Friday, December 28, 2018

Highlights of 2018 in reading

Now that I've stopped blogging light reading here, I am in a much less good position to make a real overview - have just gone back quickly through the "finished" file on my Kindle, and am thus no doubt forgetting quite a few books I read in the real, so to speak. This also doesn't include anything I read for work - the monograph that comes to mind as having specially stayed with me is Tina Lupton's Reading and the Making of Time in the Eighteenth Century, but I cannot even begin to sort out anything from the rest! So this may give the impression of a more frivolous reader than I possibly am in reality (i.e. "many many books about Gibbon, the Enlightenment, Rome, etc.").

Here's a list of absolute favorites for the year, in no particular order:

Deborah Levy, The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography and Things I don't Want to Know: On Writing
Sigrid Nunez, The Friend
Rachel Cusk, The Outline Trilogy
Justin Torres, We the Animals
Tade Thompson, Rosewater
Fonda Lee, Jade City
Katherine Arden's Winternight books (keenly awaiting the third)
Sarah Perry, Melmoth
Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver
Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir
Knausgaard, My Struggle vol. 6
Martha Wells, The Murderbot Diaries
Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves
Martin Millar, Supercute Futures

Also, many books by Emmanuel Carrere - I will write a separate post at some point, but I think Lives Other Than My Own is the one to read if you read only one (that and The Adversary); and I should single outthe complete works of Sophia McDougall - especially the Romanitas trilogy, but also her delightful YA SF books.

A list of favorite novels by women that are also in some sense especially novels for women:

Sofka Zinovieff, Putney: A Novel
Winnie Li, Dark Chapter
Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
Susan Choi, My Education
Chelsey Johnson, Stray City
Kate Atkinson, Transcription
Nellie Hermann, The Cure for Grief
Delphine Vigan, Based on a True Story
Hala Alyan, Salt Houses

I liked Catherine Fox's Church of England novels and am sure I will reread them, though they are not quite as much exactly to my taste as the novels of Susan Howatch!

I continue to be grateful for the fact that every year produces a new Jack Reacher novel - this one is one of the best of recent years.

Category of miscellaneous/memoir: Megan and David Roche's The Happy Runner is great - worth reading even if you are only a casual runner (and much of their advice applies equally well to writing). I also liked Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir - which led me to G. H. Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology, one of the most unusual and memorable books I've read all year. My appetite for nonfiction is less voracious than it is for fiction, but I loved Luke Barr, Ritz and Escoffier. Finally, Alice Kaplan, French Lessons: A Memoir, which is probably one of the things I've read that's closest to the kind of book I want the Gibbon book to be.

Two books notable for the insight they cast on trauma (the first is memoir, the second a novel, but they are both true in important ways - as is Winnie Li's Dark Chapter, mentioned above): Lacy Johnson, The Other Side. Nicola Griffith, So Lucky.

Other SFF favorites (we are living in a golden age of fantasy!):

Becky Chambers, Record of a Spaceborn Few
Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone
Laurie J. Marks's Elemental Logic novels
Ben Aaaronovitch's Lies Sleeping
Charlie Stross, The Labyrinth Index
R. F. Kuang, The Poppy War
Ling Ma, Severance
T. Kingfisher's Clockwork Boys
Tasha Suri, Empire of Sand
Dave Hutchinson, last two installments of the Fractured Europe sequence
Sarah Pinborough, Cross Her Heart
Alex Bledsoe, The Fairies of Sadieville: The Final Tufa Novel
Jacqueline Carey, Starless
Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning
Christopher Barzak, The Gone Away Place
Robert Redick's Master Assassins
Brian McClellan's newest Powder Mage installment
Nicky Drayden, Temper
S. L. Huang, Zero Sum Game

Best of crime:

Jane Harper, Force of Nature
James McLaughlin, Bearskin (just got this last week, it's superb)
Joe Ide, Wrecked
Lou Berney, November Road
Tana French, The Witch Elm
James Oswald, A Prayer for the Dead
Leila Slimani, The Perfect Nanny
Robert Galbraith, Lethal White
Nicci French, Day of the Dead (final Frieda Klein novel)
Alan Russell, Gideon's Rescue (nice series featuring detective with K9 partner)
Megan Abbott, Give Me Your Hand
Louise Candlish, Our House
Laura Lippman, Sunburn
Robert Harris, Munich

I think paranormal romance is not quite as much to my taste as straight-up fantasy and urban fantasy, but there is some good stuff out there: new installment of Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter novels, final installment of Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels books (did a reread of the whole series first), new intallment of Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega books (I like this), new installment of Anne Bishop's Others series.

OK, that's the essentials I think. Happy new year, everyone!


  1. Impressive and inspiring

  2. Wow--zero overlap with anything I've read, and near-zero overlap with anything I've heard of. It's a big world out there, even in the subcategory of commercially published English-language fiction (mostly).