2018 BEST and WORST of the YEAR

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2018 BEST and WORST of the YEAR

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Dec 15, 2018, 8:44am

What stood out for you this year, for better or worse?

Were there any themes to your reading when you look back over it?

Overall, how do you feel about your reading year?

Edited: Dec 15, 2018, 8:31pm

Really liked Go, Went, Gone and An Unnecessary Woman. Dark Flood Rises was a flop for me.

Edited: Dec 16, 2018, 12:33pm

Could still change, of course. But this has been a really great year for reading for me so far...

Some highlights - I tried to group them a bit by theme:

- The Good Hope by William Heinesen - on the tail-end of last year's Nordic theme, a superb historical novel from the Faroes.

- Mr Myombekere by Aniceti Kitereza - attacking some long-stay residents on the TBR shelf led to a mini-theme-read on African fiction. Kitereza's deep, deep dive into the culture of his own island, written in the local language and not translated for many years, is astonishing and captivating, but probably not great literature - a couple of books from the 1960s by Wole Soyinka were almost at the other end of the scale...

- The Makioka sisters by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki - I misused the RG Japan/Korea theme slightly to catch up with some of the 20th century Japanese classics I never got around to before. This was the one book that really stood out for me, but there was a lot of other good stuff, especially Yasunari Kawabata.

Some great, unconventional, novels in Spanish:
- Así empieza lo malo (Thus bad begins) by Javier Marías - B-movies and bad marriages
- El viajero del siglo (Traveller of the century) by Andrés Neuman - wanderers, organ-grinders, dogs and crows in 19th century Germany
- and since I'm not limited to five here, Álvaro Enrigue's Muerte Súbita as well - tennis with Caravaggio

One thing I promised myself to do this year was read a few more classics. It didn't go quite the way I was expecting, but from the 19th century I did manage one Hardy, one Balzac, and the first six-and-a-half Zolas. I wasn't expecting to go much further back, but in the last few weeks I've dipped into Rabelais, Grimmelshausen and Ovid, as well as accidentally reading an adaptation of a translation of a translation of a translation of an Indian classic (Kélilé en Demné).

New novels (fairly recent, anyway):
- The Sparsholt affair Hollinghurst is still on great form
- Gehen, ging, gegangen - I was afraid that there wouldn't be anything new to say about immigration and refugees, but Erpenbeck found plenty
- Transcription - nothing wrong with this, but it didn't really excite as some of her other books have
- A long way from home - one of Carey's best
- Quand sort la recluse - to everyone's relief except the arachnophobes', Vargas seems to have got over the supernatural stuff and moved on to spiders
- El monarca de las sombras - Cercas has a go at his own family's dark secrets. Excellent.

Non-fiction highlights:
- The Dutch Republic: its rise, greatness and fall 1477-1806 by Joseph Israel
- Music at midnight: the life and poetry of George Herbert by John Drury
- Imprudent king: a new life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker
...and in the Japan theme: The roads to Sata by Alan Booth - a somewhat alcoholic but very entertaining walk from one end of the Japanese archipelago to the other.

>2 nohrt4me2: I liked both The dark flood rises (last year) and Go, went, gone (this year). But I'm a Margaret Drabble fan from way back.

Dec 17, 2018, 6:23am

I read no "bad" books as I am of an age where I don't continue a book if it's not doing anything for me, thus all the books I finish are at least "good" and I would recommend each of them on some level or another. I have a hard time choosing "best" books because books are all so different, and it's like comparing apples and oranges, or apples and chocolate cake. How does one compare a biography and a book on literature? (ok, ok, I'll stop hand-wringing and choose)

Fiction in no particular order:

Scribe by Alyson Hagy (2018)*
Warlight by Mcihael Ondaatje (2018)
The Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon (2017)
H (A)PPY by Nicola Barker (2017)
Small Country by Gael Faye (2018)

*although I'd also recommend The Secrets Between Us by Thrity Umrigar (2018) and West by Carys Davies (2018) for immersive story-telling.


Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky (2019) for its power.
The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy (a 2018 reprint of her first collection as UK Poet Laureate) for it's playfulness.

Crime Fiction

Out of Bounds and Broken Ground by Val McDermid (Scotland, Karen Pririe series)
Ordeal, When it Grows Dark, and Closed for Winter by Jørn Lier Holst (Norway, William Wistling series)

Nonfiction (These are visceral choices because how can one compare books on literature with biographies or social issues ...etc)

Call Them By Their True Names: Essays by Rebecca Solnit (2018)
Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston (2018)
Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard (2018)

Dec 25, 2018, 9:30pm

Bumping this up to the top.

Dec 27, 2018, 8:29am

I think I'll read 82 books by the end of the year. Here are my favorites. I didn't feel like doing "worst" this year.

Best Books of 2018:

Finished In Search of Lost Time by Proust – an epic lifetime reading experience

Newer Books: (* = my “super favorites”)
*A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
*The Snow Child by Ewoyn Ivey
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck
*Circe by Madeline Miller
*Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
Moon Tiger by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Overstory by Richard Powers
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Women and Power by Mary Beard
SPQR by Mary Beard (a guess since I'm still reading, but I really like it so far)

Rereads favorites – these were all on audio books and I liked rereading that way:
Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Dec 28, 2018, 11:49am

I doubt if I'll manage to start and finish another book before the new year, so here's my tuppence:

Best of 2018
- The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt: a great family saga of a novel that gave me a huge thirst for knowledge on a wide range of topics and events.
- The Sea House by Esther Freud: I love Freud's hippyish searching-for-something trait that she instils in all her characters, and felt this is the strongest of her books yet that I've read.
- My Struggle: Book 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard: what can I say: he's self-consumed and arrogant as hell, but his writing in this series continues to be pure genius.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison: a completely original perspective on slavery in America, when a ghost from trauma past gouges at old wounds.

Also Worthy of Mention
-The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
-The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
-Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel
Being Mortal; Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
-Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

The Wish-I-Hadn't-Bothered-With
Can't believe I'm saying this as he's one of my favourite authors ever, but:
- A Child in Time by Ian McEwan
- In Between the Sheets by Ian McEwan

(I think I might have been especially hard with McEwan on A Child in Time as I know what he's capable of and this book just annoyed me, but In Between the Sheets was thoroughly deserved of my crap star rating.)

Dec 28, 2018, 12:16pm

Best: Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, a funny homage to Douglas Adams, Eurovision, sex, and rock-n-roll.

Worst: Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds, Greg Bear, ed. Not bad, really, but Andeson stories by other writers mostly don't work.

Edited: Dec 29, 2018, 4:09pm

I’m pretty sure that I won’t finish another book before year end.

My favorites this year, in no particular order:

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
White Houses by Amy Bloom
Tangerine by Christine Mangan
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
The Witch Elm by Tana French
A re-read of Glass Houses by Louise Penny and her new one
Kingdom of the Blind
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

And, the discovery of a couple of new series which I have been enjoying:

The Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths- the first book is The Crossing Places
The Mrs Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman- the first book is The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax

My stats for the year:

Books Read Total = 85
Print/Kindle = 43; Audio = 42; Women authors = 52; New to me authors = 17

Edited: Dec 31, 2018, 7:07pm

My best books of the year, determined by what I gave at least 4.5 stars to:


Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan
The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip by George Saunders
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller


The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Science: Abridged Beyond the Point of Usefulness by Zach Weinersmith
Big Mushy Happy Lump and Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen
The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman
M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work by M.C. Escher
The Habit of Turning the World Upside Down by Howard Mansfield
But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

Wow. I think that's an even more motley collection of works than usual!

And the worst/most disappointing list (two stars or less):

Harvest of Stars by Poul Anderson
Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich (Well, mostly I think I was really just very, very ready to be done reading those Janet Evanovich books.)

Edited: Jan 4, 2019, 3:36pm

My favorite books of the year, or books that have stuck with me in one way or another:

Circe by Madeline Miller
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
French Exit by Patrick deWitt
The All of It by Jeannette Haien
Heartbreaker by Claudia Dey
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
The Game of Kings (Lymond Chronicles, 1) by Dorothy Dunnett
Improvement by Joan Silber
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr
Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over by Nell Painter
Mean by Myriam Gurba

A few disappointments, but no true stinkers.