My totals for 2018 were as follows:
52 by male authors
35 by female authors
41 graphic novels
I feel like the best year-end wrap-up posts arrive a few months into the next year to make sure that they are totally relevant. That’s why I’m dropping this post about 2018 halfway through March of 2019 – to strike while the iron is warm but not so hot that it might burn me because who wants that?
2018 was a funny year in reading for me. In 2017 I read 111 books – a personal best – and I felt like I had to shoot for the stars as a follow-up, so I set my goal at 100 books instead of 75 or even the more traditional 52.
After all, I read a lot of graphic novels, and those are an easy way to keep my reading numbers up. I still tackle longer novels and the occasional classic, but only because audiobooks keep me sane during my drive to work. So, my thought was that I’d keep up the pace last year and I’d handily blow past my goal.
Near the end of the year, though, it started to become clear that I wasn’t going to break 100. I still read a hell of a lot of books – 87 is nothing to sneeze at – but I didn’t manage to hit my arbitrary goal and that made me a little sad. It’s a completely absurd feeling, too, because I read plenty of stuff and even knocked off a few classics.
For example, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Thandie Newton read Jane Eyre. She’s a fantastic narrator and it’s a lovely book. It’s always such a wonderful revelation when you finally get around to reading a classic and you realize that it stayed in the canon for a damn good reason. It’s also funny that it took me so long to read it because I read Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair years ago and loved it despite not knowing the story it references. Maybe I’d get more of the in-jokes now.
I also listened to Moby Dick read by Anthony Heald, which ended up feeling more like a personal achievement than something I fully enjoyed. The book is surprisingly funny in its early chapters, but it turns out the book’s reputation as an endless parade of whale facts is totally accurate. After a while it felt more like a non-fictional treatise on whales and whaling that only made occasional overtures towards storytelling.
One nice statistic is that I read a much higher number of books written by women last year, mostly because I read 11 volumes of Yamada-Kun and the 7 Witches by Miki Yoshikawa. My reading was still primarily digital, and graphic novels were a big part of what I read.
My favorites from last year, in no particular order:
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – I mentioned it above, but the character of Jane Eyre leaps off the page, and I was completely drawn in by this wonderful book.
- Horns by Joe Hill – A great, weird small-town tragedy with a through-line of pitch-black comedy and horror. Felt like Hill coming into his own as an author.
- Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie – This one took a few tries before I stuck with it, but when I finally finished it last year, I remembered why I loved the First Law trilogy so much.
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – Hilarious and affecting, this interrogates the “chosen one” trope and turns it completely on its head, which is wild considering its origin as a parody of Harry Potter fan fiction in another of Rowell’s novels.
- Rogues, edited by George RR Martin – I’ve read a few of these massive collections edited by Martin, and this had a consistently high level of quality. I liked almost every one of the stories and loved several of them, enough to put this high on my list.
- The Peripheral by William Gibson – Gibson is a great storyteller with an almost supernatural sense for what might come next. Even his handful of baseline realistic novels felt like they vibrated on the cutting edge, and this leap back into the future is him working at the top of his form.
- St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell – I loved these weird little stories so much. They were funny and unsettling and almost all ended without much of a resolution, but that ellipiticism so common in modern short fiction didn’t get on my nerves here.
- Area X by Jeff Vandermeer – I read this trilogy after seeing the movie version of Annihilation, which is simultaneously a faithful adaptation in spirit and completely different from the books. This series is all about tone and feeling and a sense of creeping dread, and I loved it even if I’m not entirely sure what it all means.
- Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King – This had everything I loved about Under the Dome without the ridiculous ending. King and his son pair together well here and turn in what felt like a classic example of King’s fascination with the lengths normal people will go to when pushed past their limits by a bizarre situation.
- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – I feel like this book’s cover and its reputation as a best-selling book club favorite do it a bit of a disservice. Turns out it’s a much weirder, much less sentimental book that I’d imagined. That ending is a gut-punch, though.
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green – Green writes about something he is intimately familiar with – sudden and unexpected viral fame and what it means to be a brand as well as a person – and sets it against a backdrop of compelling science fiction. As soon as I finished, I wanted to read the forthcoming sequel ASAP.
- The Answers by Catherine Lacey – The fantastic cover drew me in, and the weird little premise sold me. The main character is a depressive woman who joins in on an odd experiment slash art project to become one of several girlfriends for a well-known actor, each of whom fills a specific role in his life.
- The Murderbot Diaries, books 2-4 by Martha Wells – Holy shit, these books are so good. Murderbot is one of the best protagonists in science fiction, and each one of these novellas is a crackling tale about the many ways their social awkwardness and bloody-minded need to help defenseless humans puts them in ever-escalating situations. You can’t help but root for Murderbot.