you lose the freedom to choose: Don’t hold the drink in your hand; don’t go to the party where you know exactly what will go down. In the moment before the bad decision, Brand urged, “you have to make the commitment to call someone who can be your North Star. Someone who is not spellbound in that moment. Someone who can tell you the problem you’re trying to escape is still going to be there, and it’s not going to work, and you’re gonna feel like shit afterward. This is why we need people further down the path, so they can hold our shit as we grow.”
Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can ease mild to moderate pain caused by diabetic nerve damage, says Kimberly Sackheim, DO, a clinical assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center's Rusk Rehabilitation. "But speak with your physician if you take them regularly," she says. Some of these drugs may raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage.
Chronically high blood glucose levels are known to damage nerves, so keeping blood glucose levels close to the normal, nondiabetic range can greatly reduce neuropathic pain. (Sometimes, however, if nerve damage has caused numbness in the feet, legs, hands, or arms, improving blood glucose control can cause pain in these areas as the nerves start to heal and regain function. The pain is usually temporary.)
Physical treatments for chronic pain can include applying heat or cold to the part that hurts, massage, exercise, and rest. Sensations of heat, cold, and touch travel on the same nerves as pain sensations, but they travel faster. A sensation of gentle touch, heat, or cold will therefore beat a pain signal to the next pain gate and block the pain from getting through. Certain substances including capsaicin (chili pepper extract) provide a sensation of heat when rubbed on the skin that may keep a pain gate blocked for hours.
There are some interesting developments in blood glucose monitoring including continuous glucose sensors. The new continuous glucose sensor systems involve an implantable cannula placed just under the skin in the abdomen or in the arm. This cannula allows for frequent sampling of blood glucose levels. Attached to this is a transmitter that sends the data to a pager-like device. This device has a visual screen that allows the wearer to see, not only the current glucose reading, but also the graphic trends. In some devices, the rate of change of blood sugar is also shown. There are alarms for low and high sugar levels. Certain models will alarm if the rate of change indicates the wearer is at risk for dropping or rising blood glucose too rapidly. One version is specifically designed to interface with their insulin pumps. In most cases the patient still must manually approve any insulin dose (the pump cannot blindly respond to the glucose information it receives, it can only give a calculated suggestion as to whether the wearer should give insulin, and if so, how much). However, in 2013 the US FDA approved the first artificial pancreas type device, meaning an implanted sensor and pump combination that stops insulin delivery when glucose levels reach a certain low point. All of these devices need to be correlated to fingersticks measurements for a few hours before they can function independently. The devices can then provide readings for 3 to 5 days.
Some research, however, suggests a more drastic dietary change. A 2017 literature review concluded that “whole-foods, plant-based diet—legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, with limited or no intake of refined foods and animal products—are highly beneficial for preventing and treating type 2 diabetes.” A 2018 study found that overweight people who switched to a vegan diet for 16 weeks showed improvements in insulin sensitivity compared to a control group.
Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body uses insulin. While the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the most common type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and it has strong links with obesity.