Friday, January 4, 2019

Reading in 2018: What I Have Read, What I Liked, What Comes Next

2018 was a good year for reading. 

In 365 days, I read 79 books in total — almost tying my own record — and enjoyed a variety of authors and subjects. Though some books were modest — How a Mouse Saved the Royal Cat was a mere 14 pages — books in total averaged 241 pages.



I wandered my local library and combed the shelves of used bookstores. I read some books recommended by trusted critics, and learned who shared my taste. I perused my own library and shuffled my hefty Kindle selection for some delights, and a few clunkers.

I read general fiction, children's books, cookbooks, how-tos, and travelogues. I was intrigued by the art of tattoos. I marveled at libraries around the country, grand and modest. I was shocked and horrified by violence and sexism in classic literature, and shocked and horrified that it took me this long to recognize it.


I read books narrated by immigrants, gay men, time travelers, people living with autism, journalists, people living with mental and physical illnesses, political dissidents, psychics, and crazy rich people. Whether it was fact or fiction, there was something new to encounter in every book.


I fell unabashedly in love with "young adult fiction." My favorite YA novels this year were Far From the Tree, Marcelo in the Real World, and The Sun is Also a Star. As soon as I finished the latter, I started it again to savor an unexpected delicious character. 

My favorite books of 2018 were: 

  • A Gentleman in Moscow — Alexander Rostov, the titular gentleman, is as memorable and noble as (dare I say it?) Atticus Finch. 
  • A Man Called Ove — I approached Ove much like he approached everyone else: cautiously, and expecting only disaster. In the end, he won me over, too, and even now my heart swells and my eyes tear up as I think of a character who felt (and still feels) so real.
  • The Useful Book — Truth be told, I was a little relieved that I was doing more than a few things correctly, lo these many years after middle school home economics classes. Cooking, cleaning, sewing, and minor repair are less scary, and more possible, by my hands now.
  • The Sun is Also a Star — Two strangers spend the single most important day of their lives together, with chapters that alternate between their perspectives and an occasional revelation by an omnipotent narrator.
  • Far from the Tree — What is family? Three biological siblings who grew up in different families through foster care and adoption discover just what love is between themselves and the history they try to uncover together.  
  • Spinning Silver — In her second modern fairy tale, Naomi Novik introduces us to strong women in 19th century Russia. Myriem is a Russian Jewish moneylender  who can spin silver into gold, and when she catches the eye of the wrong person, her life changes — as do the lives of everyone whom she has touched.

My least favorite reads were few, but powerful:


  • Basic Witches — Oh, you mean "witch" in the generic sense! Wait, what?
  • Murder on the Orient Express — I don't remember Agatha Christie being so boring. I read it back in the day, and I didn't even remember the ending!
  • The Plant Paradox — I feel about this much like I did about The Case Against Sugar: it would have been a good magazine article. After reading more than half the book, I was numb and confused. 
  • How to Relax — This author's books are tedious and pithy to the point of absurdity.


Here is a list of books I read in 2018, and the format in which I consumed theme: print (📖), audiobook (🎧), or e-book (📲):


  1. The Mortal Word 📲
  2. Frugal Living for Dummies 📖
  3. Look Alive Twenty-Five 📲
  4. Spinning Silver 📲🎧
  5. 5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook 📲
  6. Pygmalion and My Fair Lady 📖
  7. Llamas 📖
  8. Harold and the Poopy Little Puppy 📲
  9. Everything, Everything 📲
  10. A Simple Favor 📲
  11. Welcome to Night Vale 🎧
  12. Rich People Problems 📖
  13. I Met a Traveler in an Antique Land 📲
  14. A Wrinkle in Time 📲
  15. The Little Stranger 📲
  16. G’morning, G’night 🎧
  17. Lobster is the Best Medicine 📖
  18. Fire Watch 📲
  19. The Public Library 📖
  20. The Useful Book 📲
  21. The Book With No Pictures 📖
  22. China Rich Girlfriend 📖
  23. Standard Deviation 📲
  24. The Plant Paradox 📲
  25. How a Mouse Saved the Royal Cat 📲
  26. Robert Kennedy Jr.’s American Heroes: Robert Smalls, the Boat Thief 📖
  27. Seven Miles to Freedom 📖
  28. The Princess Bride 📲
  29. Thunderstorm 📖
  30. An American Marriage 📖
  31. A Man Called Ove 📖
  32. Dear First Lady 📖
  33. What if Everybody Said That? 📲
  34. Quilt of States: Piecing Together America 📖
  35. Crazy Rich Asians 📖
  36. Frogs Are Funny! 📖
  37. The Lost City of the Monkey Gods
  38. Thrall 📖
  39. Dear Evan Hansen 🎧 📲
  40. The Devil’s Arithmetic  📲
  41. The Sun is Also a Star  📲
  42. Cat Haiku 📖
  43. Basic Witches 📖
  44. Less  📲
  45. Differently Morphus 🎧
  46. The Ideals Guide to Literary Places in the US 📖
  47. The Emerald Circus 📖
  48. The Fall of the House of Cabal 📲
  49. Pen & Ink Tattoos & the stories behind them 📖
  50. How to Relax  📲
  51. Marcelo in the Real World  📲
  52. They All Saw a Cat  📲
  53. Dog Songs: Deluxe Edition  📲
  54. How to Stop Time 📲
  55. Hero Cat 📲
  56. Texts from Jane Eyre 📲
  57. The Magician King 📲
  58. The Immortalists 📖
  59. A Beautiful Bowl of Soup 📲
  60. Unbelievable  📲
  61. The Choice 📲
  62. The First  📲
  63. The Returned 📲
  64. The Lost Plot 📲
  65. Night of the Living Deed 📲
  66. Murder on the Orient Express  📲
  67. I am (Not) Scared 📲
  68. World War I in Cartoons 📖
  69. Living Simple, Free, and Happy 📖
  70. KNACK Organizing Your Home 📖
  71. Love the Home You Have 📖
  72. Crosstalk 📲📖
  73. Hardcore Twenty-Four 📖
  74. Far From the Tree 📲
  75. Little Dorrit 📲 🎧📖
  76. A Gentleman in Moscow 📲
  77. All My Friends Are Dead 📲
  78. Her Right Foot 📲
  79. The Dire King: A Jackaby Novel

I started this year's reading with two well-known British women, Mary Poppins and Queen Elizabeth II; they're both delightful, and nothing at all as I expected. More as the stories develop.

How about you: How was your reading year? What did you read that you would recommend? Better yet, what did you read that you would not recommend? Do tellchattingwithchris@gmail.com!

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